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About the Russian language



Fact sheet

Quick facts about the Russian language

Countries where Russian is spoken: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Transnistria, Abchazia, South Ossetia and Turkmenistan .
Countries and regions where Russian is an official language: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Transnistria, Abchazia, South Ossetia.
Number of native speakers: Around 175 million people.
Russians call their language : Русский язык
Russky yezik
(The Russian language)


Number of letters in the alphabet: 33 (from А to Я)
Regulation: Росси́йская Акаде́мия Нау́к
Rossijskaja Akademia Nauk
The Russian Academy of Sciences
(Language family)
--------> Slavic
----------> East-Slavic
---------------------> Russian

Russian is very similar to:.

Belarussian and Ukrainian

Russian is also similar to:

Slovene, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovak, Czech en Polish.
Russian is a distant relative of: English, Latin, Greek, Irish, Persian, Hindi, Armenian, Lithuanian.




The Russian language is the tongue of the world's largest country, Russia. It is a Slavic language, just as Polish and Croatian for example. It is a world language and the mother tongue of about 175 million people.
Standard Russian is based on the Moscow dialect. There are however, no great dialectical variations across Russia, despite the vastness of the country. In Vladivostok (close to Japan), you will hear the same Russian as in Moscow.
Russian is also an important language of culture. Some of the best works of world literature were originally written in Russian. Think for example of the works of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky.
The Russians call their language Russky yezik (The Russian language).

The city of Yaroslavl.


The Russian alphabet
Russian is writte in the Cyrillic alphabet, a writing system that was developed in the 9th century by Byzantine missionaries who preached the gospel to the slavic tribes. Cyrillic is based on the Greek alphabet (with which it still shares many similarities) with additional letters to accomodate for the specific sounds of the Slavic languages. There are 33 letters in the Russian alphabet. Some of those are identical to letters of our own while others may look exotic at first glance.
Read more about the alphabet....


Geographic distribution
Russia: The Russian language is the most widely spoken and sole official language of Russia. Russian is spoken hroughout Russia, even in those regions where indigenous languages (Mostly Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages) are spoken, people will still speak Russian because it is the language of government, education and trade. The Russian language dominates public life throughout Russia.
Ukraine and Belarus: Russian is also spoken in the former soviet republics Ukraine and Belarus. In these now independent states Russian is still spoken, especially in the larger cities. During the communist era, Moscow enforced a policy of russification. The Russian language had to be the standard for government, science, trade and education, also in Belarus and Ukraine. So it became the Russian language and not Ukrainian and Belarusian which dominated public life. The effects of that policy are still present today. For example Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, is infamous for hardly speaking Belarusian, he speaks mostly Russian. In the borderlands between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus transitional dialects are spoken, which are for example half Russian and half Ukrainian.
Baltic states: In the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, many people speak Russian. Almost everyone speaks Russian as a second language, although the popularity of Russian is declining among the younger generation, who prefers to speak English or German as a second language. Surprisingly, a third of the population of these countries speaks Russian as a first language. These people migrated tot the Baltic states during the communist era as part of the policy of russification. The communist leaders believed that if people from the Baltic states were stimulated to migrate to other parts of the Soviet union and Russians were stimulated to migrate to the Baltic states, the population became more mixed, which might surpress nationalist and separatist tendencies. After Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became independent countries, most of the Russians stayed. They live mostly in the eastern part of the countries. There are entire cities which are predominantly Russian. For example, in the Latvian city of Daugavpils, 54% compared to only 19% Latvians.
The Caucasus: During the 19th century, Russia firmly established her hegemony over the Caucasus region. Today, many Russian still live in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, just like in the Baltic states. Russian is widely spoken as a second language. For example, according to a 2010 census, 70% of people in Armenia could speak Russian (either as a first or second language).
Central-Asia: Centuries ago the czars established Russian presence in Central-Asia. If you travel today through the now independent states of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, you can make yourself understood in Russian.
Eastern Europe: Russia's influence on Eastern Europe was never as strong as in the aforementioned countries. For most of their history, these countries were more oriented towards the west than to Russia. During the communist period, these countries became satellite states of the Soviet Union. They had strong ties with Russia, but they were not integrated in the soviet Union and did not undergo russification. In most Eastern European states, Russia was a compulsory subject in secondary education. As a result, many people (at least those who went to high school before 1989) speak Russian as a second language. Among the younger generations knowledge of Russian is declining. They rather speak English or German as a second language. For example Angela Merkel, the German prime minister, who was born and raised in the former GDR, is fluent in Russian. If you travel through Poland, Czechia (Czech Republic), Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, there is a good chance you will meet people who speak Russian.







Quote of the day


"Bestaat er iets mooiers voor een volk dan de taal van zijn voorvaderen?
что может быть прекраснее для народа чем язык его предков? "
- Johann Gottfried Herder / Иоганн Готфрид Гердер -

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