We know many things about Russia and the great Russian authors, but how many things do we know about Russian?
The Russian language (русский язык, russkiy yazyk) is an East Slavic language, and the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It’s a part of the Indo-European language family and, together with Belarusian and Ukrainian, the Russian language forms the eastern branch of the Slavic family of languages. Since it was the official language of the Soviet Union, it is still widely used and considered a “lingua franca” throughout the Caucasus, Ukraine, Central Asia, some Baltic States, and Ukraine.
Interesting facts about Russian:
1. It’s a pretty commonly used language
Russian is the most spoken native language in Europe, the most geographically widespread language in Eurasia, and the second-most widespread language on the internet, after English. With such a big influence on the world, Russian is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations, alongside Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, and English.
2. A very close family of languages
Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian were, basically, the same language until the 16th century. Hence, if you hear the term “Old Russian”, know that it refers to all East Slavic languages in use before that time.
3. It has its own alphabet
The Cyrillic alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet with some Latin influences, and it was created by Saint Cyril, a Byzantine missionary who lived throughout the 9th century. One of the language’s most important features is that almost every consonant has a soft and a hard counterpart. Moreover, stress is not normally indicated through orthography, unless it needs to distinguish between words that have the same spelling and different pronunciation (замо́к, zamók – a ‘lock’ and за́мок, zámok – a ‘castle’), or uncommon names or words.
4. Russian is very polite
The Russian word for “thank you” has a deeper meaning than one would think. “Spasibo” (спаси́бо) originates from “спаси бог”, which means “god save”. Every time a person thanks another one, they are literally saying “God bless you”.
5. Germans are considered incomprehensible
In Russian, the Germans are called “немецкий” (nemetski). It means “those who cannot speak”. The Russian root of the word means mute, but it can also imply stupidity or lack of reason. At first, the word was used to describe foreigners, people who did not speak Russian and, well, most of them were German at that time. The word was also borrowed into the Romanian language (nemţi).
6. Naming children may be easier than you think
Every Russian name consists of three parts: a first name (imia), a surname (familiia), and a patronymic name (otchestvo). The latter is derived from the father’s name plus the suffix “- ovich/ – evich” for sons and “- ovna/ – evna” for daughters. For example, if the father’s name is Mikhail, his son will be named Mikhailovich, while the daughter will be named Mikhailovna. The patronymic name is usually used as a middle name.
There are many other interesting facts about this beautiful language, but, as the saying goes, it’s better to discover them through speaking! J