Mary or Mari (mäˈrē) [key], city (1991 pop. 94,900), capital of Mary region, SE Turkmenistan. Lying in a large oasis of the Kara Kum desert, on the Murgab River delta, Mary is the center of a rich cotton-growing area. It is a rail junction and carries on extensive trade in cotton, wool, grain, and hides. Mary is also a major center of the natural gas industry. Mary arose in 1884 as a Russian military-administrative center c.20 mi (30 km) from the site of ancient Merv and was itself called Merv until 1937.