Russian at SOAS Language Centre
Of all the languages within the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family, Russian has the greatest number of speakers, estimated between 250-300 million. It is the first language of the greater majority of the population of the Russian Federation and is widely spoken in neighbouring states such as Belarus and Ukraine alongside languages with which it shares a high degree of mutual intelligibility.
The huge expanse of the Russian Federation – not to mention the extent of the former Soviet Union – has put Russian in contact with many languages of Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Far East to which it is not related at all. The Russian Federation shares a border with countries as far apart geographically and linguistically, as Norway, Georgia and China.
During the Soviet period, Russian was the second (if not the first) language of many ethnic non-Russians in the republics that are now independent states. As a result, Russian has endured in countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Due to strong economic and political ties, Russian is still widely understood in Mongolia – and Mongolian continues to be written and printed in a customized form of the Cyrillic script borrowed from Russian.