10 Russian Cartoons for Language Learners of All Ages

Eastnine Inc./ Getty Images

Russian cartoons typically employ basic vocabulary and are full of humor, making them an entertaining resource for Russian language learners of all skill levels. Despite the simple style, you'll likely pick up a number of new words or phrases. Many popular Russian expressions and cultural references come from cartoons, particularly those produced during the Soviet era.

There are numerous benefits to watching cartoons in the language you're studying. When we are relaxed, our brains are more open to new information, making it easier to learn new words and phrases. In addition, it's often less intimidating to watch a cartoon than a live-action movie. Cartoons feature larger-than-life scenarios and exaggerated visuals, which makes it easier to pick up context clues and figure out the meaning of new words.

Where to View Russian Cartoons

Most Russian cartoons are available on YouTube, often with the option of English subtitles for beginner learners.

01
of 10

Малыш и Карлсон (Smidge and Karlsson)

Smidge and Karlsson on a window sill

via YouTube / Мультики студии Союзмультфильм

Based on the book by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren Karlsson on the Roof, Малыш и Карлсон was made in 1968 and remains one of the most well-known Russian animated films.

The cartoon tells the story of a lonely seven-year-old boy named Smidge who meets a strange and mischievous little man with a propeller on his back. The man, named Karlsson, lives in a little house on the roof of Smidge's building. The two strike up a friendship and get up to all sorts of shenanigans, including Karlsson pretending to be a ghost to scare away two burglars.

A sequel to the film, Karlsson Returns, was made in 1970 and featured a new character: Freken Bok, Smidge's annoying babysitter, who became the target of more mischief by the two friends.

You can find the cartoon and its sequels on YouTube.

02
of 10

Гора самоцветов (A Mountain of Gems)

via YouTube / Гора самоцветов (Mountain of Gems)

A group of animation directors produced this gem of a cartoon series. Each episode is based on a folk tale by one of the many diverse ethnic groups living in Russia. New episodes are still being made, with over 70 already available to watch on YouTube. All episodes are 13 minutes long, and each one begins with a short introduction about Russia and its history. Beginners, take note: English subtitles are available.

03
of 10

Винни-Пух (Winnie-the-Pooh)

Винни-пух (Winnie-the-Pooh), YouTube, Мультики студии Союзмультфильм Published on Jul 23, 2014​.

via YouTube, Мультики студии Союзмультфильм

Another late 60s Soviet cartoon, Винни-пух is based on the first chapter of A.A. Milne's book Winnie-the-Pooh, and follows Pooh bear and his friends as they enjoy adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The dialogue is witty and clever, allowing language learners to immerse themselves in Russian culture while having a lot of fun. Two sequels, Винни-пух идет в гости (Winnie-Pooh Pays a Visit) and Винни-пух и день забот (Winnie-Pooh and a Busy Day), followed in 1971 and 1972.

Available on YouTube, Винни-Пух can be watched both with and without the English subtitles.

04
of 10

Мой личный лось (My Own Personal Moose)

via YouTube / MetronomeFilmsComp

This beautiful and thought-provoking animation focuses on a relationship between a father and a son. It received a Special Prize at the Berlinale 2014, and has become a favorite with the Russian public. You can watch it with English subtitles on YouTube.

05
of 10

Ну погоди! (Well, Just You Wait!)

via YouTube / kot kot

Ну погоди! is perfect for beginning learners, as the cartoon uses very few words apart from the catchphrase "Ну погоди!" (pronounced "noo paguhDEE!"), which means, "Well, just you wait!" The story focuses on the eternal battle between a wolf and a hare, reminiscent of the cat-and-mouse rivalry in Tom and Jerry. Episodes were produced between 1969 and 2006, with 20 seasons as well as several special edition episodes.

An age restriction was imposed on the show in 2012 due to Wolf's constant smoking, but the restriction was eventually lifted after it was agreed that "negative" characters such as Wolf can smoke without affecting younger viewers. The cartoon has consistently been voted the best-loved Russian cartoon in various Russian surveys. It is available to watch on YouTube.

06
of 10

Маша и Медведь (Masha and The Bear)

via YouTube / Маша и Медведь

Маша и Медведь is well-known to English speaking viewers due to the cartoon's enormous success outside Russia. The animation is based on Russian folk stories about a girl called Masha and a bear, with each episode focusing on yet another act of mischief instigated by Masha. The cartoon features Russian folk music and traditional Russian decor, cultural symbols, and activities. With its simple vocabulary, Маша и Медведь is well-suited to beginner learners.

Watch it on YouTube in Russian.

07
of 10

Ежик в тумане (Hedgehog in the Fog)

via YouTube / Мультики студии Союзмультфильм

Ежик в тумане is an iconic Soviet cartoon about a hedgehog who gets lost in a fog as he carries raspberry jam to his daily tea drinking tradition with his friend the bear cub. Filled with strange, funny, and scary adventures and observations, this short cartoon is great both for practicing Russian vocabulary and developing an understanding of the Russian culture.

The popular Russian idiom "как ёжик в тумане" (kak YOzhik f tooMAHny), meaning "like a hedgehog in a fog," comes from this cartoon and is used to convey the feeling of being confused and bewildered.

Ежик в тумане is available on YouTube both with and without English subtitles.

08
of 10

Добрыня Никитич и Змей Горыныч (Dobrynya and The Dragon)

via YouTube / Три богатыря

This animated feature film is based on the mythological characters of Dobrynya and Zmey the dragon. Released in 2006, it is a fantastic resource for language learners of all levels. It can be watched on YouTube. Use subtitles if you're a beginner.

09
of 10

Трое из Простоквашино (The Three From Prostokvashino)

via YouTube / Мультики студии Союзмультфильм 

This animated movie is a Soviet-era production that is still treasured in Russia today. The cartoon tells the story of a boy called "Uncle Fyodor," nicknamed because of his serious and adult demeanor. He runs away from home when his parents forbid him from keeping his talking cat Matroskin. The pair of runaways and a dog named Sharik settle in a village called Prostokvashino, where the three friends have lots of adventures while Uncle Fyodor's parents search for their son.

The music and sayings from the film have become ingrained in Russian culture, making this a perfect resource for any learner of Russian. Watch it on YouTube and search for the English subtitles version if you are a beginner.

10
of 10

Бременские Музыканты (The Bremen Town Musicians)

via YouTube / Мультики студии Союзмультфильм

Бременские Музыканты is a cult Soviet cartoon based on "Town Musicians of Bremen," a tale by the Brothers Grimm. Its popularity is partly due to the cartoon's rock-n-roll influenced soundtrack. Many of the songs from the movie became very well known.

The fact that it is a musical makes this cartoon a perfect learning tool for intermediate and advanced learners. Beginners will enjoy the story and will easily follow the plot, but may find the song lyrics tricky at first. Downloading the lyrics separately can make the process easier and is a great trick for increasing vocabulary quickly.

The cartoon is available on YouTube.