Russia lost to a group of mainly French league players, who ended its 13-match winning streak at the world championship.
"It's so big for French hockey, it's hard to describe," France coach Dave Henderson said.
France wasn't good enough to play Russia or the Soviet Union until 1992. It had lost all six previous games, the last 7-2 in 2009.
All the goals on Thursday were scored in the middle period. Alexander Perezhogin gave Russia the lead at 6:57, shortly after teammate Aleksandr Radulov missed a penalty shot. France forward Damien Fleury evened the score at 9:52 with a slap shot. Antoine Roussel, France's lone NHL player, scored the winner at 16:48 when he broke in from the left and backhanded through Vasili Koshechkin's legs.
Both teams fielded their third-string goalkeepers. France's Florian Hardy finished with 28 saves, and Koshechkin 17.
"It was my first start, an unbelievably good result for us," Hardy said. "I don't know what to say, I'm so happy. When I watched the clock with five minutes to play, I thought that this is for real, that it is possible to win.
"All the team played an unbelievable game defensively. When the Russian player took the penalty shot and I stopped it, I just followed the puck and that was it."
France's second win in four games gives it a good chance of staying in the premier group at the worlds and an outside chance of making the quarterfinals with a top-four finish in its group. It still has to play the United States, Latvia and Germany.
In Stockholm, the Czech Republic beat Denmark 2-1 after a shootout, with Zbynek Irgl scoring on his team's fifth and sixth shots.
Zbynek Michalek scored in the last period for the Czechs and Morten Poulsen tied the game with four minutes to go.
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