With an initial investment of just over 390,000 euros, it is possible to obtain a new nationality. This is a growing phenomenon, to the point that 60% of foreigners who buy real estate in Turkey are Russians. For many it is a “plan B” after the blockade of Europe. The phenomenon worries (and irritates) Washington. Turkey would be helping Moscow to circumvent sanctions.
Istanbul () – The war launched by the Kremlin against Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow are leading a growing number of Russian citizens to “buy” Turkish citizenship. With an initial investment of just over 391 thousand euros, it is possible to obtain a new nationality and the corresponding passport, in order to avoid the punitive measures of the US and the European Union.
Right under Washington’s nose, he makes no secret of his irritation at the ploy. Turkish citizenship as an “investment” is evidenced by a veritable wave of Russians who have left the country and are trying to rebuild their lives by starting up business activities. Ankara has offered this opportunity since 2018, but the war has increased demand in a country that has always been a popular tourist destination.
Between 2018 and 2021, more than 20,000 foreigners – Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans – acquired Turkish citizenship, paying an initial sum of about 240,000 euros. The Turkish Ministry of the Interior does not publish official figures, but Middle East Eye (MME) estimates speak of almost 5,000 million euros in the state coffers, although the real value can reach up to 10,000 million and even more.
Faced with criticism from part of the population, which accuses the Government of “selling citizenship cheaply”, the authorities have raised the minimum figure to almost 400,000 euros. Muhammet Yasir Taflan, an immigration lawyer, confirms that this year the Russians are driving demand. “At the moment – he says – about 60% of real estate sales to foreigners correspond to Russian citizens.” And he adds that “last year they were less than 1%”.
Although on paper Turkey has closed the Bosphorus to Russian ships and remains loyal to NATO, it has also made efforts to maintain ties with Moscow and Vladimir Putin by rejecting sanctions policy. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing everything possible, even for internal reasons, to organize a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. This line has allowed him to keep alive, and strengthen, the relationship between Ankara and Moscow, which explains why between February and June of this year almost 4,900 Russian citizens bought a house in Turkey. It has also led, as a result of the latest summit between Erdogan and Putin, to the introduction of the Russian payment system Mir in five Turkish banks, with the possibility of accepting the ruble and credit cards issued by Russian institutions.
Bayram Tekce, vice president of the Real Estate International Promotion Association (Gigder), confirms that Turkish citizenship is currently “a plan B” for many Russians. “We found many – he adds – that you would expect to see in Nice or on the Côte d’Azur, with high incomes and education, who are trying to rebuild their lives.” In one month, he concludes, 25 houses were sold to Russians, half of which “to obtain citizenship and the rest to obtain at least residency.”
The phenomenon, of growing proportions, raises more than one concern in Washington and was the subject of a meeting between representatives of the Turkish and American governments last June in Ankara. The Turks have tried to appease US anger by pointing out that the Russians applying for citizenship are ordinary people, not members of the oligarchy that supports and feeds Putin’s power. However, a study published a few days ago by the Dunya newspaper seems to justify the perplexities, showing that Russian interests in infrastructure and investment go beyond the question of citizenship, given that the country has become a distribution center of goods (including luxury) subject to sanctions. “The merchandise destined for Russia -explains the report- and coming from different parts of the world, including the European Union and the Far East, is taken first to Turkey and then to Russia, after a change of containers” to avoid the blockade.