Mari El mä´rē ĕl´ [key], constituent republic (1990 pop. 760,000), c.8,900 sq mi (23,100 sq km), E central European Russia, in the middle Volga valley. Yoshkar-Ola is the capital. The region is a rolling plain, heavily forested with fir and pine. There is an extensive lumbering industry, and the republic produces paper and pulp and varied wood products. In the nonforested agricultural areas, grain and flax are grown, and there is dairy farming and livestock raising. The main industry, however, is machinery and machine tool manufacture. The population is mainly Russian (47%) and Mari (43%), with Tatar, Chuvash, Udmurt, and other minorities. Previously called Cheremiss, the Mari speak a Finno-Ugric language and are known for their wood and stone carving and embroidery. In the 8th cent. the Mari were under Khazar rule. Ruled by the Eastern Bulgars from the 9th to the 12th cent., the Mari were then conquered (1236) by the Golden Horde. The Russians under Ivan IV assumed control in 1552. An autonomous region was organized in the area in 1920, and an autonomous republic established in 1936. It was a signatory to the Mar. 31, 1992, treaty that created the Russian Federation (see Russia).
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