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Russia

Location

Northern Asia (the area west of the Urals is considered part of Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean.

Climate

ranges from steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast.

Russian (Русский язык)

Russian is an Eastern Slavonic language closely related to Ukrainian and Belarusian with about 277 million speakers in Russia and 30 other countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova.

Language

A tongue of harsh accents, alien alphabet and a reputation as being hard to crack… Russian may be all that and more but it’s certainly not the only language spoken in Russia. About 100 others are used across the country. But you don’t need to know all of them – Russian is official throughout the nation, although there are various co-official languages in different regions.

Russian belongs to the Indo-European family, which ties it to Greek and Latin. Its closest spoken relatives are Ukrainian and Belarusian. Over the centuries, its vocabulary and style have been influenced by German, French and English. Modern Russian also includes a large number of international political, technological and scientific terms.

Until the 1917 revolution, Russian was the only official language of the Russian Empire. In the Soviet Union, it enjoyed a privileged and unifying status. After the fall of the USSR, most ex-members reverted to their native tongues, with only Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan keeping Russian as an official language alongside their own.

The USSR’s superpower status guaranteed Russian worldwide prestige. It was taught in the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe but after the Warsaw Pact collapsed, the language was dropped as a must-have on school programmes. Still, it remains one of the official languages of the United Nations, and is widely used across the former Soviet Union. Fed by several waves of immigrants since the beginning of the 20th century, large Russian-speaking communities, each with its own flavour of language, exist in Israel, Germany and Turkey. In the US, New York City’s Brighton Beach has long been dubbed “Little Odessa” – many of its residents having come from the Ukrainian port. It’s estimated that Russian is spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide.

Cyrillic alphabet (Кириллица)

Origin

The Cyrillic alphabet is named after St. Cyril, a missionary from Byzantium. It was invented sometime during the 10th century AD, possibly by St. Kliment of Ohrid, to write the Old Church Slavonic language. The Cyrillic alphabet achieved its current form in 1708 during the reign of Peter the Great. Four letters were eliminated from the alphabet in a 1917/18 reform.

The Cyrillic alphabet has been adapted to write over 50 different languages, mainly in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. In many cases additional letters are used, some of which are adaptations of standard Cyrillic letters, while others are taken from the Greek or Latin alphabets.

Example of text

Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своем достоинстве и правах. Они наделены разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.

Cursive Russian alphabet

This is a version of the cursive handwritten Russian alphabet. A number of letters have quite different shapes when written in this way.

Example of text

Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своем достоинстве и правах. Они наделены разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.

Cursive version

Interesting facts about Russia

  • Russia is the largest country in the world, stretching over an area of 17.1 million square kilometer.
  • Russia is a transcontinental country, extending halfway around the northern hemisphere and covering much of eastern and north-eastern Europe and the whole of northern Asia.
  • The official language of Russia is Russian and the country’s main religion is Russian Orthodoxy.
  • Russia is rich in natural resources, especially oil, natural gas and timber
  • Russia has 12 seas.
  • There is the closest point between Russia and America that is only 4 km long.