Could an Exodus of Russian Oligarchs Transform Kazakhstan Into a Luxury Hotspot?

Wealthy Muscovites are ditching the Mediterranean for the hip cafés of Almaty

Rixos Almaty

Courtesy of Rixos Hotel Almaty, Kazakhstan

Despite a windfall of oil riches that have transformed the country into a petro-power in recent years, Kazakhstan remains a mystery to many outside Central Asia. Most Westerners might only know it as the subject of Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat" franchise, but off-screen, the country's two primary metropolises, Astana, the capital, and Almaty, the country's business hub, are lively and cosmopolitan, filled with chic cafés, bars, restaurants, and bustling nightclubs.

And while the cities of Kazakhstan are already peppered with newly acquired wealth, the country has recently seen a new influx of some even wealthier neighbors.

Since the war in Ukraine began earlier this year, thousands of Russians have fled their home country for Kazakhstan. As of April, almost 130,000 Russian citizens are living in Kazakhstan, with the country's Deputy Interior Minister, Marat Qozhaev, stating that the number of Russian nationals applying for permanent residence in the country has tripled since the war began.

Kazakhstan Almaty aerial landscape
Danil Maslov / Getty Images

Many of Russia's wealthiest citizens have chosen to move to Kazakhstan based on familiarity with its culture and language (Russian is one of the country's two official languages). And with sanctions against Russian oligarchs currently in place across the globe, it's no surprise they've set their sights on their neighboring country.

While many flights to Europe are no longer available from Russia, connecting flights are available from Kazakhstan. Add in the fact that travel to Kazakhstan is visa-free, unlike many European countries, and the country is a perfect fit for wealthy Muscovites looking to flee.

In a contentious year, those jet-setting Russians who would have usually decamped for Greece or southern France are staying put near the Caspian Sea. The Kazakh seaside resorts that have traditionally only been popular with locals, such as the Rixos Water World Aktau, the Caspian Riviera Grand Palace, and the Grand Hotel Victory, may now see an influx of new visitors. And the cities of Astana and Almaty, both prime congregating spots for new Russian residents, will find luxury demand higher than it has been in previous years.

Could this new influx of luxury residents inspire a broader trend of Europe acknowledging Kazakhstan as a luxury newcomer? Regardless of whether or not the country's new residents decide to stay for the long term, Kazakhstan is certainly finding itself shifting to a new position on the global stage.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Central Asia News. "Kremlin Repression Prompts Thousands of Russians to Flee Abroad." April 4, 2022.

  2. Radio Free Europe. "Number of Russian Citizens Applying For Permanent Residence In Kazakhstan Rising." April 13, 2022.

  3. Air Mail. "Kazakhstan or Bust!" June 11, 2022.