What Is The Best VPN for Russia in 2019?
NordVPN provides the best protection for your internet connection when you’re inside Russian borders. The service provides optimal protection for your online activities and your personal information, keeping it safe from observation by the Russian government or hackers.
This provider brings a number of great features to the table, with the fastest connection speeds in this roundup, as well as top-notch privacy protections and customer support, making it a great choice for keeping your
vodka connection protected.
Internet Freedom in Russia
Internet penetration in Russia sits at 76.4% of the country’s total area. Mobile broadband penetration sits at 60 subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants. Fixed broadband is at 30% in the entire country, and is highest in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with both cities at over 70% penetration.
Average internet speed in Russia's is 7.4 Mbps. While that’s almost twice the global average speed of 3.8 Mbps, it’s still pretty darn slow.
Freedom House reports that internet freedom declined during 2017, as the government continued to pressure communication and networking companies to store the data of Russian users on servers in Russian territory.
From June 2016 to May 2017, these key internet-related developments took place in Russia:
Freedom House gives Russia an aggregate 2017 Freedom Score of 66/100 (0 = Most Free, 100 = Least Free).
Top 5 Best VPNs for Use in Russia
Why You Need a VPN in Russia
Internet freedom declined in Russia during 2017 as the government pressured communication and networking platforms to store Russian users’ data on Russian territory. The government actually blocked U.S.-based professional networking service LinkedIn after it declined to comply with these demands.
In this section of this article, I’ll provide a look at the state of internet freedom in Russia today, including which types of content are allowed and which are blocked. I’ll also supply you with information on the possible legal and criminal issues a user can face in Mother Russia.
Last but not least, I’ll explain how, although the Russians have attempted to limit access to VPNs, they’re still a great tool to use to help ensure your internet freedom while inside Russia’s borders.
Russian authorities censor and block a wide range of online topics, often throwing up such roadblocks in the name of combating “extremism.” Outlawed content includes the previously-mentioned LGBTI content, information related to the Ukraine conflict and political opposition.
Online news outlets are subject to government pressure to publish government-friendly content. The government also manipulates public opinion via the state-controlled media and pays “ringers” to make Kremlin-friendly comments on content.
The SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis claims hundreds of thousands of websites are blocked, many with no justification. Several Russian government agencies have wide authority to block various categories of information.
Blocked content includes information about suicide, drugs and propaganda, information about juvenile victims of crimes, instances of copyright violations, content about extremism and information about unsanctioned public actions or rallies.
Voice Over IP
Voice over IP (VoIP) service is allowed in Russia. It is, of course, subject to the same security issues as any internet-related service or activity. Be aware that Russian law enforcement is entitled to any stored private communication.
Major social networks are heavily monitored. Unlike LinkedIn (which is blocked by the Russian government), Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are not blocked completely in the country.
However, they are closely monitored, and numerous accounts on these social networks have been blocked for posts that violated Russian law.
The Russian government is known to block piracy-related torrenting sites, doing so at the ISP level. The Russian government has blocked numerous torrenting sites that host copyrighted materials.
Russian lawmakers continued to pass legislation providing increased surveillance powers in 2017. The March 2018 presidential election led to laws being passed, laws that further erode opportunities for online anonymity.
A law calling for the blocking of VPN services that allow access to banned content was passed in July 2017. VPNs that agree to restrict their clients’ access to “illegal” websites will not be blocked. (The “Top 5” providers in this article all currently work from inside Russia. As always, check with individual providers for their current status.)
An amendment to the Law on Information, Information Technology, and Information Security was adopted in July 2017, which forces social media users to register their mobile phone numbers.
A package of anti-terrorism laws was passed in July 2016 to limit the use of encryption to safeguard privacy. The amendments, known as “Yarovaya’s Law,” says online services offering encryption must assist the government with decoding encrypted data.
Providers such as Apple, which offer “end-to-end encryption” which cannot be decrypted by anyone outside of an encrypted conversation, would face a RUB 1 million (US $15,000) fine. It is believed that the purpose of the law is to give the Russian government added leverage over affected companies.
Yarovaya’s Law also requires telecoms and “organizers of information distribution on the internet” to save the content of their users’ online activities for up to three years (for telecoms), and one year for other entities, such as apps and websites.
A September 2015 law requires foreign companies that store the personal data of Russian citizens to store said data on servers located inside Russian borders. This would potentially allow easier access for government agencies.
Russian authorities are legally required to obtain a court order to gain access to a user’s online activity records. However, authorities are not required to show said court order to an ISP or telecom provider to get access. This leaves the door wide open to abuse of these rules.
Netflix is available in Russia, but content for the Russian version of the streaming service is limited to that which is licensed for viewing in Russia. Russian residents and visitors will need to use a VPN to access Netflix content available in other countries.
Access to Hulu is currently restricted to the United States and Japan, and U.K.-based BBC iPlayer is restricted to viewers in the United Kingdom. In both cases, a VPN would open up viewing of those services to Russian users.
Legality of VPNs
While the Russian government does block the usage of some VPN providers, the services in my top 5 list all currently work inside Russian borders. While I checked with each provider in my list at the time of this article, this can change at any time, so be sure to check with a provider before opting to subscribe to their services.
Online gambling is illegal in Russia. Legislation passed in 2006 bans online gambling. While online gambling websites should be accessible from Russia by using a VPN, keep in mind the activity is illegal, and if you’re caught, you could face fines and imprisonment. Talk about taking a gamble!
How a VPN Protects Your Internet Usage in Russia
Russian internet users who are looking for an easy way to keep their online activities safe from detection and observation by the Russian government, their ISP or hackers should make use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can keep such activities safe from prying eyes.
A VPN encases a user’s internet connection in a layer of encryption, keeping the information passing through the connection safe from the eyes of outsiders who look to monitor their travels or even steal their valuable personal and business-related information.
A VPN can also “spoof” a user’s location, making it appear that the user’s connection is coming from a location other than the user’s actual, physical location. This opens up websites and services that may usually be blocked by the government or by geographical blocks by the content holder.
How to Choose the Best VPN for Russia
There are a large number of VPNs that still work in Russia and will provide adequate protection for your online antics. However, only a few will provide optimal protection for you and your online freedom and precious information.
While considering VPN provider choices, look for one that does an optimal job of protecting your privacy, offers wide-ranging global server coverage and that slows down your internet connection as little as possible.
As we proceed through this section of the article, I’ll explain each service offered by VPN providers and will also share why that service category is important to the quality of your VPN experience. I’ll also provide a look at how well each of my top 10 VPN providers perform in each category.
Privacy for your online travels is always important. However, when you’re looking for a VPN provider that provides protection from inside of Russia, privacy takes on even more importance.
Look for a VPN provider that bases their operations in a privacy-friendly country, doesn’t keep logs of any type connected to your online activities and that protects your payment information by accepting Bitcoin or another privacy-protecting payment method.
The provider list below is sorted according to the privacy protections they offer, best coverage to worst.
Connection speed is perhaps the factor that most directly affects your enjoyment of and satisfaction with your online activities. This is especially true of those of you who are movie and online gaming fans.
When testing a VPN provider’s connection speeds, I first test the speeds provided by my ISP. I then connect to each VPN and test the connection speed provided by that service. I then repeat the testing over the space of a few days, at different times of the day. This allows me to calculate an average connection speed.
The average speed percentage in the table below is calculated by comparing the VPN-provided and ISP-provided speed averages.
The rankings below are sorted in order of fastest speeds to slowest.
Avg. DL Speed
Avg. DL Speed
A kill switch protects your connection by automatically terminating your internet connection if your connection to your VPN’s servers is dropped for any reason. This prevents outsiders from monitoring your activity if the VPN connection is lost.
“Kill switch” is a feature that is a simple “yes” or “no” matter. So, all providers listed below are sorted alphabetically, with a simple “Y/N” notation to indicate if the feature is indeed offered by the company.
Other Factors to Consider
If you’ve ever had an issue with one of your connected devices, or an app running on one of those devices, then you know the value of good customer support.
For this reason, always look for a VPN provider that offers a trouble ticket tracking system, live support chat and a searchable database of support-related information. (Just FYI, hardly any VPN service offers phone support.)
The companies below are ranked in order of which types of support they offer and how promptly and accurately they replied, best support to worst.
If only none of us had to worry about the price of the goods and services we purchase. Wouldn’t it be great to have one less thing to worry about? However, I’m guessing that you, like me, need to keep within the constraints of a budget.
While shopping for a good price, don’t automatically think the lowest-priced provider is the best deal. Inversely, don’t assume the highest-priced VPN will offer the best all-around service.
While researching VPN pricing, also keep in mind the level of service each provider supplies in each important category that I’m covering here. Make sure they’re not sacrificing service on the altar of affordability.
There are deals to be had on VPN subscriptions. Many of the providers listed here offer limited-time pricing that can greatly reduce the amount you’ll pay for your VPN coverage. However, these deals may require you to subscribe for a longer period of time than their usual pricing.
Shoppers who can’t afford to pay up front for a year or more of VPN service will be glad to know the providers offer monthly subscription options. Please take note that opting for this route will cost you more over the long run.