THEY were stripped of their noble titles in the bloody revolutions of 1917, but, a century later, some Russians are trying to get them back, thanks to a controversial Scottish scheme.
The country’s citizens have latched on to the old craze, once popular in countries like Australia, of ordering square-foot souvenir plots of Glen Coe that supposedly come with the title of “laird”.
They are buying through Channel Islands-based venture, Highland Titles, which has previously been criticised by British advertising authorities amid concerns some purchasers genuinely thought they were entitled to call themselves “lord” or “lady”.
However, Russian publicity for the products appears to repeat these claims.
Oleg Bogatyryov, who claimed to be a representative of the firm, told Russia’s Life TV station that sales were up 40 per cent this year after rising 32 per cent in 2016.
In an explicit claim that the plots conferred a title, Mr Bogatyryov added: “More than 100,000 people around the world have become lord and lady of Glen Coe or Lochaber. Russia only accounts for a small part of that number but occupies a leading position in terms of growth in Europe.”
Highland Titles, based in Alderney, claimed its plots are sold to support nature reserves. However, a UK spokesman insisted the titles were not meant to be taken seriously. He added: “We have always seen our products as a bit of fun and support a good cause.”
There is substantial interest in noble titles in Russia as the country prepares to mark the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution of October 2017. Some campaigners are trying to re-establish an aristocracy. Others are buying and selling Scottish feudal baronies, which come with a coat of arms, or the titles of extinguished states such as Pomerania and Livonia.
Highland Titles have been thrown into this mix with reports suggesting plot owners are “real Lords and Ladies”. One Moscow website is selling souvenir plots and “rank of a lord” for 6,400 rubles. That is £85, nearly three times as much as a Highland Titles plots sold online through its UK website.
The Russian website also claims to be operating “with the assistance” of the UK Embassy in Moscow and Scottish Development International. The Scottish agency said this was not the case.
The Russian website also warns against fraudulent competitors and insists all plots are registered in the UK. There is no way to register a souvenir plot in Scotland.
The Highland Titles spokesman said he had no knowledge of the Russian site marketing souvenir plots and titles. He confirmed there had been some Russian sales and at least two Russians had been to Glen Coe to view their plots. “They were thrilled,” he said.
Jill Robbie, lecturer in Private Law at Glasgow University, is one of a number of experts to criticise the online trade in plots. She said: “In Scotland, there is a prohibition on the registration of souvenir plots and therefore ownership of such plots cannot be acquired.
“The word Laird is a descriptive term for an estate owner, which is not synonymous with Lord or Lady, and which is not an appropriate description of an owner of a small area of land. Since it is impossible to register transfers of souvenir plots, one could not even be described as a landowner as a result of the transaction.”
Source : HeraldScotland