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Russian belongs to the Indo-European family, Slavonic group, East Slavonic subgroup and is spoken by over 290 million people, including second language users, in all countries. Russian was the lingua franca of the Russian Empire and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); it is still used as a second language in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Russian includes three groups of dialects: northern, southern, and central. Literary Russian is essentially based on the central dialect of Moscow.
The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which originated from the first translation of the Christian Bible into a Slavic language (Paleoslav, or ancient Bulgarian, spoken in what is modern Macedonia, from which all Slavic languages descended), by Saint Methodius and Saint Cyril of Constantinople, in the 9th century. Subsequent to the 1918 reform of Russian orthography, certain letters of the alphabet were suppressed and spelling rules simplified.
In Russian grammar verbs generally have two aspects, each represented by a separate infinitive: the "imperfective" to indicate a continuing action, and the "perfective" to indicate an action already completed or to be completed. The stress in Russian is also particularly difficult, impossible to predict in an unfamiliar word, and frequently shifting in the course of declensions or conjugations.
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