Russian is a widely spoken language in the world, with an estimated 260 million native speakers and an additional 120 million non-native speakers. It is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, and one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations. As a prominent language for international communication, it is used by a variety of people from different backgrounds. Russian is also one of the two official languages in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being an official language in several unrecognized states including Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. It is also used extensively in parts of Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia. Over the past few decades Russian has also become increasingly popular throughout Central Asia as a lingua franca for trade, education and culture.
|Country||Russian-Speaking Country||English-Speaking Country||Portugese-Speaking Country||Spanish-Speaking Countries|
|Antigua and Barbuda||No||Yes||No|
|Ashmore and Cartier Islands||No||No||No|
|Australian Indian Ocean Territories||No||Yes||No|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||No||No||No|
|British Virgin Islands||No||Yes||No|
|Central African Republic||No||No||No|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||No||No||No|
|Federated States of Micronesia||No||No||No|
|Isle of Man||No||Yes||No|
|Northern Mariana Islands||No||No||No|
|Papua New Guinea||No||Yes||No|
|People's Republic of China||No||No||No|
|Republic of Macedonia||No||No||No|
|Republic of the Congo||No||No||No|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||No||Yes||No|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||No||No||No|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||No||Yes||No|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||No||No||Yes|
|Trinidad and Tobago||No||Yes||No|
|Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus||No||Yes||No|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||No||No||No|
|United Arab Emirates||No||No||No|
|United States Virgin Islands||No||Yes||No|
|United States of America||No||Yes||No|
The Russian Language
Russian is an East Slavic language, which has its roots in Old East Slavonic, the successor to Proto-Slavic languages, which developed during the 10th-13th centuries. It belongs to the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and has its own unique writing system and alphabet. Its alphabet is based on Cyrillic script, which was created by two Greek missionaries called Cyril and Methodius in 9th century AD. The Cyrillic alphabet used in Russian is composed of 33 letters divided into 10 vowels, 21 consonants and 2 signs (hard & soft signs). There are also several unique letter combinations which have special pronunciation rules known as ‘softening’.
Over time, Russian absorbed many loanwords from other languages such as German, Swedish, Polish and French, making Russian a language with a very rich vocabulary. It also has a vast array of regional dialects and accents which vary slightly from each other but are all mutually intelligible. For example, modern Moscow speech has been heavily influenced by French while dialects found in some rural areas contain words borrowed from Turkic language families.
History of the Russian Language
The Russian language is one of the oldest surviving Indo-European languages, with its earliest records dating back to the 10th century. It is the native language of some 145 million people in Russia and surrounding countries, as well as being spoken by millions more around the world.
The first written record of Russian dates back to the 10th century in a fragment of Christian scripture known as ‘The Tale of Bygone Years’. This text, written in Old Church Slavonic (OCS), is considered the original precursor to modern Russian and other Slavic languages. OCS served as a literary language until roughly 1700, when the modern Russian language emerged. .
Throughout its history, Russian has been heavily regulated and standardized by government authorities in order to ensure consistent use across all levels of society. During the 18th century, Peter I ordered that all official documents be written in Moscow dialects; this soon became accepted as a national standard form across much of Russia’s growing empire. Later reforms during both Tsarist and Soviet times established a single official variant – ‘Standard Written Russian’ – which remains in use today throughout most parts of modern Russia (with some local variations).
The Soviet Union
The Russian language has been used in many parts of the world over the centuries, but its greatest expansion came during the Soviet Union. This was largely due to language policies that were implemented by the government to promote the language and unite all citizens of the Soviet Union under one common tongue.
During this period, learning and teaching of the Russian language was widely encouraged – and even at times forced – in both schools and public settings. This included not just requiring all students to attend classes on Russian grammar, literature and history, but also introducing it into the curricula in other subjects such as mathematics and science. In addition, incentives were created to encourage citizens to use Russian for communication within their communities; for example, providing jobs or promotions to those who spoke fluent Russian.
The government also provided resources for disseminating information about the language through various media outlets such as newspapers, television programs and radio broadcasts. This helped spread its usage even further, especially among minority populations who did not have access to educational institutions or other sources of formal training. By introducing incentives that promoted literacy skills development and providing necessary resources for disseminating information about the language far beyond major cities and townships, it enabled a much broader population gain proficiency in its usage – thus contributing significantly towards its widespread adoption across multiple regions within what was once called ‘the socialist camp’.
Countries Near Russia
Russia is situated in the heart of Eurasia and is bordered by many countries on all sides. To the north, Russia shares a border with Norway, Finland, and Estonia; to the east, it shares its border with China and Mongolia; to the south, Russia shares its border with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine; and finally, to the west lies Belarus as well as several Baltic countries such as Latvia, Lithuania (which was formerly part of the Soviet Union), and Poland.
Of all these countries that border Russia, only three—Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan —and two de facto states—Transnistria and Abkhazia—officially recognize Russian as a state language alongside their own national languages. Belarus recognizes both Russian and Belarusian as official languages while Kazakhstan recognizes both Russian and Kazakh, while Kyrgyzstan has Russian as one of its official languages, alongside Kyrgyz. Although both Transnistria (recognizing Moldovan/Romanian) and Abkhazia (recognizing Abkhaz) do not officially recognize Russian as a state language alongside their own national languages, many residents in each region still speak it due to their historical ties with Russia.
In regards to other bordering countries such as Norway or Finland, although most citizens are native speakers of Norwegian or Finnish respectively (with some limited exceptions in certain regions), there are still significant numbers of people living in these countries who speak Russian either fluently or somewhat proficiently due to immigration from Russia over the past few decades. Additionally, there are also other small pockets of minorities within these counties who have kept alive their traditional dialects of Russian spoken in years past which can often sound quite distinct when compared with the modern standard version spoken today.
Furthermore, Russian culture has had a powerful influence on some of its neighboring countries that did not share any kind of formal political union with them during Soviet days but nevertheless received strong cultural influences from Moscow. This is most evident perhaps in Georgia where Georgian is the country’s official language even though many citizens still tend to use various loan words derived from modern-day Russian during everyday conversations. Similarly Azerbaijan’s population also has a high rate of bilingualism between Azeri-Turkish and Russian due to strong linguistic influences which left legacies throughout the country’s history after long centuries under Tsarist rule.
Countries That Speak Russian
The four countries that have Russian as an official language are Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. All of these countries were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and Russian remains the dominant language in all of them. In Russia, over 160 million people speak Russian as their first language; in Kazakhstan, over 14 million people speak Russian; in Kyrgyzstan, just over 4 million people speak Russian; and in Belarus, around 9 million people speak Russian.
Beyond the countries that have Russian as an official language, there are countries where Russian is a minority language, including Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. In these nations there are Russian-speaking minorities concentrated largely in urban areas. In Ukraine, ethnic Russians account for 17.3 percent of the population; in Kazakhstan they account for 23.7 percent; in both Latvia and Estonia they make up 26.6 percent; while in Lithuania they form 6.1 percent of the population. In these countries, Russian is an important language of communication among those who identify as Russian minority groups and is often spoken alongside the country’s official language.
The countries that have Russian as an official language are:
Antigua and Barbuda
Ashmore and Cartier Islands
Australian Indian Ocean Territories
Bosnia and Herzegovina
British Virgin Islands
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Federated States of Micronesia
Isle of Man
Northern Mariana Islands
Papua New Guinea
People's Republic of China
Republic of Macedonia
Republic of the Congo
Russia is a Russian-speaking country, with almost 150 million people speaking Russian as their native language. It shares borders with countries that speak many other languages such as Belarus and Kazakhstan, which both have significant populations who speak Russian as well. The official language of the government in Russia is also Russian, making it the only country in the world to have this designation. In addition, over 200 million people worldwide can communicate in Russian to some degree, making it an important language for communication on the global stage. The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which features 33 letters and enables Russians to write with greater accuracy and clarity than some other languages.