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Russian (русский язык) is classified as an East Slavic language, belonging to the Indo-European language family. It is descended from the “Old East Slavonic” language used in the Kievan Rus’ federation of East Slavic and Finnic tribes in Europe from the 9th to the 13th centuries, and its closest living relatives are Ukrainian and Belarusian. Russian was the de facto language of the Soviet Union and is currently an official language in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is also widely spoken in parts of Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Russia is the largest native language in Europe and most geographically widespread language in Eurasia, with a total of approximately 150 million native speakers and 110 million non-native speakers, making it the 8th most spoken language in the world. Russian is also one of the official languages of the United Nations.

At the height of the Soviet Union’s influence, Russian was commonly taught as a second language from Europe to Southeast Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America, becoming somewhat of a lingua franca in much of the Communist-aligned world. While its status diminished significantly after the end of the Cold War, it remains a popular second language in many former Soviet republics and satellite states. Russian is also widely spoken among many immigrants across the world, including large populations in Western Europe, Israel, and the United States.

In the United States, Russian is the 12th most spoken language, with roughly 855,000 speakers. The largest number of Russian speakers are located in the New York Metropolitan Area, with significant populations in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, and Maryland. Russian newspapers, television stations, and radio stations are all available in the United States.

The modern Russian literary language comprises what is known as “Standard Russian,” and is based in the Moscovian dialect of Moscow. Prior to the mid-20th century, Standard Russian was mainly spoken only by the upper classes and urban population, whereas the lower classes and peasants typically spoke their own local dialects. During the Soviet period, however, compulsory education saw the severe diminishing of local and regional dialects so that Russian is now a largely homogenous language, with some minor variations in pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary, and grammar between Northern and Southern Russian variants.

As with other Indo-European languages, Russian is an inflected language (with significant adaptations) wherein words are modified to express grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, and mood. The Russian language possesses three tenses (past, present, and future), with each verb having two aspects (perfective and imperfective). All Russian nouns possess a gender (male, female, or neuter), and words change based on their gender and function in a sentence.

Russian also includes six cases, which include nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, and prepositional. Generally speaking, Russian has a subject-verb-object structure, but with considerable flexibility allowed as a result of grammatical relationships that are marked by inflection. The Russian language is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which is comprised of 33 letters. Russian spelling is largely phonemic, with some exceptions.

FUN FACTS: Given the indisputably important role that the Russian Federation plays in space exploration and the International Space Station (ISS), American astronauts are required to learn Russian as part of their training. The computer systems on the ISS also use both English and Russian. Also, the verb “to be” in Russian cannot be used in the present tense, only in the past or future tenses.

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Russian. Whether you need to translate technical specifications for a nuclear reactor from Russian into English, Russian conference interpreters for an international scientific symposium, or want to localize your website into Russian to market your products or services in the Russian Federation, PGLS is here to help with all of your Russian language needs.

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