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Russian Language

Russian is an Eastern Slavic language closely related to Belarusian and Ukrainian. Russian is spoken by 288 million people in the Russian Federation, as well as Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Bulgaria. It is the state language of the Russian Federation, one of the official languages of the United Nations Organization, and a medium of interethnic communication in some countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Old Church Slavonic alphabet

Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which was introduced to Kievan Rus in the 10th century and was based on the Greek alphabet. In its modern form the Cyrillic Russian alphabet exists since 1918. In ancient Russia two distinct languages were in use: Church Slavonic and Old Russian. The former was a liturgical language based on Old Bulgarian. The latter was used for business correspondence and for literary and historical works, as well as in the daily life of the people. Byzantine books were fairly common in Kievan Rus, and with them came a considerable enrichment of the Russian vocabulary with Greek-based words. 

By the end of the 16th century, the first Slavic grammars appeared, and in the first quarter of the 18th century, during the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian language was transformed by the introduction of German, Dutch, French and Polish words, especially in scientific and technical works. During the 18th century a significant growth of industry, science and culture occurred, and the Russian empire strengthened and expanded considerably. This period also proved a crucial stage in the development of Russian as a national language. 


The poet Pushkin

In the early 19th century the languages final formation was aided by the poet Pushkin, whose works helped to diffuse modern Russian among tens of thousands of readers. Pushkin was the first in the line of the great Russian writers who brought renown to Russian literature and included such authors as Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov. 

By the middle of the 19th century a growth occurred in the publication of Russian-language as well as Church Slavonic dictionaries. In 1863-1866 the linguist and ethnographer Vladimir Dahl published his famous four-volume Dictionary of the Living Russian Tongue that documented the lexical richness and diversity of the Russian language. The dictionary contained around 200,000 words, including local dialects and various professional terms, as well as around 30,000 sayings and proverbs.


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