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Russian language facts for kids

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Русский язык (Russkiy yazik)
Native to Russia, and some of the Commonwealth of Independent States
Native speakers primary language: about 147 million
secondary language: 113 million (1999 WA, 2000 WCD)  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Cyrillic alphabet
Official status
Official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria (Moldova) and Gagauzia (Moldova).
Regulated by none

Russian (Russian: русский язык, transliteration: russkiy yaz'ik) is the main language of Russia. It is also spoken in by many people in other parts of the former Soviet Union, such as in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan and Estonia.

Russian, like other Slavic languages, are Indo-European languages. Russian is one of the three main East Slavic languages; the others are Ukrainian and Belarusian. More people speak Russian than any other Slavic language.

Written Russian does not use the Latin alphabet that English and the West Slavic languages do. It uses the Cyrillic alphabet, whose letters, like those of Latin, came from Greek, but are different from them. The other East Slavic languages and some of the South Slavic languages use the Cyrillic alphabet as well.

Russian is an official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese.

Standard Russian

Standard Russian is also called modern literary Russian (Современный русский литературный язык). It first appeared at the beginning of the 18th century. Peter the Great was then working to make the state more modern. Standard Russian grew out of the dialect of Russian spoken by people in and around Moscow. In some ways, Standard Russian was also like the Russian used in government offices in earlier centuries.

Mikhail Lomonosov wrote the first book on Russian grammar in 1755. The Russian Academy of Sciences published the first full dictionary of Russian in 1783. The grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of Russian became stable and were standardized at the end of the 18th and during the 19th century. This was the "Golden Age" of Russian literature, which became famous throughout the world.

All of Russia began to use Russian as the language of literature, education, and official communication. Until the 20th century, only the upper classes and people in cities spoke the literary language. Russians from the countryside continued to speak their local dialects. In the 20th century, all children were then required to go to school. Many people had radios and televisions, which helped spread Standard Russian. In the 20th century, Russian dialects mostly disappeared by the middle of the century. Standard Russian replaced them almost completely.


In Russian, a person's name has three parts: the first name, the second name and the family name.

Parents choose the first name for their child. Some common Russian names for boys are Ivan, Vladimir, Mikhail and Nikolai. Some common Russian names for girls are Anna, Anastasia, Svetlana and Yekaterina.

The second name is the patronymic (Russian: otchestvo) and comes from one's father's first name. For example, a boy whose father is Ivan would havae as patronymic is Ivanovich. If a boy's father is Nikolai, his patronymic is Nikolaevich. If a girl's father is Ivan, her patronymic is Ivanovna. If her father is Nikolai, her patronymic is Nikolaevna. The patronymic of a boy ends with -ovich or -evich. The patronymic of a girl ends with -ovna or -evna.

Boys have the same family name as their fathers. Girls use their father's family name but an -a is added to the end of the name. A man whose family name is Romanov would have a son with the family name Romanov and a daughter with the family name Romanova.

If a man's name is Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov and has a son, Aleksei, and a daughter, Anastasia, the son's full name is Aleksei Nikolaevich Romanov, and the daughter's full name is Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova.

There are also many people in Russia whose family names are not Russian. Some of the family names have only one forma and so is the same for both sons and daughters. Some examples are Glushko (a Ukrainian name), Rubinstein (a German/Jewish name) or Shevardnadze (a Georgian name).



Like Latin, Greek, and German, Russian has a case system. In Russian, it applies to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, numerals and participles with a set of word endings (sounds/letters attached to the ends of words) that show the grammatical roles of words in a sentence. Because the grammatical roles are shown by the endings, word order is freer in than in English. There are six cases in Russian.

The nominative case, the form listed in the dictionary, is used for the subject of the sentence. The genitive case often shows ownership. The accusative case is used for a direct object, the dative case for an indirect object. The instrumental case is used for the tool or instrument with which something is done. The prepositional case is used after certain prepositions, such as "in" and "on", but other prepositions may require the use of other cases. Each case has other uses than those listed.

Gender and number

In Russian, nouns have one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Masculine nouns usually end in consonants, neuter nouns usually end in -o or -e, and feminine nouns usually end in -a or -я. The plural acts much like a fourth gender. since gender does not alter plural words.


In Russian, an adjective must agree with the word that it describes in gender and number. In the nominative case, adjectives that describe feminine words usually end in -ая or -яя. Those that describe masculine words usually end in -ый, -ий or -ой. Those that describe neuter words usually end in -ое or -ее. Those that describe plural words usually end in -ые or -ие. The endings change depending on case.

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