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RUSSIANS IN SUBOTICA: Buying Real Estate, Starting Businesses, and Sending Their Children to School

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oroszok szabadka / Russians in Subotica
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Almost every store in the center of Subotica echoes with Russian conversations, and lately, even the children are having difficulty understanding each other on the central playground. During our recent visit to the playground, besides us, there were only Russian families with their children, a total of eight people. Allegedly, in the past year, hundreds of Russians have moved to this northern Bačka town, and thousands have come to Serbia. While most prefer larger cities, they are also drawn to Subotica and readily purchase real estate with cash. More and more Russian students are enrolling in local primary schools. Though they might not yet speak the language, they attend school regularly.

Russians purchasing real estate for cash

Apart from paying astonishing amounts of money for rent in Belgrade and Novi Sad (the locals took advantage of the immense interest and charged astronomical prices), some chose to buy property in Serbia immediately. Naturally, this significantly impacted property prices, not only in big cities but also in places like Subotica.

Indeed, Russians are increasingly opting to make this small town in Northern Bačka their home. Unofficially, over two thousand Russians and slightly fewer Ukrainians have settled in Subotica.

In the first few months of 2023, Russians accounted for 3-5% of all real estate purchases. They show particular interest in 2-3-bedroom apartments, and their demand has driven prices up by as much as ten percent.

– They came and asked how much I wanted for the apartment. I said sixty thousand euros. Without bargaining, they paid in cash.

said an elderly woman who sold her two-bedroom apartment in the city center.

oroszok szabadka

Rezső Szügyi, real estate agent from Subotica (Source: Hét Nap))

Real estate agent Rezső Szügyi told BALK: prices are currently stagnating in the property market, with more supply than demand for the first time in a while. Recently, it’s not only Russian businessmen but middle-class families who are buying houses or apartments.

Previously, they showed interest in newly built flats as well, according to the real estate agent. However, since the prices for these properties rose to over 1400 euros per square meter in Subotica, they are not as attractive to Russian buyers.

Moreover, the influx of Russian families plays a role as well. They are more interested in buying houses with gardens.

-They are willing to spend around 30,000 to 50,000 euros on a family home. Some plan for the long term, while others know they will return to Russia once the war ends. Families look for properties close to kindergartens and schools. They live here permanently, and some might even stay forever.

Szügyi points out that there are also cases when Russians change their minds and opt for bigger cities. They then sell the purchased property and choose Novi Sad or Belgrade for the long term.

Investing in businesses and opening new ones

Russian immigrants show an entrepreneurial spirit. While many IT professionals flock to big cities, those in smaller towns quickly identify areas with a lack of certain services and adjust accordingly.

oroszok

Alla Bartošić, president of the Aleksandr Nevsky Serbian-Russian community (Source: Screenshot)

There is already a company owned by Russians that connects skilled workers, and a craft bakery in Subotica is now under Russian ownership. They have also opened a wine bar, right on the promenade.

Alla Bartošić, the president of the Serbian-Russian Friendship Association, states that over two thousand Russians and somewhat fewer Ukrainians have started a new life in Subotica.

According to her, they also deal with real estate brokerage and help their fellow countrymen from Russia to find properties more easily.

Data from the Subotica Employment Agency indicates that in the first four months of the year, forty work permits were requested by Russian citizens. Most of them start their own businesses.

Since most arriving Russians are highly educated, finding work is relatively easy for them as there is an increasing demand for skilled labor in Serbia.

Fleeing the conscription

This situation is not new for the inhabitants of Vojvodina, be they Hungarians or other ethnicities.

In the 1990s, hundreds of men fled Vojvodina to Hungary and farther to avoid being drafted to the frontlines.

Similarly, many Russian and Ukrainian men coming to Serbia are also escaping military conscription. Many couldn’t leave their country legally, and allegedly, it cost them several thousand dollars to escape Russia.

This wave of fleeing might be connected to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who recently signed a conscription law, which allows the military to draft Russian youths up to the age of 30.

According to Alla Bartošić, the people of Subotica welcome the Russians warmly, they treat them with goodwill, and they are always ready to help when needed.

Children going to school

By now, almost every elementary school in Subotica has Russian children. Teachers make every effort to help these children learn Serbian and make progress in their studies. The local students easily accept them.

Many of them attend the Jovan Mikić Elementary School in Subotica or the Ivan Goran Kovačić Elementary School in the city center.

The latter is particularly diverse, as a single class can have Serbian, Croatian, Bunjevac, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, and occasionally Hungarian-speaking students. Many describe the school as a small global community.

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