The Russian language is part of the Indo-European group of languages. Within this parent group, it belongs to the Slavic subgroup of languages along with Bulgarian, Croatian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian, and Czech languages. There are an estimated 260 million speakers of the language around the world. Of these, about 150 million are considered native speakers. .
The Russian alphabet was created by two Greek missionary brothers in the 9th century. It consists of 33 letters. The alphabet is written in the Cyrillic script. The earliest written records of the language date back to the 10th century in Novgorod. However, the language used in these records is not Russian as it is in the present day but Old Slavonic, the precursor to Russian. Old Slavonic was the chosen language of the Russian Orthodox Church. .
The language was adopted in its current version in the 18th century to overcome the problem of dealing with different dialects spoken in various regions of the country. The Moscow dialect was chosen to be the source of the new language. Rules for grammar for the Russian language were set in the mid-1700s and a Russian dictionary too came into being a few years later. .
Many words from other languages have become a part of Russian over the years, mainly from Persian, German, French, Arabic, and Italian. The converse holds true as well, especially where English is concerned. Many Russian words have become a part of the English lexicon with words such as sputnik, samovar, troika, tsar, intelligentsia, mammoth, sable etc. having been absorbed by English. .
Russian is one of the main official languages used in the United Nations. Apart from United Nations, it is also used by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UNESCO, International Atomic Energy Agency, and the International Olympic Committee. It also has the rare honour of being one of the two official languages in use on the International Space Station since 1975. .
Russian literature flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many classics were written by skilled authors such as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Gogol etc. who carved a place for themselves in world literature. However, the language used in these books was used only by the elite in the early 20th century with the others continuing their use of the dialects they were used to. To rectify this, the Soviet government initiated the compulsory education system that made the language popular and unified the country linguistically. There are occasional traces of local dialects, however, that do creep into the language at times.