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FACTS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
Russian is a Slavic language that belongs to the family of Indo-European languages. The origins of the Russian language date back to before the 7th century AD, when tribes that until then had spoken Proto-Slavic began to use three regional subgroups of the language: East Slavic, West Slavic and South Slavic. East Slavic, or Old Russian, was the official language of Kievan Rus. The decline of the language followed the disintegration of the polity in the 14th century.
An important factor in the development of the Russian language was the work of the Saints Cyril and Methodius, Christian missionaries from the Byzantine Empire who arrived in Kievan Rus in 988. Thanks to their efforts, ‘Cyrillic script’ was created on the basis of the Glagolitic alphabet invented by the saints, which is still used today as the official alphabet for the national languages of Russia and several other Slavic nations.
After the fall of Kievan Rus and the invasion of the Golden Horde in the 14th century, East Slavic evolved into several languages, including the Russian language.
Russian is comprised of the northern Russian dialects, in which the unstressed “o” is pronounced clearly, and southern Russian dialects where the unstressed “o” is mainly reduced to “a”, plus central Russian dialects spoken from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Standard Russian originates from the latter.
Since 1942 the Russian alphabet has consisted of 33 letters, it is based on the Cyrillic script. There are about 160,000 words in Russian in total.
Stressed vowels carry much importance in Russian, but there are no uniform grammar rules as to which vowels have to be stressed. Sometimes stressing different vowels in homographic words can change their meaning.
Ivan Fyodorov (Иван Фёдоров) (1520–1583) was the first Russian printer and publisher. He published the first book in Russian, “Апостол” (Apostolos), in 1564.
The first newspaper printed in Russia was “Ведомости” (Vedomosti) upon Peter the Great’s decree of 16 December 1703.
The first Russian newspaper in the territory of Latvia was “Российское еженедельное издание в Риге” (Russian Weekly Publication in Riga), printed in 1816 in Riga.
One of the most famous Russian poets and writers, Alexander Pushkin, is considered the founder of modern Russian literature.
Russian is the native tongue to approximately 145 million people, it is the eighth most spoken language in the world, and the fourth by total number of speakers (255 – 280 million).
Russian is the official language in several countries besides Russia: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The proportion of Russian speakers is also high in countries such as Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine and others.
In Latvia, Russian is the second most widely spoken language after Latvian.
Language code: ISO 639-1: ru
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