The Russian language is a Slavic language stemming from the Indo-European language branch. Its closest relatives in terms of language and grammar are Ukrainian and Belarusian, also members of the East Slavic group of languages. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, many of the states that were previously controlled by Russia began to reject the Russian language in favor of their own. However, due to the mass populations of Russian people that crossed the borders and lived in these countries, there are now large groups of Russian speakers around the world. Their presence in certain countries, many of whom are trying to reclaim and reuse their original language, is considered something of a contentious issue.
While Russian is spoken majoritively in Russia, it is also an official language for the countries Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It also shares joint official status as a language for the countries Abkhazia, Crimea, Gagauzia, Transinistria and South Ossetia. Unofficially, it is also spoken in Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia. Essentially, it is still spoken widely in those countries that were also constituent republics of the USSR, thus making it the most geographically widespread of all the Eurasian languages.
Around 278 million people around the world speak Russian, with 164 million of those people speaking it as a primary language, with around 114 million people speaking it as a secondary language. Russian used to be taught in many schools in Europe, particularly in Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Albania and Slovakia, where it was mandatory in many school systems. Interestingly, the Russian language is the most taught foreign language in the country of Mongolia, where it has been compulsory as a language taught in schools.
The Russian language has two separate sounds for most of its vowels and consonants, with nearly every phoneme having both a hard and a soft sound, when verbally spoken. The vocabulary of the Russian language has been heavily influenced by Church Slavonic. This is a developed language used by the Russian Orthodox Church. It was designed not just for use in religious ceremonies, but also in day to day language when it was first formed, though these days it is primarily a religious language.
There are heavy influences from the many Finnic languages that are geographically close to the country of Russia, such as Merya, Moksha, and Muromian. While some of these languages are extinct, in their day they were spoken widely in the area in the centre and to the north of what is now the European area of the country of Russia. Because of this, the Russian dialects that are spoken to the North of Moscow include several words of Finno-Ugric origin. These days, there have been primarily European languages that have influenced the Russian language, particularly Polish, Latin, French, German, Dutch and English.
The Russian language is usually categorized into two dialects: Northern and Southern. Northern is considered to be the area above Moscow, while Southern is the area below Moscow. Moscow itself is ordinarily considered to be either a Central dialect, or belonging to the Northern dialect. It is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, modified to make use of the 33 letters in the Russian language.
Why Learn The Russian Language?
While Russian is considered to be a “hard target” language, the Russian language would have to be one of the most important world languages in terms of modern historical events. Learning the Russian language opens up many areas of study, including those that are connected with modern history, geography, current events and languages. This is why Russian Studies is taught in many Western places of higher education; it is a language that is considered to be very useful in international studies.
The largest country in the world, Russia itself also has much to offer. With over 150 different ethnic groups in Russia, there is a long tradition of varied folk history. Russian architecture is also well known throughout the world as being beautiful and colorful, despite the often cold and snowy backdrop. Russian ballet, similarly, is renowned throughout the world as being one of the reasons people travel to Russia itself.
In terms of learning the language, there can be no doubt that the Russian language has some of the most influential and famous literary works of the last couple of centuries, so if you are of a literary or creative mind, then the Russian language is an excellent language to pick up.