10 Facts You Never Knew About the Russian Language

Russian Language

Written by Kristina Temelkova

I'm from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and I'm currently pursuing an English degree at the University of Vienna. My lifelong passions are languages and writing. I speak English, Bulgarian, German and Russian.

June 9, 2020

Russian is the 8th most spoken language in the world and one of the official languages of a UN. Indeed, establishing the 6th of June, a UN initiated “Russian Language Day” to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. This date coincides with the birthday of the Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, who is considered the father of modern Russian literature.

To mark UN Russian Language Day, we offer you 10 facts about one of the fastest-growing languages on the Internet.

1. The Cyrillic alphabet

Cyrillic or azbuka considered the Russian writing system. The First Bulgarian Empire developed it in the 9th century AD. The Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters – 10 vowels, 21 consonants, and 2 which don’t represent any sounds. It can be written in capitals, lowercase, and Cyrillic cursive. 


The Cyrillic alphabet

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2. Gender

Russian nouns have an easily recognizable gender type. Usually, feminine nouns end with  –a or –я while neutral with the letter –o or -e. Masculine nouns usually end with a consonant. However, there is a group of exceptions – nouns that end with the soft sign (ь) can either be feminine or masculine. There is no particular way to distinguish them.

Gender

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3. The Verb “to be”

One of the most prominent features of the Russian language is the lack of the verb “to be” in the present tense. For instance, an English sentence such as “You are beautiful” in Russian would look like so “You beautiful”. The verb “to be” appears only in its past or future form. 

4. The 50 Shades of Blue in Russian

Interestingly, in the Russian language two words, си́ний (dark blue) and голубо́й (lighter blue) used for blue –  and is seen as distinct basic colours in Russian. Some languages don’t distinguish blue and green. Here some more Russian words denoting shades of blue:

Shades of Blue in Russian

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5. The Language of the Space

Russian is well-known as “The Language of Space“. So you will need to learn some Russian if you want to become an astronaut. One of the largest space agencies in the world is the Russian Roscosmos. Moreover, since the computer system of the ISS is in both English and Russian. So learning Russian is a part of astronauts’ training. 

Roscosmos

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6. The letter “A”

The transition from Old to Modern Russian manifests several phonetic changes that simplified the language. For instance, the words beginning with the letter a- prefixed with the sound й-. A few notable exceptions include азбука (alphabet) and авось (perhaps). In most cases, however Russian words starting with a- considered borrowed from another language.

7. Stress patterns

Due to the radical change of meaning, the stress patterns of Russian words is very important. For instance, the phrase “я плачу” could mean either “I am paying” or “I am crying” depending on the stress.

8. Russian words in the English language

During the Space Race Russian has greatly influenced English. For example, the suffix –Nik from “Sputnik” (“fellow traveler”) appears in many English words such as beatnik, peacenik, and refusenik. Other interesting examples include bolshevik, cosmonaut, mammoth, pogrom, samovar, sputnik, taiga, tsar, ushanka, and vodka.

Sputnik

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9. The Russian Dictionary

The Russian language has a rather limited vocabulary – around 200,000 words. Wherein English has over 1,000,000 words As a result, many Russian words have multiple meanings.

Russian Language

10. The Russian names

Every Russian has three names. The first is the “given” name which is used to refer to the person. The last name is the surname or the family name. In Russian, the middle name is considered a patronymic name or in other words, a name that is derived from the name of the father. These patronymic names vary in terms of gender. The suffix -ovich or -evich is added for males, while -ovna or -evna is typically female. So, Mr. Ivan’s son would be Ivanovich while his daughter’s middle name would be Ivanovna.

Russian is believed to be one of the most difficult languages. If you need help localizing your content in Russian, just get in touch.

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