In 1897, 110 years ago, King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, paid a visit to Russia, which was the start of long-standing diplomatic relations between Thailand and Russia. A project is being carried out to revive the symbol of Thailand in St. Petersburg to mark the 110th anniversary of King Chulalonkorn’s visit to Russia.
Born in 1853, King Chulalongkorn ascended the throne in 1868, as the fifth monarch of the Royal House of Chakri. He died on 23 October 1910 at the age of 57. So October 23 each year is observed significantly in Thailand as King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day. Thai people from all walks of life gather at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok to lay wreaths and flowers to pay homage to the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn on this occasion.
Throughout the 42 years of his reign, King Chulalongkorn conducted reforms that brought Thailand into the modern age. For instance, he introduced postal and telegraph services and a railway network. He established public education and Western-style ministries. Among his outstanding achievements were the gradual abolition of slavery and the application of peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named him as one of the world great personalities.
King Chulalongkorn is one of the best-loved and most-revered kings in Thai history. The present monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is one of his grandsons. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Siam, as Thailand was known then, was under the threat of colonization from both the British and the French. He averted the risk successfully through his subtle diplomacy.
King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai king to travel abroad. Diplomatic relations between Thailand and Russia were established in the course of the visit of the King Chulalongkorn to Russia and his talks with Russian Emperor Nicholas II in St. Petersburg in 1897. The visit enhanced Thailand’s status in the international community during the imperialist era. It also took him to St. Petersburg, where he stayed at the left wing of Peterhof Palace.
Since 2007 marks the 110th anniversary of the visit of King Chulalongkorn to Russia and the 110th anniversary of Thai-Russian relations, the Thai and Russian governments are joining hands in restoring the left wing of Peterholf. The restoration project is also meant to revive the symbol of Thailand in St. Petersburg. It requires a fund of about 400 million baht and will take about three years to complete. Out of this amount, Thailand agreed to contribute 210 million baht.
The Cabinet in May this year approved this project, which has been handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in celebration of King Chulalongkorn’s historic visit to Russia.