Russian Property Buying Surges in Turkey, NATO's Weak Link

Overseas buyers snapping up property in Turkey is nothing new—but the volume of purchases by Russians has nearly tripled year-on-year.

Questions are being asked about Turkey's relationship with Russia, given the number of oligarchs that have parked their yachts along the south coast of the country and Turkey's tough talk on blocking Sweden and Finland from joining NATO. Added to that, data analyzed by Newsweek from the Turkish Statistical Institute shows that Russian purchases of Turkish property reached their highest-ever level in April, up to 1,152 sales from 402 in April 2021.

Usually, buyers from Iran are the biggest cohort, followed closely by Iraq. But for the first time in the data, going back to 2015, Russian buyers are the largest group, followed by those from Iran totalling 905 buyers.

Russian buyers of Turkish property leapt as a percentage of all buyers from 9.7 percent in March to 17.7 percent.

Turkey Russia property
The number of Russian buyers of Turkish property has surged in April 2022 to nearly 18 percent of all buyers. Turkey's relationship with Russia is being questioned as it seeks to block NATO accession for Sweden and Finland.

One of the attractions of buying Turkish property, aside from the stunning coastline, is the fact that buyers can also get Turkish citizenship as part of the package.

In April, Turkey's government upped the threshold property price that confers citizenship. Foreigners will now have to pay $400,000 for a property and commit to keeping it for at least three years to get a Turkish passport. Previously, the figure was $250,000. Before 2017 it was $1 million, but was reduced in 2017 to attract more foreign buyers.

As a response, the total number of foreign buyers in the Turkish property market went from 22,400 in 2017 to 40,000 in 2018. The total dropped during the pandemic, but in 2021 it was nearly 60,000. Already in 2022 there are more than 21,000 foreign buyers in total.

The surge in purchases by Russians comes as Turkey is facing economic hardship. Inflation is now nearly 70 percent, and the Turkish lira has lost nearly half its value in the last year, going from around 8 lira to the dollar to more than 15 today.

Turkey-Russia Relationship and Ukraine

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had close ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin before the invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Erdoğan has called the invasion unacceptable but has ignored the sanctions implemented by (mainly) Western nations and is looking to act as an intermediary between Moscow and Kyiv.

Turkey's block on Finland and Sweden joining NATO has been based on supposed Kurdish militants being hosted by the two Nordic countries. In a news conference on Monday, Erdoğan said: "Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organizations. How can we trust them?"

All current NATO members must agree to new counties joining.

On Tuesday, Finland's president said he was confident he could convince Turkey to accept its NATO application bid "with the help of constructive discussions," but previously Erdoğan has said delegates from Sweden and Finland should not bother coming to Ankara.

Turkey beach Antalya
Russians are now the biggest group of property buyers in Turkey. Konyaalti beach in Antalya, Turkey, is pictured during a weekend in 2021. Getty Images