You need a VPN for Russia, it’s that simple. And not every VPN is up for the task with the government employing some tech-savvy people who can detect when someone is using a VPN to access “suspicious” content. Or something of that sort.
All major social networks and websites work in the country but your web activity could be monitored, especially if you’re looking for anything related to corruption in Russia, opposition and similar subjects.
The sad truth is that the state of the Internet is getting worse with the day in the Russian Federation, but luckily – you can do something about it.
Yup, you’ll need a good VPN. Here are what we think are the best services for getting around Russia’s Internet restrictions — which will also cover all your other needs:
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
Internet censorship in Russia
There is not one but several laws that are used to enforce Internet censorship in the Russian Federation.
The country maintains a centralized internet blacklist, aka the “single register,” which is maintained by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). The list is used for the censorship of individual URLs, domain names, and IP addresses.
Originally, it was designed to block content advocating drug abuse and drug production, descriptions of suicide methods, and containing child pornography. However, later on, it was amended to allow the blocking of materials that are classified as extremist by including them to the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
According to Freedom House, these regulations have been frequently abused to block criticism of the government. One such bull was introduced in March 2018 and included fines for those who are deemed (by the government) to be spreading “fake news” and show “blatant disrespect” toward the state authorities.
Related to that, in June 2020. – the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Russia in a case involving the blocking of websites critical of the government (including that of Garry Kasparov), as the plaintiffs’ freedom of speech had been violated.
In that sense, Russia was rated “partly free” in Freedom on the Net by Freedom House, while Reporters Without Borders put it in the Internet Enemies list in 2014.
Like that’s not enough, the government is also collaborating with Chinese Great Firewall security officials in implementing its data retention and filtering infrastructure.
It’s getting worse…
A ban on all software and websites related to circumventing internet filtering in Russia, including VPNs, was passed in 2017. This, however, hasn’t stopped folks from using VPNs to bypass all kinds of restrictions.
Nevertheless, the government is trying really hard to make “Internet life” harder for its constituents.
According to data from the Russian Society for Internet Users, instances of censorship increased by a factor of 1.5 from 2013 to 2014. The incidents documented include not only instances of Internet blocking but also the use of force to shut down Internet users, such as the beatings of bloggers or police raids.
Human rights NGO Agora shares this (bad) sentiment, with its data showing that instances of Internet censorship increased ninefold from 2014 to 2015, rising from 1,019 to 9,022.
In April 2018, a Moscow court ordered the ban and blockage of the messaging app Telegram under anti-terrorism laws, for refusing to cooperate with the FSB and provide access to encrypted communications.
And you know who benefited from this decision? VPN providers – which saw the sales of their services significantly increasing. People like to have their Internet free, after all.
Yes, you need a VPN for Russia
But not just for Russia. Who knows where life will take you. And from what we can tell, the situation is getting worse throughout the world.
You’ll want a VPN that will always have your back, one that will:
- Protect your privacy from the government and big corporations
- Bypass restrictions imposed by the government or various organizations
- Change your IP address so you get unrestricted access to Netflix, Disney+, iPlayer, HULU, and other video streaming services
- Encrypt and protect private data from cybercriminals
- Download files with BitTorrent anonymously
The top contenders that check all these boxes include the following: