Apart from Russia, Russian is spoken in many countries. It is the official language of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. In many former Soviet Republics (such as Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) a considerable amount of people speak Russian. A considerable amount of Russian expats can be found in the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, and Israel.
Russian is the most widely spoken Slavic language. It is the eighth most spoken language in the world by the number of native speakers (154 million people) and by the total number of speakers (258 million people).
There are a few peculiarities that may make the Russian language difficult to learn. The feature that tends to create the most difficulties is that Russian is an inflected language, which means that the endings of words change depending on their relation to other words in the sentence. Russian nouns have six cases (both for singular and plural form, that’s 12 different endings to memorize). Russian verbs change according to the form of the noun or pronoun (person, singular or plural form), which creates at least six forms, and that is just for one tense.
Other things that create difficulties or confusion are Russian pronunciation, flexible word order, and a great number of irregularities in spelling and inflections.
The Russian alphabet uses letters from the Cyrillic script to write the Russian language. The Cyrillic script was developed in the late 9th century on the basis of the Greek alphabet, with some letters from the old Glagolitic alphabet to represent sounds not found in Greek. The script is named in honor of the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, who created the Glagolitic alphabet earlier on. The modern Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters.
Russia has produced many great writers. Here are some of the most famous Russian authors and their most significant works.
The Russian language is a member of the Indo-European language family, the Slavic (also called Slavonic) branch. Slavic languages are believed to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic, spoken during the Early Middle Ages.
Russian and Ukrainian both belong to the Slavic branch of Indo-European languages. They share some similarities, and in some situations, Russians and Ukrainians can understand each other pretty well. However, there are quite a lot of differences: in vocabulary (38% of Ukrainian vocabulary is different from Russian), alphabet (“ы” is only used in Russian, ґ and ї only in Ukrainian), pronunciation (for instance, Ukrainian uses more soft consonants), and grammar (although Ukrainian and Russian share the concept of noun cases, it is represented by different endings in the two languages).
Speakers of Ukrainian and Belorussian can understand each other with little to no difficulty. Only 16% of the vocabulary is different between the two languages. Speakers if these two languages are also very likely to understand Russian quite well, but that is also partly due to the fact that the Russian language dominated these countries when they were part of the Soviet Union.
Russians have a lot more difficulty understanding Belorussian and Ukrainian (38% of Ukrainian vocabulary is different from Russian). However, there are enough similarities between these three East Slavic languages for their speakers to be able to find some understanding in basic everyday situations. Written language may be a bit easier to understand as the pronunciation of some words may vary greatly.