Russian language, principal state and cultural language of Russia. Together with Ukrainian and Belarusian, the Russian language makes up the eastern branch of the Slavic family of languages. Russian is the primary language of the overwhelming majority of people in Russia and is also used as a second language in other former republics of the Soviet Union. Russian was also taught extensively in those countries lying within the Soviet sphere of influence, especially in eastern Europe, in the second half of the 20th century.

Russian dialects are divided into the Northern group (stretching from St. Petersburg eastward across Siberia), the Southern group (in most of central and southern Russia), and the Central group (between Northern and Southern). Modern literary Russian is based on the Central dialect of Moscow, having basically the consonant system of the Northern dialect and the vowel system of the Southern dialect. The differences between these three dialects are fewer than between the dialects of most other European languages.

“Learn to Handwrite Russian Alphabets”

Russian and the other East Slavic languages (Ukrainian, Belarusian) did not diverge noticeably from one another until the Middle Russian period (the late 13th to the 16th century). The term Old Russian is generally applied to the common East Slavic language in use before that time.

Russian has been strongly influenced by Old Church Slavonic and—since the 18th-century westernizing policies of Tsar Peter I the Great—by the languages of western Europe, from which it has borrowed many words. The 19th-century poet Aleksandr Pushkin had a very great influence on the subsequent development of the language. His writings, by combining the colloquial and Church Slavonic styles, put an end to the considerable controversy that had developed as to which style of the language was best for literary uses.

The modern language uses six case forms (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative) in the singular and plural of nouns and adjectives and expresses both a perfective aspect (completed action) and an imperfective aspect (process or incomplete action) in verbs. In its sound system the Russian language has numerous sibilant consonants and consonant clusters as well as a series of palatalized consonants contrasting with a series of unpalatalized (plain) consonants. The reduced vowels ĭ and ŭ of the ancestral Slavic language were lost in Russian in weak position during the early historical period. Russian clause structure is basically subject–verb–object (SVO), but word order varies depending on which elements are already familiar in the discourse.

Russian has over 258 million total speakers worldwide.It is the most spoken Slavic language, and the most spoken native language in Europe,as well as the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia.It is the world’s seventh-most spoken language by number of native speakers, and the world’s eighth-most spoken language by total number of speakers. Russian is one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station,as well as one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Russian is written using the Russian alphabet of the Cyrillic script; it distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without—the so-called “soft” and “hard” sounds. Almost every consonant has a hard or soft counterpart, and the distinction is a prominent feature of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels. Stress, which is often unpredictable, is not normally indicated orthographically

Russian is an East Slavic language of the wider Indo-European family. It is a descendant of Old East Slavic, a language used inKievan Rus’, which was a loose conglomerate of East Slavic tribes from the late 9th to the mid-13th centuries. From the point of view of spoken language, its closest relatives are Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn, the other three languages in the East Slavic branch. In many places in eastern and southern Ukraine and throughout Belarus, these languages are spoken interchangeably, and in certain areas traditional bilingualism resulted in language mixtures such as Surzhyk in eastern Ukraine and Trasianka in Belarus. An East Slavic Old Novgorod dialect, although it vanished during the 15th or 16th century, is sometimes considered to have played a significant role in the formation of modern Russian. Also, Russian has notable lexical similarities with Bulgarian due to a common Church Slavonic influence on both languages, but because of later interaction in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bulgarian grammar differs markedly from Russian.In the 19th century (in Russia until 1917), the language was often called “Great Russian” to distinguish it from Belarusian, then called “White Russian” and Ukrainian, then called “Little Russian” in the Russian Empire.

Over the course of centuries, the vocabulary and literary style of Russian have also been influenced by Western and Central European languages such as Greek,Latin,Polish,Dutch, German, French, Italian, and English,and to a lesser extent the languages to the south and the east: Uralic, Turkic,Persian,Arabic, and Hebrew.

According to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, Russian is classified as a level III language in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers, requiring approximately 1,100 hours of immersion instruction to achieve intermediate fluency. It is also regarded by the United States Intelligence Community as a “hard target” language, due to both its difficulty to master for English speakers and its critical role in U.S. world policy.

Feudal divisions and conflicts between rival polities created obstacles to the exchange of goods and ideas between the early medieval Rus principalities before and especially during Mongol rule. This strengthened dialectal differences and for centuries prevented the establishment of any standardized “national” language. The gradual but steady emergence of the Grand Principality of Moscow (1263–1547) – later the Tsardom of Russia from 1547 – as the dominant and ever-expanding polity of the Rus’, necessitated the earliest attempts at standardization of the East Slavic language based on the Moscow dialect. Since then the trend of language policy in Russia has been standardization in both the restricted sense of reducing dialectical barriers between ethnic Russians, and the broader sense of expanding the use of Russian alongside or in favour of other languages that exist within the borders of the Russian Empire, and the later Soviet Union and recently, Russian Federation.

The current standard form of Russian is generally regarded as the modern Russian literary language It arose at the beginning of the 18th century with the modernization reforms of the Russian state under the rule of Peter the Great and developed from the Moscow (Middle or Central Russian) dialect substratum under the influence of some of the previous century’s Russian chancery language. This occurred in spite of the fact that Saint Petersburg, the Western-oriented capital created by the “Westernizing” Tsar Peter the Great, was the capital of the Russian Empire for over 200 years.

Mikhail Lomonosov compiled the first book of Russian grammar aimed at standardization in 1755. The Russian Academy‘s first explanatory Russian dictionary appeared in 1783. In the 18th and late 19th centuries, a period known as the “Golden Age” of Russian Literature, the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of the Russian language in a standardized literary form emerged.

Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, the spoken form of the Russian language was that of the nobility and the urban bourgeoisie. Russian peasants, the great majority of the population, continued to speak in their own dialects. However, the peasants’ speech was never systematically studied, as it was generally regarded by philologists as simply a source of folklore and an object of curiosity. This was acknowledged by the noted Russian dialectologist Nikolai Karinsky (1873–1935), who toward the end of his life wrote: “Scholars of Russian dialects mostly studied phonetics and morphology. Some scholars and collectors compiled local dictionaries. We have almost no studies of lexical material or the syntax of Russian dialects.”

“Learn to Handwrite Russian Alphabets”

Hemisphere view of countries where Russian is an official language and countries where it is spoken as a first or second language by at least 30% of the population but is not an official language

Russian is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Education in Russian is still a popular choice for both Russian as a second language (RSL) and native speakers in Russia, and in many former Soviet republics. Russian is still seen as an important language for children to learn in most of the former Soviet republics.

In Belarus, Russian is a second state language alongside Belarusian per the Constitution of Belarus.77% of the population was fluent in Russian in 2006, and 67% used it as the main language with family, friends, or at work.

In Estonia, Russian is spoken by 29.6% of the population according to a 2011 estimate from the World Factbook, and is officially considered a foreign language.

In Latvia, Russian is officially considered a foreign language. 55% of the population was fluent in Russian in 2006, and 26% used it as the main language with family, friends, or at work.

In Lithuania, Russian has no official or legal status, but the use of the language has some presence in certain areas. A large part of the population, especially the older generations, can speak Russian as a foreign language.

In Moldova, Russian is considered to be the language of inter-ethnic communication under a Soviet-era law.50% of the population was fluent in Russian in 2006, and 19% used it as the main language with family, friends, or at work.

According to the 2010 census in Russia, Russian language skills were indicated by 138 million people (99.4% of the respondents), while according to the 2002 census – 142.6 million people (99.2% of the respondents).

In the 20th century, Russian was a mandatory language taught in the schools of the members of the old Warsaw Pact and in other countries that used to be satellites of the USSR.

Significant Russian-speaking groups also exist in Western Europe. These have been fed by several waves of immigrants since the beginning of the 20th century, each with its own flavor of language. The United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Norway, and Austria have significant Russian-speaking communities.

Despite levelling after 1900, especially in matters of vocabulary, a number of dialects exist in Russia. Some linguists divide the dialects of the Russian language into two primary regional groupings, “Northern” and “Southern”, with Moscow lying on the zone of transition between the two. Others divide the language into three groupings, Northern, Central and Southern, with Moscow lying in the Central region. Dialectology within Russia recognizes dozens of smaller-scale variants.

Russian spelling is reasonably phonemic in practice. It is in fact a balance among phonemics, morphology, etymology, and grammar; and, like that of most living languages, has its share of inconsistencies and controversial points.

The current spelling follows the major reform of 1918, and the final codification of 1956. An update proposed in the late 1990’s has met a hostile reception, and has not been formally adopted.

The punctuation, originally based on Byzantine Greek, was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries reformulated on the French and German models.