Russian is an eastern Slavic language native to Russia and Belarus. The Russian language is Europe’s largest native language and the world’s seventh largest language by number of speakers. Approximately 260 million people speak Russian, and out of these, about 150 million are native speakers. Russian is spoken both as a first and second language and is the official language for Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Some international organizations such as the UN, WHO, NASA, GUAM, SCO, and CIS also use Russian as one of their official languages. The Russian language has endured from early 10th century AD when its earliest known writings were used. Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet as its writing system. The use of Russia spread to other nations during the Soviet Era and became ingrained in most of these countries.
Russian Speaking Countries
Russian is Russia’s only national official language and therefore plays a crucial unifying role in the country. Russian is used in many schools of Russia as the primary mode of teaching. It is used both for formal and informal communication and in conducting government affairs. Russia has the largest population of Russian speakers with 137,500,000 people speaking the language. Out of this, approximately 80% are native speakers.
Russian is an official language in Kazakhstan alongside Kazakh. Approximately 16.9 million people speak Russian in Kazakhstan. Russian is used in most spheres of life within Kazakhstan for informal communication and business. The former Soviet Union republic has in recent years initiated moves that appear as a means of distancing itself from Russia. These include the move to introduce the use of the Latin alphabet as a replacement for Cyrillic and the statement by Kazakhstan's president encouraging the use of Kazakh as the principal language for communication, business, and politics.
Russian is a minority language of inter-ethnic, business and other informal communication in Ukraine. An estimated 8.3 million Ukrainians speak Russian. Russian immigrants in the 17th century played a crucial part in the introduction of Russian into Ukraine. Russian is Ukraine’s most crucial minority language, which during the Soviet reign, was used for government administration and public life. Some areas of Ukraine such as Crimea use Russian as an official language. Where there are many Russian speakers, Russians is used as a mode of learning in both primary and secondary schools. The Ukrainian government has made efforts towards reducing the impact of Russian on Ukraine through banning the importation of books from Russia and removing Russian as a learning language in schools.
Russian is an official language in Kyrgyzstan alongside Kyrgyz. Russian was designated as an official language in 1997 after a lot of pressure from the Russian community in Kyrgyzstan. Russian is one the most used languages in the country for formal and informal communication. 2.5 million people in the country speak Russian as a first or second language.
Former members of the Soviet Union have in the past years made efforts to distance themselves from the use of Russian as a primary language. Since Russian is deeply rooted in these countries, governments have banned its use in areas such as, politics, education, and media, to limit the use of Russian. The replacement of the Cyrillic alphabet with Latin and other alphabets is also contributing to de-russification in these countries.