Russian language

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Russian language ( русский язык )

Spoken in

Russia , other member states of the CIS and Baltic states as well as emigrants in the United States , Israel , Germany and other European countries
speaker approx. 210 million, including 150 million native speakers, 60 million second language speakers
Official status
Official language in RussiaRussia Russia Belarus Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Ukraine ( regional ) Moldova ( Gagauzia ) Transnistria Abkhazia South Ossetia United Nations CIS
Moldova RepublicRepublic of Moldova GagauziaGagauzia 
South OssetiaSouth Ossetia 
United NationsU.N. 
Commonwealth of Independent States 
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Russian language ( Russian , formerly also called Great Russian ; in Russian: русский язык , [ˈru.skʲɪj jɪˈzɨk] , German transcription : russki jasyk , scientific transliteration according to ISO 9 : 1968 russkij jazyk , pronunciation ? / I ) is a language from the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family . With a total of around 210 million speakers, including around 150 million native speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken languages ​​in Europe and is one of the world's languages . It plays the role of the lingua franca in the post-Soviet space and has the status of an official language in several of its states. Audio file / audio sample

The language, which is closely related to Belarusian , Ukrainian and Russian , is written using the Cyrillic alphabet , although there are certain Russian manifestations . The standard Russian language is based on the Central Russian dialects of the Moscow area . It is the original language of numerous important works in world literature . The science that deals with the Russian language and the extensive Russian literature is called Russian Studies .


Knowledge of Russian in the European Union . As a legacy of the Soviet era, knowledge of Russian is still widespread in Eastern and Central Europe, which is partly due to the Russian-speaking minorities, especially in the Baltic States .

Russian is (as of 2006) spoken by about 163.8 million people as their mother tongue , of whom about 130 million live in Russia , another 26.4 million in the CIS states and the Baltic states , i.e. in successor states of the Soviet Union . Another 7.4 million people live in countries with high levels of immigration from Russia and other successor states of the Soviet Union, primarily in Germany and other European countries as well as the USA and Israel .

It is the official language in Russia , Belarus (together with Belarusian) and the official language in Kazakhstan (with Kazakh as the official language), Kyrgyzstan (with Kyrgyz as the official language). In some oblasts in south-eastern Ukraine it is the regional official language, although this status is politically controversial. Russian also enjoys official status in Tajikistan. It is also one of the official languages ​​in the separatist regions of Transnistria (together with Ukrainian and Moldavian), South Ossetia (together with Ossetian), and Abkhazia (together with Abkhazian). There it is both the mother tongue of a part of the population and the language of a large part of public life.

In addition, there are Russian-speaking minorities in all CIS countries and in the Baltic States, as well as in some cases considerable numbers of Russian-speaking emigrants in western industrialized countries. In Finland , Russian is the largest minority language with 49,000 speakers, which is just under 1%. In Germany , where the largest number of Russian native speakers live outside the former Soviet Union, Russian is the second most widely spoken language after German (and ahead of Turkish ) with around three million speakers . (See Russian-speaking population groups in Germany .) In Israel , the roughly one million Russian-speaking immigrants make up about one sixth of the population and thus the third largest speaker group after those of Hebrew and Arabic . There are over 700,000 native Russian speakers in the United States , over 200,000 of them in New York , and around 160,000 in Canada , but there are many significantly larger language minorities in both countries. The Russian language is also a common language for science, art and technology. Russian is the fourth most common language books are translated from into other languages ​​and the seventh most common language books are translated into. In 2013, Russian was the second most popular language on the internet .

The Russian-speaking world

The Russian-speaking world


The Apostle (1563), the first printed book in Russian

Russian developed from the Old East Slavic (Old Russian) language spoken in Kievan Rus and their successor principalities. In the late Middle Ages, due to the political division of the Rus, this split into the (East) Russian and the Ruthenian (West Russian) languages, which played an important role in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania . In contrast to Ruthenian, Russian was significantly influenced by the liturgical language Church Slavonic and, as a result of this development, today has some similarities with South Slavic languages . In the 18th century, the Russian literary language was reformed by writers such as Antioch Kantemir , Mikhail Lomonossow and Wassili Trediakowski , in the 19th century it was mainly shaped by the national poet Alexander Pushkin and got its modern stylistic face.

The Russian spelling reform of 1918 changed certain aspects of the spelling and removed some archaic letters from the Russian alphabet. Through the victory in the Second World War , the Soviet Union gained considerable prestige and global political weight, with which Russian also experienced a strong increase in importance and the preliminary climax of its spread. Russian was the first foreign language taught in schools in Eastern Bloc countries . After the end of real socialism , the importance of the Russian language in East Central Europe fell sharply. In recent years, however, there has been a trend towards more frequent learning of the Russian language.


  Russian alphabet
А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё
Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л М м
Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у
Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ
Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я

Russian is the Russian alphabet written (russ. Русский алфавит / russki alfawit or русская азбука / russkaja asbuka ) corresponding to the (old) Cyrillic alphabet (Russian. Кириллический алфавит / kirillitscheski alfawit or кириллица / kirilliza ) comes from.

Since the last spelling reform in 1918 , the Russian alphabet has consisted of 33 letters. Of these, 10 letters are used to represent the vowels , namely: а , е , ё , и , о , у , ы , э , ю and я . The remaining 23 letters are used to reproduce consonants , whereby the letters ъ and ь are not used to reproduce specific, independent sounds, but rather as indicators for the hardness or softness of preceding consonants (for more on this see: Russian Phonetics ).

Phonetics and Phonology

The phonetic structure of the modern Russian standard language includes 42 distinct single sounds ( phonemes ), which in turn can be divided into 6 vowel and 36 consonant sounds. The extensive phoneme inventory of Russian is explained by a peculiarity of pronunciation typical for Slavic languages , namely most Russian consonants are pronounced both hard and soft ( palatalized ). However, these are not allophones , but individual phonemes, because each of these pronunciation variants has a different meaning. Some Russian dialects have a specific phoneme in which some consonants are predominantly hard or palatalized or pronounced somewhat differently (e.g. guttural ).

The pronunciation of Russian vowels and consonants varies depending on their position in a word. In the case of vowels, a distinction is made between a stressed and an unstressed position. For example, the “o” is pronounced as [ɔ] in a stressed position and as [a] or [ə] in an unstressed position. The pronunciation of many Russian consonants is in turn determined by other consonants that follow them. For example, all voiced consonants are not only pronounced voiceless at the end of a word, but also when they precede another voiceless consonant.

In contrast to German, the length of the vowels in Russian does not differ in meaning (such as in Wall - Wahl ), nor is it decisive for the correct pronunciation of a word. The stressed vowels are usually pronounced half-length. The unstressed vowels, on the other hand, are short and often differ qualitatively from the corresponding stressed vowels. So the unstressed o always becomes a (short) a (so-called аканье, akanje); the unstressed e or я clearly goes in the direction of i (иканье, ikanje). Examples: молоко (Moloko, milk) / məlaˈkɔ / пятнадцать (Pjatnadzat, fifteen) / pʲitˈnatsɨtʲ / земля (Semlja, country) / zʲimˈlʲa /. Both diphthongs and two different successive vowels are pronounced as individual sounds in general (such. B. K oo peration, nude ue ll, Mus eu m, g egg fumes ). Exceptions to this are the diphthongs formed with the й (и краткое, i kratkoje = short i, comparable to German j) : ой (emphasized) = like eu / äu in German, ай = ei / ai in German. The connection ао / ау occasionally becomes a diphthong in foreign words: Фрау (woman as a salutation for a German citizen). The е (je) before palatalized consonants usually becomes a more closed vowel [e]: кабинет (cabinet, study, study) / kabʲiˈnʲɛt /, on the other hand в кабинете (w kabinete, in the study) / fkabʲiˈnʲetʲɛ / Other examples: университет (Uniwersitet, Universität), газета (Gazeta, newspaper).


The Russian language has 6 monophthongs in the stressed syllable (but ɨ is often considered as an allophone of the i).

Russian monophthongs
  front central back
closed i ɨ u
medium e   O
open   a  

In unstressed syllables, however, the middle row with e and o is omitted , since e either coincides with i (so mostly) or a (in inflectional endings) and o always coincides with a . As a result, in adjectives, for example, the feminine form (written -ая [ -aja ]) and the neutral form (written -ое [ -oje ]) are usually indistinguishable. Scripture shows nothing of this; there are also dialects in which the unstressed vowels are sometimes even better differentiated than in the standard language.


The Russian alphabet has 36 consonants . 16 of these occur in pairs with a palatalized and a non-palatalized sound. The sounds / ⁠ ts ⁠ / , / tɕ / , / ⁠ ʐ ⁠ / and / ⁠ j ⁠ / have no exact counterpart.

The table contains only the non-palatalized variant of each consonant pair.

Russian consonants
  bilabial labio-
alveolar post-
palatal velar
Plosives p b   t d     k g
Affricates     ts    
Nasals m   n      
Vibrants     r      
Fricatives   f v s z ʂ ʐ   x
Approximants         j  
Lateral     l      

Source: SAMPA for Russian

Word stress

The stress of a word (the word accent ) has an important and often a differentiating meaning in Russian. Incorrectly stressed words can lead to difficulties in understanding, especially if they are isolated from the linguistic context or pronounced individually. In linguistic literature, the Russian word stress is referred to as “free” and “flexible”. For example, shifting the stress within some Russian words creates their different inflected forms .


In Russian didactics, seven different intonation constructions (интонационные конструкции (Intonazionnyje Konstrukzii)) are distinguished, which are designated with ИК-1 to ИК-7 and identify different types of statements and questions.


Like most Slavic languages , Russian is highly inflected . In an inflected language, the shape of a word changes within various grammatical categories , on the one hand by adding affixes ( weak or outer inflection ) or by changing the word stem ( strong or inner inflection ). Both types of inflection are characteristic of Russian. In the case of strong inflection, the strain (changed many Russian words in their diffraction declination , conjugation ) and Komparation , by Ablaut ( eg .:. М ы ть (Myt) - м о We need your (Moju) ж е вать (Shevat) - ж у ёт (Schujot)), consonants change ( eg .:. во з ить (Wosit) - во ж у (Woschu)) or (by adding or eliminating the strain vowels z B .:. брать (brat) - б е ру (Beru), од и н (Odin) - одна (Odna)). The attributes of weak and strong flexion can appear individually or in combination with one another (e.g. ж е ч ь (Schetsch) - ж ё г (Schjog) - ж г у (Schgu)).

Parts of speech and their grammatical categories

As in German, in Russian nouns , adjectives and pronouns are bent according to case , gender and number and adverbs are only increased. Russian verbs , on the other hand, are inflected not only according to tense and number, but also according to gender in the past tense . As in German, proper names ( names of persons, cities, countries, etc.) and numerals are also inflected in Russian . For this, Russian knows neither definite nor indefinite articles . Instead, numerous suffixes appear for the display of case, gender and number . With a small group of Russian words, grammatical categories can be formed by shifting the word stress from one syllable to the other (for more on this see: Word stress in the Russian language ). Other parts of speech in Russian are prepositions , conjunctions , question words , interjections , question and modal particles and the verb particles "бы". In a sentence, except for the question words кто (kto), что (tschto), чей (chee) and какой (kakoj), they always remain unbending.


Russian has three grammatical genders and six grammatical cases ( cases ). As in other Slavic languages, there is also a category of liveliness in Russian . In the declination within the grammatical genders, a distinction is still made between animate (i.e. living beings) and inanimate (i.e. things) nouns. However, this only refers to the accusative formation. The decisive factor here is the grammatical gender of the noun, not the actual gender of the living being. In the case of grammatical masculine or neuter nouns that denote something animate, the accusative is followed by the ending of the respective genitive . This also applies to animate feminine plural. In all inanimate masculine and neuter forms, however, the accusative and nominative coincide. After all, the category of animatedness has no relevance for feminine singular in Russian, as these have a separate accusative form (-y).


A special feature of Russian verbs is that they have two different forms to specify an action in contemporary events as completed or unfinished. In the linguistic literature, this verbal category is referred to as an aspect (for more on this see: The aspect in the Slavic languages , progressive form ).


In contrast to other Indo-European languages, for example German, there are only three tenses in the standard Russian language instead of six. The past tense is often referred to as the past tense , analogous to German grammar . This designation can only be traced back to the way in which the past tense of Russian verbs is formed. This is done exclusively by changing the shape of a verb, such as adding specific suffixes. The tenses that are formed in German by using the auxiliary verbs “haben” or “sein” are completely omitted.

Syntax (sentence formation)

Because Russian is highly inflected, the inflected forms of many Russian words are often unique and each correspond to only one grammatical category. This is why the linking of individual parts of a sentence is not as strictly regulated in Russian as in German. The subject does not necessarily have to be placed immediately before or after the predicate ; a statement can begin or end with the predicate. Within short sentences or individual, closed parts of sentences, the word sequence can often not vary widely without changing the sentence semantics . This special feature of the Russian syntax is often used in poetry in particular , in that sentences are sometimes formed by an unusual rearrangement of the words and thus make it easier to find rhymes. Some differences between the sentence formation rules in German and in Russian can be illustrated by the following examples:

  • In the German sentence “Maria asks Jan”, the sentence semantics is determined by the sequence subject, predicate, accusative object. The nouns, in this case the proper names Maria and Jan , do not have any grammatical features that allow them to be recognized as subject or accusative object. Therefore, the meaning of the sentence usually changes as soon as you swap the two nouns: “Jan asks Maria.” However, this can be limited by the context or, especially in oral speech, by the stress. “Not stupid August, but Jan asks Maria.” In Russian, the two nouns can be clearly identified as subject and accusative object by their inflected forms. The meaning of the sentence "Мария спрашивает Яна" Marija spraschiwajet Jana ("Maria asks Jan") is not determined by the order of the parts of the sentence, but by their inflectional forms. Therefore, the sentence semantics does not change by rearranging the parts of the sentence. In the Russian sentence Mary will always be the questioner and Jan who was asked and not vice versa: "Мария спрашивает Яна" Marija spraschiwajet Jana or "Мария Яна спрашивает" Maria Jana spraschiwajet or "Яна Мария спрашивает" Jana Marija spaschiwajet or "Яна спрашивает Мария" Jana sprashivayet Marija . If you want to say in Russian that Jan asked Maria, you have to change the inflectional forms of the two nouns: "Ян спрашивает Марию" Jan spraschiwajet Mariju .
  • In the German sentence “I love you”, the predicate must always be in the second position. In the Russian sentence it can be either in the second or in the last position: "Я люблю тебя" Ja ljublju tebja or "Я тебя люблю" Ja tebja ljublju . If the predicate is put in the first position in the sentence, it does not introduce a question in Russian, but only emphasizes the action and emphasizes the feeling of love: "Люблю я тебя" Ljublju ja tebja ("I love you") . If, on the other hand, you want to put the loved one in the foreground, you can also say “Тебя я люблю” Tebja ja ljublju (“You are the one I love”).

In addition, a complete Russian sentence does not necessarily have to have a subject and a predicate (but both cannot be missing). If the subject is missing, it is supplemented in the German translation by the personal pronoun, which is determined by the predicate. E.g. "Иду домой" Idu domoj ("I'm going home", literally: "Going home"). The present form of sein is used in German in sentences without a predicate . Eg "Он врач" On wratsch ("He is a doctor", literally: "He is a doctor").

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своём достоинстве и правах. Они наделёны разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.
Wse ljudi roshdajutsja swobodnymi i rawnymi v svojom dostoinstwe i prawach. Oni nadeljony rasumom i sowestju i dolschny postupat w otnoschenii drug druga w duche bratstwa.
All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Russian dialects.png

There are three linguistically different areas in the European part of Russia: Northern, Central and Southern Russia. The areas are also divided into individual dialects . In general, however, the dialects in Russian are much less pronounced than in German or French-speaking areas, despite the great distances. Nowhere in the Russian-speaking world are differences in pronunciation so far apart that two speakers cannot understand each other.

Northern Russian

To the northeast of a line from Lake Ladoga via Novgorod and Yaroslavl to Yoshkar-Ola . This dialect is characterized by a clearly pronounced unstressed "o" ( оканье - Okanje), a guttural "g" and a hard "t" as verbal ending.

Central Russian

The northern border runs from Saint Petersburg via Novgorod and Ivanovo to Nizhny Novgorod and Cheboksary , the southern from Velikiye Luki via Moscow to Penza . This area shows both northern and southern language features. In the west the unstressed "o" is an "o", in the east an "a" ( аканье - Akanje).

  • West Central Russian from Pskov
  • West Central Russian of Novgorod
  • East Central Russian from Moscow and the surrounding area
  • East Central Russian from Yegorievsk and surroundings
  • East Central Russian from Temnikow and the surrounding area
  • Ostmittelrussisch from Volga Vladimir -region

South Russian

In the area south of Velikiye Luki via Ryazan to Tambov . Here one speaks the unstressed "o" as "a", a fricative "g" and a soft "t" as a verb ending.

Mixed languages

There were and are some naturally occurring mixed languages ​​with Russian. The best known representatives are the mixtures with the closely related languages Ukrainian ( Surschyk ) and Belarusian ( Trassjanka ). Within the Soviet Union, it once mixed with the isolated languages ​​of the Siberian and Asian peoples of Russia. Russenorsk was often spoken on its Arctic border with Norway, but after the October Revolution in 1917 the language fell out of use. In the Far East, on the other hand, contact with the Chinese produced Kjachta-Russian. These mixed languages ​​are largely out of use today.

Russian loan words in German

Russian has borrowed a number of words from German ( see: German words in Russian ). In addition, some Russian words have also entered the German language ( see also: Language usage in the GDR ).

  • Apparatschik  - аппарaтчик "person of the apparatus"
  • Borzoi  - борзая (Borsaja) "greyhound"
  • Bolshevik (also Germanized Bolshevik ) - большевик "majority"
  • Datsche  - дача (dacha) "country house"
  • Kolkhoz  - колхоз "agricultural production cooperative"
  • Cossacks  - казаки (Kasaki)
  • Lunochod  - Луноход "moon vehicle"
  • Matryoshka  - матрёшка "Matryoshka"
  • Perestroika  - перестройка "remodeling"
  • Pogrom  - погром "extermination, expulsion"
  • Soviet , Soviet, etc. - совет "advice, advice"
  • Sputnik  - спутник “companion; Satellite"
  • Steppe  - степь (Step) "Steppe"
  • Subbotnik  - субботник from суббота (Subbota) "Saturday"
  • Troika  - тройка (Trojka) "team of three"
  • Vodka  - водка “vodka; any high-proof spirit "(literally" little water ")
  • Sable  - соболь (Sobol) "sable"

Calques include House of Culture (дом культуры, Dom kultury) and target position instead of target -setting (целевая установка, Zelewaja ustanowka).

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Russian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Category: Russian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Russian Dictionaries  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikibooks: Russian  - learning and teaching materials
Commons : Russian language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Russian pronunciation  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Russian , at the specialist language center of the Leibniz University in Hanover; Retrieved December 9, 2015
  2. For the history of the name in Russian see: Tomasz Kamusella : The Change of the Name of the Russian Language in Russian from Rossiiskii to Russkii: Did Politics Have Anything to Do with It? In: Acta Slavica Iaponica. Vol. 32 (2012), pp. 73-96 ( PDF; 518 kB [accessed on August 13, 2018]).
  3. В Таджикистане русскому языку вернули прежний статус. In:, June 9, 2011, accessed August 13, 2018.
  4. See Bernhard Brehmer: Do you speak Qwelja? Forms and consequences of Russian-German bilingualism in Germany. In: Tanja Anstatt (Ed.): Multilingualism in Children and Adults. Tübingen 2007, pp. 163–185, here: 166 f., Based on the 2005 migration report of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees , accessed on February 3, 2015 (PDF; 5.5 MB).
  5. See Hyon B. Shinwith, Rosalind Bruno: Language Use and English-Speaking Ability: 2000. (PDF; 493 kB) Census 2000 letter. (No longer available online.) In: US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration. US Census Bureau, October 2003, pp. 2, 3, 4 , archived from the original on February 15, 2010 ; Retrieved August 13, 2018 (American English, 2000 US Census).
  6. See the 2001 Canadian census .
  7. ^ Matthias Gelbmann: Russian is now the second most used language on the web. In:, March 19, 2013, accessed August 13, 2018.
  8. Russian ( English ) Retrieved October 13, 2019.