A first-half strike by Viktor Fayzulin and Roman Shirokov's late penalty sent Northern Ireland to defeat in their opening World Cup qualifier.
In former England boss Fabio Capello's first competitive match in charge of Russia, Fayzulin buried Alexander Kerzhakov's cross in the 30th minute.
The penalty came 13 minutes from time when Blackpool defender Craig Cathcart shoved Alexander Kokorin over.
Roman Shirokov sent Roy Carroll the wrong way with the spot-kick.
Soon after that came Northern Ireland's best effort as Gareth McAuley's header from a Chris Brunt corner was cleared off the line.
So, for the seventh time in the last nine World Cup or Euro qualifying campaigns, Northern Ireland have fallen to defeat and they can have little complaint as they did little to suggest a surprise result.
It was Michael O'Neill's first competitive match as Northern Ireland manager and he will be all too aware that his second must end in victory against Luxembourg in Belfast on Tuesday night.
O'Neill sprang a surprise by giving Derby County's Jamie Ward his first international start on the left of midfield, and goalkeeper Carroll of Olympiakos was favoured ahead of Nottingham Forest's Lee Camp.
It was always going to be a tough opening as Russia are expected to be Portugal's main competitors in Group F, but Northern Ireland contained them fairly effectively up until the opening goal.
The only real lapse came in the 16th minute when West Brom defender McAuley caught Vladimir Bystrov late in the penalty area. Luckily for O'Neill's men, a spot-kick was not awarded which was definitely a let-off for the visitors.
Not surprisingly, Northern Ireland's chances up front were limited. They did force a couple of corners, and from one of them, McAuley headed wide at the far post.
Russia's breakthrough goal came in the 30th minute and it was a classy finish from Fayzulin after Northern Ireland were carved open.
A nicely-weighted pass by Vladimir Bystrov found Kerzhakov, who squared the ball for the onrushing Fayzulin to send a first-time effort into the top corner.
That visibly lifted the Russians and they almost scored again soon afterwards but Carroll saved Shirokov's shot with his feet.
There was an injury worry at half-time as defender Jonny Evans hobbled towards the dressing room having appeared to tweak a hamstring.
The Manchester United player came out for the second half but did not seem to be moving completely freely.
In the second half Russia seemed content to build-up patiently as Northern Ireland concentrated on keeping plenty of men behind the ball.
However, O'Neill's men were almost undone when Vasili Berezutskiy sent a header wide of the far post.
The game lacked incident for a spell until the penalty effectively sealed Northern Ireland's fate.
Cathcart appeared to lean into substitute Kokorin who went over, and Shirokov calmly side-footed in.
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.90:00 +0:29
Gareth McAuley takes a shot. Blocked by Sergei Ignashevich.89:18
The ball is swung over by Dmitri Kombarov.86:24
Free kick awarded for a foul by Jonathan Evans on Aleksandr Kokorin. Roman Shirokov crosses the ball in from the free kick, Chris Baird makes a clearance.86:10
Free kick awarded for a foul by Chris Brunt on Roman Shirokov. Roman Shirokov takes the direct free kick.84:57
Shot on goal comes in from Alexander Kerzhakov from the free kick.84:57 Booking
Booking The referee shows Gareth McAuley a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.84:49
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Alexander Kerzhakov by Gareth McAuley.84:08 Substitution
Substitution (Russia) makes a substitution, with Dennis Glushakov coming on for Viktor Faitzulin.83:43 Substitution
Substitution Corry Evans leaves the field to be replaced by Dean Shiels.83:02
Chris Brunt gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Vladimir Bystrov. Direct free kick taken by Aleksandr Aniukov.78:41
Inswinging corner taken by Chris Brunt from the right by-line, Gareth McAuley takes a shot. Viktor Faitzulin gets a block in.77:37
Assist on the goal came from Aleksandr Kokorin.77:37 Goal scored
Goal! - Roman Shirokov - Russia 2 - 0 N Ireland Penalty taken right-footed by Roman Shirokov and scored. Russia 2-0 Northern Ireland.76:25 Booking
Booking Craig Cathcart is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.76:13
Aleksandr Kokorin fouled by Craig Cathcart, the ref awards a Penalty.75:17 Substitution
Substitution Andrew Little replaces Jamie Ward.73:16
Unfair challenge on Vladimir Bystrov by Gareth McAuley results in a free kick. Alexander Kerzhakov shoots direct from the free kick.72:49
Roman Shirokov fouled by Steven Davis, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Roman Shirokov.69:10
Corry Evans concedes a free kick for a foul on Igor Denisov. Sergei Ignashevich takes the free kick.
The ball is swung over by Dmitri Kombarov, comfortable save by Roy Carroll.66:39
Centre by Steven Davis, save by Igor Akinfeev.65:08
Vladimir Bystrov is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Jonathan Evans.63:53 Booking
Booking The referee books Aleksandr Aniukov for time wasting.60:25
Vladimir Bystrov produces a cross, Gareth McAuley manages to make a clearance.59:23
The assistant referee flags for offside against Kyle Lafferty. Vasili Berezutsky takes the indirect free kick.57:13
Indirect free kick taken by Roy Carroll.57:13 Substitution
Substitution Aleksandr Kokorin joins the action as a substitute, replacing Alan Dzagoev.57:13
The assistant referee signals for offside against Vladimir Bystrov.53:32
Corner taken by Dmitri Kombarov from the right by-line, Vasili Berezutsky has a headed effort at goal from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.53:19
The ball is sent over by Dmitri Kombarov, clearance made by Craig Cathcart.47:50
The ball is delivered by Steven Davis, clearance made by Vasili Berezutsky.46:54
Unfair challenge on Chris Brunt by Igor Denisov results in a free kick. Jonathan Evans takes the free kick.45:01
The second half begins.45:00 +0:53 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.44:44
Corner taken by Chris Brunt from the right by-line to the near post, Sergei Ignashevich manages to make a clearance.44:32
Jamie Ward crosses the ball, Viktor Faitzulin gets a block in.42:37
Strike on goal comes in from Dmitri Kombarov from the free kick.42:37 Booking
Booking Chris Baird goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.42:29
Unfair challenge on Alan Dzagoev by Chris Baird results in a free kick.41:31
Handball decision goes against Vladimir Bystrov. Roy Carroll takes the free kick.40:13
Kyle Lafferty takes a shot. Save made by Igor Akinfeev.36:47
Unfair challenge on Jonathan Evans by Vladimir Bystrov results in a free kick. Roy Carroll takes the direct free kick.36:17
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Viktor Faitzulin from the left by-line to the near post.34:11
Header from deep inside the area by Alexander Kerzhakov goes over the bar.33:41
Roman Shirokov takes a shot. Save made by Roy Carroll.31:36
Volleyed right-footed shot by Alexander Kerzhakov. Blocked by Gareth McAuley.31:12
Kyle Lafferty is caught offside. Vasili Berezutsky takes the free kick.29:21
The assist for the goal came from Alexander Kerzhakov.29:21 Goal scored
Goal! - Viktor Faitzulin - Russia 1 - 0 N Ireland Goal scored by Viktor Faitzulin from inside the box to the top left corner of the goal. Russia 1-0 Northern Ireland.28:05
The ball is swung over by Dmitri Kombarov, Roy Carroll makes a save.25:29
The ball is sent over by Roman Shirokov, clearance made by Gareth McAuley.24:32
The referee blows for offside. Sergei Ignashevich restarts play with the free kick.22:59
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Igor Denisov by Kyle Lafferty. Free kick taken by Igor Denisov.22:30
Centre by Vladimir Bystrov, blocked by Craig Cathcart.18:42
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Chris Brunt from the right by-line, Gareth McAuley has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the target.18:30
Kyle Lafferty crosses the ball, Sergei Ignashevich gets a block in.17:18
Kyle Lafferty is ruled offside. Sergei Ignashevich restarts play with the free kick.16:43
Igor Denisov gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Corry Evans. Free kick taken by Jonathan Evans.14:18
Effort from the edge of the area by Alexander Kerzhakov goes wide of the left-hand upright.11:16
Alexander Kerzhakov takes a shot. Save by Roy Carroll.9:39
The assistant referee signals for offside against Jamie Ward. Indirect free kick taken by Igor Akinfeev.8:58
Alexander Kerzhakov takes a shot. Save by Roy Carroll.8:39
The offside flag is raised against Kyle Lafferty. Sergei Ignashevich takes the indirect free kick.6:52
Roman Shirokov gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jonathan Evans. Craig Cathcart restarts play with the free kick.5:35
Jamie Ward delivers the ball, Dmitri Kombarov gets a block in.3:34
The ball is swung over by Kyle Lafferty, clearance made by Sergei Ignashevich.3:01
The referee blows for offside against Alexander Kerzhakov. Roy Carroll restarts play with the free kick.0:08
The referee blows for offside. Igor Denisov takes the free kick.0:00
The referee gets the match started.
Live data and text provided by our data suppliers