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Studying Russian - where?

Hi everyone,

I've recently been thinking about taking a sabbatical in january, for up to 6 months, to learn Russian. After some travels in Russia and several of the ex-Soviet states I just can't help but feel like this would be an incredibly useful and interesting language to know. Culturally, that part of the world appeals to me as well.

Now, I have experience in learning foreign languages, but I have to live and study in a Russian speaking country if I want to make this happen. So the question then is, which country/city should I go for?

Of course, there's a few things to consider. Russian needs to be widely used there, and not just understood. I want to be exposed to the language constantly, so people have to actually speak it or an accent/dialect which is close to it. It doesn't have to be the cheapest place on earth, but since I won't be working but rather studying full-time, it can't be super expensive either. I don't really care about the climate or how far it is or things like that though.

I was hoping that some people here, perhaps locals from Russian-speaking countries, or expats / students with experience in learning the language in one of those countries, could help me choose. Hopefully with a few pro's and possibly con's, to make a decision!

Options that I have been exploring are Belarus (Minsk), Ukraine (Kiev) and Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek). I think Moscow or Almaty would be too expensive, but not too sure. I loved the Caucasus when I was there but I think Georgia, Armenia, or Azerbaijan use their own languages much more than Russian, and their own languages aren't exactly similar.

Any other ideas? Many thanks!