The Mari El Republic is an ethnic republic located in the eastern part of the Eastern European Plain of Russia situated in the central part of the Volga River's flow. The distance between Moscow and the regional capital Yoshkar-Ola is approximately 745 km.Sergey Poteryaev
The Mari people are one of the oldest ethnic groups living in the Russian Federation. Finno-Ugric peoples settled the territory in what is now European Russia dating back to prehistoric times. Archaeological sources from the first millennium B.C.E. have been preserved in the republic.Sergey Poteryaev
Starting in about the 11th century, the Mari people fell under the old Russian state's sphere of influence. Many accepted Christianity, while those who refused escaped to the east. The Mari continue to combine Christian and pagan traditions and beliefs in their lives to this day.Sergey Poteryaev
In the summer, pagan prayers are held in Mari villages. Here's what the Mari themselves say about this: "They brought a large bull to sacrifice. Each god possessed his own sacred tree: one had a big birch, another - a linden tree. These sacred trees, or onapu, are bound together with a belt made from linden bast that is first dipped in the blood of the sacrificed animal. After the prayer, the belt is burned on the fire."Sergey Poteryaev
"Before, there were family prayers and each family had their own sacred trees. These days, family prayers are done at home. The Mari are even sometimes called "Europe's last pagans."Sergey Poteryaev
Of course, all Mari speak Russian. However, in the 1920s, two equal literary language norms were established: the language of the meadow Mari and that of the mountain Mari. As in other ethnic republics, these years were marked by an active development in ethnic and cultural identity.Sergey Poteryaev
But, in the 1930s this process was halted by the start of Stalin's repressions. Practically all of the ethnic intelligentsia, worried about their people's identity, were annihilated.Sergey Poteryaev
The Mari people have a second name: Cheremis. The word cheremis means "white man". The color white was a sacred color for the Mari. In days of old, they dressed only in bright, white clothing.Sergey Poteryaev
Translated into English the name of the Mari El Republic means something like "Land of the Mari people". The Mari have been closely connected with the earth and nature since days of old, particularly with agriculture.Sergey Poteryaev
Unfortunately, the amount of uncultivated land is growing due to multiple factors in the republic. This fact is reflected in Mari's lives and well-being.Sergey Poteryaev
More and more people are moving from small villages to large cities, especially to the republic's capital, Yoshkar-Ola.Sergey Poteryaev
One of the most pressing universal problems in the development of modern Russian society is preserving the physical and cultural heritage of the small native peoples of Siberia.Sergey Poteryaev
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