Russian Language Facts

Russian Language Facts

1. The Origins

Russian is derived from the Old East Slavic, and as such, shares strong similarities with Belorussian and Ukrainian. With the adoption of Christianity, a new alphabet was developed – the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian was standardised during the 18th century, and then simplified after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

2. The Speakers

Russian is spoken by 260 million people worldwide, including 137 million in Russia and is the 6th most natively spoken language in the world. It is the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and a recognised regional language in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Russian is also a significant minority language in the Baltic countries and Central Asia, and is still used as a lingua franca in the former Soviet countries.

3. The Humour

The Russian are known to be sarcastic at times, and Russian jokes often reflect the realities of everyday life. Examples include:

  • У одного ученого родились близнецы. Одного он окрестил в храме, а другого оставил в качестве контрольного образца. – The scientist has two twins. The first of them was baptised, and the second was kept as reference specimen.
  • Самым большим доказательством существования разумной жизни во вселенной является тот факт, что с нами до сих пор никто не попытался связаться. – The most important evidence of existence of intelligent life in the universe is the fact that nobody has tried to contact with us.

4. The Loanwords

Few English words are of Russian origin. Interesting examples include bolshevik, cosmonaut, mammoth, pogrom, samovar, sputnik, taiga, tsar, ushanka and vodka

5. The Space

Along with English, Russian is the language of space. Astronauts have to learn Russian as part of their training and the computer system of the ISS uses both English and Russian. During the Space Race, Russian also influenced English. For example, the suffix -nik, used in “sputnik” (“fellow traveller”), was borrowed from Russian and is commonly used in words such as beatnik, peacenik and refusenik.


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