5 British Historical Dramas Set in Russia

Last updated on the 28 March 2024 by Maeve

Historical dramas set in Russia


Mr Jones (2019)

Still from Mr Jones with James Norton - Historical dramas set in Russia


The first of our historical dramas set in Russia is Mr. Jones, a biographical drama directed by Agnieszka Holland, which tells the story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who travels to Soviet Russia in 1933. There he uncovers the horrific truth behind the forced famine that killed millions of Ukrainians under Stalin’s regime, despite attempts to suppress his findings by both Western governments and Moscow officials.

Top cast: James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard, Joseph Mawle, Kenneth Cranham, Celyn Jones, Krzysztof Pieczynski and Fenella Woolgar.


Doctor Zhivago (2002)

Still from Doctor Zhivago with Keira Knightley


The second of our historical dramas set in Russia is directed by Giacomo Campiotti, based on the classic novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak. The series follows the life of Yuri Zhivago, a young doctor and poet who falls in love with Lara Guishar during the tumultuous years of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and civil war that followed. Despite their love for each other, they are torn apart by events beyond their control as they try to survive amidst political turmoil and social upheaval.

Top cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Neill, Hans Matheson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bill Paterson, Celia Imrie, Kris Marshall and Maryam d’Abo.


The Death of Stalin (2017)

Still from The Death of Stalin with Jeffrey Tambor (Georgy Malenkov), Steve Buscemi, (Nikita Khrushchev) and Simon Russell Beale, (Lavrentiy Beriya)


The third of our historical dramas set in Russia is The Death of Stalin, a political satire directed by Armando Iannucci. The film depicts the events that took place in Moscow, Soviet Union, following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. The power struggle among his closest advisors and members of the Politburo leads to chaos and absurdity as they try to take control of the country.

Throughout the film, there are several hilarious scenes where characters engage in ridiculous behavior or make outrageous statements while trying to protect themselves from being accused of treason or falling out of favour with those in charge. The film portrays an era marked by paranoia and fear at its most absurd level, highlighting how people will go to great lengths when it comes down to gaining or maintaining power.

Top cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs and Olga Kurylenko.


War & Peace (2016)

Still from War & Peace with Lily James


The fourth of our historical dramas set in Russia is War & Peace, a television miniseries directed by Tom Harper, based on the epic novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The story is set against the backdrop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and focuses on five aristocratic families whose lives are intertwined with each other.

The series primarily follows Pierre Bezukhov (played by Paul Dano), a socially awkward but wealthy man who struggles to find his place in society. He falls in love with Natasha Rostova (Lily James), a young girl from one of the prominent families, who also catches the eye of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton). Meanwhile, Nikolai Rostov (Jack Lowden) must choose between his love for Sonya (Aisling Loftus) or duty to marry an heiress.

As war looms over Russia, all their lives become entwined as they navigate through personal struggles and societal expectations. The characters experience joy, heartbreak, betrayal and devastation amidst political turmoil and social upheaval during this tumultuous time in history.

Top cast: Paul Dano, Lily James, James Norton, Tuppence Middleton, Adrian Edmondson, Greta Scacchi, Jack Lowden, Aisling Loftus, Jim Broadbent, Rebecca Front and Jessie Buckley.


Anna Karenina (2012)

Still from Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley


The last of our historical dramas set in Russia is Anna Karenina, a film directed by Joe Wright and based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The story takes place in late 19th century Russia, where Anna Karenina (played by Keira Knightley), a married socialite, embarks on an affair with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) that leads to her downfall.

The film explores themes of love, passion, jealousy and societal expectations as it follows Anna’s journey from a respected member of high society to an outcast shunned by her peers. Her husband Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) struggles to come to terms with his wife’s infidelity while also trying to maintain his public image.

Meanwhile, Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a man who lives outside of society’s norms due to his rural upbringing falls in love with Kitty Shcherbatskaya (Alicia Vikander), but faces many obstacles along the way before they can be together.

Top cast: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Matthew Macfadyen, Eric MacLennan, Kelly Macdonald, Alicia Viklander, Domhnall Geeson and Olivia Williams.


Historical Dramas Set in Russia (Wikipedia)


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