Russian is a member of the East Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. In addition to being the most extensively used of the Slavic languages, Russian can also be found over the widest physical area. Out of a total of approximately 260 million speakers worldwide (according to a 2012 survey), over 150 million people – about 99.4% of the Russian population – claim Russian as their first language, making it the 8th most spoken native language in the world.
Besides being one of six official languages of the United Nations, Russian is spoken as either a first or additional language in many countries in the world, including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, to name just a few. Furthermore, since 1975 Russian has also been one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station.
The “Golden Age” (from the end of the 18th to 19th centuries) saw the standardisation of the Russian language, resulting in it being used as the national literary language. As a result, 94% of Russian students receive their teaching mainly in Russian.
Throughout the eras, Russian has been influenced by many languages, including Greek, Latin, Polish, Dutch, French, Italian, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Russian is a relatively consistent language, although there exists a large number of dialects. Standard Russian is used throughout the country for written and spoken purposes, with multiple smaller-scale variations being used depending on location. Some linguists divide Russian dialects into two primary regional groups, namely Northern and Southern; while others prefer three groups – Northern, Central and Southern.
The Russian speaking countries of the former Soviet Union are systematically substituting Russian with their own local languages, thereby slowly reducing the number of Russian speakers in the world.
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