Watching popular Russian TV shows is an excellent way to learn about the culture while practicing vocabulary and listening skills. Luckily for us language learners, Netflix and Amazon Prime recently started adding Russian TV series to their streaming lineups. If you are an advanced learner, I recommend turning on Russian subtitles when available as studies show it enhances language learning.
Here are some of the best Russian shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime in the US as of February 1, 2019. If you’re not in the US, just click the title to check if the show is available in your country. Watch them while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.
This unique crime drama, beloved in its home country, was the first Russian television show to be acquired by Netflix. Forced to become an apprentice cop, spoiled rich kid Igor finds he’s got a knack for police work. But his job soon takes him down a dark personal path.
Interesting commentary on the decadent lifestyle of the kids of Russia’s oligarchs as well as the country’s endemic corruption. Мажор is set in Moscow, but the first season was filmed in Kiev. The second season was filmed in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Personal note: I saw star Pavel Priluchnyy filming on the streets of St. Petersburg in 2018, and he is even more handsome in real life! *swoons* 😉
Season 3 has been released on Russian TV but has yet to come to Netflix.
Slick serial killer crime show that’s a Russian adaptation of Dexter. This dark psychological thriller follows a brilliant young graduate who is elated when her idol takes her on as a trainee. But his methods are much more disturbing than she imagined…
This bright, energetic series suffers from an unfortunate name, but provides a colorful glimpse of Russia in the early ’60s. As four friends grow up, life, love, and the curse of success threaten to derail their dreams.
Fun Russian-language detective series shot in the Ukraine but set in an unnamed Russian city. An extraordinary sense of smell gives a crime investigator unique insight into solving mysteries, but his gift takes a toll on his personal life.
This epic period drama is based on the novel “Sisters,” the first part of Alexey Tolstoy’s trilogy “The Road to Calvary.” Swept up in political unrest during World War I, two sisters in St. Petersburg cope with turbulent romances as Russian history is made around them.
The complex historical figure of Leon Trotsky comes to life in this epic biography depicting the tumultuous life of the Russian revolutionary. The series debuted on Channel One in Russia on November 6, 2017 for the centenary of the Russian Revolution. The show is a rare high-budget artistic representation of Trotsky in post-Soviet Russia, as his name was taboo for most of the Soviet period.
Note: No English subtitles available for trailer, but there is not much dialogue
The mysterious death of a teacher who throws herself out of a window at a St. Petersburg school attracts the attention of law enforcement. A local detective interrogates the students of the deceased and learns about the addictive high-stakes video game Sparta, which blurs the line between the real and the virtual world. Did the teacher commit suicide or was she the victim of a teenaged Sparta player?
Note: No English subtitles available for trailer
A torrid affair between a passionate lowborn poet and a wealthy Moscow heiress is engulfed by class difference, criminality and, eventually, murder.
This internationally popular Russian cartoon is loosely based on the children’s folk tale of the same name. The show follows the adventures of a little girl named Masha and a fatherly bear that always keeps her from disasters.
The simple dialogue is easy to understand, and there are lots of Russian cultural references. Be sure to change the audio (and possibly the subtitles) to Russian.
If you enjoy this adorable animated series, there are two additional spin-off shows on Netflix.
I hope you love my Russian TV show recommendations like I do! Just so you know, I may get a small commission from any purchases made using the Amazon links in this section at no extra cost to you.
Amazon Prime Video has an incredible and growing collection of Russian TV series available to stream free for Prime members. Unfortunately, Amazon video search by language is pretty terrible, so I’ve done the hard work for you.
Not a Prime member yet? Click here to start your free 30-day trial.
This fascinating Russian drama set in the Cold War era follows the meteoric rise of Regina Zbarskaya from a humble cleaner to the first Soviet supermodel. But who was the Red Queen? Was she queen of the catwalk or a KGB agent seducing foreign diplomats?
An epic historical saga set in the Russian Urals centered on the Morozov family — Aleksey, Stepan, Aliona, and Varvara — two brothers and two sisters.
Miraculously, they all survive the slaughter of World War II, but not without learning some important lessons on the way, including the meaning of true love and how to cope with grief, leading them ultimately to a long-dreamed-of happiness.
Note: No English subtitles available for official trailer – watch alternative trailer with English subtitles
Amazon has finally added all episodes of Season 1 of this 19th-century murder mystery about 19-year-old Anna, who unexpectedly discovers that she possesses supernatural powers. The spirits of the dead literally haunt her, begging for help.
Aided by her visions, Anna manages to investigate and solve a number of mysterious crimes that have baffled the police.
The series was filmed in the State History Museum-Reserve Gorky Leninskiye near Moscow, where an entire movie town was constructed with streets, shops, mansions, and a police station.
Lavish production that traces the sensational rise of one of the most famous women in history, Catherine the Great. Ekaterina begins her journey as an innocent young German princess who came to Russia to marry Peter III. Once she ascended the throne, this brilliant leader transformed the Russian empire. Spectacular sets and costumes.
Season 2 is available on Prime under its own page here.
This historical drama set in 15th-century Russia follows Sophia, the last Byzantine princess, as she moves from Rome to Moscow to marry Czar Ivan III. Destined to become the first influential female figure of the Russian Empire, Sophia overcomes court intrigue and betrayals and helps Ivan consolidate the fragmented country, push Mongolian invaders out, and build the Kremlin.
This lush production does suffer from some factual inaccuracies and is best viewed as historical fiction.
In World War II, Arina and Zoya are recruited by NKVD to become spies behind enemy lines in Riga, Crimea, Poland, and Germany. Their mission is to infiltrate the Germans by seducing senior military officers. Suspenseful drama with great acting and interesting storytelling.
Another popular version of the Catherine story. This sumptuous production was filmed in Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast.
Note: No English subtitles available for trailer
Suspenseful four-part thriller set in 1942. With the Germans about to mount an attack, there is a dangerous saboteur in the Russian camp. It’s up to a KGB major and his team to expose the Nazi saboteur before it’s too late.
Also available on YouTube.
In 1941, Stalin issued a secret order forming the first female aviation unit, the 46th “Taman” Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. The most highly decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot had flown over 1000 missions by the end of the war with 23 pilots awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Similar in theme to Spies, although not quite as well-made.
Russophiles shouldn’t miss this series about the mad monk Grigoriy Rasputin, who became a hugely influential figure at the court of Tsar Nicholas II.
Tells the story of an brave woman called to an unusual profession, with a strong character and immense talent who still commands respect among circus lovers today. Margarita’s life path took her from the hardships of slave labor in Germany during WWII to the world fame of a tiger tamer and actress.
The beauty of simple country girl Katerina Panova conquered the world. She became the face of Soviet fashion of the ’60s. Paris and Prague applauded the Russian beauty and the press called her “the national treasure of the USSR,” but at home Soviet reality, envy, intrigue, and tragic love awaited her.
This four-episode criminal drama follows Natasha, a hard-working nurse who lives a modest existence with her mother. Meanwhile, Lera, the daughter of wealthy parents, lives in another part of the city. One day, when a desperate Lera is about to jump from her balcony, Natasha saves her life. Fate has thrown our two heroines together, giving them an opportunity to help each other.
Also available on YouTube.
Life seems great for 20-year-old university student Tanya as Moscow prepares to host the 1980 Summer Olympics, until one dark night when everything falls apart.
A 2015 TV series remake of the beloved Soviet film based on Boris Vasilyev’s novel of the same name.
In late spring of 1942, the Great Patriotic War is in full swing. A long way off from the front line, the Germans make an air landing operation in an attempt to mount a surprise attack on Russian positions. The only thing in their way is the anti-aircraft artillery unit of Corporal Vaskov and five female anti-aircraft gunners.
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