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Authentic texts for people learning Russian

June 2, 2021

I strongly believe one of the best ways to learn a language is to expose yourself to a ton of authentic texts (written or spoken pieces created by and for native speakers of the language you’re learning). Over the last year or two I’ve put together a list of links for people who want to try their hand at Russian TV, radio, podcasts, blogs, movies, or literature, but aren’t sure where to start, and I thought I’d share it here.

The idea wasn’t to include only the very best things or even my personal favorites, but to have different genres and points of view, with comprehensibly delivered, fairly standard Russian. I tried to stay away from things with long silences, background noise, extended passages in languages other than Russian, archaic language, crosstalk, and so on. I recommend listening to, reading, and watching things like these from very early in your study of Russian, but I think the list will be especially useful for people in their second, third, or fourth year.

If you notice any broken links or inaccurate descriptions, please comment below, and I’ll do my best to keep the list updated. You’re also welcome to make your own copy of the list and tailor it to your own taste as you explore the Russian internet, of course!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. languagehat permalink
    June 2, 2021 11:17 am

    Very useful, and very timely — I just linked to it at LibraryThing, where someone was asking about not-too-difficult reading!

    When you say Ирония судьбы was “once shown on TV every New Year’s Eve,” does that mean it isn’t any longer? I’m shocked and saddened!

    I presume Загадка and Разгадка are based on the Kaverin stories?

    • June 2, 2021 11:28 am

      Yes, it was a news story a couple years ago that Ирония судьбы wouldn’t be on TV on December 31st for the first time in X years. IIRC the since deceased Andrei Miagkov was quoted as saying he thought it was about time. And you’re right about Загадка and Разгадка (see this post).

  2. June 2, 2021 1:19 pm

    This is a great list! Going to check out some of the mystery shows which I’d not heard of.

    • June 4, 2021 2:50 pm

      I hope you find something you like, Maya! Not all of them are great art, but I enjoyed most of them.

  3. lizoksbookshelf permalink
    June 3, 2021 9:30 am

    I fully agree with you about authentic materials so love seeing this list, Erik, particularly since I used to watch сериалы while I walked on the treadmill! It was a great way to keep up my Russian comprehension and learn a little (relatively) new slang. I also sometimes watched TV talk shows and listened to book conversations on Эхо. Everything helps!

    Listing book sites is a great idea since Russian book sites like litres or labirint usually (or at least often) have samples of the text, so the reader can read a little to check difficulty and appeal. Although I generally order through, I very frequently read small chunks on Russian sites first.

    I added a link to my 2010 (!) blog post about developing reading skills. Thank you!

    • June 4, 2021 2:54 pm

      That’s a good tip about using litres and labirint to decide what to order from I’ve had mixed luck with the Russian-based physical book sites recently (at least one of them wouldn’t ship to my US address the last time I tried). But then, I’ve often decided what I want without browsing based on what I read on Lizok’s Bookshelf! I’m currently reading Чуров и Чурбанов thanks to your recommendation.

      • lizoksbookshelf permalink
        June 4, 2021 3:04 pm

        I hope you’re enjoying Ч и Ч, Erik! I’ve only rarely (once or twice ever?) ordered from Russia-based sites but the selections on US sites haven’t been great lately so who knows what I might resort to for printed books.

      • June 4, 2021 5:37 pm

        I really am enjoying Ч и Ч! It’s already surprised me a couple times by not being the kind of book I thought it was shaping up to be. I’m not even halfway yet, but so far it’s up there with Елтышевы and F40, my two favorite things that I’ve read directly or indirectly because of you.

  4. languagehat permalink
    June 4, 2021 3:48 pm

    I strongly recommend Ozon — it’s a slight pain in the ass setting up your account (contact me for tips if you’re having trouble), and you have to make sure the books in any given order will be sent as a single package (they tell you when you’re preparing the order), because it’s $20-25 per package for shipping (to Massachusetts, anyway), but it’s worth it because the prices are so reasonable and they have such a great selection — I’ve been feasting on Soviet-era items from the ’70s and ’80s as well as brand-new Azbuka paperbacks. Here’s a sample order (I’ve placed half a dozen orders and have had no trouble with any of them; they’re delivered from Moscow by DHL within a week, less than half the time orders take to get here from Brooklyn!):

    Архипелаг ГУЛАГ в 3-х тт. (комплект) | Солженицын Александр Исаевич
    503 ₽

    Вещи и ущи | Горбунова Алла Глебовна
    241 ₽

    Воскресшие боги. Леонардо да Винчи | Мережковский Дмитрий
    188 ₽

    Города и годы | Федин Константин Александрович
    99 ₽

    Образы Италии | Муратов Павел
    220 ₽

    Лекции по русской литературе XX века. Том 1 | Быков Дмитрий Львович
    268 ₽

    Лекции по русской литературе XX века. Том 4 | Быков Дмитрий Львович
    277 ₽

    Царь-рыба | Астафьев Виктор Петрович
    178 ₽

    Школа для дураков | Соколов Саша
    132 ₽

    A nice convenient paperback of Школа для дураков (to replace the beat-up one I’ve been using) for a little over a buck — how great is that?

    • lizoksbookshelf permalink
      June 4, 2021 5:19 pm

      Oh my, thank you for this, Erik! It’s funny: not only have I also amassed quite a few of those Azbuka paperbacks but I’d already put a book in a Лабиринт cart just to see what the site would say about shipping. They also use DHL. And the price quoted was also around $20. (Москва, the bookstore, uses DHL now, too. I think I ordered from them more than ten years ago: they sent me an old-fashioned parcel (complete with string and a lead seal!) via the regular government postal services. 🙂 It took a few weeks but it arrived!

      Thank you again! The book situation has been bugging me so I’m going to see what I can put together this weekend. And I’ll let you know if I’m in need of help on Ozon. I’ve gotten used to checking books on Лабиринт but their site may not be as convenient for actual purchases, we’ll see.

      • languagehat permalink
        June 4, 2021 5:24 pm

        Hey, that was me, not Erik, so if you need assistance, don’t write to him!

      • lizoksbookshelf permalink
        June 4, 2021 5:27 pm

        Oof, sorry, languagehat! I was so excited about the prospect of ordering books that I forgot who wrote the comment — it’s been that kind of day! Thank you for all the tips, I really appreciate them.

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