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.
Still from Fartsa

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.

Russian TV Shows For Learning The Language

Masha and the Bear

A promotional photo of Masha and the Bear featuring the two titular characters smiling with each other.

Where To Watch: Netflix

Number Of Seasons: 5 (ongoing)

Show Premise: Probably the most popular children’s show in Russia, Masha and the Bear is about the unlikely friendship of a young girl and a large bear. Loosely based on an old folktale, the episodes mostly involve Masha getting into trouble and the bear trying to keep her safe.

Learning Tips: The automatic settings on Netflix will have you watching the English 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.

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).

Нюхач (The Sniffer)

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

Where To Watch: IMDb TV

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.

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, IMDb TV, Roku Channel

Number Of Seasons: 3 (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.

Лучше, чем люди (Better Than Us)

A still from Russian TV Show Better Than Us where Arisa holds up a gun in profile.
Courtesy of Netflix.

Where To Watch: Netflix

Number Of Seasons: 1 (ongoing)

Show Premise: In the not-so-far-off year of 2029, scientists have developed a robot capable of empathy. Things go awry pretty quickly, as the android named Arisa is sold off to a Russian company, where she kills someone and goes on the lam. Things quickly spiral out of control as the show explores the implications of humans and androids living side by side.

Learning Tips: This show will be a bit of a challenge for learners. It features a lot of sci-fi vocabulary that you probably won’t run into in the average Russian textbook. Working with the subtitles, though, it’s a worthwhile ride for people looking for a challenge.

Header Image Courtesy of Sreda.

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