Russian (русский язык), which is written in Cyrillic script, is one of the world's major languages. It is one of the five languages of the United Nations and some of the world's best literature has been written in the language, as well as some of its most prestigious output in fields such as engineering and science.
It is a member of the Indo-European language family and a relative of such languages as Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit, as well as Celtic and the modern Germanic languages which include French and English. As a spoken language, Russian's closest cousins are Ukrainian and Belarusian. Russian is used mainly in Russia and, to a lesser extent, in the former republics of old Soviet Union. In total, there are about 250 million speakers of Russian today, including 180 million people that live within the territories once within the boundaries of the Soviet Union.
Given the vastness of the territory, it is not surprising that there are a large number of dialects in the Russian language. Some linguists place them into two main regional groups, "Northern" and "Southern," with Moscow representing the transitional zone between the two. Others separate the language into three distinct groups, Northern, Central and Southern, with Moscow representing the Central region. Within Russia, dozens of smaller variants are recognized.