Ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi, Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to Russia, has visited St Petersburg University. During his visit, he held two open meetings with students and staff of the University, where he spoke about relations between the countries.

The first lecture was held at the School of International Relations and the second one at the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of St Petersburg University. Both lectures focused on the topic of establishing Russia-Yemen relations in the economic, cultural and socio-humanitarian spheres.

Mr Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi is the author of the book ‘90 Years of Friendship of Yemen and Russia’, published in 2018.

‘This month and next month, we are celebrating several important dates relating to the history of modern Yemen,’ remarked Ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi. ‘In September 1962, the Yemen Arab Republic was proclaimed, and five years later, in October 1967, our country gained independence from the British protectorate.’ The diplomat talked about the challenges Yemen had faced on the road to integration and how the country was recovering from the civil war. The United Nations has assisted and continues to assist in the reconstruction and integration of the country. The UN Security Council, in which Russia is one of the five permanent members, is striving to stabilise the situation in Yemen, he added.

Historically, Russia has been at the forefront of relations with Yemen. ‘A common problem faced by developing countries seeking independence was the need for an army, as it was the army that helped ensure the independence of the young states. Moscow actively assisted such states with arms, as well as the training of officers’, added Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi. The relationships between the USSR and Yemen were built upon equality and the principle of non-interference into internal affairs.

The first agreement between the USSR and Yemen can be dated back to 1 November 1928. Its practical outcome was the dispatch of a group of Soviet doctors and a consignment of medicines to Yemen. From this point onwards Soviet periodicals and fiction and journalistic literature appeared in Yemen.

The lecturer said that diplomatic relations between the USSR and Yemen were established in 1955. In the same years, agreements were reached between the countries to: build a new port in the city of Al-Hudaydah; establish a textile industry and a fish-processing factory; and carry out an energy project. Mineral exploration and agricultural research projects were also carried out.

Ambassador Al-Wahishi also said that a total of about 50,000 Yemenis have studied in the USSR and Russia. Today, as in the 20th century, there is a high demand for Russian fiction in Yemen. Experts in Arab studies  from Russia research the history and culture of this country. Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of St Petersburg University and Member  of the Russian Academy of Sciences has also taken part in archaeological expeditions and excavations in Yemen  

A delegation from the University of Aden visited St Petersburg University in 2018. The meeting was attended by St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev and Mr Ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi. As a result of the meeting, a framework agreement on cooperation was signed, and the Yemeni Ambassador accepted an invitation to become a member of the Council of the academic programme in Arab studies. The chairman of the council is Mikhail Piotrovsky. It should be noted that after the lecture, a regular meeting of the Council of the academic programme was held, which was attended by Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi in person.

Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi also spoke about the current state of Russia-Yemen relations. The diplomat stressed that he supports the study of the Russian language in Yemen and is ready to promote the teaching of Arabic in Russia. He added that a Russian language department has recently been opened at Aden University, which is popular with Yemeni young people.

At the end of the lecture, the audience asked Ahmed Salem Al-Wahishi questions. In particular, they asked about: the social and humanitarian situation of the Yemeni population; the work of non-profit organisations; Yemen’s trade relations with other countries; the pandemic situation in the country; and the diplomatic career of Mr Ambassador.