Prague Russians new Zurich

Today’s Czech Republic, firmly anchored in the NATO and European Union, the richest former Communist country in central Europe, and boasting low inflation and a stable currency. Mix in the country’s natural beauty, the Russian-Czech language proximity and the fact that it takes under three hours to fly from Moscow to Prague. It then becomes little surprising that the Czech Republic has attracted large numbers of Russian expatriates according to Wall Street Journal.

Prague Photos
This photo of Prague is courtesy of TripAdvisor

According to official statistics nearly 32,000 Russians with either temporary or long-term     residency permits live in the Czech Republic. This isn’t a lot in a country of 10 million but the official number is swelled by thousands more who commute between Moscow and Prague while taking with them some of their hard-earned money away from what they see as unstable Russia into the safety of Czech-based banks.

“Ordinary Russians move in the Czech Republic because they view the country as safe and because they want their children to live in a stable society,” Alexej Kelin of the Prague-based Russian Tradition expatriate organization was quoted as saying last night by the CT-24 Czech television news channel.

Russians are mostly concentrated in Prague and the western Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary. Most are professionals with incomes above the Czech average of about $1,500 a month. The wealthiest Russians in the Czech Republic have made several local banks offer private banking services by Russian-speaking staff.

One of them is Raiffeisen Bank International, an Austrian retail lender. It has recently begun offering its top private banking services under the Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen moniker, or FWR, in Prague and Brno, the second-largest Czech city, some two hours by car south-east of the capital. FWR has branches in only a few other places, including Vienna and Budapest.

FWR opens accounts for clients with at least EUR 500,000 in assets. The bank doesn’t disclose details on its clients but people familiar with its services say that well-to-do Russians account for a large customer segment of its Prague branch. These Russians picked the Czech capital as one of several places outside Russia from where they can manage their wealth, having already stashed some money away in Switzerland, the U.K. and offshore tax-havens.

“Among the former Soviet-bloc countries, Prague is something like Zürich for well-off Russians,” says one person familiar with the Czech banking sector catering for Russian clients. See the full article in Wall Street Journal.