Published: March 9, 2014 (Issue # 1800)
Britain is becoming increasingly well-known for its enclaves of wealthy Russians — from Roman Abramovich’s ownership of London’s Chelsea F.C. soccer team to the voyeuristic “Meet The Russians” reality show on FOX, wealthy Russian emigres have gotten plenty of headlines in London.
However, a new wave of Russians is headed further north, to Aberdeen and the Scottish region of Speyside, where the booming oil industry and the lure of plentiful Scotch whisky have lured many wealthy Russians.
“The Scots welcome wholeheartedly all tourists from any part of the world,” said Elena Sargeant, head of TransAberdeen Languages and Tours, a company offering interpreting services and tours aimed at Russians. “Russian tourists in particular are very welcome because they are very kind, polite, very well-behaved, very knowledgeable about Scottish and British history,” Sargeant added.
Sargeant said numerous Russians and Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union lived in Aberdeen, working in positions ranging from company directors and university lecturers to cleaners and laborers. The number of Russian speakers has steadily grown in recent years, with a large influx of immigrants from the Baltic republics.
The growing local population of Russians, as well as growing numbers of Russian tourists — Russian visitors to the U.K. have risen by more than 60 percent since 2009 — has led to a noticeable number of wealthy Russians visiting Speyside, the region around Aberdeen, which is known for its great quantity of single malt whisky distilleries.
“We do get a lot of Russians coming in, and luckily they do have a lot of money,” said Michael Lord, proprietor of “The Whisky Shop” in Dufftown. While tourism in general has declined since the economic crisis, wealthy Russians have helped to make up for losses with extravagant spending.