Russian Nationals Establishing Thriving Businesses in Serbia

Growing Russian Community in Serbia Shows Entrepreneurial Spirit

Since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Serbia has seen a significant influx of Russian nationals seeking refuge and new opportunities. Over the past two years, around 370,000 Russians have arrived in the Balkan nation, with many choosing to establish businesses. Initially, these businesses catered to Russian tastes, such as restaurants, bars, and beauty salons. However, as the Russian community settled in, their entrepreneurial ventures diversified, with a focus on kindergartens, online shops, production facilities, property companies, and co-working spaces. This surge in Russian-owned businesses is bolstered by the favorable business environment and economic ties between Russia and Serbia.

1: Diversification of Russian-Owned Businesses

As the Russian community in Serbia grew, so did the variety of businesses they established. This diversification reflects the long-term commitment of these individuals to the country. Kindergartens, online shops, and production facilities have become popular choices, catering to the needs of both the Russian community and the local population. Additionally, property companies and co-working spaces have emerged, capitalizing on the benefits provided by Serbian authorities. The surge of IT specialists, software development, legal advice, and business consulting services further contributes to the growth of the Russian-owned business sector.

2: Motivations and Success Stories

Maria, a former florist from Moscow, identified a gap in the flower market in Belgrade and established her own flower delivery service, She aimed to provide a modern and trendy service that met her own high standards. After successfully testing the market among the Russian community, she expanded her business to cater to a wider audience. Maria’s story exemplifies the motivation shared by many urban Russians who feel they cannot find the quality of service they are accustomed to.

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3: Favorable Business Environment in Serbia

According to Maria, setting up a business in Serbia is easier and more affordable compared to other countries, such as Turkey. The presence of a supportive network of friends who had already established businesses in Serbia also facilitated the process. However, some challenges remain, such as the minimum monthly payment for individual entrepreneurs, which can be burdensome for those starting small businesses. Despite these obstacles, the allure of obtaining residency and, eventually, a Serbian passport after three years has incentivized many Russians to set up businesses in Serbia.

4: Economic Ties and Supply Chains

The growing economic ties between Russia and Serbia have further encouraged Russian entrepreneurs to invest in the country. Air Serbia operates daily flights between Belgrade and Moscow and St. Petersburg, facilitating travel for opportunistic entrepreneurs. Additionally, Serbian companies have faced sanctions from the U.K. and EU for exporting dual-use goods to Russia, leading to increased Russian supply chains in Serbia. This is evident in the availability of Russian products, such as Alyonka chocolate, on Serbian grocery shelves. Similarly, Serbian brandy, rakia, is gaining popularity in Moscow.

5: Mixed Reactions and Integration

The influx of Russian-owned businesses has had mixed reactions among the local population. While some appreciate the injection of new energy and innovative ideas, others feel that the Russian community operates in a parallel world, creating a “mini-Moscow” within Serbia. There is a call for greater integration between the Russian entrepreneurs and the local population. However, it is undeniable that these businesses have raised the standards in the service industry and contributed to the overall economic landscape of Serbia.

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The surge in Russian-owned businesses in Serbia reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of the Russian community and their commitment to establishing long-term roots in the country. The diversification of these businesses, coupled with the favorable business environment and economic ties between Russia and Serbia, has created a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. While the local population has varying opinions about the influx of Russian businesses, there is a recognition of the positive impact they have had on the service industry. As the Russian community continues to integrate and contribute to the Serbian economy, Serbia may well transform into a tech hub with the help of the thousands of Russian IT professionals who have chosen to make it their new home.