The Mari Language
The Maris (Mari, meaning man)
Population: Approx. 670,000
Concentration: North of the Volga River between Kazan and Gorki in Russia.
Religion: Mainly Russian Orthodox
Ethnic Inheritance: Definite Mongoloid traits, blended with some European and Middle Eastern features.
The Ancient Mari people are believed to have separated from the other Western Finno-Ugrics around 1000 BC. They originally settled where the Oka River flows into the Volga. The Mari Nation began to develop by 500 AD from the Ancient Mari and Iranian cattle herding tribes. During the 8th century the Bulgars began to settle around the middle of the Volga, during this time the Mari were incorporated into the Bulgars economic and administrative influence. Around the year 1000 AD the Meadow and the Mountain dialects began differentiate from each other. The Mongolian-Tatars invaded the Bulgars in 1230 AD, which lead to the Bulgars moving north deeper into Mari territory. Russian rule began during the 16th century. Modern Mari is divided into three major dialects, the Meadow dialect used by the largest group is mainly north of the Volga and is the primary dialect of the Mari Autonomous Republic, and Eastern Mari originally speakers of the Meadow dialect who emigrated near Ufa during the 18th century, finally the Mountain dialect (sometimes called Hill Mari) live mostly to the west and on the south bank of the Volga River. The Mari also have a popular music instrument called the Kusle which also exists in Finland, there it is called the Kantele.