Diplomacy is an international institution, although national and regional diplomatic services keep their own intrinsic identity. Existing differences occasionally interfere with mutual understanding as an essential requirement for overcoming today's instability. Comparative analysis of Western and Russian diplomacy enables deeper insight into some essential reasons for existing differences. The modern model of diplomacy was formed because of the Renaissance, which was characterized by a process of secularization. In Russia this process was delayed by the Byzantine tradition of 'symphony'. From Tsar Peter's era, however, a gradual rapprochement can be observed between the two systems of diplomacy — Western and Russian. However, within new parameters, the ghost of Byzantium appeared now and again. Even under Soviet-imposed atheism, diplomacy was viewed as a tool for a new Messianic universalism (as it was in pre-Petrine times), expressed in terms of 'proletarian internationalism'. New and dramatic events placed an urgent need for a qualitatively new type of diplomacy on the agenda: the European experience, with its emphasis on a solid juridical basis, rationalism and human rights; and the Russian experience, with its universalism that is attentive to existential problems and traditional values. Diplomacy of the future should be based on a synthesis of both European and Russian historical experiences.