Public Schools lure rich Russians: Gordonstoun is among the private educators laying out their stall in Moscow - but not for children of the mafia

IN a shabby classroom at Moscow University, a group of Russians gathered round an English headmaster last week to hear about the family atmosphere at his school, watch a video of pupils at work, prayer and play, and hear about the experiences of 18 Russian children already boarding there.

A new generation of rich Russians are educating their children at British public schools - and an organisation called Albion, a group of five prep schools and five boarding schools (including Gordonstoun where Prince Charles was educated), is running a programme to give children of the old Soviet empire access to the elite system that once helped to underpin the British empire.

By the end of the evening in the Moscow classroom, two mothers had signed up their children for Oakley Hall, Cirencester. The headmaster, John Rawlinson, thinks he will have about 30 new clients by the end of his latest recruitment trip.

'I want my Lena to have opportunities which I never had,' said Tatyana Kolosova, one of the mothers who signed a contract with the school.

Mrs Kolosova, dressed in a red silk suit and wearing diamond rings and a gold bracelet, was not put off by the fees of dollars 5,500 ( pounds 3,700) per term - it costs dollars 7,000 for a senior school pupil - though they are a fortune for the average Russian who earns the equivalent of dollars 100 to dollars 200 per month.

Mrs Kolosova is the manager of the main book shop in Tver, just north of Moscow, and her husband has a powerful job involving building and transport. She denies they are super-rich. 'We have a four-room flat and a dacha, but then who does not have a dacha in Russia?' Her husband drives a Mercedes and she goes to work in a second-hand Opel.

'We are working hard and creatively,' she said. 'My husband works 18 hours a day. We are just spending what we have legally earned. We think education is the best investment. To anyone who envies us I can only say, 'May you all work as hard as us and have what we have.' ' There is more than hard work behind some Russians' wealth, however. Some very rich people in Russia today are gangsters, a fact of which Mr Rawlinson and the other headmasters in the Albion organisation are well aware.

The organisation, which has a former British naval attache on its staff, says it screens out the mafia, though it will not go into details about how this is done. 'Let's just say I've met a lot of parents, and you develop an eye,' said Mr Rawlinson.

One family with underworld links was rejected by Oakley Hall but has been accommodated at another British school. 'I had better not say where . . .' said Mr Rawlinson.

Rodney Atwood, headmaster of Box Hill School near Dorking, where seven Russian children are receiving education as a perk from the oil firm that employs their parents, has not yet come across the mafia. 'If I say the problem hasn't arisen, it probably sounds frightfully glib but it really hasn't' (He has, however, had to deal with a a Russian child who had what the school regarded as 'an excessive amount of pocket money'.) Dr Atwood believes that criminals are not generally interested in education. The type of parents he has been meeting are either Anglophiles or those with a high regard for learning and strong ambition for their children.

Certainly these seemed to be the kind of people who came to the meeting at Moscow University after seeing advertisements in the press. They asked serious questions about curricula and health insurance, and took copious notes.

One mother of six children, in dowdy clothes, which suggested she could not be living on more than the average Russian wage, asked whether the schools provided financial help for parents of talented children and limited means. She was taken into another room for a private discussion.

The schools do offer a few scholarships, which relieve but do not entirely remove the parental burden. But Mr Rawlinson warned: 'If your first priority is how cheap the school is, we have a different approach. Our aim is to give an excellent education.'

One Russian child who has already received the benefits of Oakley Hall is nine-year-old Vladimir Maximov. His mother Larissa, who works for an organisation that helps infertile Western couples to adopt children in the former Soviet Union, came to Moscow from her home in Saratov, on the Volga, to tell of her experience of British schooling and to pass on a parcel for her boy. Did it contain cake? 'No, no, I think you have cake in England. It's full of toys,' she said.

Mrs Maximova is satisfied that her main aim in sending Vladimir to Gloucestershire has been fulfilled: he has learned to speak fluent English and absorbed a little of the English, rather than American, culture. 'I have travelled at lot, to Germany, to the United Arab Emirates,' she said. 'But only England has that charm, those old, beautiful buildings. Even the people age beautifully.'

But she will probably not be keeping Vladimir in England beyond this year. For her, the cost of a full education to the age of 18 is prohibitive, and she is anxious that her son should not forget Russia and the Russian language. Her ambition for him is simply that he should fulfil himself. 'Social climbing is not the goal. Let him be a carpenter as long as he is happy, honest and good.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before