Mari (former official name-Cheremis) are natives of the Middle Volga, belong to the Finno-Ugric language group. Mari distant ancestors came to the Middle Volga from the east and south. But with the ethnic characteristics, Mari people formed mainly on the territory currently occupied. Consequently, it is here the indigenous population. The name of the people - "Mary" comes from the meaning of "man", "husband". Ethnogenesis of the people scientists refer to the end of the 1st millennium AD.
On the basis of the mixing the eastern and southern tribes, an anthropological type, including Europeoid and Mongoloid features formed. By the 10th century one can find the first mention about Mari in the Khazar sources in the form of "tsarmis" and in Russian chronicles of the 12th century, in the form "Cheremis. " The territory of ancient Mari (Cheremis) stretched along the banks of the Volga River from the Oka to the Kazanka.
At the stage of exit from the primitive state, the ancient Mari were undergone external conquest not having to form their own state. They were conquered by the Khazars, Bulgars, the Tatar-Mongols. But in the Khazar Khaganate, and in the Volga Bulgar, and the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate, Mari ethnic group was saved. New archaeological evidence testifies that the Mari had settled agricultural economy and cattle-ranch, crafts, metal working, combined with ancient traditional activities: gathering, hunting, fishing and beekeeping.
In the mid-16th century there was a connection Mari edge to Russia. In Royal Russia the Mari region developed with noticeable backlog. The main occupation of the population was agriculture. Industry was represented only by the enterprises that processed mainly forest products. Most part of the population led a subsistence economy. Even at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, only one from ten Mari knew elementary literacy. Before the October Revolution, Mari didn’t have statehood and were settled in the Kazan, Vyatka, Nizhny Novgorod, Ufa and Ekaterinburg provinces. And today among of 670,000 Mari only 324.3 thousand people live in the Republic of Mari El. Historically, 51.7 per cent of the Mari live outside the republic, including 4.1 percent outside of Russia.
Mari is the only nation in Europe that has preserved the faith of their ancestors, not renounced their ancient gods. Since XVI century, Mari were undergone Christianization. Since that time, the traditional faith of the Mari declared despicable paganism, were persecuted by the authorities and the church. The sacred groves were cut down, supplications were driven away, believers were punished. People who embraced the new faith got benefits. Many Mari people, not wanting to defile themselves another faith left the traditional habitat for Bashkir steppes, the Urals. Today about 150 000 Mari, most of which worships ancient mari gods live there. Most of the Mari people, in places of their traditional residence, were christened: someone voluntarily, someone by force. However, not all christened have moved away from the ancient religious traditions. From Finno-Ugric community they are more fully preserved their language, national traditions and culture.
November 4, 1920 Mari Autonomous Region was formed. In the twenties and thirties in the Mari region significant positive changes in the economic and cultural development, social work and training of national intelligence happened. The large industrial enterprises (primarily wood processing), the railway, connecting the region with a network of Railways of the country were built, two universities, a research institute of history, language and literature, a national theater were opened, a wide network of schools and cultural institutions were established. Subsequently, however, the economic potential of the country is increasingly subordinated to the interests of the military-industrial complex. In the agricultural production, the Republic has actively introduced advanced farming methods, has been one of the initiators of intensive fattening of cattle, the development of large stock-raising facilities.
October 22, 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the Mari ASSR adopted the Declaration about State Sovereignty. It has a National Flag, Emblem, Hymn. Since 1992, the Republic officially became known as "the Republic of Mari El" (el - the country). March 22, 1992, among other subjects of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Mari El signed a federal treaty.