Russian is a language with a long and varied history, and today, approximately 147 million people speak Russian as their first language, and 113 million speak it as a secondary language. In the United States, large concentrations of Russian speakers make their homes in Alaska, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Russian is the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian is one of three East Slavic languages, along with Ukrainian and Belarusian, although more people speak Russian than any other Slavic language. Standard Russian spoken today is called modern Literary Russian, and first appeared at the beginning of the 18th century. During the end of the 18th and into the 19th century, (the “Golden Age” of Russian literature), grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation were standardized.
The Russian writing system is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. Today, in the United States, there are more than 90 Russian-language publications, more than a dozen Russian language radio stations and four Russian language television channels. There are approximately 4 million Russian speakers living in the United States.
From ballet and painting to architecture and literature, Russians have made immense contributions to world culture and art. Russia has also produced some of the world’s top scientists, physicists and mathematicians (not to mention chess players). Russian literature, including works by such highly respected authors as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Nabokov, is taught in US high schools and colleges, and Russian ballet dancers and choreographers such as Baryshnikov, Nureyev and Balanchine have made their artistic mark on the US stage.
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