Mike Walsh

What happened? Throughout Mediterranean Spain the red, white and blue flag is now almost as commonplace as is the national flag of Spain. It is no longer Britain’s Union Flag but the Russian Federation’s tri-colour banner that provides a welcome to affluent Russian speakers.

Little wonder; the Russians have so far invested nearly €1,000 million in Costa Blanca property. The number of Russian holiday homebuyers has trebled since 2010.

My Russian-Ukrainian wife, Nadia now feels as much at home here as I do. In fact, her skills as an English / Spanish to Russian copy translator keep her busy.

According to the College of Property Registrars, Russian and French buyers pushed British buyers into third place. Russia’s economic prospects are far healthier than the European Union’s. Often forgotten, most people in the affluent former Eastern Block states also speak Russian.

The Russian speaking population is 142 million. If we include non-Russians but those familiar with the Russian language, this figure rises to 350 million Russian speakers. To put things in perspective there are far more Russian speakers on our doorstep than there are English speakers in the United States. The Russian economy is doing better too.

Although the Russian Federation is by far the world’s largest country, it is virtually landlocked. Unlike Americans and Western Europeans, the more prosperous Russians have no natural access to a sub-tropical climate and lifestyle.

When affluent Russians want a sub-tropical second home or holiday there is very little to be found in their own country. There is competition for Russian buyers, holidaymakers and investors. Surprisingly, for those who experienced the Cold War, many Russian speakers are being lured to the Bahamas, Florida and California.

However, Mediterranean countries are the easy option and Spain ticks more boxes than any other region. It gets better: If as expected, visa requirements are further eased then the second language throughout the Costa communities could be Russian rather than English.

Whilst it is true that Marbella and the Costa del Sol in general act as a magnet, it is a mistake to think Russians are totally focused on the region. Barcelona lured Russian tourists and investors before Marbella stole the limelight. Spain’s second city attracts the more erudite art-loving Russians. Torrevieja could arguably be said to be the launching pad for Russian enterprise. Vladimir Putin, the current President of the Russian Federation, inspired this Russian initiative.

Long before this popular leader held the Russian presidency, he was very well placed in government. Twenty years ago, Vladimir Putin bought up an area of Torrevieja now known as Casas Blancas (White Houses). These presumably were for Russian friends and colleagues. Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev has had a home in nearby Quesada for nearly thirteen years.

Keith Nicol, one of the Costa communities’ best-known photojournalists, says, “I think that the Russian market, especially if put into major projects such as hotels, sports, and leisure facilities and suchlike. This will make them a major force.”

Can they do it? The Russians did so in Cyprus. This Cypriot city boasts Russian schools, orthodox churches, Russian shopping malls, and media including radio and television companies.

Are the Russians expansionist? Is the Pope a Catholic? Russian speaking big spenders are already pouring into Finland, the Baltic States, Poland, and London, Slovakia etc. They are doing so because these nations are desperate to take advantage of the buoyant rouble. Retailers in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city say 40 per cent of their turnover are Russian rouble based.

Russian speakers are big spenders. A popular restaurant, at which the a la carte menu starts at €40, was packed with Russians. Nadia says it was like sitting in a Moscow or St Petersburg Restaurant.

Anna and Richard Plaster of Serenity Sailing, who recently engaged Nadia to provide their Russian translations, are realists. “The Russian market is the mainstay of our business.” Elizabeth and Paul Jackson of the Beauty Emporium in Benimar say their stall is being laid out for the Russian speakers.

Michael and Nadia Walsh are copy translators who specialise in English / Spanish to Russian translations. Telephone 662 067 490 or visit