11 Biggest Russian-Speaking Countries In The World

11 Biggest Russian-Speaking Countries In The World

Have you been to a Russian-speaking country? Would you want to test your skills or become better at speaking this language? We made a list of countries with the biggest Russian-speaking populations to help you decide your next learning destination. 

Did you know that there are roughly 6,500 languages spoken in the world on a daily basis? And out of those 6,500 languages, a handful are spoken by millions of people that span from one continent to another. One of these international languages is Russian, a language that spans from European to Asian countries. As of now, there are more than 258 million Russian speakers all around the world. 

Being an international language, the Russian language attracts a lot of L2 learners. In fact, there are more L2 speakers than natives from Russian-speaking countries all around the world. Although most Russian speakers reside in European countries, there are countries in Asia and North America that use the language to some degree. Because of its popularity, it is one of the UN’s six official languages, along with Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, and English. 

If you’re looking for a new learning destination, you got a lot of countries to choose from. Take note: before coming to these countries, it’s better to learn a few basic words before you land. Here are the countries with the most Russian speakers worldwide. 

11 Russian-Speaking Countries (Some of Them May Surprise You)

1. Russia

Russia is currently the biggest Russian-speaking country, with almost 86% of the population speaking Russian. It is followed by Tatar and Ukrainian, which only has over 7 million speakers. It is currently the country with the most number of natives. As of now, Russian serves as the official state language of the country. 

According to World Atlas, there are more than 137 million Russian speakers in Russia. It's safe to say that studying in Russia would be the most Russian experience. Make sure to enjoy all the available historical destinations such as the State Hermitage Museum and the Krasnaya Ploshchad.

2. Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is another nation that uses Russian as its nation-wide language. It is one of the largest Russian speaking countries in the world and the largest one in Asia. Russian is a co-official language of choice in this country, along with the Turkic language, Kazakh. There are roughly 16.9 million Russian speakers in Kazakhstan right now. 

The Russian language is only used routinely for business and international things. Its purpose is to also enable communication between inter-ethnic communities. Cyrillic is still widely used in the country, but it is planned to be replaced with Latin by 2025. 

3. Ukraine

Ukraine is the third country with the largest Russian speakers in the world. It is surrounded by other Russian-speaking countries like Belarus, Moldova, and Romania. Ukrainian is the state language of the country, but Russian follows the list of its most spoken languages. Majority of the Russian speakers in Ukraine reside in the eastern and southern part. 

At the moment, there are more than 8.3 million Russian speakers in Ukraine. Crimea, a region in Ukraine, uses the language as their state language. Almost 30% of the country’s population are natives of the Russian language, while some pick it as a second language. Both Russian and Ukrainian are used in professional settings. 

4. Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, or also known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. Just like Ukraine, it is a neighbor to another Russian-speaking country, Kazakhstan. Along with the Turkic Kyrgyz, Russian is a state language. There are 2.5 million Russian natives in the country, and the majority of these are L2 speakers. 

Both Kyrgyz and Russian are used daily in both formal and informal ways. The language is also used in business communication and high-level talks among the government. Russian was adopted as a national language in 1997, making the country officially bilingual.

5. Israel

Israel resides in Western Asia, and simply one of the oddest entries in the mix. The country’s national language is Hebrew, with Arabic having a “Special Status in the State”. But nevertheless, there are Russian-speaking communities that comprise 1.5 million speakers. This constitutes 15% of the whole population. 

The widespread usage of the Russian language occurred from 1990 to 2004, when Russian immigrants brought the language with them to the country. In addition to Russian, there are communities that speak French, Amharic, and English. Hence, if you went to Israel, it is common to see road signs with Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, and English writings. 

6. Belarus

Belarus, formerly known as Belorussia, is a country located near Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. It uses both Belarussian and Russian as its state language, which Polish, Ukrainian, and Yiddish as minority languages. There are 6.6 million Russian speakers, which is roughly 70% of the Belarusian population. Only 23$ actually speaks Belarusian, even if it’s the official state language. 

This is an understandable phenomenon because Belarusian is actually very similar to Russian. Even if you only know Russian, you can easily pick up Belarussian words without prior experience. Most people use Russian in education, entertainment, and daily conversations. 

7. United States

Although this can be an odd one, Russian is in the top 10 most spoken languages in the United States. In fact, there are roughly a million who speak the language at home as of 2017. It is even higher than German, Portuguese, or Italian. There are places known for having a sizeable amount of Russian communities, such as Brooklyn. 

Fun fact: did you know that because the United States is a hotspot for different cultures, both Arizona and Texas decided to have no official language? Even the Department of Motor Vehicles publishes their documents in nine languages, including Russian.

8. Latvia 

Latvia is located in the Baltic Region, near Estonia, Lithuania, and Russia. As of 2019, the population of Latvia has 24.7% Russians, making it one of the largest communities in the country. Although the number of Russian speakers in the country had dwindled over the years, it is still considered the biggest minority language. 

Russian was the language of choice during the Soviet period, which was eventually overtaken by the Baltic Latvian. With Latvian as the national language, most of the dealings and instructions are written in this language. However, Russian is still used to some degree, even in universities and private colleges. 

9. Estonia

Estonia is another country near Russia, as well as Latvia. The official language is the Uralic Estonian, which is spoken daily by the majority of the population. But just like Latvia, Russian is also the most widely used minority language with roughly 25% of the population, especially in the Capital City of Tallinn and Ida-Virumaa. 

During the Soviet era, Russian was thought of as a second language in schools, so most people learned it as a second language. Hence, you can see the older population predominantly use this instead of the younger population. Nonetheless, Russian is still the most common language learned by Estonian students, along with English and German. 

10. Lithuania

As a result of being in the Baltic region of Europe, Lithuania also has its share of Russian speakers. It is bordered by Latvia and Belarus, both have a huge amount of Russian-speaking communities. Its state language is Lithuanian/ Both Russian and Polish are considered regional languages. As of the latest data from World Atlas, there are more than 140,000 Russian speakers in the country. 

However, about 39% of the country’s population speak Russian as a second language. It is the highest minority language, as well as the most spoken foreign language in the country, like Latvia and Estonia. Other languages like English, German, and French are used in various regions. 

11. Germany

Germany is yet another odd addition to the mix. It has the highest Russian-speaking population outside of the former Soviet Union. Even if the Russian speaking population is only roughly 3% of the whole population, this percentage equals 2.2 million speakers. The Russian-speaking communities are divided into Aussiedler, ethnic Russians, and Jews. Just like other countries on the list, the emergence of Russian speakers in Germany is due to the mass migration during 1991. 

Fun Facts About The Russian Language

Learning Russian is fun and rewarding for a lot of polyglots. Due to its challenging aspect, learning it as an L2 is a real feat. Fortunately, there is also a fun aspect of learning this language. For example, if you’re a Russian speaker, you would be able to identify and precisely pinpoint different shades of blue. Here are the other things that make Russian a fun language to learn. 

Russian Is The Language Of Space

Since most astronauts are from Russia, this language has been considered as one of the languages of Space. This is because aspiring astronauts from other countries would also need to train in the Russian ground, which has some of the best space facilities. This is especially true when launching and landing space crafts, which are often displayed in Russian. 

In fact, most people aboard the International Space Station speak “Runglish” because almost all people on space missions speak both languages. 

Russian is The Eighth Most Spoken Language 

Did you know that Russian is one of the eighth most spoken languages in the world? But that’s not actually surprising, because when you know how the Russian language works under the hood, learning it becomes very easy. It’s still not too late to join millions of Russian speakers all over the world. 

Russian Jokes 

If you enjoy punchy, short, and entertaining jokes, look no further. Russian jokes are known for giving endless plot twists and an unhealthy dose of sarcasm. These jokes are evidence that you can use language in a very creative and meaningful way. 

Russian Words That Starts With “A” Are Rare

Another unique characteristic of the Russian language is its apparent avoidance of the letter “A” in words. There are only a handful of words that starts with “A” because of the changes made when Old Russian was transformed into its modern counterpart. In fact, if you check this online Russian dictionary, only 9 words are on the page for “a” entry. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to continue your Russian language journey, getting the experience of a real Russian conversation is a must. Although you can get experience in movies, TV shows, and even Russian podcasts, learning in a conversation is still the best language teacher. So visiting a Russian speaking country is always recommended.

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