The following rules are not comprehensive, as they stem from half a semester of Russian. Within the next half a semester, alterations may occur. Russian sounds and words are spelled phonetically in English. I may one day add Cyrillic characters, but for now, this should help with pronunciation.
Gender of Nouns
Unlike many Romance languages, Russian makes use of three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. In the nominative case, masculine nouns end in "zero" (i.e., a consonant) or a soft sign, feminine nouns end in "a" or "ya", and neuter nouns end in "o" or "e (pronounced "yeh")". Anything and everything that has to do with the noun - adjectives, past tense verbs, demonstrative and possessive pronouns, and many more - must agree with the noun in gender. More on this to come.
Hard and Soft Consonants
Yes, Russian has two different kinds of consonants. Almost every Russian consonant can be either hard or soft. "Hard" means "normal" and "soft" means "as though is has a very small 'y' sound after it". Whether a consonant is hard or soft determines which vowels can follow it: hard consonants are followed by "a", "o", "oo", "eh", or "euh", and soft consonants are followed by "ya", "yo", "yoo", "yeh", or "yee". Some consonants are always hard - "sha", "zhe", "tse" - and some are always soft - "shcha", "che", "yot". This annoying rule will return in Spelling Rules below.
Intonational Constructions (ICs) are used to designate emphasis, emotion, and questions. Each consists of a movement or change in the pitch of the voice, falling on the stressed syllable of the most important word in the sentence or clause. In term of intonational construction, the sentence or clause is made up of three parts: pre-tonic, tonic (stressed), and post-tonic.
There are seven basic ICs; IC-5, IC-6, and IC-7 are used for emphasis and emotion. The first four are explained below.
IC-1 is the form of the everyday, declarative sentence. The pre-tonic portion of the sentence is pronounced in a level, normal tone; pitch falls on the stress syllable; pitch stays low for the rest of the sentence. For example, the sentence "Eta moy dom" (This is my house) can be pronounced one of three ways, for changing emphasis: Eta moy dom, Eta moy dom, Eta moy dom, where bold represents a fall in pitch.
IC-2 is used in interrogative sentences containing a question word: Where's the dog?, What's this?, Who are you?, etc. It is pronounced with a falling tone greater than that in IC-1. The post-tonic part of the sentence keeps the low pitch and falls slightly more on the very last syllable. Again, the falling tone can be on any syllable that clarifies meaning, not necessarily the question word. Here's a fun example for you to practice with: "Gde tvoy zelyonie pomidor?", "Where's your green tomato?".
IC-3 is used in questions that do not contain a question word: Is my book over there?, Dinner at 7?, etc. (Russian has no word for "is" - "to be" exists only in the past tense. There should, therefore, be no squabbles as to its meaning.) The pre-tonic part of the sentence has a medium tone; the stressed part contains a sharp rise, and the post-tonic portion is lower than medium, again with a slight fall on the last syllable. Again, placement of stress varies to change meaning. A sentence for practice: "Veuh khoteet chitat Tolstoy?", "Do you want to read Tolstoy?"
IC-4 is used in short interrogative sentences beginning with "and": And you?, And your dog?, And that yellow tree?, etc. Pre-tonic words are on a medium tone, the stressed word begins with a falling tone changing to higher-than-medium pitch, and post-tonic words remain high. This is very similar to the English pronunciation of questions without sentence words. An example: "Maya koshka glupaya. A tvaya?", "My cat is stupid. And yours?"
Plural of Nouns
Formation of the nominative plural of Russian nouns depends on the gender of the noun and the hard/softness of its final consonants. Final vowels and/or soft signs are dropped and replaced by one of the following endings: for masculine and feminine, "euh" if hard, "yee" if soft; for neuter, "a" if hard, "ya" if soft. For example, "kvartira" (apartment) becomes "kvartireuh" and "piecmo" (letter) becomes "piecma". Occasionally, there is a stress shift with a pluralization, but stress in general is beyond the scope of this node. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as children (deti), people (lyudi), friends (druzya), brothers (bratya) - these are also beyond the scope of this node.
Plurals and other changes to the stem of words are governed by certain spelling rules related to hardness and softness. When there is a choice of vowels to be added (as "euh" vs "yee", "a" vs "ya" above - different choices for adjective endings), there are certain consonants that are not allowed a choice.
After "ka", "geh", "kha", "sha", "zhe", "che", and "shcha", only "yee" is spelled - never "euh".
After "ka", "geh", "kha", "sha", "zhe", "che", "shcha", and "tse", only "a" and "oo" are spelled - never "ya" or "yoo".
After "sha", "zhe", "che", "shcha", and "tse", "o" may be written only if stressed; otherwise "yeh" is used. (Oops, I guess I'm talking about stress after all. Oh well.)
Prepositional Case - Nouns
Forming the prepositional case (in the bathroom, on the desk, under the bed) is easy. All you do is shear off the last vowel or soft sign from the noun and add "yeh". Sometimes there's an annoying stress shift, too.
Prepositions "V" and "Na"
"V" means "at" or "in": "v kvartiryeh", "in (at) the apartment". "Na" means "on (top of)": "na polkyeh", "on the shelf". There are a few nouns which can never be used with "v" - for these, "na" is used instead. "Dacha" (summer house), "pochta" (post office), "rabota" (work) and "kookhnya" (kitchen) are a few of these.
Demonstrative and Possessive Pronouns
Demonstrative and possessive pronouns must agree in gender and number with the noun they modify. The following lists are in order as masculine, feminine, neuter, plural.
My: moy, maya, moyo, moyee
Your (informal, singular): tvoy, tvoya, tvoyo, tvoyee
Our: nash, nasha, nashyeh, nashyee
Your (formal, plural): vash, vasha, vashyeh, vashyee
This: etot, eta, eto, etyee
That: tot, ta, to, tyeh
"His" and "Hers" never change: His: evo, Hers: yehyoh
Prepositional Case: Demostrative and Possessive Pronouns
If one wants to say something like "in my house", "on our table", "in that book", the pronoun must not only agree in gender but must also be in prepositional case. The male and neuter cases are the same.
My: moyom, moyey
Your (inf, sing): tvoyom, tvoyey
Our: nashem, nashyey
Your (form, pl): vashyem, vashyey
This: etom, etyoy
That: tom, tyoy
Adjectives must agree in number, gender, and case with the noun modified. Adjectives are usually given in their masculine form - ending in "euhy" or "oy". To form the feminine, replace the ending with "aya"; neuter, replace the ending with "oyeh"; plural, replace the ending with "euhyeh". Spelling rules also apply, as laid out above. Examples:
noveuhy droog - new friend
malinkaya koshka - little cat
Adjectives can also be used as predicates:
Etot sharf noveuhy. - This scarf is new. (This scarf is a new one.)
Verbs consist of a stem. Endings are added to this stem according to conjugation, person, and tense, or infinitive. The person endings are always:
1st person singular: "oo"
2nd person singular: "sha" + soft sign
3rd person singular: "t"
1st person plural: "m"
2nd person plural: "tyeh"
3rd person plural: "t"
The past tense ending is always:
The infinitive ending is always:
"t" + soft sign
Verbs: First Conjugation
The stem of first conjugation verbs ends in "ay". The first conjugation marker for these verbs is "zero" for first person, "yo" for second person, third person singular, and first person plural, and "oo" for third person plural. These are all, of course, governed by spelling and hard/soft rules.
Sample conjugation: chitay- : read
Teuh chitayesh (+ soft sign)
chitat (+ soft sign)
Verbs: Second Conjugation
The stem of second conjugation verbs ends in "ee". The second conjugation marker for these verbs is "zero" for first person singular, "yee" for second person, third person singular, and first person plural, and "a" for third person plural. Again, these are all governed by spelling and hard/soft rules.
Sample conjugation: govoryee- : speak
Teuh govoryeesh (+ soft sign)
govoryeet (+ soft sign)
More to come? Perhaps.