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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mari El Republic (English)
Республика Марий Эл (Russian)
Марий Эл Республик (Mari)
-  Republic  -
Map of Russia - Mari El Republic (2008-03).svg
Coordinates: 56°38′N 47°52′E / 56.633°N 47.867°E / 56.633; 47.867Coordinates: 56°38′N 47°52′E / 56.633°N 47.867°E / 56.633; 47.867
Coat of Arms of Mari El.svg
Coat of arms of Mari El
Flag of Mari El.svg
Flag of Mari El
Anthem National Anthem of the Mari El Republic[citation needed]
Political status
Country Russia
Political status Republic
Federal district Volga[1]
Economic region Volga-Vyatka[2]
Capital Yoshkar-Ola[citation needed]
Official languages Russian[3]; Russian, Mari[4]
Population (2002 Census)[5] 727,979 inhabitants
- Rank within Russia 66th
- Urban[5] 63.1%
- Rural[5] 36.9%
- Density 31 /km2 (100/sq mi)[6]
Area (as of the 2002 Census)[7] 23,200 km2 (8,957.6 sq mi)
- Rank within Russia 72nd
Established November 4, 1920[citation needed]
License plates 12
ISO 3166-2:RU RU-ME
Time zone MSK/MSD (UTC+3/+4)
Government (as of November 2008)
President[8] Leonid Markelov[9]
Legislature State Assembly[8]
Constitution Constitution of the Mari El Republic
Official website

Mari El Republic (Russian: Респу́блика Мари́й Эл; Mari: Марий Эл Республик) is a federal subject of Russia (a republic). The direct romanization of the republic's Russian and Mari names are Respublika Mariy El and Marii El Respublik, respectively. The republic is also sometimes called Mariy El or Marii El in English. Its capital is Yoshkar-Ola.

Mari El's indigenous Mari people are undergoing what most neutral observers see as ethnic persecution, with noted foreign leaders and diplomats, the European Parliament and the UNHCR calling for outside pressure to end this repression[10][11][12].



The Republic is located in the eastern part of the East European Plain of the Russian Federation, along the Volga River. The swampy Mari Depression is located in the west of the republic. 57% of the republic's territory is covered by forests.


There are 476 rivers in Mari El. Most of them are considered to be minor: 10-50 m wide and 0.5-1.4 m deep. They usually freeze from mid-November till mid-April. Major rivers include:


There are over two hundred lakes in Mari El, most of them with an area less than 1 km² and depth of 1-3 m. Many lakes are located among swamps. Swamps cover large areas (10-70 km², up to 100 km²), and usually freeze in December. Average depth of the swamps is .5-1.5 m (up to 3 m), but they are impassable in fall and spring due to flooding.

Major lakes include:

Natural resources

There are virtually no natural resources of industrial significance in the republic. Other resources include peat, mineral waters, and limestone.


Climate is moderately continental. Winters are moderately cold and snowy. Summers are warm and often rainy.

  • Average January temperature: −13 °C (8.6 °F)
  • Average July temperature: +19 °C (66.2 °F)
  • Average annual precipitation: 450–500 mm

Administrative divisions


  • Population: 727,979 (2002)
    • Urban: 459,687 (63.1%)
    • Rural: 268,292 (36.9%)
    • Male: 338,485 (46.5%)
    • Female: 389,494 (53.5%)
  • Females per 1000 males: 1,151
  • Average age: 36.7 years
    • Urban: 36.7 years
    • Rural: 36.7 years
    • Male: 34.0 years
    • Female: 39.0 years
  • Number of households: 263,382 (with 717,938 people)
    • Urban: 173,246 (with 455,006 people)
    • Rural: 90,136 (with 262,932 people)
  • Vital statistics
Source: Russian Federal State Statistics Service
Births Deaths Birth rate Death rate
1970 10,505 6,364 15.3 9.3
1975 11,816 7,190 17.0 10.3
1980 13,169 8,091 18.5 11.4
1985 14,198 8,529 19.5 11.7
1990 11,953 7,775 15.8 10.3
1991 10,578 7,786 14.0 10.3
1992 9,227 8,330 12.2 11.0
1993 8,019 9,622 10.6 12.7
1994 7,851 10,788 10.4 14.2
1995 7,337 9,999 9.7 13.2
1996 6,952 9,495 9.2 12.6
1997 6,782 9,625 9.0 12.8
1998 6,657 9,623 8.9 12.8
1999 6,597 10,674 8.8 14.3
2000 6,784 11,040 9.1 14.9
2001 6,832 11,434 9.3 15.5
2002 7,300 12,105 10.0 16.6
2003 7,515 11,861 10.4 16.4
2004 7,715 12,098 10.7 16.8
2005 7,475 12,256 10.5 17.2
2006 7,550 11,286 10.6 15.9
2007 8,306 10,745 11.8 15.2
2008 8,620 10,699 12.3 15.2
  • Ethnic groups

Though the Mari people have lived in the area for millennia, they did not have a designated territory before the Russian Revolution of 1917. According to the 2002 Census only 51.7% of the Mari within Russia live in Mari El, while 17.5% live in Bashkortostan. During the last Soviet Census (1989) 4% of the Mari of the Soviet Union lived outside of Russia.

Since World War Two, more ethnic Russians and Tatars have moved into the area. According to the 2002 Census, Russians make up 47.5% of the republic's population, while the ethnic Mari make up 42.3%. Other groups include Tatars (6.0%), Chuvash (1.0%), Ukrainians (5,097, or 0.7%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population. 2,911 people (0.4%) did not indicate their nationalities during the Census.

census 1926 census 1939 census 1959 census 1970 census 1979 census 1989 census 2002
Mari 247,979 (51.4%) 273,332 (47.2%) 279,450 (43.1%) 299,179 (43.7%) 306,627 (43.5%) 324,349 (43.3%) 312,178 (42.9%)
Russians 210,016 (43.6%) 266,951 (46.1%) 309,514 (47.8%) 320,825 (46.9%) 334,561 (47.5%) 355,973 (47.5%) 345,513 (47.5%)
Tatars 20,219 (4.2%) 27,149 (4.7%) 38,821 (6.0%) 40,279 (5.9%) 40,917 (5.8%) 43,850 (5.9%) 43,377 (6.0%)
Chuvash 2,184 (0.5%) 5,504 (0.9%) 9,065 (1.4%) 9,032 (1.3%) 8,087 (1.1%) 8,993 (1.2%) 7,418 (1.0%)
Others 1,703 (0.4%) 6,674 (1.2%) 10,830 (1.7%) 15,433 (2.3%) 14,015 (2.0%) 16,167 (2.2%) 19,943 (2.7%)


Map of Mari El

Ancient Mari tribes were known since the 5th century, though archeologists suspect Mari culture to be much older in its roots. Later their area was a tributary of Volga Bulgaria and the Golden Horde. In the 1440s it was incorporated into the Khanate of Kazan and was occupied by Russia after the fall of Kazan in 1552.

Mari Autonomous Oblast was established on November 4, 1920. It was re-organized into Mari ASSR on December 5, 1936.

In its present form the Mari El Republic was formed on December 22, 1990.


The head of government in the Mari El Republic is the President. As of 2008, the president is Leonid Markelov, who was elected in January 2001.

The ethnic Mari people are under heavy Russification and Leonid Markelov has ordered many Mari language newspapers to close.[citation needed] Many ethnic Mari activists live under fear of violence. The Mari activist and chief editor Vladimir Kozlov was badly beaten after he published criticism toward Leonid Markelov's politics. Other Mari leaders have been the subjects of violence, legal persecution and intimidation[14]

The Marla faith of the Mari people has encountered hostility as well. Vitaly Tanakov was charged with inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred after publishing the book The Priest Speaks[15].

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) in an exhaustive 2006 report "Russian Federation: The Human Rights Situation of the Mari Minority of the Republic of Mari El," found widespread evidence of political and cultural persecution of Mari people, and of "a broader trend of repression of dissidents in the republic." They note that because of the relative obscurity of the Mari people and culture in the global context, no major NGOs have yet taken up the cause of protecting their rights.[16]


The most developed industries are machine construction, metal working, timber, woodworking, and food industries. Most of the industrial enterprises are located in the capital Yoshkar-Ola, as well as in the towns of Kozmodemyansk, Volzhsk, and Zvenigovo


Traveling cheaply and quickly to various towns and villages in Mari El is made possible through a network of fifteen train stations, fifty-three bus stations, and numerous marshrutkas. The republic is connected to different regions throughout Russia by daily trains to and from Moscow and Kazan, an airport located near Yoshkar-Ola, and a port on the Volga River in Kozmodemyansk. There are also four other minor river ports in Mari El.


Telephony, Internet service, and cable television are provided by Volga Telecom.


There are many museums located throughout the territory of Mari El. The largest ones include the National Museum, the Museum of History, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Yoshkar-Ola; the Museum of Arts and History, the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, and the Merchant Life Museum in Kozmodemyansk; and the Sheremetevo Castle Museum-reserve in Yurino. There are also museums dedicated to the poet Nikolay Mukhin and the composer Ivan Klyuchnikov-Palantay in Yoshkar-Ola and the house-museum of writer Sergei Chavayn in Chavaynur.

Five theaters are located in Yoshkar-Ola with performances in both the Russian and Mari languages, though it should be noted that the Mari Nationa Theater, a major ethnic institution, was closed by the government. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) in their 2006 report "Russian Federation: The Human Rights Situation of the Mari Minority of the Republic of Mari El, reported "The closure of the Mari National Theater, which had been a key element of Mari cultural life ever since its foundation in 1919, was perceived as a direct attack on Mari culture."


The most important facilities of higher education are Mari State Technical University and Mari State University, both located in Yoshkar-Ola. There are also more than 900 primary and secondary schools located throughout the republic.

For the past few years, the Mari El Republic has been participating in the national project "Education" ("Oбразование"), which is designed to improve education throughout Russia by bringing new technology into the classroom, improving material conditions in schools, and providing financial awards to extraordinary students and teachers.

Despite the fact that Mari language is officially a state language, Mari educators and administrators have been forced from their positions in recent years and Mari-language education has been defunded, according to the U.S. State Department[17], the European Union and others[18].


The most common religions in Mari El include Russian Orthodoxy, Old Believers, and Islam. The traditional Mari pagan faith is still practiced to some degree by many Mari people, as is the Marla faith, which is a combination of these traditional beliefs and modern Christianity. The Mari religious practices have come under increasing pressure, according to human rights groups[19].


Mari El is one of the more ecologically pure areas of the European part of Russia with numerous lakes, rivers, and forests. As a result, it is a popular destination for tourists looking to enjoy nature. One of the most popular destinations is Marii Chodra national park in the Ilet valley, where visitors can enjoy various activities such as boating, horseback riding, fishing, and mushrooming. Another is the Bolshaya Kokshaga National Reserve, where visitors can walk through virgin forests and observe local wildlife.

Mari El is also the site of several mineral springs, many of which are located in the Ilet valley. Many small resorts and children's camps are also located on the various lakes throughout the republic.


  1. ^ Президент Российской Федерации. Указ №849 от 13 мая 2000 г. «О полномочном представителе Президента Российской Федерации в федеральном округе». Вступил в силу 13 мая 2000 г. Опубликован: "Собрание законодательства РФ", №20, ст. 2112, 15 мая 2000 г. (President of the Russian Federation. Decree #849 of May 13, 2000 On the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in a Federal District. Effective as of May 13, 2000).
  2. ^ Госстандарт Российской Федерации. №ОК 024-95 27 декабря 1995 г. «Общероссийский классификатор экономических регионов. 2. Экономические районы», в ред. Изменения №5/2001 ОКЭР. (Gosstandart of the Russian Federation. #OK 024-95 December 27, 1995 Russian Classification of Economic Regions. 2. Economic Regions, as amended by the Amendment #5/2001 OKER. ).
  3. ^ According to Article 68.1 of the Constitution of Russia, Russian is the official language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation. Article 68.2 further stipulates that only the republics have the right to establish official languages other than Russian.
  4. ^ Constitution, Article 15
  5. ^ a b c Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек (Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  6. ^ The value of density was calculated automatically by dividing the 2002 Census population by the area specified in the infobox. Please note that this value may not be accurate as the area specified in the infobox is not necessarily reported for the same year as the Census (2002).
  7. ^ Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Территория, число районов, населённых пунктов и сельских администраций по субъектам Российской Федерации (Territory, Number of Districts, Inhabited Localities, and Rural Administration by Federal Subjects of the Russian Federation)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ a b Constitution, Article 6.2
  9. ^ Official website of the Mari El Republic. Leonid Igorevich Markelov (Russian)
  10. ^
  11. ^,463af2212,488f25f12,49749cba50,0.html
  12. ^
  13. ^ Сайт "Спортивный туризм в Татарстане". По просторам Марий Эл. Справка о местности. (Russian)
  14. ^,463af2212,488f25f12,49749cba50,0.html
  15. ^ Russia Moves to Ban Religious Rites of Indigenous Finno-Ugric People Mari
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^


  • 24 июня 1995 г. «Республика Марий Эл. Конституция», в ред. Закона №38-З от 5 августа 2008 г. (June 24, 1995 Mari El Republic. Constitution, as amended by the Law #38-Z of August 5, 2008. ).

External links

Further reading

  • Daniel Kalder. Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-tourist

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Mari El is a region in the Upper Volga, bordering Nizhny Novgorod Oblast to the west, Kirov Oblast to the north, Tatarstan to the southeast, and Chuvashia to the south.

  • Yoshkar-Ola — the capital is the only city of any size in the region, its name means Red City in the Mari Language, and lost virtually all its industry during perestroika
  • Kozmodemyansk — has a large open-air ethnographic/architectural museum of the Mari people
  • Volzhsk — the region's second largest city is on the Volga River
  • Yurino — a village with one very large and eclectic 19th century Sheremetyev Castle, formerly a popular Volga retreat for European and Russian royalty, but now a museum/hotel located in a beautiful area on the Volga and undergoing restoration
  • Zvenigovo — a town on the Volga River
  • Bolshaya Kokshaga Nature Reserve
  • Mari Chodra National Park


Mari El is notable for being one of the last strongholds of organized paganism in Europe. While many of the Mari people have converted to Russian Orthodoxy, a sizable number practice the Marla Faith, which combines Christianity with significant native shamanistic traditions. The Russian and Soviet governments have been suspicious of Finno-Ugric nationalism within Mari El (and Udmurtia), however, and have discouraged the Marla Faith; accordingly, it may be difficult to have any experiences with the Marla Faith while visiting the region. But if you do, you may be lucky enough to experience some of the Mari People's millenia old traditions, like their marriage ceremonies in sacred forest groves.

Today, ethnic Russians comprise a narrow plurality of the population, just under 50%, while the native Mari people comprise about 42%.

Mari El may also be an alluring destination to visitors looking for "the real Russian forests." Its unspoilt forests and numerous lakes make the region an intriguing choice for backcountry horseback riding and hiking, as well as hunting and fishing.


While English will not get you far, everyone you meet will speak Russian, although many of the Mari speak it as a second language in addition to their native, difficult Mari Language, which is a relative of Finnish

Get in

Kozmodemyansk, Volzhsk, Yurino, Zvenigovo are all reachable by boat on the Volga River. Otherwise, it is easiest to arrive through the capital and regional road hub of Yoshkar-Ola via rail from the railway junction at Zelenodolsk (Zeleny Dol), Tatarstan, which is near Kazan and Kanash/Cheboksary. An overnight daily train runs from Moscow's Kazan railway station to Yoshkar-Ola, which takes about 14.5 hours.

  • Outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, horseback riding, hiking, and relaxing by one of the region's many lakes.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun

Mari El


Mari El

  1. A republic of Russia, with capital Yoshkar-Ola.

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