5 TV Shows You Can Stream To Help You Learn Russian

Despite their names, neither Russian Doll nor Chernobyl are actually in Russian, so here’s a guide to shows that you can actually learn with.
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5 TV Shows You Can Stream To Help You Learn Russian

It’s the end of a long day of work, and you just want to kick back with a television show. But wait! You forgot that you’d promised to study Russian for an hour every day this month. Fortunately, there’s a solution here (which you’ve probably already guessed). Watching Russian TV shows is a great, laidback way to study for when you don’t necessarily have the energy to focus on memorizing vocab and grammar.

It can be tough to know where to begin with Russian television, however. And with Russian stories often being English-washed, even searching “Russian TV shows” can be confusing. That’s why we compiled this list of five of the best Russian television shows available to stream. There are plenty of options out there, but here are some good places to start.

1. Leo & Tig

A screenshot from Russian tv show Leo and Tig
Courtesy of Parovoz

Where To Watch: Netflix

Number Of Seasons: 1 (ongoing)

Show Premise: Leo & Tig is a children’s show about a lion and a tiger who are friends and go on adventures. It’s currently a very popular show in Russia. If you want more of a challenge, you can also try watching the incredibly popular — like, one of the top videos ever on YouTube — Masha and the Bear, but it’s very difficult to find a Russian version of the show with English subtitles (Netflix carries only the English version).

Learning Tips: The automatic settings on Netflix will have you watching the dubbed version, so make sure to get it in the original Russian with English subtitles. Because it’s a kids’ show, it can be helpful to start here if you’re a Russian beginner.

2. Фарца (Fartsa)

A screenshot from Russian TV show Fartsa
Courtesy of Sreda

Where To Watch: Netflix

Number Of Seasons: 1 (ended)

Show Premise: The name might sound a bit comical when read in English, but Fartsa‘s title is a shortening of fartsovka, which was a term for illegal business in the Soviet Union. Set in the ’60s, the story follows four friends as they engage in this practice and (as it is illegal) end up getting into a lot of difficult situations.

Learning Tips: Beyond the usual language benefits, this show also provides an interesting look into 1960s Russia (though don’t watch it entirely for historical accuracy).

3. Нюхач (The Sniffer)

A promo image of the Russian TV show The Sniffer
Courtesy of FILM.UA

Where To Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Number Of Seasons: 3 (ongoing)

Show Premise: Yet another show with a very silly name in English, The Sniffer is a popular show about a criminal investigator who has unorthodox methods. You’ve probably guessed it already: he sniffs out the clues. Just when you thought crime shows were running out of ideas. It’s a highly rated and popular show, however, so don’t let the name deter you.

Learning Tips: The main tip here is, as always, make sure those subtitles are on.

4. Екатерина (Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great)

Promo image from the Russian TV show Ekaterina
Courtesy of Russia-1

Where To Watch: Amazon Prime

Number Of Seasons: 2 (ended)

Show Premise: There are many shows out there about Russian history, but frankly a lot of the popular ones recently have focused solely on the past hundred years or so. Ekaterina takes us back a few hundred more years, covering the life of empress Catherine the Great. It’s a beautifully filmed show, which should be good for people already obsessed with period dramas and royal intrigue, like The Crown.

Learning Tips: As mentioned, the show will provide some insights into Russian history that could be useful. Because it’s a period drama, however, the language will be a little different than most on the list. This can be difficult in some aspects (not the language you’re used to encountering) but also helpful in others (no difficult-to-understand slang). Keep it in mind while you’re watching.

5. Мажор (Silver Spoon)

A still from Silver Spoon
Courtesy of Sreda Production Company

Where To Watch: Netflix

Number Of Seasons: 2 (ongoing)

Show Premise: Rounding out this list with another crime drama, Silver Spoon is a story about a rich kid who realizes that he is very good at solving crimes. The show is a bit of a commentary on the young and rich (the title being a reference to the idea of someone being born with a silver spoon in their mouth), as well as criticism of corruption in Russia.

Learning Tips: Silver Spoon was the first of the Russian TV shows bought by Netflix, which is a good testament to its popularity. After all, it’s fun to watch a show that people who speak your target language actually watch. The only other tip is to make sure the English subtitles are on, sit back and enjoy.

Header Image Courtesy of Sreda.

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