What are good Russian series to watch if you’re a beginner?

By Ari Helderman
May 2, 2022

Summary: Watching series in Russian is a great way to improve your Russian skills without investing any extra time. Especially if you’re a beginner, you’d do well to pick series that have English subtitles. So you understand the plot, while improving your understanding of spoken Russian.

If you’re not watching series in Russian, you’re making a big mistake. Why? Because you’re already watching SOMETHING in another language. It’s a small step to switch languages, and start improving your Russian skills with something that you’re already doing.

Literally no extra time invested. And your understanding of spoken Russian will skyrocket.

Today we’re going to talk about 5 good series if you’re just starting to learn Russian. These series are meant for everyone who’s a complete beginner (meaning 0 experience to anyone who’s lower intermediate).

So let’s get started…

#1 All documentaries from StarMediaEN

While technically not classifying as a series, the documentaries from StarMediaEN feel as if they’re series. They’re interesting and show good parts of the Russian history. You can use these to learn Russian for free.

I’ve added this one here, since most people who want to learn Russian, also have a peculiar interest in the Russian history.

The documentaries all involve actors, who show the plot of the events.

Here are some good ones:

  • World War 1
  • Napoleonic Wars
  • Romanovs

The great thing here is that they all have at least 8 episodes, so you can enjoy them for 7+ hours. If you’re done with those 3 series, check out more documentaries here from StarMediaEN.

The Cardsharp

This is a series about a young guy who moves back from Moscow to his hometown Odessa (in Ukraine at the Black Sea) in the first quarter of the 20th century (around 1910 or so I think). In Moscow he learned a lot of card tricks, and he uses those to quickly earn some money. Even though he’s a good guy at heart, he still crosses the paths of some criminal bosses. 

It’s a fun series that shows how Odessa looked 100+ years ago. The plot is also interesting, and even though it takes place a long time ago, the spoken Russian is just like today’s Russian. So you’ll still learn a lot of words from that.

Watch it here.

The Dawns Here are Quiet

This is a remake of the soviet classic. There’s a female regiment stationed on the border of Russia and germany in World War 2. They get a new male commander and this clashes a lot. 

It’s a very interesting mix of war and drama. Since a big part of the movie is all about the new commander having trouble getting the female soldiers to accept him as their new commandant. 

Then a German scouting group comes closer to their camp and they all need to work together.

Highly recommend you watch this. 

Modern version.

Old soviet version (unfortunately without English subtitles):

Trouble in Store

This series takes place in the 80’s. It’s about a luxury food store in Moscow. The owner is caught in a web of corruption. At that time the Russian government wanted to make an end to the widespread corruption in Russia, so he’s being followed to gather evidence to take him to trial.

It’s a criminal drama, and if you’re interested in how Russia looked at the (almost) end of communism, I highly recommend it.

Watch Trouble in Store here.

Как я стал Русским

This series is NOT available with english subs. Still it’s on this list. Why? Cause it’s a bout an American journalist who moves to Russia for his work.

His babushka was Russian, so he knows a couple of Russian words. Not much though.

That’s why the series is so great for people who learn Russian. It’s a great test of your skills if you can understand it without subtitles. Because his Russian isn’t good, the conversations in the series are relatively easy. 

This was the first Russian series I watched without subtitles (in 2017 if I recall correctly). And after that ‘trial’, I found I could more easily get myself to watch other series.

And now I’m at the point where I understand around 95% of everything that’s begin said.

Watch it here.

to recap

Watching Russian series is a great practice for your brain. You understand better where words start and where they end. And the best thing? You’re already watching something in your native language/English, so why not switch to Russian media, and start improving your Russian with 0 extra time invested? 😉

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • listening skills
  • speaking skills

That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

And the best part? If you improve a little bit every day, soon these practices will become daily habits.

And then you will start making progress on autopilot.

This means that learning Russian is now a part of your daily routine. So you won’t even need discipline anymore to get yourself to practice.

If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman