Russian is the largest native language in Europe and is in the Slavic branch of the Indo-European group. It is a major language as it is spoken by 144 million people, spread across vast distances. It is also one of the 6 official languages of the UN. It is spoken as a native language in Russia and most ex-soviet states, and there are sizeable communities of Russian speakers in the US, Germany and Israel.
It uses 33 letters and is written in the Cyrillic script.
Around 15% longer than English.
Unusually for a language that is spread over such a huge area, Russian is relatively uniform in spelling and vocabulary. Some regional differences do exist but not to the same extent as in other languages. Russian-speaking groups in different countries do, however, normally require texts to be adapted to their specific locale.
Notable Grammar and Spelling Differences
Exclamation marks: When writing a letter, an exclamation mark often follows the introduction (e.g. Dear Michael!) where in English we would have a comma.
Italics: Whilst uppercase and lowercase Cyrillic letters are often straightforward (with one simply being a larger version of the other), Italics can be very confusing if you have only a partial knowledge of the language and are not accustomed to Cyrillic, as some letters are changed quite dramatically when italicised.
Quotation marks: Usually chevron style <<>> for indirect speech and the long em-dash for direct speech.
Numbers: The comma is used where English would use the decimal point and vice versa, e.g. 5.5 (English) = 5,5 (Russian), but 5,000 (English) is 5.000 (Russian).