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Russians in the UK

Past TransferGo Blog posts have highlighted migrants from various countries. In those posts we have discussed the history of migration and the various reasons behind it. This time we turn our attention to migrants from Russia.

Russians have been coming to the UK to live and work since the 19th century. Traditionally, most of the reasons for their migration have been very familiar: economics, the search for a better way of life and escaping religious persecution. The flow of migrants after the rise of communism was drastically curtailed as many Russians lost their freedom to travel or move to another country.

Modern Russian Migrants

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the privatisation of many state run industries and companies, a new wave of migration has occurred which is unlike any migration in history.

The privatisation of many industries created many very, very wealthy individuals. Many of those who have made their fortunes have chosen to move to the UK. Like many of the earliest Russian migrants, these modern migrants tend to favour London for their new home. This has led to London being referred to as “Moscow-on-the-Thames” and “Londongrad.”

The reasons for this movement of the very wealthy to the UK are basically the same as that of the early Russian migrants. Some have moved due to political differences, others to safeguard their wealth and investments from what they see as a wobbly and shaky economic situation in Russia.

Russian Migrants in London

Almost one quarter of all London homes with an asking price above $15 million were purchased by Russians. Christie’s International Real Estate states that Russian property purchases over the past few years top $1 billion.

This trend seems likely to increase as the number of Russians being granted investor visas in the UK continues to grow. An investment visa requires that the visa holder invest a minimum of $3 million in British assets in return for being allowed to live in the country.

Depending on your viewpoint, the impact of this ‘investor migration’ is either very positive or really quite damaging. Those that view it in a positive light state that Russian migration is good for the local economy, as it leads to employment for a large number of staff, both privately and as part of the businesses they’re investing in. Others say that the overall benefit to most Britons is offset by the increase in costs, especially in regards to London real estate.

Famous Migrants

The number of Russian migrants in the UK is relatively small; estimates put the number at less than 200,000. This number is a bit muddled, due to the fact that many Russians have emigrated from former Soviet Balkan states that are now members of the EU. However the number of Britons of Russian heritage is fairly large numbering more than 300,000.

  • Yevgeny Chichvarkin – Is the founder of one of Russia’s largest mobile phone companies and was one of the country’s youngest billionaires. He moved to London after running afoul of Putin’s policies.
  • Dame Helen Mirren – The highly acclaimed actor’s father was Russian.
  • Sergei Fyodorov – Fyodorov is a painter known for his icons. His works appear at Westminster Abbey and Winchester Cathedral.
  • Sir Stuart Rose – The grandparent of the current CEO of Marks & Spencer fled the Russian revolution of 1917.
  • Amy Winehouse – The singer’s ancestors were Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants.

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