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Wealthy Russians Take Over British TV

Published: September 26, 2013 (Issue # 1779)



  • Fox TVs new show Meet the Russians will feature wealthy wives, models and businessmen, a sampling of Londons Russian emigre population.
    Photo: Fox TV

"Meet the Russians," a reality entertainment show produced by Fox TV, will start broadcasting in Britain on Sept. 25. It estimates there are 300,000 Russians now resident in London, and it intends to look at a cross section of the most flamboyant ones.

"Prepare to enter a jaw-dropping world of unbelievable riches and extraordinary characters", declares the website. "In our brand new fly-on-the-wall series, you'll experience one extraordinary world dripping in lashings of luxury, opulence, exclusive events and private jets. This is a Russian fairy tale with a difference."

The show advertises characters such as Dmitry: "Always outrageous, Dmitry is the star of any event he attends, and his tongue is as sharp as his dress sense and Louboutin spiked shoes!" Or Katia: "The latest top Russian model to make it big internationally."

Of course, the participants in the series are not the typical Russians in London, but they are rather more the type of person usually found on FOX reality TV shows.

However, the series is the latest manifestation of the ongoing high-profile Russian presence throughout Britain, in general, and London in particular. It has been 10 years since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in one of the most public symbols of a wave of Russian new money that made inroads into British life. Abramovich and the likes of Leonard Blavatvik and the Waterstones book chain owner, Alexander Mamut, have moved the cliche of the Russian away from the 1980s cold war warriors to the new cliches of "Moscow on Thames" and "Londongrad," the home for billionaire oligarchs with a taste for anglophilia.

British-Russian political relations might have been strained by Alexander Litvinenko and Syria, yet at a social level, relations between the two nations have never been better. It is hard to find an official estimate of the number of Russians who have made Britain their home: it varies from 32,000, the Office of National Statistics figure in 2009, to 400,000. The Sunday Times Rich List of the wealthiest people in Britain in 2013 is topped by Russian Alisher Usmanov. Another emigre, Yevgeny Lebedev, has lived in England since he was a child. Born in Russia, he came to London as a diplomat's son; his father Alexander worked at the Soviet Embassy. He is now chairman and owner of the Evening Standard, Independent and Independent on Sunday and a naturalized British subject who has made a contribution to British life.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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