Russia is a unique country where ancient traditions coexist with modern culture. In this country, you can explore snow-covered taiga or bask on a beach in subtropical coastal regions. Many foreigners come here to understand the enigma of Russians. Unfortunately, the authorities are not as hospitable as regular people. The federal bodies, such as FSB, want to control everything, even the type of content you view or download from the internet. If you don’t want to reveal your browsing activity, you need to protect your true identity and privacy. In this article, we will show you the best VPNs for Russia, useful for both tourists and local people, that can help you to avoid online monitoring.
Reasons to Use a VPN in Russia
For more than 17 years, Russia has been declaring itself as an independent and free state but it still hasn’t fully managed to throw off the legacy of the Soviet Union. The country exercises strict regulation and control over various spheres of everyday life, especially the Internet and media. The federal agency Roskomnadzor is a watchdog responsible for monitoring and censorship. Currently, Roskomnadzor has blocked about 86,000 sites with illegal content about drugs, suicides, online casinos, explosives.
Moreover, the long arm of the law can get to completely innocent media resources or business publications. For instance, LinkedIn was banned in 2016 and in 2018, the world was shocked by the news about Telegram blacklisting due to refusal to give encryption keys to the Russian authorities. Even Wikipedia and Reddit have found themselves banned at some point.
The state can get rid of unwanted news outlets in other ways. For example, in 2018, a court ordered The New Times magazine to pay 22 million rubles ($300.000) for late submission of required data to Roskomnadzor. Such a heavy fine (the amount is equal to the publisher’s profit for the entire 2017) actually means that the magazine, as well as its online version, has to shut down. It is interesting that a year earlier The New Times was accused of “Release of media products containing public calls for terrorism or materials publicly justifying terrorism,” but then the publication got off with a fine of only 100 thousand rubles ($15.000).
Authorities require ISPs to collect and store extensive user data, including private information. VPNs, which make users anonymous and hide their traces in the virtual space, are not welcome in Russia. Fortunately, VPNs and Tor browser are still legal. However, on November 1, 2017, the parliament adopted a law according to which VPNs are obligated to close access to the sites recognized as harmful. If a VPN service refuses to obey, it will be blocked.
Fortunately, in practice, no VPN has yet been blacklisted. First of all, Russia simply does not have the technical and financial capabilities to block VPNs. In addition, if a VPN is registered outside Russia, its laws do not apply to it. Therefore, you can use VPNs in Russia without any problems.
Summary of the Best VPNs for Russia
For those of you who are looking for a quick answer, we post a short list of the most reliable VPNs to use in Russia:
- NordVPN – This premium service provides comprehensive security features while staying straightforward and affordable. It currently has the largest server network in the world.
- ExpressVPN – It is the fastest VPN on our list. The service is ideal for torrenting, gaming, and video streaming. Along with an impressive server roster, ExpressVPN boasts excellent coverage embracing 94 countries.
- PureVPN – This provider delivers a wide range of security features packed into convenient and intuitive software. The provider regularly offers steep discounts so you can get a great deal on the cheap.
All these VPNs have proven to be world-class services with a serious focus on user security. You are also able to find a wide range of dirt cheap and even free providers but they are not a good choice for Russia VPN. Such services will keep logs and won’t resist handing them over to the government. Even if you don’t do anything that FSB disapproves, your data may be sold to the third parties. Needless to say that free VPNs are slow and have data caps.
Key Factors to Consider when Choosing a VPN for Russia
Even though the Russian government can’t really shut down VPNs, you should be very careful when choosing one for your needs. There are some criteria that will help you make the right choice:
The authorities are able to close down only those VPNs that are registered in Russia. That’s why you should look for an International service. Opt for providers operating from countries without invasive privacy laws.
Massive server network
Some websites are banned in Russia but they may be available in other countries. Establishing a connection through a VPN server in a foreign country, you will be able to get past such restrictions. The more servers a provider has, the easier it is to bypass blocking.
Generally, many providers are able to deliver a good connection speed when you hook up to a local server. But this is not the case in Russia. It has a huge territory so even Russia-based servers may be thousands of kilometers away from you. Besides, the government is able to seize servers if there are some investigations regarding VPNs’ users. That’s why it is important that a service maintains great connection speed across the whole network, even at remote locations.
Perhaps, this is the most vital feature for VPNs, especially in countries that punish users for accessing a certain type of content. Providers that don’t collect any data about your online activities won’t compromise your privacy even if the government forces them to surrender use-related information.
Advanced security features
The ability to encrypt traffic and mask users’ true location is what makes VPNs a serious security tool. You should opt for providers with unbreakable ciphers, military-grade connection protocols, IP and DNS leak protection, Kill Switch, and other useful features to safeguard your internet connection.
Here are the Best VPNs for Russia
It’s time to get to know our recommended VPNs for Russia a bit closer. You’ll find reviews of their most prominent features below:
The provider boasts a great value for money. It goes a little further in every detail to ensure you get the best features for a reasonable price. NordVPN puts a heavy emphasis on user security. Besides top-of-the-line encryption (it uses AES-256-bit cipher and the strongest OpenVPN connection protocol by default), you will get a wide range of extra features including Double VPN, Tor Over VPN, obfuscation, etc. The service even implements its own malware / antivirus.
A bulletproof log-free policy and off-shore jurisdiction (NordVPN is registered in Panama) make it possible to avoid government surveillance and keep your privacy intact.
NordVPN has 31 servers in Russia and several dozens of units in the neighboring countries. Totally, you can choose a location from more than 5,000 servers in 62 countries.
The service is quite accessible even for users on a shoestring budget. You can get huge discounts for annual plans and an impressive 73% off for a 3-year package. With its 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try it absolutely risk-free. Summing up, NordVPN is our top pick for the best Russia VPN.
If you are an avid gamer, torrent enthusiast, or you like binging on video streams, you definitely need a speedy provider. ExpressVPN is so fast that you won’t even notice any speed drops. The secret is a large server network optimized for the best performance. The service even has a SmartLocation function that will connect you to the fastest server based on your needs and whereabouts.
ExpressVPN doesn’t have many servers in Russia but it compensates it with locations in other Eastern Europe countries. No matter which server out of 2,000+ available units you connect to, you will be reliably protected with a solid encryption (OpenVPN and AES-256 are included).
ExpressVPN operates according to the British Virgin Islands legislation which doesn’t have compulsory data retention practices. The provider stores some minor connection logs although they are not able to compromise user privacy. A high-profile case involving confiscation of company’s server in Turkey proved that ExpressVPN really hides all your online traces.
The provider is not the cheapest on the market but you will actually get more than you pay for. A 1-year subscription comes with a solid discount and if the service doesn’t live up to your expectation, you can easily get your money back within 30 days. ExpressVPN is a truly worthy VPN for Russian users.
The provider will appeal to users on a budget who seek a well-packed but not complicated service. The most secure and reliable protocol OpenVPN combined with an uncrackable cipher will protect your traffic from both the government agencies and cybercriminals. An Internet Kill Switch and DNS leakage prevention are also in place.
The service tirelessly expands its server network. Currently, it has more than 2,000 servers stationed in 140 countries, including 24 units in Russia. You’ll be pleased to know that these locations support the Ozone feature that adds extra malware protection and content filter.
PureVPN is registered in Hong Kong. The country has no mandatory data retention laws, which allow the provider to carry out zero-logging policy.
The service offers various subscription options for 3, 6, and 12 months. The annual plan has a large discount and 31 day money-back guarantee, so don’t be afraid to purchase it!
A safe VPN is essential in Russia to avoid censorship and fall off the radar of federal services. Russia-based services are not an option since they are obligated to ban certain sites the authorities consider harmful. The same goes for free VPNs that are unable to maintain user confidentiality. You need to turn your attention to a reputable service registered in a foreign country that won’t play by the authorities’ rules. If you have doubts about which provider to choose, just check out our list of recommended VPNs for Russia and we are sure you’ll find a provider that won’t disappoint.