Russian is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, and the largest native language in Europe. It belongs to the family of Indo-European languages. Russian is the native language of around 165 million people and second language of an additional 110 million people. Startling fact: Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. Nowadays, Russian is spoken primarily in Russia and Belarus, partly Ukraine and is also one of six official languages of the United Nations as well as official EU language.
To foreigner's ears, most of other Slavic languages sound similar to Russian, although the languages are far from being interchangeable (in fact it is even less mutually similar than Romance languages are).
Language of the red Empire
Due to the status of the former Soviet Union as a superpower, Russian had great political importance in the 20th century and was in fact forced as a second language to all countries under Soviet influence, including central European countries and East Germany. Russian was a mandatory subject in school, even a mandatory part of school leaving exams. After the Soviet union collapsed, public attitude towards Russian language in satellite countries went to the opposite extreme, neglecting and suppressing the language out of general education while swiftly replacing it with English due to new political trends. Until today, a lot of 50+ people in post-communist countries still read the Cyrillic script (Azbuka) and have a general understanding and basic knowledge of Russian.
Russian uses the Cyrillic script, which is originally derived from the Greek script, but adjusted and supplemented by some letters from so called Glagolitic alphabet, developed by the brothers Cyril and Methodius, in order to comply with Old Church Slavonic sounds. Old Church Slavonic was, at that time, considered 4th liturgical language for a brief period beside Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Although a dead speech now, its still being used in the Orthodox church.
А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я