Vladimir Alenko's side – gunning for what would be a fourth Olympic gold – had to navigate their way through a marathon first set before seeing out a 31-29 25-20 25-17 victory.
They were assisted by Germany wilting after coming out on the wrong side of the 38-minute opener, but were still clinical around the net, with the unpassable Dmitriy Muserskiy dominating.
The 7ft 2in powerhouse was understandably at the heart of almost every play Russia put on, making four kills and successfully spiking 16 times as part of his 21-point haul.
With Alexander Volkov aiding him with 13 of his own, Muserskiy was able to lead his side to what in the end was a routine victory, although a more telling test of their mettle may come against favourites Brazil on Tuesday.
Gyorgy Grozer and Jochen Schops top-scored for Germany, picking up 10 points each. They next face defending champions USA.
Meanwhile, Poland produced a superb display to see off Italy 3-1.
Although they lost the first set to the third-ranked Italians, Andrea Anastasi's men turned up the power to secure an impressive come-from-behind opening win.
World league MVP Bartosz Kurek contributed 18 points as Poland found their feet. He was ably assisted by Zbigniew Bartman, who added 15 points, while Marcin Mozdzonek - standing at 6ft 11in - put the shutters up at the net.
Cristian Savani contributed 15 points for Italy.
In other games, Bulgaria overcame Host Nation Great Britain 3-0, while Argentina ran out 3-0 winners against Australia.
USA were too strong for Serbia, winning 3-0, and Brazil won by the same scoreline against Tunisia.