In Part 1 of our blog post series on mastering Russian pronunciation and acquiring a good accent, we covered a list of podcasts worth listening to, so that you won’t get lost in the sea of options.
Today, we’re going to have a closer look at popular Russian series. Although these are not the best language-learning resource for beginners, you can definitely give them a try if you are at least on a lower intermediate level. You may find it difficult to understand series at the beginning, but keep watching and you’ll see that your comprehension will be getting better with each episode. Soon enough you’ll start laughing at the jokes! On top of that, series are an amazing resource of colloquial language, informal phrases, and slang you definitely won’t find in a textbook. Learn a few of these expressions, and surprise your conversation partner during the following lesson.
Many of you are probably already familiar with this Russian TV series as we’ve recommended it several times on our Facebook page and in the video courses. It’s a popular sitcom that focuses on the life of personnel in a prestigious French restaurant called Claude Monet. The main character of the show, a young cook Max, has finished his culinary college training, completed his army service and now he’s trying his luck in Moscow. He ends up in the kitchen of Claude Monet. He and the entire staff of the restaurant often find themselves in humorous or dramatic situations. We follow individual characters at work as well as in their private life for as many as 6 seasons, which means that you will probably grow really fond of them. Also, it provides a lot of listening material, that you won’t use up too quickly.
“Kukhnya was part of my daily routine while I was actively learning Russian. I started to watch it after about 5 months of learning Russian (I was starting from scratch), and the first progress in understanding was visible in 2 or 3 weeks. The way this series was filmed is amazing – everything is modern, clearly shot with close-ups of beautifully prepared dishes in between the scenes. I am not normally very keen on the quality of filming, but you can see at first glance that this series was filmed by experts, and it’s very different from what we are used to in a mainstream American series. Apart from that, it’s also very funny, I was laughing almost all the time. Highly recommended!” Lydia Machova, founder of Language Mentoring
On top of the 6 seasons, you can also watch 2 feature films, Кухня в Париже* (The Kitchen in Paris), that followed Season 3, and Кухня. Последняя битва* (The Kitchen. The Last Battle), that followed Season 6.
And in case you have watched all of the episodes already, you’ll also like the spin-offs of this series called Отель Элеон (Hotel Eleon) and Кухня. Война за отель* (The Kitchen. War for the Hotel).
*When using these websites, be careful and never click on adverts. We also recommend having high-quality antivirus software installed to protect your devices.
We meet several of our favorite characters from Кухня in the 5-star Hotel Eleon. Senya becomes the chef of the restaurant after Victor Barinov retired. Marina, Senya’s wife becomes the head accountant of the hotel. Elena Andreevna is already tired of managing the hotel and leaves the responsibilities to her reckless nephew Pavel. But Pavel is too busy with parties and short-term relationships to take care of the hotel, so he hires Sofia, an acclaimed manager from Brussels. Shortly after her appearance, she turns both the routines in the hotel and the personal lives of its personnel upside down. Nastya is promoted to be the manager of the restaurant, while Kostya stays to work as a bartender. Also, a new important character, Dasha, appears, who had fallen victim to marriage fraud, lost all of her savings, and decided to work as a chambermaid in the hotel.
“Hotel Eleon is my favorite Russian series, I was excitedly awaiting every new episode and watched it right after it was released. The authors kept all of my favorite characters from Кухня and developed the plot around the whole hotel to make it even more engaging than it was with cooks and waiters in the restaurant only. It’s full of jokes and simple language, and that’s why I recommend it to everyone, even on a lower level of language proficiency, while you are only getting used to the Russian speech tempo.” Veronika, Team & Autodidacts’ Academy manager
If these series are not enough for you, don’t forget to watch the sequel called Гранд (Grand).
Как я стал русским (How I Became Russian)
After a young American Post journalist Alex publishes a provocative article about a senator, the editors send him away on a long-term assignment to Moscow. He is supposed to stay there until the senator calms down and the fuss has blown over. Right after landing, Alex starts to find himself in a lot of comical situations that mostly arise from cultural differences between America and Russia. Apart from these, Alex is involved in many more problems through Roman, his editor’s limousine driver. Just before Alex starts his job, Roman gets him drunk with vodka at the home of Roman’s father-in-law, a famous oligarch. He then loses Alex’s money meant for renting an apartment. And by inviting his ex-girlfriend to Moscow, he makes it complicated for Alex to get closer to Anne, Roman’s sister.
“How I Became Russian is an amazing series full of unexpected and funny situations, informal language, and slang, so by watching it, you’ll learn a lot of useful phrases. I usually watch with a pen and paper at hand. Later I copy all the interesting phrases to my Goldlist. Also, it is so gripping, I usually cannot stop myself after watching just one episode.” Barbara, language mentor
The only downside of this series is that it only has one season. After that, you’ll have to find something else to watch. But you can also watch a film adaptation with the same title: “Как я стал русским”. It doesn’t have much in common with the original plot, but if you like comedies, it’ll be your cup of tea.
Ekaterina is a historical series about the Russian tsarina, Catherine the Great. It’ll show you quite a few surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the hardships this influential figure had to overcome in her life. She’d never been loved by her husband Peter III. Her mother-in-law, Tsarina Elisabeth Petrovna, put up with her only because she wanted grandchildren. As soon as Ekaterina’s son was born, he was taken from her and Ekaterina couldn’t see him for several years. In spite of all this, Ekaterina was a strong woman, who loved Russia. Shortly after her coming to power, she strengthened Russia and instituted reforms. Ekaterina also substantially contributed to the development of Russian culture.
“I love historical films and series, and I must say that this one is amazing! In the beginning, I wanted to watch just a few minutes but three hours later, I noticed that it was Saturday afternoon and I was still in my pajamas. And what was the best thing? That I wasn’t being lazy, I was learning Russian! It was relaxing, it was fun, I love getting better at Russian and learning interesting facts about Russian history at the same time! I learned lovely phrases such as “ваша светлость” (meaning Your Highness), and I found out that when priests recite psalms and prayers in medieval Russian, it sounds almost like my native Slovak!” Lydia, founder of Language mentoring
In case you grow fond of Ekaterina, don’t miss season 2 (called Взлет) and season 3 (called Самозванцы).
And if you want to learn even more about Russian history, watch Годунов (Godunov), Романовы (Romanovs) or София (Sofia).
This eight-episode historical series explores the life of Leon Trotsky and his role in the political affairs of 20th century Russia. In the series, Trotsky himself tells his story to Canadian journalist Frank Jackson. He starts with key moments of his life and suddenly feels the urge to tell people about many more events he must’ve faced on his own.
“This series is nice and up-to-date, it shows beautiful natural scenery, uses authentic costumes and scenes. I loved that they made Trotsky narrate his story to a journalist in the later days of his life. He describes the key historical events as if from his memory. Highly recommended!” Veronika, Team & Autodidacts’ Academy manager
This is a Russian crime drama series. (Мажор is also a colloquial term for a child of wealthy parents who uses their parents’ money without being productive themselves.)
The main character, Igor Sokolovsky, has just finished his legal education. However, being the son of an oligarch, he doesn’t try too hard to find a job or use his talents. Instead, he spends his father’s money partying in nightclubs. One night, he gets into a fight with policemen. His father wants to save him from ending up in jail, and sends him to work in the particular police precinct, he had conflicts with previously. Igor considers this a minor bump on the road and hopes his father will eventually change his mind. But gradually, he “mans up,” finds real friends among policemen, falls in love, and sets a goal for himself – to find his mother’s murderer.
You can find this series on Netflix under the English title Silver Spoon.
This detective series is an adaptation of an American series with the same title, The Closer. Investigator Lt. Col. Aleksandra Kushnir is transferred from Moscow to a new assignment in a small town by the Black Sea, Divnomorsk. She is supposed to lead the criminal investigation department. On top of that, her new direct supervisor is her ex-boyfriend Pavel Mishin, who definitely didn’t expect her arrival. Her new colleagues call her a “search dog” because of her unusual investigative methods and superb logical thinking. However, thanks to these, she quickly and successfully solves complicated cases and brings amazing results for the whole department.
*Be careful while using this website as well.
Interns is a comedy series that follows the work of four fresh alumni of medical studies. They are a self-confident and complacent son of a senior doctor of the department, a botanist, who doesn’t know anything except for cramming his head full of study material, a guy who doesn’t care about his profession at all, and a charming compassionate woman. All of them are young inexperienced medical interns who often find themselves in comical or almost absurd situations. The head of the department doctor Bykov, is a famous cynic with unbearable character. He doesn’t care to help them or oversee their work but he enjoys making fun of them a lot more.
No problem at all! You can find your new favorite very easily. But how? Start by typing „лучшие российские сериалы“ into Google. Then have a look at what Russians watch and what the ratings of these series are. If you like something, copy the title into Youtube and check if you can watch it there for free. In case that’s not possible, use Google again, and type the title + „смотреть онлайн“. Also, you can check what Netflix has to offer under Russian TV Shows.
And remember to let us know what you found! We would love to hear your recommendations in the comments.
Great question! Try to watch as many series as possible without subtitles. Or you can try to alternate (one episode with subtitles on and the other with subtitles off). But be careful not to turn an hour of listening into an hour of reading! All the details about when to use subtitles and when it’s better not to can be found in our e-book called Watch and Learn, along with much more information about how to make watching series an effective language learning method. The e-book is available as a bonus material in both Language Mentoring video courses: Language Key (for beginners) and Language Master (for intermediate and advanced learners).
Translation: Veronika Báthoryová
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The author of this blog post is Barbara Pecková, a professional translator and member of the Language Mentoring team since 2017.
Language Mentoring provides a complete guide for learning any language using simple and often free resources on the internet and in bookshops. It was founded by polyglot, language mentor and author of this website, Lýdia Machová, in 2016. She's learned 9 languages by herself and she adds another one every other year. Her philosophy is that everybody can learn a language regardless talent, age or other qualities – if they know how to do it.