Russian money in England

It turned out that Russian oligarchs are not just buying mansions, but also academic societies

I came across Karina Orlova’s blogpost on “Russian money in the British academic world” by accident. “It turned out that Russian oligarchs are not just buying mansions, but also academic societies” is one of the quotes from her post.

I began thinking about what is bought, or more precisely traded, in the UK several years ago.

It is a very delicate subject and, I would even say, a dangerous one for the not yet strong minds of the majority of Russians. It seems to me most Russians have a very individualistic, gentleman’s selection of thoughts in their heads about the UK depending on their upbringing, education, and material wellbeing: From Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, the industrial revolution, the Queen and even to Big Ben. But the most desirable value of Foggy Albion is represented by “limitless freedom”. And, I almost forgot, by the most murky, and foggy legal system in the world – the High Court of London, with its centuries of dust settled on the wigs of the judges and barristers there.

As a person who has lived more than 20 years in France and about the same amount in the Soviet Union and Russia, as well as a few years in the United States, I don’t have anything really with which to compare my personal experience.

It turned out that the mother of my children is a subject of the British queen, a countess, and the daughter of a well-known British historian, writer and academic professor. Thanks to such connections, I was able to break into the top of British high society: There were Lords, members of parliament, lawyers, and even the only nephew of the British Queen who became my business partner. It may be that this will shock some of you, but these people tried with all their hearts to say we love all Russians. I heard this more than once within the walls of parliaments, at private parties and in conversation with politicians. In the beginning, noone missed an opportunity to pass on their greetings to Vladimir Putin, to remind me of their admiration for his iron grip and their sincere support of his foreign policy.

Returning to the subject of Karina Orlova’s astonishment about Oxford, Cambridge, Blavatnik, Vekselberg and the deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry Alexander Makhnov, I would like to say: “Dear Karina, You have hit the mark exactly. The UK trades brands, that is to say its history, because it has nothing else to trade. There is really noone else apart from Russians and Arab Sheikhs who will buy these virtual values.”

More than 300,000 people from the former Soviet Union live in Great Britain (0.5 per cent of the population).

In Russia, people speak more and more frequently about a fifth column. They mean the small number of human rights defenders and the few idealistic opposition politicians who remain alive. The Russians in the UK, however, are not a fifth column, but the exact opposite. They are a monolith, and the foundation for the prosperity of the entire country.

You and I understand that what’s important is not quantity, but quality. I’m not going to read out the Forbes list, or the stunning figures on the numbers of children of Russian officials that have studied or are studying in the UK. Everyone knows this to a varying degree. The richest part of Russian society is concentrated in the UK, the part that without doubt has something to lose in Russia, since they “earn” there and spend – in the UK. And even without having been given any special assignments or any training by the KGB, they are always ready to serve their motherland. They are always ready with great desire, and with a slight note of embarrassment as justification, to bring to the altar of their Fatherland the lobbyists they have recruited on all kinds of levels depending on their wellbeing and position in British society. All this is inseparable from their position in Russia.

Based on my personal experiences and deep conviction, I can say with surety that the project “UK is ours!” is much more successful than Crimea [ed Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, a popular Russian slogan has been “Crimea is ours!”]. This is about football too (there are millions who support our light blue shirts). And how much does the soap opera in the High Court of London cost, which is watched so closely by journalists with bated breath? What are the denouements? The scripts? There is Berezovsky vs Abramovich, Deripaska vs Chernoi… Behind their backs the Father of the Nation looms ominously as before. And we, of course, are sure that “Nashi”, or “our side” will win.

And who are these people? “Nashi”, “our side”? Berezovsky, Abramovich, Chichivarkin and those who are close to Khodorkovsky? Of course not. The real “Nashi”, the real people on “Our Side” are the native British. All these lords, parliamentarians and of course lawyers (ed note Russian court cases have helped 100 of the best British law firms receive an unheard of profit of £5bn, as earnings have increased 17 per cent. The average annual income of a partner in a top legal firm in London has reached over £1m. The annual income of the 20 biggest English firms has reached £15.1bn. There are 10,726 law firms in Great Britain alone.)

And the slogans thought up by Kremlin propagandists about the evil empire that will never extradite the enemies of Russia and other renegades; the angry denunciations of human rights violations that are made in response – this is all no more than cries at a football match.

For example, there is today’s sensational report on the statement of David Cameron, the UK premier, that Vladimir Putin would welcome the UK’s exit from the European Union. “It is worth asking who would be happy if we exited? Putin would perhaps be happy. And I suspect Al Bagdadi also,” Cameron said. Don’t believe him. If any of you didn’t understand this is not an accusation, it is a cry for help.

It would be mediocre and stupid to lose such a strong point of influence in the European Union after such investments. This is worth a lot more than a military base in Cuba.

Dear Karina and my former compatriots, about Crimea everything is far from clear. But the UK – this is definitely YOURS, together with its democratic values.


Sergei Pugachev