The A-list: A series of timeless Soviet cartoons for Russian listening practice

Below you’ll find some of the finest animations from the Soviet era, which entertained generations of people growing up in the USSR. Of the more than 1,500 cartoons released in Soviet times, those listed below have stood the test of time and still have entertainment value today.

Whether you’re a native speaker of Russian and reminiscing about times gone by, of Russian heritage and seeking a deeper connecting with the culture of your parents, looking for entertaining ways to get some Russian practice in each day, or simply trying to involve your children in your pursuit of fluency in Russian, there is something here for you.

Each of the cartoons comes with a description so that you can easily follow the plot and they are all organised by their relative difficulty for Russian language learners.

If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment below and I’ll add it to my list.

⚠️ Spoiler alert! Although efforts have been made to keep the ending out of the descriptions below, some may reveal aspects of the plot which you did not wish to know in advance.

Beginners

1. 38 попугаев – Suitable for beginners

An animated puppet series following the relationship between a chatty monkey, a shy elephant, an eccentric parrot and a brooding snake. The naivety of the characters is something that resonated well with its young audience and many of the episodes involved the characters’ attempts to solve seemingly gargantuan problems and discover the world around them. The vocabulary is fairly simple and the pace of the dialogue is slow, making it suitable for beginners of the Russian language who have engaged in some vocabulary study.

2. Мойдодыр – Suitable for beginners

A funny cartoon about a boy whose possessions could not stomach his poor hygiene, so they run away from him. Moidodyr, his sink, commands the brushes and soap to scrub him clean by force.

Beginners/low-intermediate learners

3. Мешок Яблок – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners

A hare, unsuccessful in his attempts to find food for his family in the forest all but gives up, when suddenly he sees an apple tree on the other side. He has a great deal of apples to take home to his family, so many in fact that he shares them with the other animals of the forest. However, a mean crow mocks him and robs him of the opportunity to feed his starving family. Luckily, in return for his generosity, the other animals spoil his family with food. The tale doesn’t end there however and as the hare returns to the forest to pick apples again, danger lurks right under his nose. The tale is a reminder that if you do good, good things will come to you. The dialogue is the perfect tempo for beginners.

4. Кошечка и Собачка Мыли Пол – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners


A cat and a dog wake up to a dirty floor and spend the entire day cleaning. The dialogue is very slow, clear and best suited to beginners.

5. Тигрёнок Клад – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners

A cartoon about a young tiger and his friends – a monkey and a mole – who go on a hunt for treasure and end up discovering the best treasure a desert has to offer.



6. Маленький Лисенок – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners

A series of tales about a little fox who explores the world around him, based on the fairy-tales of Igor Farbarzhevich. The dialogue is easy to follow and well-suited to beginners.

7. Котёнок по имени Гав – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners

A cartoon adaptation of a series of tales by the Russian author Grigory Oster. Follow the adventures of a kitten with an unconventional name – Woof – and his friendship with a puppy named Sharik.

8. Чебурашка – Suitable for beginners/low-intermediate learners

Чебурашка is a Soviet-era cult classic cartoon character, based on the stories of the Russian author Eduard Uspensky. The fictional character he created is something of a chimera, with owl-like eyes, monkey ears and the body of a bear cub. Чебурашка lives in a tropical forest and after eating too much and falling asleep in a crate of oranges, he falls asleep only to wake up in a city in which the scene is set for his adventures with his friend, a crocodile named Gena, a lion named Chandr, a puppy named Tobik and the pioneer (similar to being a member of the scouts, but with communist roots) Galya.

Beginners/intermediate learners

9. Без этого нельзя Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A Soviet cartoon about an inexperienced puppy with no owner or parents – a fact which is a source of great pride for him. After having offended the various animals who had offered to care for him, the puppy experiences hunger and with no food in sight, resigns himself to sleeping under a tree. Matters take a turn for worse when he is caught in a downpour and he starts to regret his earlier insolence. Luckily, an old dog in need of a friend offers him shelter…

10. Бестолковый вомбат Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A cartoon adaptation of a fairy-tale by the Australian writer Ruth Park, featuring a lonely wombat and his struggle to make friends with other animals. The wombat is left bamboozled when a herd of animals races towards him, only to discover that they were fleeing from hunters. He ends up being caught by the hunters but is saved in the nick of time when the poachers crash their vehicle. The wombat finds a friend in a mouse caught up in the panic, who gives him a flute. After swallowing the flute, he quickly becomes a singing sensation after his every breathe gives rise to a melody. Together, they head to the big city with plans of making enough money to purchase a bicycle, but of course, things never go quite as planned.

11. Бобик в гостях у Барбоса – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A Soviet-era cartoon about a dog called Barbos who lives outside in his owner’s garden. Rainwater leaks through his kennel and he has no escape from it. The dog of a neighbouring apartment, Bobik, lives a comfortable life as an indoor dog. A bored Bobik invites Barbos over one day and the cartoon follows the development of their relationship as Barbos discovers how ‘the other half’ live. The dialogue can be quite fast-paced at times, but very little of it goes on, making it much more comfortable to stop and start the cartoon in order to record vocabulary.

12. Новоселье у Братца Кролика – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

After moving house, Братца Кролика (‘Brother Rabbit’) throws a housewarming party to celebrate and invites his closest friends. Whilst heading to their houses to announce the party, he meets a cunning fox with a craving for rabbit soup. Can the fox lure Братца Кролика into the traps he sets? There is a lot of dialogue and the characters generally enunciate slowly and clearly.

13. Верните Рекса – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A Soviet-cartoon about a young boy and his relationship with his pet – a loyal dog called Rex. After a hockey accident, things are never the same again.

14. Верное средство – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

Bears hibernate in winter, but one little bear simply can’t fall asleep, no matter what remedies he tries. Only after a bunny rabbit, squirrel, mouse and a beaver play him a lullaby ” Sleep, my joy, sleep …”, does he finally get some shut eye. A great story for little ones, with easy-to-follow dialogue.

15. Умка – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A polar bear cub named Умка, befriends a Chukchi boy. However, after the boy leaves the forest with his family, Умка begins his adventure in search of his friend.

16. Дом для Кузьки – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A Soviet cartoon about a young girl moving to the city after her family’s old house was demolished. The cartoon is best suited for intermediate learners, though beginners will definitely recognise words and benefit from the challenge involved in improving their listening skills.

17. Крошка Енот – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

Крошка Енот is an animated film about a young raccoon whose mother gives him a task on his birthday – to go to the pond and pick some sedge. However, he develops a deep fear of a creature a monkey in the forest tells him resides in the pond. Paralysed with anxiety, he is unable to do as his mother asked, until she gives him some sound advice; smile at the monster, and the monster will smile back. Will he be able to overcome his fear?


18. Мама для мамонтёка – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A cartoon about a mammoth who manages to escape the extinction of the mammoths after the permafrost he was frozen in thawed and begins a journey in search of his mother. He meets a polar bear and a walrus who tell him of a huge continent far south, where animals similar to him live – only, they don’t have any wool. The mammoth sets off on a long voyage to Africa and makes friends along the way, but will he ever find his mother? The dialogue is very easy to follow, with clearly-enunciated and slow speech.

19. Как Петя Пяточкин Слоников Считал ‘How Peter Pyatochkin counted elephants’ – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A short cartoon film about a restless young boy called Петя, with bright red hair, who is extremely curious about the world around him and always causing mischief. The song has plenty of songs which every child growing up in the USSR would recognise.

20. Ежик в тумане – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners


A Soviet animated film about a hedgehog who is stalked by an eagle-owl as he takes a stoll to his friend’s house for tea. Caught up in the thick fog when his curiosity gets the better of him, he loses his way.

21. Винни Пух – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

A Soviet-era rendition of one of A.A. Milne’s book series ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’. The quality of the audio has stood the test of time and the characters enunciate clearly.

22. Приключения поросенка Фунтика – Suitable for beginners/intermediate learners

The cartoon follows a pig called Funtik and his escape from the grips of his greedy, deceitful boss – a self-made millionaire named ‘Madame Belladonna’. By chance, he comes across two circus performers – Uncle Mokus and his assistant monkey Bambino, who invite him to go on tour with them to a neighbouring city. However, sometimes the past just can’t let go.

Intermediate learners

23. 13 рейс – Suitable for intermediate learners

A satirical cartoon which pokes fun at human superstitions. The main character, a hare, is highly superstitious and terribly afraid that various occurrences such as breaking a mirror, an encounter with a black car and the number 13, were signs of misfortune to come. In Russian, the translation of a scaredy-cat isтрусохвостик (pronounced tru-sokh-vós-tik), meaning cowardly rabbit.

24. Кто расскажет небылицу? – Suitable for intermediate learners

A Soviet cartoon based on an Armenian fairy-tale, with plenty of easy-to-follow dialogue as the characters speak in a slow and measured way. The main character is a king who has lost the zest for life and calls upon his adviser for help rediscovering it. His adviser proposes the declaration of a story-telling competition with a fun twist; if the king fails to believe a tale, the narrator will receive half a kingdom as a reward, but if he does believe a tale, the narrator will have to surrender all of their property to the king.

It is all a complete scam of course and hundreds of naive contestants fall for the bait. However, one day, three brothers come to the king. In line with the plan devised with his adviser, the king pretends to believe the outlandish tales of the eldest and middle brothers. However, when the youngest brother declares that rather than telling a story, he had a bone to pick with the king – his village was owed a bag of gold earlier borrowed by the king – the king cannot contain his horror and single-handedly scuppers the cunning plan…

25. Бобрёнок Чука – Suitable for intermediate learners

In this cartoon, a dam which a family of beavers worked long and hard to build is destroyed after a severe thunderstorm. Following the storm, the beavers get to work on the construction of a new dam. However, a lazy beaver named Chuka did not wish to participate. The cartoon follows his adventures as he sets off into the forest in search of new friends. Naturally, the forest is not the safest place for a small creature without the support of family and friends.

26. Верлиока – Suitable for intermediate learners

A Soviet cartoon based on a folk tale about a mythical, one-eyed creature. In this cartoon, Верлиока is portrayed as a vandal, hooligan and thief. He ends up kidnapping the granddaughter of a farmer in a neighbouring village and the village rallies together to get her back. The speech is generally slow and clearly-enunciated, making it easier to understand what the characters are saying.

27. Незнайка – Suitable for intermediate learners

Незнайка (meaning ignoramus) is a Soviet cartoon following the adventures of a boy from a tribe of very little people in ‘Flower City’, based on a series of books by the author Palmer Cox. The characters enunciate clearly, which makes it a great resource for intermediate learners with decent knowledge of Russian vocabulary, but weak listening skills.

28. Малыш и Карлсон – Suitable for intermediate learners

An animated film about a young boy who is bored at home one day, when a man with a propeller on his back suddenly appears at his window and introduces himself.

Intermediate/advanced learners

29. 80 дней вокруг света – Suitable for intermediate / advanced learners

An Australian cartoon which was highly popular in the USSR between the 70s and 80s and dubbed in Russian. The cartoon takes place in the 19 th century and the main character, Phileas Fogg, is enamoured with a certain Belinda Maze – a woman of noble birth whose uncle was opposed to the idea of his niece marrying a man of non-aristocratic lineage. In order to persuade Belinda’s uncle – Lord Maze, Fogg makes a wager.

If he successfully makes it around the world in eighty days, Lord Maze will have to give Fogg his blessing to marry Belinda. If he fails however, Fogg would walk away from her forever. Fogg is accompanied by his manservant, Jean Passepartout, and Passepartout’s pet monkey called Toto. Together with Passepartout, Fogg disseminates geographical knowledge to the audience throughout his travels. The journey is not without complication however, as Lord Maze recruits a saboteur, one ‘Mr. Fix’, to thwart their ambitions.

30. Большой Ух – Suitable for intermediate/advanced learners

In the middle of the night, a funny-looking alien named Большой Ух (‘Big Ear’) lands in a forest and he quickly befriends the first animal he meets – a wolf cub. Together, Большой Ух, whose large ears allow him to hear what is happening as far as space and the wolf cub, who also possesses superb hearing capabilities, help animals in distress within the forest.

31. Василиса Микулишна – Suitable for intermediate/advanced learners

A Soviet cartoon about a prince who felt offended by a male guest at a feast he held – the Boyar of Chernigov (a member of the highest stratum of feudal society in Russia). The Prince threw the Boyar into a dungeon and the latter’s wife, catching wind of this fact, completely revamped her appearance in order to save her beloved husband, adopting the countenance of a Tatar ambassador. There is a lot of dialogue and the characters enunciate clearly.

32. Василиса Прекрасная – Suitable for intermediate/advanced learners

A Soviet-era cartoon based on a much-loved fairy-tale based on a Russian folk tale ‘The Frog Princess’. A king, wanting to marry off his sons, sets a challenge for them; to shoot an arrow into the distance. The resting place of the arrow would determine the bride they took. Whilst the eldest and middle sons secured future brides of beauty, the arrow of the youngest son fell into a swamp and sealed his fate; he was to marry the Frog Princess, Vasilisa.

Unbeknownst to him, she is the most beautiful maiden of the realm, but following a curse by a warlock she was doomed to be a frog until she receives the kiss of a prince who loves her for who she is, rather than for her appearance. Following a feast after which he disposes of her frog-skin, she sets him the task of searching for her if he truly loves her, before disappearing into the darkness as a bird. So begins his adventure. Whilst on the road, he encounters a witch who tells him all about the curse placed on Vasilisa and with the aid of some animals he meets along the way, he sets out to find her and destroy the curse.

Upper-intermediate/advanced learners

33. Возвращение блудного попугая – Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

A cartoon series about a hot-tempered and rather pompous city-dwelling parrot named Kesha and his relationship with his owner, a young schoolboy called Vovka. The plotline contains a much-loved running gag, whereby Kesha, consumed with rage, escapes from home vowing never to return again, only to realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The dialogue is quite intellectual at times and fast-paced, making it more suitable for learners at a more advanced stage of their language-learning journey.

34. Академик Иванов Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

An opera-style cartoon about an academic called Ivanov and how he managed to overcome his fear of doctors. The dialogue is clear but can be difficult to follow when the characters sing, making it more suitable for learners at a more advanced stage of their language-learning journey.

35. Алиса в Стране Чудес – Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

A cartoon adaption of Lewis Caroll’s iconic fairytale ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Алиса в Стране Чудес is about a young girl named Alice who slips down a rabbit hole and enters a magical land in which she encounters strange creatures.

Алиса в Зазеркалье – Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

An adaptation of Caroll’s sequel to the book, ‘Alice Through the Looking-Glass’, was also released and explores Alice’s adventures after stepping through a mirror which transports her to a parallel reality in which the world is a giant chessboard and she is a white king’s pawn.

Both the adaptions are loaded with dialogue and feature fairly fast-paced speech, making them more suitable for more advanced learners.

36. В синем море, в белой пене… – Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

A Soviet cartoon based on an Armenian fairy-tale about a boy who is kidnapped by the king of the underwater kingdom, whilst fishing with his grandfather. The king hopes to find an heir and son-in-law in the boy, but things don’t always go according to plan.

37. Братья Пилоты (formerly known as Братья Колобки) – Suitable for upper-intermediate/advanced learners

The cartoon is set in the early 1950s and follows the adventures of two brothers named Chief and Colleague, who are modelled after Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr Watson. Their prominent social status stems from their success as inventors in their youth. In fact, the brothers circled the globe on a self-constructed plane, hence their nickname ‘the Pilot Brothers’. The speed of the dialogue is quite fast and the vocabulary fairly complex at times, therefore making it more suitable for advanced learners.

Advanced learners

38. Приключения капитана Врунгеля – Suitable for advanced learners

A Soviet cartoon about Captain Vrungel, an experienced sailor, and his many adventures at sea. The cartoon is a parody of sailor life and pokes fun at stereotypes about foreigners and individual countries.

39. Маугл – Suitable for advanced learners

A Soviet-era adaptation of one of Rudyard Kipling’s most popular works – The Jungle Book. The cartoon can be quite challenging to follow due to the speed at which certain characters speak and the clarity of the ageing audio.

40. Трое из Простоквашино – Suitable for advanced learners

A Soviet cartoon about a young boy called Uncle Fyodor. He runs away from home with his dog after growing upset at his parents refusal to let him keep a talking cat called Matroskin. The three move to a village and embark on a series of adventures, but will he ever see his parents again?

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