Who are the best Russian YouTubers you’ll most enjoy watching as an upper-intermediate to advanced Russian learner keen to get that essential native-level listening practice? No one viewer can survey everything, but it’s great to share some of the channels that I watch the most and why I like them.
I’ve been meaning to blog about Russian YouTube for quite a while. Current events have spurred me to get on with it. Russian creators need all the support they can get. This, then, is the second of two new posts. The first was my recent list of the best channels for the beginner and lower intermediate levels: Top Learn Russian YouTube channels. Check those out too! Many of them still have lot to offer you further down the road to fluency.
You probably won’t “click” with all my chosen creators, but my work will have been done if this post gets you a bit further into Russian YouTube and spurs you on to find a channel or two that becomes part of YOUR regular viewing.
I plan to update this post regularly, so if there are gems you’d like me to add, let me know in the comments at the end.
Oh, and by the way, in the list below, I’ve stuck with “real YouTubers”. I’ll cover Russian films and TV shows on YouTube (and elsewhere) in later posts.
Marina Mogilko moved as a young woman from St Petersburg to California and hasn’t looked back. The channel is a mixture of “slice of life” vlogging, lifestyle and YouTube / business tips. The content is sometimes filmed back-to-back Mogilko’s similar English channel (Silicon Valley Girl). So, if you’re a lower intermediate learner, you could watch the English version first. Both channels are packed with inspirational and motivational value, even if they do sometimes sail close to the borders of bling. The commensurate social media professional, Marina also has massive language learning channel, Linguamarina, aimed mainly at learner of English. She earns her place among the best Russian YouTubers several times over.
Link to channel homepage: Marina Mogilko. Example video:
In each video Sergei sets himself a new challenge for a set period of time. These are often physical or craft challenges (“I learned a trick on the skateboard in 24 hours”, “I became left-handed for a month”, “I learnt to do a backflip in 24 hours”). But also craft and making. Sometimes intellectual (English). We follow the inception of the project, the execution and the end result. Well planned, scripted and crafted.
Sergei mainly voices over from a script. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and has a relaxed, chatty style. There’s lots of practical vocab to do with movement and doing things, just the sort of stuff you’d pick up early as a Russian child but could easily miss as an adult learner.
Altogether, very worthwhile entertainment from “the guy next door”.
Link to channel homepage: Sergio Nee. Example video:
Classic Millennial travel vlogging from a wide range of countries, but in Russian.
Link to channel homepage: Kasye Gusanov. Example video:
I first discovered this young photographer when he was on his road trip through the US in 2017. He produced a wonderful series of very well edited vlogs from the West Coast with a mildly hippy flavour. It was hardly a surprise when he relocated to south-east Asia. There, he developed an unhealthy obsession for Durian fruit and started to look rather anorexic. He seemed to veer further off course with each new tattoo and started making preachy videos drawing attention to the horrors of the meat industry. I took refuge in his back list from Moscow and Barcelona. A vlog from St Petersburg in April 2021 showed that he could still pull it out of the hat and I really hope that his return in April 22 with a video about Bitcoin (!) doesn’t mean that his decline is complete.
Link to channel homepage: Maks Listov. Example video:
Another chance for vicarious travel, at least if your destination is Japan. I came across this channel in advance of my trip to Fukuoka for the 2019 Polyglot Conference and subscribed at once. Instead of watching videos about Japan in English, here’s a great chance for me to get a Russian take and some Russian practice.
Link to channel homepage: Dmitrii Shamov. Example video:
Politics, current affairs
I only discovered Maksim Katz’ channel as I searched for new things to watch at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. He has been active in Russian opposition politics for over a decade (including in Alexei Nevalny’s team and for the liberal “Yabloko” party). His daily videos are carefully scripted essays delivered to camera, with visual variety from stills and stock footage and what may just be YouTubes only tartan transition frame. The videos are usually about ten to fifteen minutes long and there’s a new one each day. These are monologues intended (in Katz’) own words, to be “calming”, delivered in clear Russian and with a raised eyebrow. They usually finish with a resigned “Vot tak. Do zavtra” (“So, that’s where we are then. See you tomorrow”).
Link to channel homepage: Maksim Katz. Example video:
I remember watching Aleksandr Nevzorov’s sensational glasnost’ era show 600 Seconds on Leningrad TV during my first visit to the city in 1990. His trade was biting exposés of corrupt Soviet officialdom and each breathless episode was over in just two minutes. Nevzorov has been through various incarnations since then but is now firmly in the opposition camp, demolishing “head political corpse” Putin and his Ukrainian misadventure with coruscating tirades. Fasten your seatbelt and be prepared to use the pause and rewind buttons if you don’t get his sophisticated, literary Russian first time. Yes, Nevzorov still deals it out like he’s only got shest’ sot sekund.
Link to channel homepage: Aleksandr Nevzorov. Example video:
A good-natured political scientist, journalist and public intellectual, Shulmann is now also a “foreign agent” (according to the Russian powers that be) I first came across her on the liberal speech radio station “Ekho Moskvy” in the second half of the noughties when I was living in the Russian capital. Nothing if not loquacious (and easier to follow than Nevzorov), she seemed to be able to churn out well-considered opinions at (great) length on any topic raised by a caller with zero notice. She still can.
Link to channel homepage: Ekaterina Shulmann. Example video:
Engaging journalism out from under an unruly ginger mane. In normal times, there’s a lot about the interface between urban planning, governance and Russian quality of life (including one from Russian-occupied Crimea). He’s also ranged further afield. There are videos from the Balkans and in January 2021 he vlogged from his jail cell in South Sudan. There’s a regular critical roundup of politics from Moscow and the regions each Sunday. In the last two years, the unrest in Belarus in 2020 and now Ukraine have been centre-stage. The videos in his series on each of the post-Soviet republics “thirty years on” are well worth a watch. You’ll need a long coffee-break, though, as Varlamov videos rarely come in at less than thirty minute (and are often significantly longer).
Link to channel homepage: Il’ya Varlamov. Example video:
Yurii Dud’ is another Russian journalist who has become a top Russian YouTuber. He specialises in long-form interviews and has built up one of the largest Russian channels of all (10M+ subs). Here, you’ll mainly find in-depth conversations with outstanding Russians from various walks of life. The one I’ve most recently watched was with author Boris Akunin. There are also a handful of in-depth reports on particular regions, such as the one I watched on Kamchatka in Russia’s Far East (an advert for the break-up of Russia, if ever there was one). Branded a “foreign agent” for taking a stand on the war against Ukraine, he has now relocated to Istasnbul.
Link to channel homepage: V Dud’. Example video:
Pop cultural criticism from a young Russian with a high octane intellect. He’s the reason I now follow an art collective from Burytia on Instagram. Sophisticated cultural criticism of pop culture: rock, rap, street art…. Sparking discussion in youth slang (some of which I cannot reproduce on a family website). He passes my test for a gifted teacher: he makes ME feel intelligent just for listening and leaves me buzzing to find out more. Wow!
Link to channel homepage: Mikhail Sein. Example video:
About as far from Mikhail Sein as Kalingrad is from Vladivostok. This channel accompanies the internet magazine of the same name. In front of the camera is the editor, Yurii Bushuev. If you’ve watched any of MY vlogs, you might remember that I’m into gardening. There was even a time (around age 15), when it looked like I might strike out this way for a career. “I’ve met quite a few gardeners and they’ve all been the most contented people” said a teacher at the time and I’ve never forgotten.
Link to channel homepage: Gazeta sadovod. Example video:
The point is this: what are your hobbies? Have you found a YouTube channel that will let you use your advanced Russian to engage with them?
In the comments below, let me know that, and your other thoughts and recommendations for the best Russian YouTubers.