A leafy suburb on the outskirts of Moscow is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
Or so I was told, on a recent trip to Russia. The thing is, you can’t see any of it.
Rublyovka, named after the Rublyovskoye highway that winds through it, is home to government officials and wealthy businesspeople. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev both reportedly have homes in the area.
Houses in Rublyovka don’t come cheap — they can easily cost up to $60 or $80 million, according to Leonid Nikitskiy, the head of country real estate at Moscow Sotheby’s International Realty, who gave me a tour of the suburb.
In the lavish Mayendorf Gardens gated community of Rublyovka, a 12,000-square-foot mansion with a swimming pool, sauna, and staff apartments is for sale for $62.4 million. But the most expensive homes may not even be publicly listed.
“As a rule, transactions over $40 to $50 million are not advertised but are realized among a narrow circle of people and their representatives,” Nikitskiy said.
During my June trip, I drove a portion of the Rublyovskoye highway with Nikitskiy. As we drove down the two-lane, tree-lined road, we passed Range Rovers, Land Rovers, Mercedes, Porsches, BMWs, and a Rolls Royce.
What seemed like every few minutes, a black government car topped with a blue LED light would zip through the lines of traffic.
These government cars are one of the pitfalls of living along the Rublyovskoye highway. The road gets shut down almost every day to make way for convoys of government cars carrying the president, the prime minister, and other officials between their countryside estates and the Kremlin, Nikitskiy told me.
“You can have a multimillion-dollar house, a Bentley, a Ferrari, but you still have to sit in traffic,” Nikitskiy said.
Rublyovka’s multimillion-dollar homes are hidden away in the trees behind high walls lined with security cameras.
We passed a few high-end restaurants, as well as a luxury mall with a Ferrari dealership and Gucci and Prada boutiques, but Rublyovka seemed to be mainly residential.
But as it turned out, I could barely get a glimpse of the multimillion-dollar homes.
A 2015 New York Times article described Rublyovka as “a mixture of Greenwich, Conn., and Beverly Hills, Calif. … a patchwork of gated communities combining vast wealth with often dubious taste — the roofs of faux French chateaus and Italian palazzos peek out amid high walls and even higher trees.”
These high walls and dense trees meant that I could hardly see any of the suburb’s lavish homes, most of which are set back from the highway in the forest. I could only catch glimpses of the homes through the leaves and over the imposing walls.
Wealthy Russians are obsessed with privacy and security.
“Many bought their homes here in the 1990s when it was a dark time for Russia,” Nikitskiy told me when I asked about the security measures. “They built very high walls and security cameras because they were scared.”
These days, residents likely don’t have to worry much about crime.
“With President Vladimir V. Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev living a few miles down the forested road, the area is crawling with undercover state security agents— the F.S.B. — and zero reported burglars,” Neil MacFarquhar wrote in the Times.
As Nikitskiy repeatedly told me, affluent Russians are exceedingly private — so much so that even Moscow Sotheby’s International Realty couldn’t get me in to look at any homes they’re selling in Rublyovka.
Rather than showing off their opulent homes, the upper crust of Russian society clearly values privacy and security above all else — values that are exemplified in the secluded forests of Rublyovka.