Research into reading difficulties in Russian has been taking place for about a century, since the 1920s. Early research established a line of studies on reading acquisition difficulties in the context of highly structured practices of teaching reading. These practices were propagated in the mid-late 19th century by Konstantin Ushinskii, who designed a mass system for the directed teaching of reading in Russian based on the mastery of spoken Russian (namely its phonics, phonology, orthography, and morphology). During the Soviet period, this approach was packaged in a universal system that included programs for children and adults, and appears to have been responsible for the high literacy rates (i.e., near 100%) at the end of the last century. In the 1990s, an explosion of diverse reading programs surfaced, claiming to offer a contrast to the Ushinskii system’s universal but “boring” content. Nevertheless, the Ushinskii system regained popularity in the early years of the 21st century. Reincarnated and modernized, it once again constitutes the foundation of reading instruction in Russian schools. This article investigates the distribution of various reading-related skills among Russian primary-school students (Grades 2–4) in the context of this universally strong approach to teaching reading.