Russian is an East Slavic language, its closest relatives being Ukrainian and Belarusian. These three languages diverged from one another in the late Middle Ages. Modern Russian bears the influence of Church Slavonic, and of Western European languages whose speakers became more commonplace in Russia starting in Peter the Great's time.
During the 19th century, Russian writers produced many works that have come to be celebrated as among the greatest in any language. These include Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons.
Writing was a dangerous occupation in the Soviet period, when literature was often treated either as a tool of state propaganda or as something to be censored. Four of five Russian winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature from this time published their most famous works abroad, among them Boris Pasternak (author of Doctor Zhivago) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (author of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago).
("Russian language," "Russian literature," Encyclopedia Britannica)