Russian language

русский язык [1] (russkij jazyk)
Pronunciation [ˈruskʲɪj jɪˈzɨk]
Native to Russia, other post-Soviet states
Native speakers
150 million (2010) [2]
260 million ( L1 plus L2 speakers) (2012) [3]
Early forms
Old East Slavic
  • Russian
Cyrillic ( Russian alphabet)
Russian Braille
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Russian Language Institute [30] at the Russian Academy of Sciences
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ru
ISO 639-2 rus
ISO 639-3 rus
Glottolog russ1263 [31]
Linguasphere 53-AAA-ea < 53-AAA-e
(varieties: 53-AAA-eaa to 53-AAA-eat)
Idioma ruso.PNG
Areas where Russian is the majority language (medium blue) or a minority language (light blue)
States where Russian is an official language (dark blue) or a de facto working language (teal)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Russian (ру́сский язы́к, russkij jazyk, pronounced [ˈruskʲɪj jɪˈzɨk]) is an East Slavic language and an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and many minor or unrecognised territories. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine and Latvia, and to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union and former participants of the Eastern Bloc. [32] [33] Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of the four living members of the East Slavic languages. Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century and beyond.

It is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. 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. [34] The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Russian distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without, the so-called soft and hard sounds. This distinction is found between pairs of almost all consonants and is one of the most distinguishing features of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels. Stress, which is unpredictable, is not normally indicated orthographically [35] 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 (zamok, meaning a lock) and за́мок (zamok, meaning a castle), or to indicate the proper pronunciation of uncommon words or names.


Russian is a Slavic language of the Indo-European family. It is a lineal descendant of the language used in Kievan Rus'.[ citation needed] From the point of view of the spoken language, its closest relatives are Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn,[ citation needed] the other three languages in the East Slavic group. 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 in eastern Ukraine and 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. [36] 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 and the Church Slavonic forms are in use, with many different meanings. For details, see Russian phonology and History of the Russian language.

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, [37] and to a lesser extent the languages to the south and the east: Uralic, Turkic, [38] [39] Persian, [40] [41] Arabic, as well as Hebrew. [42]

According to the 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. [43] 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.