breakup of the Soviet Union. It began to experience a rapid decline starting in the mid-90s. The decline has slowed to near stagnation in recent years due to reduced death rates, increased birth rates and increased immigration. The number of deaths during 2008 was 363,500 greater than the number of births. This is down from 477,700 in 2007, and 687,100 in 2006. According to data published by the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, the mortality rate in Russia declined 4% in 2007, as compared to 2006, reaching some 2 million deaths, while the birth rate grew 8.3% year-on-year to an estimated 1.6 million live births.
The primary causes of Russia's population decrease are a high death rate and low birth rate. While Russia's birth-rate is comparable to that of other European countries (12.1 births per 1000 people
in 2008 compared to the European Union average of 9.90 per 1000) its population is declining at a greater rate than many due to a substantially higher death rate (in 2008, Russia's death rate was 14.5 per 1000 people compared to the European Union average of 10.28 per 1000). However, the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs predicts that by 2011, the death rate will equal the birth rate due to increases in fertility and decline in mortality.
Russia's 160 ethnic groups speak some 100 languages. According to the 2002 census, 142.6 million people speak Russian, followed by Tatar with 5.3 million and Ukrainian with 1.8 million speakers. Russian is the only official state language, but the Constitution gives the individual republics the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian.
Despite its wide dispersal, the Russian language is homogeneous throughout Russia. Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken Slavic language. Russian belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages; the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn). Written examples of Old East Slavic (Old Russian) are attested from the 10th century onwards.
Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. Russian is also applied as a means of coding and storage of universal knowledge—60–70% of all world information is
Napoleon's withdrawal from Russia, a painting by Adolph Northen.