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Evolution of the Russian Language
As an official language of the United Nations, and one of Europe’s most prominent languages, Russian is spoken by approximately 160 million people throughout Russia and its neighbouring nations.
Up until 1917, Russian was the only official dialect of the Russian Empire. Throughout the Soviet period, policies regarding the languages of other ethnic groups varied. Even though each of the republics of the USSR had their own official language, the unifying role was reserved for Russian. Several newly independent states strongly discouraged Russian following the 1991 breakup, however, it has remained the common language throughout the region.
The language is written using a modern version of the Russian alphabet called ‘Azbuka’ or Cyrillic script. It is very much related to the other East Slavic tongues, Ukrainian (also named "Little Russian") and Belarusian (or "White Russian"). The former is spoken by roughly 45 million people, mainly in the Ukraine and Russia. The latter, which also uses a form of the Cyrillic alphabet, is the mother tongue of roughly 8 million people, most of whom live in Belarus.
Another interesting fact: Roughly 750,000 ethnic Jewish immigrants speak Russian in Israel from the former Soviet Union. The Israeli press and websites often publish material in Russian.
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