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Russian is a language spoken by an estimated 175 million people. It is primarily located in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Estonia, and other Soviet successor states. It is one of the Eastern Slavonic languages and was spoken in the northern expansions of Slavonic-speaking regions in the first millennium AD. It is currently the most widely used Slavic language. 

Most linguists consider the official birth of Russian as an independent language through the Mongolian-Tartar conquests of the mid 13th century. A hallmark of these conquests was the Mongolian-Tartar destruction of Kiev. Kiev’s destruction allowed the northern outpost of Moscow, previously less important, to later achieve spiritual prominence. After Kiev’s destruction, Moscow became the inheritor of the spiritual mantle of the Roman and Byzantine empires. The Russian language found in Moscow spread throughout the surrounding region through the tongues of Christian missionaries. These missionaries helped spread their language and establish its dominance.

Over four hundred years later, Peter the Great and his rule from 1682 – 1725 allowed Russian to become a fully written language through his various reforms. Peter the Great introduced the Russian alphabet in 1708 to replace the Old Slavonic form of the Cyrillic script. He also encouraged writers to write exactly as they spoke. These reforms helped unify the Russian speaking populations and created a common linguistic medium for religion, trade, and art. 

Later, the Russian language developed rapidly during its first great period of literature in the 19th century. This was a time when the great Russian artists Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Alexander Pushkin created their literary works and utilized the Russian language in unprecedented ways. 

The Soviet period which later followed was both good and bad for the Russian language. The Soviet time period greatly expanded literacy in Russian and continued to expand the language’s influence in the world. In this period, Russian rivalled English as a the second language of choice due to the increasing power of the Russian speaking people. However, the Soviet period was also a liability as publications in the Russian language were highly restricted and ideologically controlled to a much greater extent than under the previous Russian monarchy. Additionally, the official Russian language as determined by the ruling politics was extremely dry and politically correct to encourage the population to adopt the recommend point of view. These restrictions on the language shackled the creativity of artists and limited its intrinsic growth even while the geographically presence of the language continued to grow. 

The Soviet Union disintegrated in the recent decades. Led by the country of Lithuania, all of the Soviet republics have declared their independence. This change in the political landscape left many large populations of native Russian speakers, populations that were once supremely confident of their dominant linguistic status, now cut off from power. These native speaking Russian populations are now marked for unpopularity and discrimination. Speakers of Russian have increasingly needed to relocate or adopt the use of a second language. Russian remains to be the official language of Russian but is increasingly pushed to the peripheries in the former countries of the Soviet Union. The native languages of these countries, in conjunction with English, are increasingly the mode of instruction in schools and government. 

Russian is often considered one of the more difficult of the Indo-European languages for an English speaker to learn. Word stress is heavy in Russian. Additionally, the word stress affects the pronunciation of surrounding sounds, but the changes of pronunciation are not easily predicted or marked in the writing. Nonetheless, Russian is widely appreciated for its depth of literature and cultural history. Individuals who adopt Russian as a second language today are still richly rewarded. 

For assistance with Russian translation please speak to the Axis Translations team.