Russian, the most widely spoken Slavic language in the world, has around 167 million native speakers. There are an additional 100 million second language speakers spread across Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union as well as the former Warsaw Pact nations and other states that fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.
Significant numbers of Russian speakers can also be found in the United States and Israel. Russian is the official language of Russia and is a co-official language in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Russian is an Indo-European language and is part of the East Slavic family of languages, which includes Belarusian and Ukrainian. There are three main Russian dialects:
- A Northern group that extends from St. Petersburg eastward across Siberia.
- A Southern group that can be found throughout most of central and southern Russia.
- A Central group that lies between the Northern and Southern dialect clusters. Modern standard Russian belongs to this dialect.