Russian is not only the official language of Russia, the world’s largest country, but it’s also spoken in other Eastern European countries, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries home to large populations of ethnic Russians. As a Slavic language, it shares similarities with other such languages including Polish and Croatian, throughout the Eastern European region. There are an estimated 279 million Russian speakers (native and non-native), making it the fifth most spoken language in the world.
Russia’s vast resources and highly educated population make it a country with great economic potential. It is one of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) nations, a group of four countries that is projected to grow in economic influence over the coming decades. Fluency in Russian is a prerequisite to doing business in Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union, so speaking the language opens business opportunities in this large and important geographic area. English-Russian bilingualism is also useful in landing some jobs in the U.S. government, such as with the CIA and the State Department, and can lead to jobs as a translator, interpreter or foreign-correspondent journalist.