Then there was the other type - dissidents, faces etched with suffering from their years in gulags. Both were rare finds in these islands and to meet one was as exciting as spotting a golden oriole would be to an ornithologist.
Now Russians are as common as starlings and no one follows them around as their only agenda is buying things - property, if they're men and bits and bobs from Harvey Nichols if they're women.
This invasion is not new. The owner of Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich, is well known. But it may surprise some to know how many mini-Abramoviches have followed him. According to a report in today's newspaper, 300,000 Russians live here, and wags have nicknamed it Londongrad and Moscow2.
Quite what lures rich Russians in droves to London may not be automatically apparent. Clearly, the presence of Karl Marx's tomb in Highgate is no longer a draw.
Some say it is the "grand spaces" they can buy in Belgravia for a few million - a bagatelle for the entrepreneurs who did so well under Boris Yeltsin, but who have found life more taxing - literally - under Vladimir Putin. Combine that with the tax loopholes that allow rich Russians to live here cheaply, and Bob - or Vlad - is your uncle, or rather, your new neighbour.