Russian (Russian: ру́сский язы́к, tr. rússkiy yazýk) is
East Slavic language
East Slavic language and an official language in Russia, Belarus,
Kyrgyzstan and many minor or unrecognised territories
Eurasia (particularly in Eastern Europe, the Baltics, the
Caucasus, and Central Asia). It is an unofficial but widely spoken
language in Latvia, Moldova,
Ukraine and to a lesser extent, the other
Russian belongs to the family of
Indo-European languages and is one of
the four living members of the East
Slavic languages (which in turn is
part of the larger Balto-Slavic branch). Written examples of Old East
Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onward.
It is the most geographically widespread language of
Eurasia and the
most widely spoken of the
Slavic languages (followed by Polish and
then Ukrainian). It is also the largest native language in Europe,
with 144 million native speakers in Russia,
Ukraine and Belarus.
Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world by number of
native speakers and the seventh by total number of speakers. The
language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
Russian is also the second most widespread language on the Internet
Russian 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 a soft counterpart, and
the distinction is a prominent feature of the language. Another
important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels. Stress, which
is unpredictable, is not normally indicated orthographically
though an optional acute accent (знак ударения, znak
udareniya) may be used to mark stress, such as to distinguish between
homographic words, for example замо́к (zamók, meaning a lock)
and за́мок (zámok, meaning a castle), or to indicate the proper
pronunciation of uncommon words or names.
2 Standard Russian
3 Geographic distribution
3.3 North America
4 As an international language
6 Derived languages
11 History and examples
12 See also
14.1 In English
14.2 in Russian
15 External links
Russian is an
East Slavic language
East Slavic language of the wider Indo-European family.
It is a lineal descendant of the language used in
Kievan Rus', 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 languages. 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
Trasianka in Belarus. An East Slavic Old
Novgorod dialect, although 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, as well as because of later interaction in the 19th
and 20th centuries, although Bulgarian grammar differs markedly from
Russian. In the 19th century, the language was often called "Great
Russian" to distinguish it from Belarusian, then called "White
Russian" and Ukrainian, then called "Little Russian".
The vocabulary (mainly abstract and literary words), principles of
word formations, and, to some extent, inflections and literary style
of Russian have been also influenced by Church Slavonic, a developed
and partly russified form of the South Slavic Old Church Slavonic
language used by the Russian Orthodox Church. However, the East Slavic
forms have tended to be used exclusively in the various dialects that
are experiencing a rapid decline. In some cases, both the East Slavic
Church Slavonic forms are in use, with many different
meanings. For details, see
Russian phonology and History of the
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, as well as
According to the
Defense Language Institute
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 American world policy.
The standard form of Russian is generally regarded as the modern
Russian literary language (современный русский
литературный язык). It arose in 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 chancellery language.
Mikhail Lomonosov first compiled a normalizing grammar book in 1755;
in 1783 the Russian Academy's first explanatory Russian dictionary
appeared. During the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, a period
known as the "Golden Age", the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
Russian language was stabilized and standardized, and it became
the nationwide literary language; meanwhile, Russia's world-famous
Until the 20th century, the language's spoken form was the language of
only the upper noble classes and urban population, as Russian peasants
from the countryside continued to speak in their own dialects. By the
mid-20th century, such dialects were forced out with the introduction
of the compulsory education system that was established by the Soviet
government. Despite the formalization of Standard Russian, some
nonstandard dialectal features (such as fricative [ɣ] in Southern
Russian dialects) are still observed in colloquial speech.
Main article: Geographical distribution of Russian speakers
Competence of Russian in countries of the former
USSR (except Russia),
In 2010, there were 259.8 million speakers of Russian in the world: in
Russia – 137.5 million, in the CIS and Baltic countries – 93.7
Eastern Europe – 12.9 million,
Western Europe – 7.3
million, Asia – 2.7 million, Middle East and North Africa – 1.3
million, Sub-Saharan Africa – 0.1 million,
Latin America – 0.2
million, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – 4.1 million
speakers. Therefore, the
Russian language is the 7th largest in the
world by number of speakers, after English, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu,
Spanish and Arabic.
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 as well as many of
the former Soviet republics. Russian is still seen as an important
language for children to learn in most of the former Soviet
Samuel P. Huntington
Samuel P. Huntington wrote in the Clash of
Civilizations, "During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian was the
lingua franca from Prague to Hanoi."
In Belarus, Russian is co-official 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 officially considered a foreign language.
Russian is spoken by 29.6% of the population according to a 2011
estimate from the World Factbook.
Despite large Russian-speaking minorities in
Latvia (26.9% ethnic
Russians, 2011) 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.
Lithuania Russian is not official, but it still retains the
function of a lingua franca. In contrast to the other two Baltic
Lithuania has a relatively small Russian-speaking minority
(5.0% as of 2008).
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 population), while
according to the 2002 census – 142.6 million people (99.2% of the
In Ukraine, Russian is seen as a language of inter-ethnic
communication, and a minority language, under the 1996 Constitution of
Ukraine. According to estimates from Demoskop Weekly, in 2004
there were 14,400,000 native speakers of Russian in the country, and
29 million active speakers. 65% of the population was fluent in
Russian in 2006, and 38% used it as the main language with family,
friends or at work.
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. According to the Eurobarometer
2005 survey, fluency in Russian remains fairly high (20–40%) in
some countries, in particular those where the people speak a Slavic
language and thereby have an edge in learning Russian (namely, Poland,
Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria).
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, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Greece,
Austria have significant Russian-speaking communities.
In Armenia, Russian has no official status, but it is recognized as a
minority language under the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities. 30% of the population was fluent in Russian
in 2006, and 2% used it as the main language with family, friends or
In Azerbaijan, Russian has no official status, but is a lingua franca
of the country. 26% of the population was fluent in Russian in
2006, and 5% used it as the main language with family, friends or at
In China, Russian has no official status, but it is spoken by the
small Russian communities in the Northeastern
In Georgia, Russian has no official status, but it is recognized as a
minority language under the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities. Russian is the language of 9% of the
population according to the World Factbook. Ethnologue cites
Russian as the country's de facto working language.
In Kazakhstan, Russian is not a state language, but according to
article 7 of the Constitution of
Kazakhstan its usage enjoys equal
status to that of the
Kazakh language in state and local
administration. The 2009 census reported that 10,309,500 people,
or 84.8% of the population aged 15 and above, could read and write
well in Russian, as well as understand the spoken language.
In Kyrgyzstan, Russian is an official language per article 5 of the
Constitution of Kyrgyzstan. The 2009 census states that 482,200
people speak Russian as a native language, or 8.99% of the
population. Additionally, 1,854,700 residents of
15 and above fluently speak Russian as a second language, or 49.6% of
the population in the age group.
In Tajikistan, Russian is the language of inter-ethnic communication
under the Constitution of
Tajikistan and is permitted in official
documentation. 28% of the population was fluent in Russian in
2006, and 7% used it as the main language with family, friends or at
The World Factbook
The World Factbook notes that Russian is widely used in
government and business.
In Turkmenistan, Russian lost its status as the official lingua franca
in 1996. Russian is spoken by 12% of the population according to
an undated estimate from the World Factbook.
In Uzbekistan, Russian has some official roles, being permitted in
official documentation and is the lingua franca of the country and the
language of the élite. Russian is spoken by 14.2% of the
population according to an undated estimate from the World
In 2005, Russian was the most widely taught foreign language in
Mongolia, and was compulsory in Year 7 onward as a second foreign
language in 2006.
Russian is also spoken in Israel. The number of native
Russian-speaking Israelis numbers around 1.5 million Israelis. The
Israeli press and websites regularly publish material in
Russian.. With
Israel Plus, there is an Israeli TV
channel mainly broadcasting in Russian. See also
Russian language in
Russian is also spoken as a second language by a small number of
people in Afghanistan.
Russian language in the United States
The language was first introduced in
North America when Russian
explorers voyaged into
Alaska and claimed it for
Russia during the
1700s. Although most Russian colonists left after the United States
bought the land in 1867, a handful stayed and preserved the Russian
language in this region to this day, although only a few elderly
speakers of this unique dialect are left. Sizable Russian-speaking
communities also exist in North America, especially in large urban
centers of the U.S. and Canada, such as New York City, Philadelphia,
Boston, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane,
Toronto, Baltimore, Miami, Chicago,
Denver and Cleveland. In a number
of locations they issue their own newspapers, and live in ethnic
enclaves (especially the generation of immigrants who started arriving
in the early 1960s). Only about 25% of them are ethnic Russians,
however. Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the overwhelming
majority of Russophones in
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn in New York City
were Russian-speaking Jews. Afterward, the influx from the countries
of the former
Soviet Union changed the statistics somewhat, with
Ukrainians immigrating along with some more
Jews and Central Asians. According to the United States
Census, in 2007 Russian was the primary language spoken in the homes
of over 850,000 individuals living in the United States.
Sydney have Russian-speaking
populations, with the most
Russians living in southeast Melbourne,
particularly the suburbs of Carnegie and Caulfield. Two-thirds of them
are actually Russian-speaking descendants of Germans, Greeks, Jews,
Armenians or Ukrainians, who either repatriated after
USSR collapsed, or are just looking for temporary
As an international language
See also: Russophone, List of official languages by institution, and
Internet in Russian
Russian is one of the official languages (or has similar status and
interpretation must be provided into Russian) of the following:
International Atomic Energy Agency
World Health Organization
International Civil Aviation Organization
World Intellectual Property Organization
International Telecommunication Union
World Meteorological Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization
International Fund for Agricultural Development
International Criminal Court
International Monetary Fund
International Olympic Committee
Universal Postal Union
Commonwealth of Independent States
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Eurasian Economic Community
Collective Security Treaty Organization
Antarctic Treaty Secretariat
International Organization for Standardization
GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development
International Mathematical Olympiad
Russian language is also one of two official languages aboard the
International Space Station
International Space Station –
NASA astronauts who serve alongside
Russian cosmonauts usually take
Russian language courses. This
practice goes back to the
Apollo-Soyuz mission, which first flew in
In March 2013 it was announced that Russian is now the second-most
used language on the Internet after English. People use the Russian
language on 5.9% of all websites, slightly ahead of German and far
behind English (54.7%). Russian is used not only on 89.8% of .ru
sites, but also on 88.7% of sites with the former
Soviet Union domain
.su. The websites of former
Soviet Union nations also use high levels
of Russian: 79.0% in Ukraine, 86.9% in Belarus, 84.0% in Kazakhstan,
79.6% in Uzbekistan, 75.9% in
Kyrgyzstan and 81.8% in Tajikistan.
However, Russian is the sixth-most used language on the top 1,000
sites, behind English, Chinese, French, German and Japanese.
Russian dialects and
Russian dialects in 1915
3. Novgorod dialect
4. Viatka dialect
5. Vladimir dialect
8. Orel (Don) dialect
10. Tula dialect
12. Northern Russian dialect with Belarusian influences
13. Sloboda and Steppe dialects of Ukrainian
14. Steppe dialect of Ukrainian with Russian influences
Russian is a rather homogeneous language, in terms of dialectal
variation, due to the early political centralization under Moscow's
rule, compulsory education, mass migration from rural to urban areas
in the 20th century, as well as other factors. The standard language
is used in written and spoken form almost everywhere in the country,
from Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg in the West to Vladivostok and
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the East, notwithstanding the enormous
distance in between.
Despite leveling after 1900, especially in matters of vocabulary and
phonetics, a number of dialects still exist in Russia. Some linguists
divide the dialects of Russian 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 (or Middle) and Southern, with
Moscow lying in the
Central region. All dialects also divided in two main
chronological categories: the dialects of primary formation (the
territory of the Eastern Rus' or Muscovy, roughly consists of the
modern Central and Northwestern Federal districts); and secondary
formation (other territory).
dozens of smaller-scale variants. The dialects often show distinct and
non-standard features of pronunciation and intonation, vocabulary and
grammar. Some of these are relics of ancient usage now completely
discarded by the standard language.
Russian dialects and those spoken along the Volga River
typically pronounce unstressed /o/ clearly, a phenomenon called okanye
(оканье). Besides the absence of vowel reduction, some
dialects have high or diphthongal /e⁓i̯ɛ/ in the place of
Proto-Slavic *ě and /o⁓u̯ɔ/ in stressed closed syllables (as
in Ukrainian) instead of Standard Russian /e/ and /o/. An
interesting morphological feature is a post-posed definite article
-to, -ta, -te similarly to that existing in Bulgarian and
In the Southern Russian dialects, instances of unstressed /e/ and /a/
following palatalized consonants and preceding a stressed syllable are
not reduced to [ɪ] (as occurs in the
Moscow dialect), being instead
pronounced [a] in such positions (e.g. несли is pronounced
[nʲaˈslʲi], not [nʲɪsˈlʲi]) – this is called yakanye
(яканье). Consonants include a fricative /ɣ/, a
semivowel /w⁓u̯/ and /x⁓xv⁓xw/, whereas the Standard and
Northern dialects have the consonants /ɡ/, /v/, and final /l/ and
/f/, respectively. The morphology features a palatalized final
/tʲ/ in 3rd person forms of verbs (this is unpalatalized in the
Standard and Northern dialects). Some of these features such
as akanye and yakanye, a debuccalized or lenited /ɡ/, a semivowel
/w⁓u̯/ and palatalized final /tʲ/ in 3rd person forms of verbs are
also present in modern Belarusian and some dialects of Ukrainian
(Eastern Polesian), indicating a linguistic continuum.
The city of
Veliky Novgorod has historically displayed a feature
called chokanye or tsokanye (чоканье or цоканье), in
which /tɕ/ and /ts/ were switched or merged. So, цапля ('heron')
has been recorded as чапля. Also, the second palatalization of
velars did not occur there, so the so-called ě² (from the
Proto-Slavic diphthong *ai) did not cause /k, ɡ, x/ to shift to /ts,
dz, s/; therefore, where Standard Russian has цепь ('chain'), the
form кепь [kʲepʲ] is attested in earlier texts.
Among the first to study
Russian dialects was Lomonosov in the 18th
century. In the 19th,
Vladimir Dal compiled the first dictionary that
included dialectal vocabulary. Detailed mapping of Russian dialects
began at the turn of the 20th century. In modern times, the monumental
Dialectological Atlas of the Russian Language
(Диалектологический атлас русского
языка [dʲɪɐˌlʲɛktəɫɐˈɡʲitɕɪskʲɪj ˈatɫəs
ˈruskəvə jɪzɨˈka]), was published in three folio volumes
1986–1989, after four decades of preparatory work.
Balachka, a dialect, spoken in Krasnodar region, Don,
Kuban and Terek,
brought by relocated
Cossacks in 1793 and is based on south-west
Ukrainian dialect. During russification of aforementioned regions in
1920s to 1950s it was forcefully replaced by Russian language, however
is still sometimes used even in media.
Fenya, a criminal argot of ancient origin, with Russian grammar, but
with distinct vocabulary
Aleut language, a nearly extinct mixed language spoken on Bering
Island that is characterized by its
Aleut nouns and Russian verbs
Padonkaffsky jargon, a slang language developed by padonki of Runet
Quelia, a macaronic language with Russian-derived basic structure and
part of the lexicon (mainly nouns and verbs) borrowed from German
Runglish, a Russian-English pidgin. This word is also used by English
speakers to describe the way in which
Russians attempt to speak
English using Russian morphology and/or syntax.
Russenorsk, an extinct pidgin language with mostly Russian vocabulary
and mostly Norwegian grammar, used for communication between Russians
and Norwegian traders in the Pomor trade in
Finnmark and the Kola
Trasianka, a heavily russified variety of Belarusian used by a large
portion of the rural population in Belarus
Pidgin Russian, spoken by the Nganasan on the Taimyr Peninsula
Russian alphabet and Russian Braille
A page from Azbuka (Alphabet book), the first Russian printed
textbook. Printed by Ivan Fyodorov in 1574. This page features the
Russian is written using a
Cyrillic alphabet. The Russian alphabet
consists of 33 letters. The following table gives their upper case
forms, along with IPA values for each letter's typical sound:
Older letters of the
Russian alphabet include ⟨ѣ⟩, which merged
to ⟨е⟩ (/je/ or /ʲe/); ⟨і⟩ and ⟨ѵ⟩, which both merged
to ⟨и⟩ (/i/); ⟨ѳ⟩, which merged to ⟨ф⟩ (/f/); ⟨ѫ⟩,
which merged to ⟨у⟩ (/u/); ⟨ѭ⟩, which merged to ⟨ю⟩
(/ju/ or /ʲu/); and ⟨ѧ⟩ and ⟨ѩ⟩, which later were
graphically reshaped into ⟨я⟩ and merged phonetically to /ja/ or
/ʲa/. While these older letters have been abandoned at one time or
another, they may be used in this and related articles. The yers
⟨ъ⟩ and ⟨ь⟩ originally indicated the pronunciation of
ultra-short or reduced /ŭ/, /ĭ/.
Romanization of Russian
Romanization of Russian and Informal
romanizations of Russian
Because of many technical restrictions in computing and also because
of the unavailability of
Cyrillic keyboards abroad, Russian is often
transliterated using the
Latin alphabet. For example, мороз
('frost') is transliterated moroz, and мышь ('mouse'), mysh or
myš'. Once commonly used by the majority of those living outside
Russia, transliteration is being used less frequently by
Russian-speaking typists in favor of the extension of Unicode
character encoding, which fully incorporates the Russian alphabet.
Free programs leveraging this
Unicode extension are available which
allow users to type Russian characters, even on Western 'QWERTY'
Russian alphabet has many systems of character encoding. KOI8-R
was designed by the
Soviet government and was intended to serve as the
standard encoding. This encoding was and still is widely used in
UNIX-like operating systems. Nevertheless, the spread of
OS/2 (IBM866), traditional
Macintosh (ISO/IEC 8859-5) and Microsoft
Windows (CP1251) created chaos and ended by establishing different
encodings as de facto standards, with Windows-1251 becoming a de facto
standard in Russian Internet and e-mail communication during the
period of roughly 1995–2005.
All the obsolete 8-bit encodings are rarely used in the communication
protocols and text-exchange data formats, having been mostly replaced
with UTF-8. A number of encoding conversion applications were
developed. "iconv" is an example that is supported by most versions of
Macintosh and some other operating systems; but converters are
rarely needed unless accessing texts created more than a few years
In addition to the modern Russian alphabet,
Unicode (and thus UTF-8)
Early Cyrillic alphabet
Early Cyrillic alphabet (which is very similar to the
Greek alphabet), as well as all other Slavic and non-Slavic but
Main article: Russian orthography
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. A number of rigid spelling rules introduced
between the 1880s and 1910s have been responsible for the former
whilst trying to eliminate the latter.
The current spelling follows the major reform of 1918, and the final
codification of 1956. An update proposed in the late 1990s has met a
hostile reception, and has not been formally adopted. The punctuation,
originally based on Byzantine Greek, was in the 17th and 18th
centuries reformulated on the French and German models.
According to the Institute of Russian Language of the Russian Academy
of Sciences, an optional acute accent (знак ударения) may,
and sometimes should, be used to mark stress. For example, it is used
to distinguish between otherwise identical words, especially when
context does not make it obvious: замо́к – за́мок
("lock" – "castle"), сто́ящий – стоя́щий
("worthwhile" – "standing"), чудно́ – чу́дно ("this is
odd" – "this is marvelous"), молоде́ц – мо́лодец
("attaboy" – "fine young man"), узна́ю – узнаю́ ("I
shall learn it" – "I recognize it"), отреза́ть –
отре́зать ("to be cutting" – "to have cut"); to indicate
the proper pronunciation of uncommon words, especially personal and
family names (афе́ра, гу́ру, Гарси́я, Оле́ша,
Фе́рми), and to show which is the stressed word in a sentence
(Ты́ съел печенье? – Ты съе́л печенье?
– Ты съел пече́нье? "Was it you who ate the cookie?
– Did you eat the cookie? – Was it the cookie that you ate?").
Stress marks are mandatory in lexical dictionaries and books for
children or Russian learners.
Main article: Russian phonology
The phonological system of Russian is inherited from Common Slavonic;
it underwent considerable modification in the early historical period
before being largely settled around the year 1400.
The language possesses five vowels (or six, under the
St. Petersburg Phonological School), which are written with
different letters depending on whether the preceding consonant is
palatalized. The consonants typically come in plain vs. palatalized
pairs, which are traditionally called hard and soft. (The hard
consonants are often velarized, especially before front vowels, as in
Irish). The standard language, based on the
Moscow dialect, possesses
heavy stress and moderate variation in pitch. Stressed vowels are
somewhat lengthened, while unstressed vowels tend to be reduced to
near-close vowels or an unclear schwa. (See also: vowel reduction in
The Russian syllable structure can be quite complex, with both initial
and final consonant clusters of up to four consecutive sounds. Using a
formula with V standing for the nucleus (vowel) and C for each
consonant, the structure can be described as follows:
Clusters of four consonants are not very common, however, especially
within a morpheme. Some examples are: взгляд ([vzglʲat],
'glance'), государство ([gəsʊˈdarstvə], 'state'),
строительство ([strɐˈitʲɪlʲstvə], 'construction').
Russian is notable for its distinction based on palatalization of most
of the consonants. While /k, ɡ, x/ do have palatalized allophones
[kʲ, ɡʲ, xʲ], only /kʲ/ might be considered a phoneme, though it
is marginal and generally not considered distinctive. The only native
minimal pair that argues for /kʲ/ being a separate phoneme is это
ткёт ([ˈɛtə tkʲɵt], 'it weaves') – этот кот
([ˈɛtət kot], 'this cat'). Palatalization means that the center of
the tongue is raised during and after the articulation of the
consonant. In the case of /tʲ/ and /dʲ/, the tongue is raised enough
to produce slight frication (affricate sounds). The sounds /t, d, ts,
s, z, n, rʲ/ are dental, that is, pronounced with the tip of the
tongue against the teeth rather than against the alveolar ridge.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August
Main article: Russian grammar
Russian has preserved an Indo-European synthetic-inflectional
structure, although considerable levelling has taken place. Russian
a highly fusional morphology
a syntax that, for the literary language, is the conscious fusion of
three elements:
a polished vernacular foundation;[clarification needed]
Church Slavonic inheritance;
a Western European style.[clarification needed]
The spoken language has been influenced by the literary one but
continues to preserve characteristic forms. The dialects show various
non-standard grammatical features, some of which are
archaisms or descendants of old forms since discarded by the literary
Church Slavonic language was introduced to Moskovy in the late
15th century and was adopted as official language for correspondence
for convenience. Firstly with the newly conquered south-western
regions of former Kyivan Rus and Grand Duchy of Lithuania, later, when
Moskovy cut its ties with the Golden Horde, for communication between
all newly consolidated regions of Moskovy.
This page from an "ABC" book printed in
Moscow in 1694 shows the
History of the Russian language
History of the Russian language for an account of the successive
foreign influences on Russian.
The number of listed words or entries in some of the major
dictionaries published during the past two centuries, and the total
Alexander Pushkin (who is credited with greatly
augmenting and codifying literary Russian), are as follows:
Academic dictionary, I Ed.
Church Slavonic with some Old Russian vocabulary.
Academic dictionary, II Ed
Church Slavonic with some Old Russian vocabulary.
Dictionary of Pushkin's language
The dictionary of virtually all words from his works was published in
1956–1961. Some consider his works to contain 101,105.
Academic dictionary, III Ed.
Church Slavonic with Old Russian vocabulary.
Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language
Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language (Dahl's)
44,000 entries lexically grouped; attempt to catalogue the full
vernacular language. Contains many dialectal, local and obsolete
Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language (Ushakov's)
Current language with some archaisms.
Academic Dictionary of the Russian Language (Ozhegov's)
1991 (2nd ed.)
"Full" 17-volumed dictionary of the contemporary language. The second
20-volumed edition was begun in 1991, but not all volumes have been
Orthographic, current language, several editions
Great Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language
Current language, the dictionary has many subsequent editions from the
first one of 1998.
History and examples
Main article: History of the Russian language
See also: Reforms of Russian orthography
The history of
Russian language may be divided into the following
Kievan period and feudal breakup
Moscow period (15th–17th centuries)
Empire (18th–19th centuries)
Soviet period and beyond (20th century)
Judging by the historical records, by approximately 1000 AD the
predominant ethnic group over much of modern European Russia, Ukraine
Belarus was the Eastern branch of the Slavs, speaking a closely
related group of dialects. The political unification of this region
Kievan Rus' in about 880, from which modern Russia,
Belarus trace their origins, established
Old East Slavic
Old East Slavic as a literary
and commercial language. It was soon followed by the adoption of
Christianity in 988 and the introduction of the South Slavic Old
Church Slavonic as the liturgical and official language. Borrowings
and calques from
Byzantine Greek began to enter the Old East Slavic
and spoken dialects at this time, which in their turn modified the Old
Church Slavonic as well.
Ostromir Gospels of 1056 is the second oldest East Slavic book
known, one of many medieval illuminated manuscripts preserved in the
Russian National Library.
Dialectal differentiation accelerated after the breakup of Kievan Rus'
in approximately 1100. On the territories of modern
Ukraine emerged Ruthenian and in modern
Russia medieval Russian. They
became distinct since the 13th century, i.e. following the division of
that land between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania,
Poland and Hungary in
the west and independent Novgorod and Pskov feudal republics plus
numerous small duchies (which came to be vassals of the Tatars) in the
The official language in
Moscow and Novgorod, and later, in the
growing Muscovy, was Church Slavonic, which evolved from Old Church
Slavonic and remained the literary language for centuries, until the
Petrine age, when its usage became limited to biblical and liturgical
texts. Russian developed under a strong influence of Church Slavonic
until the close of the 17th century; afterward the influence reversed,
leading to corruption of liturgical texts.
The political reforms of
Peter the Great
Peter the Great (Пётр Вели́кий,
Pyótr Velíkiy) were accompanied by a reform of the alphabet, and
achieved their goal of secularization and Westernization. Blocks of
specialized vocabulary were adopted from the languages of Western
Europe. By 1800, a significant portion of the gentry spoke French
daily, and German sometimes. Many Russian novels of the 19th century,
e.g. Leo Tolstoy's (Лев Толсто́й) War and Peace, contain
entire paragraphs and even pages in French with no translation given,
with an assumption that educated readers would not need one.
The modern literary language is usually considered to date from the
Alexander Pushkin (Алекса́ндр Пу́шкин) in the
first third of the 19th century. Pushkin revolutionized Russian
literature by rejecting archaic grammar and vocabulary (so-called
высо́кий стиль — "high style") in favor of grammar and
vocabulary found in the spoken language of the time. Even modern
readers of younger age may only experience slight difficulties
understanding some words in Pushkin's texts, since relatively few
words used by Pushkin have become archaic or changed meaning. In fact,
many expressions used by Russian writers of the early 19th century, in
Mikhail Lermontov (Михаи́л
Nikolai Gogol (Никола́й
Aleksander Griboyedov (Алекса́ндр
Грибое́дов), became proverbs or sayings which can be
frequently found even in modern Russian colloquial speech.
Reading of excerpt of Pushkin’s "Winter Evening" (Зимний
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Зи́мний ве́чер IPA: [ˈzʲimnʲɪj ˈvʲetɕɪr]
Бу́ря мгло́ю не́бо кро́ет, Russian
pronunciation: [ˈburʲə ˈmɡɫoju ˈnʲɛbə ˈkroɪt]
Ви́хри сне́жные крутя́; Russian
pronunciation: [ˈvʲixrʲɪ ˈsʲnʲɛʐnɨɪ krʊˈtʲa]
То, как зверь, она́ заво́ет, Russian
pronunciation: [ˈto kaɡ zvʲerʲ ɐˈna zɐˈvoɪt]
То запла́чет, как дитя́, Russian
pronunciation: [ˈto zɐˈpɫatɕɪt, kaɡ dʲɪˈtʲa]
То по кро́вле обветша́лой Russian
pronunciation: [ˈto pɐˈkrovlʲɪ ɐbvʲɪtˈʂaɫəj]
Вдруг соло́мой зашуми́т, Russian
pronunciation: [ˈvdruk sɐˈɫoməj zəʂʊˈmʲit]
То, как пу́тник запозда́лый, Russian
pronunciation: [ˈto ˈkak ˈputʲnʲɪɡ zəpɐˈzdaɫɨj]
К нам в око́шко застучи́т. Russian
pronunciation: [ˈknam vɐˈkoʂkə zəstʊˈtɕit]
The political upheavals of the early 20th century and the wholesale
changes of political ideology gave written Russian its modern
appearance after the spelling reform of 1918. Political circumstances
and Soviet accomplishments in military, scientific and technological
matters (especially cosmonautics), gave Russian a worldwide prestige,
especially during the mid-20th century.
During the Soviet period, the policy toward the languages of the
various other ethnic groups fluctuated in practice. Though each of the
constituent republics had its own official language, the unifying role
and superior status was reserved for Russian, although it was declared
the official language only in 1990. Following the break-up of the
USSR in 1991, several of the newly independent states have encouraged
their native languages, which has partly reversed the privileged
status of Russian, though its role as the language of post-Soviet
national discourse throughout the region has continued.
Russian language in the world is reduced due to the decrease in
the number of
Russians in the world and diminution of the total
Russia (where Russian is an official language). The
collapse of the
Soviet Union and reduction in influence of
has reduced the popularity of the
Russian language in the rest of the
Recent estimates of the total number of speakers of Russian
G. Weber, "Top Languages",
3: 12–18, 1997, ISSN 1369-9733
World Almanac (1999)
SIL (2000 WCD)
5–6 (tied with Arabic)
CIA World Factbook (2005)
According to figures published in 2006 in the journal "Demoskop
Weekly" research deputy director of Research Center for Sociological
Research of the
Ministry of Education and Science (Russia)
Ministry of Education and Science (Russia) Arefyev A.
Russian language is gradually losing its position in the
world in general, and in
Russia in particular. In
2012, A. L. Arefyev published a new study "
Russian language at the
turn of the 20th-21st centuries", in which he confirmed his conclusion
about the trend of further weakening of the
Russian language in all
regions of the world (findings published in 2013 in the journal
"Demoskop Weekly"). In the countries of the former
Soviet Union the
Russian language is gradually being replaced by local
languages. Currently the number speakers of Russian language
in the world depends on the number of
Russians in the world and total
population in Russia.
The changing proportion of Russian speakers in the world (assessment
worldwide population, million
population Russian Empire,
Soviet Union and Russian Federation,
share in world population, %
total number of speakers of Russian, million
share in world population, %
List of English words of Russian origin
Russian language topics
Slavic Voice of America
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The dictionary definition of Appendix:Russian Swadesh list at
Oxford Dictionaries Russian Dictionary
Russian Language at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
USA Foreign Service Institute Russian basic course
Free English to Russian Translation
Translation of Russian expressions and phrases
Russian – YouTube: playlist of (mostly half-hour-long) video lessons
from Dallas Schools Television
Free Online Russian Language WikiTranslate Video Course
Национальный корпус русского языка
National Corpus of the Russian Language (in Russian)
Russian Language Institute
Russian Language Institute Language regulator of the Russian language
Top 7 foreign universities where studied Russian language
Old Church Slavonic
Old East Slavic
Russian Literature Institute
Science fiction and fantasy
Russian Language Institute
List of topics
Links to related articles
Central (Lake Peipus, Moscow)
Up to Proto-Slavic
Old Church Slavonic
Cyril and Methodius
West Slavic languages
East Slavic languages
Old East Slavic
South Slavic languages
Separate Slavic dialects
Slavic dialects of Greece
Slavic first palatalization
Slavic second palatalization
Slavic liquid metathesis and pleophony
Ruki sound law
Italics indicate extinct languages.
State languages of Russia
State languages of federal subjects
Languages with official status
Languages of Belarus
Russian Sign Language
Languages of Kazakhstan
Russian Sign Language
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Russian Sign Language
Grand Duchy of Moscow
Tsardom of Russia
West Siberian Plain
Russian Far East
Cities and towns
Freedom of assembly
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Law enforcement (Prisons)
President of Russia
Water supply and sanitation
Coat of arms
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