The Russian community has been visiting the French Riviera since the mid-19th century, when Tsar Alexander II first arrived by private train. He was closely followed by other members of royalty and aristocracy, to the extent that a Russian Cathedral was built in the city.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the French Riviera has welcomed back the Russian community – St Tropez in particular holding a lasting fascination for many. Famous Russians in St Tropez include Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and AS Monaco’s president Dmitry Rybolovlev, but St Tropez’s Russian association is so much bigger than that.
Exploring the lively Russian community in St Tropez
Named after an Orthodox Saint
The link between the Russian community and Saint-Tropez runs deep, partially because the village is named after an Orthodox saint – Saint Torpes of Pisa, the patron saint of sailors.
Torpes was a gladiator and attendant to the Emperor Nero, and was converted to Christianity by Saint Paul. When Nero asked him to renounce his faith, he refused, and Nero had him decapitated. His body was placed in a boat with a cockerel and a dog, which were meant to eat it, but when the boat was later found in Saint-Tropez, the body was untouched. The cockerel flew towards one village while the dog ran to another – they were named Cogolin and Grimaud respectively in their honour.
Famous Russian residents
Of the contemporary Russians in St Tropez, Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich has to be the best-known. Among his collection of properties worldwide is a spectacular St-Tropez villa, while his ex-wife Irina owns Sofie’s Choice, a £33m St Tropez mansion.
His superyacht, Eclipse, is often moored in Saint Tropez. It has nine decks, two helipads, two swimming pools, a cinema, conference room, gym, spa and sauna, along with three launch boats, a mini-submarine and even a laser-guided anti-paparazzi system.
Also among the Russian community, St Tropez property owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is a businessman who, in 2011, became President of Monaco’s football club, AS Monaco. Among his property portfolio is an estate in Saint-Tropez, and he also owns the stylish beach club and restaurant Bagatelle.
The St Tropez party spirit
Some Russians have taken the St-Tropez spirit home with them – in the Russian city Rostov-on-Don, for example, the glamorous pool restaurant St Tropez Pool Café hosts St Tropez-style pool parties, perhaps inspired by Nikki Beach, whose Russian Red Parties celebrate Russia with Moscow Mules and authentic entertainment.
In 2011, Russian Rapper Timati sang with American singer-songwriter Kalenna on the DJ Antoine summer hit ‘Welcome to St Tropez.’ The accompanying video features glamorous Russians in St Tropez – relaxing on its golden-sand beaches, driving luxury cars, on board yachts, and spraying champagne at a pool party.
The chorus is tongue-in-cheek hedonism: ‘Too much money in the bank … spending money in large amounts … hands in the air and scream and shout … when we’re in Saint Tropez.’
Who can blame them? Of all the world’s luxury villas for rent, St Tropez has some of the finest, and for many of the Russian community, St-Tropez, its spirit and party atmosphere, are simply too hard to resist.