Russian language

Russian is an East Slavic language, an official language in Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages, one of the four living members of the East Slavic languages, part of the larger Balto-Slavic branch. Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onward. Russian is the largest native language in Europe and the most geographically widespread language in Eurasia, it is the most spoken of the Slavic languages, with 144 million speakers in Russia and Belarus. Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers and the seventh by total number of speakers.

The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian is the second most widespread language on the Internet, after English. Russian distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without, the so-called soft and hard sounds; every consonant has a hard or a soft counterpart, the distinction is a prominent feature of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels. Stress, unpredictable, is not indicated orthographically though an optional acute accent may be used to mark stress, such as to distinguish between homographic words, for example замо́к and за́мок, or to indicate the proper pronunciation of uncommon words or names. Russian is an East Slavic language of the wider Indo-European family, it is a descendant of the language used in Kievan Rus', a loose conglomerate of East Slavic tribes from the late 9th to the mid 13th centuries. From the point of view of spoken language, its closest relatives are Ukrainian and Rusyn, the other three languages in the East Slavic branch.

In many places in eastern and southern Ukraine and throughout Belarus, these languages are spoken interchangeably, in certain areas traditional bilingualism resulted in language mixtures such as Surzhyk in eastern Ukraine and Trasianka in Belarus. An East Slavic Old Novgorod dialect, although it vanished during the 15th or 16th century, is sometimes considered to have played a significant role in the formation of modern Russian. Russian has notable lexical similarities with Bulgarian due to a common Church Slavonic influence on both languages, as well as because of interaction in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bulgarian grammar differs markedly from Russian. In the 19th century, the language was called "Great Russian" to distinguish it from Belarusian called "White Russian" and Ukrainian called "Little Russian"; the vocabulary, principles of word formations, and, to some extent and literary style of Russian have been influenced by Church Slavonic, a developed and russified form of the South Slavic Old Church Slavonic language used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

However, the East Slavic forms have tended to be used in the various dialects that are experiencing a rapid decline. In some cases, both the East Slavic and the Church Slavonic forms are in use, with many different meanings. For details, see Russian phonology and History of the Russian language. Over the course of centuries, the vocabulary and literary style of Russian have been influenced by Western and Central European languages such as Greek, Polish, German, French and English, to a lesser extent the languages to the south and the east: Uralic, Turkic and Arabic, as well as Hebrew. According to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Russian is classified as a level III language in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers, requiring 1,100 hours of immersion instruction to achieve intermediate fluency, it is regarded by the United States Intelligence Community as a "hard target" language, due to both its difficulty to master for English speakers and its critical role in U.

S. world policy. Feudal divisions and conflicts as well as other obstacles to the exchange of goods and ideas that ancient Russian principalities have suffered from before and during the Mongol yoke strengthened dialectical differences and for a while prevented the emergence of the standardized national language; the formation of the unified and centralized Russian state in 15th and 16th centuries and the gradual emergence of a common political and cultural space have created the need for a common standard language. The initial impulse for the standardization came from the government bureaucracy for the lack of a reliable tool of communication in administrative and judicial affairs became an obvious practical problem; the earliest attempts at standardizing Russian were made based on the so-called Moscow official or chancery language. Since the underlying logic of language reforms in Russia reflected the considerations of standardizing and streamlining language norms and rules in order to ensure the Russian language's role as a practical tool of communication and administration.

The current standard form of Russian is regarded as the modern Russian literary language. It arose in the beginning of the 18th century with the modernization r

2017–18 Top League

The 2017–18 Top League was the 15th season of Japan's top-tier domestic rugby union competition, the Top League. The tournament was won by Suntory Sungoliath for the fifth time, beating Panasonic Wild Knights 12–8 in the final played on 13 January 2018. Kintetsu Liners were automatically relegated to the second-tier Top Challenge League competition for 2018 and NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes were relegated after losing in their relegation play-off match. In January 2017, the JRFU announced that the Top League competition would be held earlier in the year, in order to aid the Japanese Super Rugby franchise the Sunwolves' preparations for the following season; the sixteen Top League teams would be divided into two conferences for the first stage of the competition. All sixteen teams will progress to a play-off stage; the title play-offs will double as the All-Japan Rugby Football Championship, which would no longer include university teams. The team that finishes 16th will be automatically relegated to the 2018 Top Challenge League, while the other three teams in the 13th-place play-off will all play in relegation play-off matches.

The following teams took part in the 2017–18 Top League competition: NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes won the 2016–17 Top League Challenge 1 series to win promotion back to the Top League after a one-season absence. The final standings for the 2017–18 Top League First Stage were: The 2017–2018 Top League fixtures are: The final standings for the 2017–18 Top League are: The title play-offs double up as the 55th All-Japan Rugby Football Championship. Honda Heat was promoted to the 2018–19 Top League as champions of the 2017 Top Challenge League, replacing the 16th-placed Kintetsu Liners. In addition, there were three promotion/relegation play-offs for three places in the 2018–19 Top League; the teams ranked 13th, 14th and 15th in the Top League played off against the teams ranked 4th, 3rd and 2nd in the 2017 Top Challenge League respectively. Hino Red Dolphins beat NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes 20–17 to replace them in the Top League for 2018–19, with latter being relegated to the Top Challenge League. Coca-Cola Red Sparks and Munakata Sanix Blues retained their places in the Top League for 2018–19, with the former drawing against Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars and the latter beating Kyuden Voltex.

2017 Top Challenge League

Rex Willis

William Rex Willis was a Welsh international rugby union scrum-half who played club rugby for Cardiff and invitational rugby for the Barbarians. He won 21 caps for Wales and was selected to play in the British Lions on the 1950 tour of Australia and New Zealand, he played the last half-hour of the 1952 Five Nations Championship against Scotland with his jaw broken in several places. Willis was educated in England before boarding at The Cathedral School, at Pangbourne Nautical College in Berkshire. During WW2 he served in the Royal Navy, he returned to Wales. He joined Cardiff based rugby club Llandaff before switching to Cardiff RFC. At Cardiff he was the under-study for Welsh captain, Haydn Tanner and would cover his position while Tanner was away on international duties. During this period Willis linked up with fellow Rhondda born Cardiff player, Cliff Morgan, a relationship that would last throughout their club and country careers; when Tanner retired during the 1949/50 season, Willis was promoted into his position and gained regular first-class rugby.

Although ignored for Welsh trials during 1949, the disastrous Five Nations Championship of that year forced the selectors to look for a new half-back partnership. Willis was chosen alongside team mate Billy Cleaver to face England at Twickenham in the opening game of the 1950 Championship in front of the largest crowd seen to date at the stadium. Willis had an excellent match, releasing Cleaver, who in turn controlled the match which saw Wales win the game. In the next game against Scotland, Willis protected Cleaver from the Scottish back row which resulted in Cleaver scoring a drop goal. With tries from Thomas and Ken Jones Wales ran in easy winners after subduing the Scottish pack in the first half of the game. Willis kept his place for the next game in a narrow win against Ireland, which saw Wales lift the Triple Crown, in the final game, victory over France resulted in the first Grand Slam for Wales since 1911. After his performance during the Championship, along with Cardiff backs Cleaver, Jones and Matthews, was chosen for the British Lions in their 1950 tour of Australia and New Zealand.

For Willis, the excellent Rimmer and Black were on the tour and were picked ahead of Willis. The tactical spoiling of the All Blacks was too much for the smaller scrum-halves, Willis was drafted in for the Fourth Test at Auckland, retained his place for the final two tests in Australia. Willis was back for all four matches in the 1951 Five Nations Championship again under the captaincy of John Gwilliam, who had led the team to their Grand Slam victory the previous year. Willis was now partnered with Cliff Morgan at Cardiff. Morale was high after a one sided affair in their opening game against England, but Willis experienced his first loss with Wales when the team was beaten 19–0 by an inexperienced Scottish team. Despite the loss the Welsh selectors kept faith with the players for the next match, dropping only one player, Willis's partner, Davies; this allowed the introduction of Morgan. Towards the end on 1951, Willis faced; the first was for Cardiff in October, when at the Cardiff Arms Park, his club team lost by a single point.

Willis faced the same team two months when he was selected to represent Wales against the tourists. It was a game Wales should have won, but the backs, Cliff Morgan played a poor kicking game that wasted excellent work by the Welsh pack. In his last game against South Africa, Willis was chosen for the invitational Barbarians team in the final match of the tour and for the third time Willis found himself on the losing side. Willis played only two games of the 1952 Five Nations Championship, but played his part in a second Grand Slam winning year, he was instrumental in allowing Morgan to regain his form through his defensive shielding of his club partner during the first game against England. In the 1953 Championship he was considered not fit enough to face England, was forced to leave the field when he injured his shoulder against Scotland; as in 1951, Willis was chosen to face another touring team on three occasions in 1953, when Cardiff and the Barbarians played the All Blacks. Unlike the South African games though, in two of these games Willis was on the victorious side.

For Cardiff, Willis was at his best while in the game for Wales and Morgan were focused and steady, in the last ten minutes shepherded their country to its final win over New Zealand that century. The Barbarians were not so successful, losing 5–19, though Willis was given the privilege of captaining the team. Willis was selected for all four matches of the 1954 Five Nations Championship and although losing the opening game to England, the team won the overall Championship on score difference. In the third match of the tournament against France, Willis was awarded the captaincy; the captaincy switched from Ken Jones to Bleddyn Williams before Willis was given the captaincy again in the second match of the 1955 Championship versus Scotland. It was the only match Wales lost that year, but did not stop them winning the tournament for the fourth time that decade; the final Welsh game of 1955 was the last for Willis, though he continued playing for Cardiff until the end of the 1957/58 season. In 1955 he turned down an invite to tour again with the British Lions though there was supposed to be a bar on inviting players over the age of thirty.

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