Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

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Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic:

see Mari ElMari El
, 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Mari ASSR), part of the RSFSR. Formed on Nov. 4, 1920, as an autonomous oblast, it became an autonomous Soviet socialist republic on Dec. 5, 1936. The Mari ASSR is located in the center of the European USSR, primarily on the left bank of the Volga. Its area is 23,200 sq km, and as of Jan. 1, 1973, its population was 691,000. The republic is divided into 14 raions and has three cities and 14 urban-type settlements. Its capital is Ioshkar-Ola.

Constitution and government. The Mari ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants, an autonomous Soviet socialist republic. Its present constitution was adopted on June 21, 1937, by the Extraordinary Eleventh Congress of Soviets of the Mari ASSR. The highest state bodies are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Mari ASSR, which is elected to a four-year term (one deputy for every 6,000 inhabitants), and its Presidium. The Supreme Soviet forms the republic’s government, the Council of Ministers. In the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the Mari ASSR is represented by 11 deputies. Local bodies of state power include municipal, raion, urban-settlement, and village Soviets of working people’s deputies, which are elected to two-year terms by the population.

The Supreme Soviet of the Mari ASSR elects the republic’s Supreme Court to a five-year term. The court is made up of two divisions (for criminal and civil cases) and a presidium. The procurator of the Mari ASSR is appointed for a five-year term by the procurator-general of the USSR.

Natural features. East of the left-bank area of the Mari ASSR there is a gently rolling plain—the Viatka Uval (maximum elevation, 275 m), the surface of which is dissected by river valleys and ravines. Karst is found in this region. To the west the ridges of the Viatka Uval slope down and give way to the broad, marshy Mari Lowland (elevations from 50 to 100 m). The right-bank area of the republic is the northern edge of the Volga Upland (maximum elevation, 198 m).

Industrially important minerals are glass and silicate sands, building stones, and peat, which is used for fuel.

The climate is moderate continental, with fairly cold winters and cool summers. The average January temperature is — 13°C, and the average July temperature, 19°C. Annual precipitation ranges from 450 to 500 mm. The growing season lasts about 170 days.

The republic has approximately 500 rivers and streams, with a total length of more than 7,000 km. The rivers, which belong to the Volga Basin, flow along the southern border of the Mari ASSR for 155 km. Left tributaries of the Volga are the navigable Vetluga, which flows for 112 km through the republic, and a number of rivers suitable for floating logs (the Rutka, Bol’shaia Kokshaga, Malaia Kokshaga, and Ilet’). The Nemda, Bui, and Urzhumka flow northeast.

Soddy-podzolic clayey, loamy, and sandy soils prevail. In the Mari Lowland marshy peaty soils are found; in the Viatka Uval, humus-carbonaceous soils; and on the right bank of the Volga, gray loess.

More than half of the republic’s territory (primarily in the western and central regions) is covered with forests. Valuable coniferous species prevail, including pine (in the south) and fir and spruce (in the north), which Occupy almost three-fifths of the forests. Located along the river valleys are oak and linden forests, which have been extensively cut. However, reforestation has been done on a large scale to replace heavily cut areas.

The wolf, brown bear, fox, elk, lynx, white hare and jackrabbit, squirrel, beaver, hedgehog, and mole are among the most widely distributed animals. The most common birds are coniferous-forest birds and waterfowl. There is a preserve in the republic (the Mari Preserve).

Population. The republic’s population includes Mari (299,000; 1970 census), Russians (321,000), Tatars (40,000), Chuvash (9,000), and Ukrainians (5,000). The population was 465,000 in 1920, 489,000 in 1926, 581,000 in 1939, 648,000 in 1959, and 685,000 in 1970. As of 1973 the average population density was 29.8 inhabitants per sq km. The right bank of the Volga and the northeastern regions are the most densely settled areas. As a result of industrialization the structure of the population changed: the urban population increased from 3 percent in 1920 to 45 percent in 1973. As of 1973 the largest cities were IoshkarOla (188,000), Volzhsk (47,000), and Koz’modem’iansk (16,000).

Historical survey. The oldest archaeological find on the territory of the Mari ASSR dates from the Upper Paleolithic age. There are also many Neolithic sites. Characteristic of the Bronze Age were tribal migrations. In the early Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) the clan structure began to disintegrate, class relations developed, and tribal alliances (leagues) were formed. Numerous cities, villages, and burial mounds date from this period. From the fifth through tenth centuries the ancient Mari nationality took shape. During the ninth through 12th centuries slash-and-burn farming developed, as well as hunting, fishing, handicrafts, and trade. From the ninth through 12th centuries the Mari were under the economic and cultural influence of Bulgaria on the Volga. In the 1230’s they fell under the yoke of the Mongol Tatars. From the 15th century the Volga Mari were under the Kazan Khanate. The Vetluga Mari, who lived in the northwest, belonged to the northeastern Russian principalities. During this period petty princes emerged for the first time among the Mari.

In 1551-52 the Mari became part of the Russian state. A number of Russian cities were built on Mari territory during the second half of the 16th century, including Kokshaisk, Koz’-modem’iansk, and Tsarevokokshaisk. In the 17th century the Russian landlords established holdings on Mari territory. Most of the Mari, however, were not obligated to perform corvée but paid the iasak (tribute) to the tsarist government. The Mari people took part in the peasant wars under the leadership of I. I. Bolotnikov at the beginning of the 17th century, under S. T. Razin in 1670-71, and under E. I. Pugachev in 1773-75. Russian peasants were settled on Mari lands, which became state lands.

From the late 18th century handicrafts and cottage industries developed rapidly. The first factories, which employed wage laborers and pripisnye krest’iane (state peasants “assigned” to a particular enterprise), were founded during this period. Trade with the Volga cities in grain, butter, furs, and honey promoted the transformation of the region’s natural economy into a commercial economy.

The peasants were divided into three categories: state peasants, who had formerly paid the iasak; economic (formerly monastery) peasants; and privately owned peasants. A considerable proportion of the land was owned by monasteries and large-scale entrepreneurs. In agriculture the three-field system prevailed. The rising demand for grain on the market led to the expansion of the landowners’ sector of the economy and an increase in the corvée.

During the first half of the 19th century the number of enterprises employing wage laborers increased. The reforms of the 1860’s created the conditions for the development of capitalism in agriculture and industry. Differentiation increased among the peasantry. During the 1880’s and early 1890’s, two-thirds of the peasant farms were held by poor peasants. The lumber and sawmilling industry, which employed at least 17,000 seasonal workers in the early 1890’s, developed greatly in the postreform period. In the second half of the 19th century factory-plant and manufacturing enterprises were founded, and a drydock, three glass-making plants, and wineries were established. In 1913 there were 47 industrial enterprises on Mari territory.

The first Marxist circle was organized in lurino in 1899 by the schoolteacher K. I. Kasatkin. In 1905, Social Democratic groups were formed in a number of cities, including lurino, Koz’modem’iansk, Urzhuma, and Cheboksary. During the Revolution of 1905-07, Mari workers and peasants joined the Russians in the revolutionary movement. (There were uprisings in lurino, at the Zvenigovo landing, and in neighboring villages.) After the February 1917 Revolution, Soviets were established during April and May in many cities, including lurino, Tsarevokokshaisk, and Koz’modem’iansk. With the exception of the lurino Soviet, all of the Soviets in the Mari territory were dominated by SR’s (Socialist Revolutionaries), Mensheviks, bourgeois nationalists, and kulaks.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was a radical turning point in the history of the Mari people. Soviet power was established on Dec. 23, 1917 (Jan. 5, 1918), in Tsarevokokshaisk (since 1919, Krasnokokshaisk) and on Dec. 31, 1917 (Jan. 13, 1918), in Koz’modem’iansk. By mid-1918, Soviet power had been established throughout the territory. The fight for Soviet power was led by the Bolsheviks M. F. Krasil’nikov and P. T. Kochetov. From February to April 1918, Bolshevik organizations were founded in Koz’modem’iansk and laransk. Counter-revolutionary rebellions flared up during the summer of 1918 in many places, including Stepanovsk, Tsarevokokshaisk, Koz’-modem’iansk, and Kniazhinsk, but they were crushed by the Red Army, with the aid of the Mari working class. In July 1918 a Mari section was established in the People’s Commissariat for Nationalities of the RSFSR. The First All-Russian Conference of Mari Communists was held on July 20-24, 1920, in Kazan. On Nov. 4, 1920, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR adopted the decree on the Formation of an Autonomous Oblast of the Mari People. On Nov. 25, 1920,the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars approved the decree On the Autonomy of the Oblast of the Mari People, which officially defined the administrative and territorial status of the oblast and designated Krasnokokshaisk (since 1927, Ioshkar-Ola) as its administrative center. Krasnokokshaisk was the site of the First Mari Oblast Party Conference (Feb. 20-23, 1921), at which the oblast committee of the RCP(B) was elected. On June 21-24, 1921, the First Congress of Soviets of the Mari Autonomous Oblast elected an oblast executive committee. From 1929 to 1932, the Mari Autonomous Oblast was part of Nizhny Novgorod Krai, and from 1932 to 1936, part of Gorky Krai. On Dec. 5, 1936, the Mari Autonomous Oblast became the Mari ASSR, part of the RSFSR. The Extraordinary Eleventh Congress of the Soviets of the Republic ratified the Constitution of the Mari ASSR on June 21, 1937.

Under the prewar five-year plans (1929-40) the Mari people, with the support of the Russians and of other peoples of the USSR, built the foundations of socialism. During this period 45 industrial enterprises were built and put into operation in the Mari ASSR. Engineers, technicians, and skilled workers, as well as experienced party cadres, were sent to the republic’s construction sites and enterprises from the country’s industrial centers, especially Gorky. Mari personnel for the republic’s industry and agriculture were trained in a number of Soviet cities, including Moscow, Leningrad, and Gorky. In 1940 the output of the Mari ASSR’s large-scale industry was 7.4 times greater than in 1913.

By 1941 the kolkhozes included 94.2 percent of the peasant farms. Railroads were built. (The first of them, the Zelenyi Dolloshkar-Ola line, was completed in 1928.) A cultural revolution was carried out: illiteracy was basically eliminated; clan, feudal, and religious vestiges disappeared; national cadres of the working class and people’s intelligentsia developed; and a national literature and art took shape. The Mari people were consolidated into a socialist nation (natsiia; nation in the historical sense). The Mari territory has been transformed from a backward region of Russia into an industrial-agrarian republic.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the working people of the Mari ASSR showed their patriotism at the front and in the rear. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to 44 citizens of the Mari ASSR, and more than 14,000 of the republic’s soldiers were awarded various orders and medals. Workers who had been evacuated from the western oblasts of the USSR were moved to the Mari ASSR and given jobs, and enterprises that had been moved from such cities as Moscow, Leningrad, and Odessa were put into operation in the Mari republic. A number of research institutions were transferred from Leningrad to Ioshkar-Ola. The medal For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 was awarded to 22,000 workers from the republic. The Mari ASSR sent aid to the oblasts and republics that had suffered from the fascist occupation. Timber was sent to the Donbas mines and to Stalingrad, and mechanics and tractor drivers were dispatched to Byelorussia. From 1941 to 1945 the working people of the Mari republic supplied the country with about 14 million cu m of lumber, about 22 million poodsof grain (360,360,000 kg) and more than 1.5 million poods of meat (24,570,000 kg).

Under the postwar five-year plans the economy and culture of the Mari ASSR underwent further development. New, large-scale enterprises of the machine-building, instruments, and other industries were opened in the republic. There was a significant rise in the people’s material and cultural standard of living. The upswing in the economy and culture was accompanied by a manifold expansion of mutual aid and a deepening of the connections between the Mari ASSR and the fraternal republics. The Mari people’s culture—national in its form, socialist in its content, and international in its spirit and character—flowered in the postwar period. Under the conditions of a developed socialist society, the working people of the republic, together with all the peoples of the Soviet Union, are participating in the establishment of the material and technical base of communism.

In 1974 there were 19 Heroes of Socialist Labor in the Mari ASSR. For its achievements in developing the national economy the Mari ASSR was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1965 and the Order of the October Revolution in 1970. The republic received the Order of Friendship of Peoples in 1972, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the USSR.


Economy. Under Soviet power the economy of the Mari ASSR has changed radically. As a result of the introduction of intensive agriculture and the acceleration of industrial development, particularly after the Great Patriotic War, modern branches of industry have been created, as well as a high-yield kolkhoz and sovkhoz agriculture.

INDUSTRY. In 1972 the gross national product of all industry was 27 times that of 1940. There are more than 170 industrial enterprises in the republic. (See Table 1.)

The leading branches of industry are machine building and metalworking, which account for more than 40 percent of the total volume of industrial output. The most important enterprises are the Elektroavtomatika Plant (electronic potentiometers), a tool plant (circular broaches, screw taps, and milling cutters), a commercial machine-building plant (refrigeration equipment), a semiconductor instruments plant (copper oxide and selenium rectifiers), the Kontakt and Potentsial plants (resistors), and a plant that manufactures machines for the lumber industry (machines for stacking road planks and for building logging roads). Most of the enterprises are located in IoshkarOla and Volzhsk. In 1973 a large industrial complex consisting of enterprises for the production of refrigeration machinery, reducing agents, and units to be used in excavation machinery was under construction in Volzhsk.

The lumber industry depends on the republic’s forests and on timber that is floated down the tributaries of the Volga. Because forest resources have declined, the volume of timber shipped out of the republic has fallen by almost 50 percent since 1950. Timber-cutting operations have been extended to the western regions. Timber is processed along the Volga and the railroads. Located in Koz’modem’iansk near the mouth of the Vetluga is the Volga’s largest roadstead for assembling rafts of logs. One of the republic’s principal branches of industry is the processing of timber which is concentrated in and around Volzhsk (pulp and paper and wood-products combines). Furniture, sawdust, chips for pressed sawdust panels, house components, refrigeration chambers, arbolit panels, and parquet are among the industry’s products. In 1972, 12 million rubles’ worth of furniture was produced in the republic, as compared to 3 million rubles’ worth in 1960. In 1973 a yeast-hydrolysis plant designed to use the waste products of the wood-products industry was under construction in Volzhsk.

The Mari ASSR is an extremely important producer of synthetic leather (plant in Ioshkar-Ola), which is used in the leather-goods and footwear industries and in machine building. There are fulling and leather-goods enterprises in the settlement of lurino. Knitwear and garment factories have been built. At the Truzhenitsa Factory there is a workshop specializing in artistic embroidery based on folk motifs. Glass-making plants use local quartz sands (the settlements of Krasnyi Steklovar, Mariets, and Leninskii). Wall materials, large-panel housing components, reinforced-concrete products, and asphalt concrete components are produced at various plants in the republic.

The food-processing industry is represented by meat-packing plants, bakery combines, dairies, creameries, dried vegetable plants, and a confectionery plant. There is a major plant for the production of vitamins.

AGRICULTURE. About 34 percent of the territory of the Mari ASSR is suitable for agriculture. More than four-fifths of the agricultural lands (645,000 hectares [ha]) are farmed, and less than one-fifth (136,000 ha) is occupied by hay fields and pastures. More than 5,000 ha of productive hay fields and pastures are located on drained lands. By the beginning of 1973 there were 132 kolkhozes and 39 sovkhozes. The number of tractors used in agriculture (in actual units) increased from 1,400 in 1940 to 6,400 in 1972, and the number of harvesting combines, from 300 to 2,000. All of the kolkhozes and sovkhozes have been electrified.

Cereal crops include rye, buckwheat, legumes, oats, and wheat. Of the industrial crops long-fiber flax is the most important (6,300 ha in 1972). Potatoes are also cultivated. Because of an insufficient natural supply of fodder, more than a third of the sown area is occupied by fodder crops. (See Table 2.) The principal agricultural areas are located in the Mari Upland and in the northeastern part of the republic. In 1971, 530,300 tons of grain were harvested, as compared to 232,300 tons in 1960, and the potato harvest totaled 386,400 tons, as compared to 491,700 tons in 1960.

The leading branch of agriculture is meat and dairy animal husbandry. (See Table 3.) A black-spotted species of cattle is bred, which is distinguished for its high productivity. Poultry farming is also well developed (2.4 million fowl at the beginning of 1973). In 1972 animal husbandry produced 49,000 tons of dressed meat (9,000 tons in 1940), 300,000 tons of milk (82,000 tons in 1940), 645 tons of wool (367 tons in 1940), and 202 million eggs (37 million in 1940).

In 1971 state purchases of grain crops amounted to 76,600

Table 1. Output of industrial goods
Electric power (million kW-hr)...............5095218279
Metal-cutting tools (million rubles in wholesale prices as of July 1, 1967)...............11.3
Sawed lumber (thousand cu m)...............314460937863
Pulp (thousand tons)...............28.746.384.1110
Paper (thousand tons)...............15.231.452.680.8
Cardboard (thousand tons)...............14.329.424.4
Bricks (millions)...............1615136178
Precast reinforced-concrete structural members (thousand cu m)...............43206
Knit underwear (thousand units)...............848801,414
Knit outerwear (thousand units)...............33701,213
Leather footwear (thousand pairs)...............20369204559
Butter (tons)...............4507971,6994,000
Canned foods (thousand standard jars)...............5303221,1494,071
Table . 2 Snow area (hectares)
Cereal crops...............425,000384,000377,000331,000331,000
Potatoes and vegetables...............6,00037,00046,00057,00058,000
Fodder crops...............2,00045,00044,000144,000224,000

tons; of potatoes, 73,600 tons (21,200 tons in 1940) and of vegetables 8,300 tons (1,700 tons in 1940). In 1972 the state purchased 52,000 tons (liveweight) of cattle and poultry (3,600 tons in 1940), 128,400 tons of milk (10,000 tons in 1940), and 118.6 million eggs (9.4 million in 1940).

High-grade livestock-raising complexes and poultry farms have been introduced to put animal husbandry on an industrial basis. In 1972 there were 57 livestock-raising complexes in the republic.

TRANSPORTATION. As of 1972 there were 148 km of railroads for general use. The Zelenyi Dol-Tabashino railroad line bisects the central part of the republic from south to north. In addition, there are 540.5 km of sidings for use by industrial enterprises. The Volga and Vetluga rivers are suitable for navigation. There are 1,081 km of paved motor-vehicle roads, whose main junction is at Ioshkar-Ola. An all-Union air route passes through Ioshkar-Ola.

The Mari ASSR supplies other regions of the USSR with industrial paper, semiconductor instruments, commercial refrigeration equipment, vitamins, metal-cutting tools, and synthetic leather. The republic imports fuel and industrial raw materials, as well as various light industrial products.

ECONOMIC REGIONS. Characteristic of the central industrial region is intensive suburban agriculture. The principal industrial center is Ioshkar-Ola. The Volzhsk-Ilet’ industrial region is important for lumber processing (Volzhsk and the surrounding area) and ship repair (Zvenigovo). The agriculture of this region specializes in meat and dairy animal husbandry, as well as in potatoes. In the northeastern agricultural region agricultural-industrial complexes have been established for processing agricultural raw materials. The building-materials industry is also located in this region. The western forest region is important for logging, peat extraction, glass-making, and the leather-foot-wear and fulling industries, as well as for dairy animal husbandry. The Mari Upland region (along the right bank of the Volga) is important for both agriculture and industry. Located in this region are a timber roadstead and the principal river port of the Mari ASSR—Koz’modem’iansk.

The people’s wealth, which depends on the growth of the republic’s income, is constantly rising. The volume of retail-goods turnover in state and cooperative trade, including public catering, totaled 396.9 million rubles in 1972, which represented a 16.9 percent increase over 1970 (in fixed prices). In 1972, 172,300 sq m of housing was built, financed by the state, by housing-construction cooperatives, and by kolkhozes. An additional 66,100 sq m of housing was financed by the kolkhozes and the population, with some credit from the state. Social insurance and pension insurance funds have increased.


Public health. In 1913 the territory of the Mari ASSR had 13 hospital institutions with 160 beds, as well as 17 feldsher and midwife stations. There were 21 physicians. During the period of socialist construction trachoma has been completely eliminated, and the incidence of infectious diseases has been sharply reduced. As of Jan. 1, 1973, the republic had 90 hospital institutions, with 8,200 beds (11.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). Outpatient treatment was being provided at 101 physicians’ outpatient clinics and at 387 rural feldsher and midwife stations. There were 51 consultation clinics for women, as well as 50 children’s clinics. In 1973, there were 1,500 practicing physicians (one per 449 inhabitants), as well as more than 6,000 secondary medical personnel. There is a medical college in the Mari ASSR. Located in the republic are the Klenovogorsk mineral springs, as well as springs in the settlement of Krasnogorsk, the waters of which are used for medicinal treatments, There are also sanatoriums and workers’ health resorts.


Education and cultural affairs. During the 1914-15 academic year the territory now occupied by the Mari ASSR had 507 general education schools (including 502 elementary schools), with an enrollment of 26,000 pupils. There were no specialized secondary or higher educational institutions. In 1972, 20,700 children were enrolled in 213 kindergartens. During the 1972-73 academic year, 159,000 students were enrolled in 659 general education schools of all types; 8,600 students in 23 vocational-technical schools; and 11,300 students in 13 specialized secondary educational institutions. The republic’s three higher educational institutions—Mari University, the Gorky Mari Polytechnic Institute, and the N. K. Krupskaia Mari Pedagogical Institute in Ioshkar-Ola—had an enrollment of 12,400.

As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were 362 public libraries in the republic (4.5 million copies of books and journals). The republic has two museums—the Mari Republic Museum of Regional Studies in Ioshkar-Ola and the Mari Upland Museum of Regional Studies in Koz’modem’iansk. There are also 623 club-type institutions, 656 motion-picture facilities, 14 palaces and houses of Pioneers, four young technicians’ and young naturalists’ stations, five children’s sports schools, and a children’s touring and camping station.

Scientific institutions. At the end of 1972 the Mari ASSR had more than ten scientific institutions, including higher educational institutions. Among them are the Mari Research Institute of Language, Literature, History, and Economics, which is under the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers of the Mari ASSR (Ioshkar-Ola), the Mari Branch of the All-Union Research Institute of the Pulp and Paper Industry (Volzhsk), the Mari State Agricultural Experimental Station, and the Gorky Mari Polytechnic Institute. In 1972 there were more than 1,000 scientific workers in the republic, including more than 250 doctors and candidates of sciences.

Press, radio, and television. In 1971, 110 books and pamphlets were published (905,000 copies), and nine journals were issued (single-issue circulation, 191,000). In addition to purely local and kolkhoz publications, 29 newspapers were published in Lowland Mari, Mountain Mari, Russian, and Tatar (single-issue circulation, 215,000; annual circulation, 42,474,000). Republic newspapers include Mari kommuna (Mari Commune), which has been published since Oct. 1, 1918, in the Lowland dialect, Mariiskaia pravda (since 1921), Molodoi kommunist (since 1934), and Jamde Hi (Be Prepared), which has been issued since 1933 in the Lowland dialect. Among the republic’s journals are Onychko (Forward; published since 1954 in Lowland Mari), a literary and sociopolitical journal, the satirical journal Pachemysh (Wasp; published in Mari since 1957 and in Russian

Table 3. Livestock (beginning of the year)
Sheep and goats............288,000272,000226,000224,000206,000

since 1958), and Politicheskaia informatsiia (in Mari and Russian).

Republic radio programs are carried in Mari and Russian for 2½ hours a day, and republic television programs are broadcast for three hours a day. Programs are relayed from the Central Television Studio in Moscow and the All-Union Radio Studio in Moscow. There is a television center in Ioshkar-Ola.

Literature. Mari literature emerged during the upswing in the the national liberation movement at the time of the Revolution of 1905-07. During this period the works of the founders of the national literature—S. G. Chavain (1888-1942), M. S. Gerasimov-Mikai (1885-1944), and N. S. Mukhin (1890-1943)—were first published. From the very beginning Mari literature has drawn its inspiration from two sources: the oral creative art of the people and the progressive traditions of Russian literature. The yearbook Mariiskii kalendar’ which published the works of Mari writers in their native language and in Russian translation, was issued in Kazan from 1907 to 1913.

Mari literature began to develop after the Great October Socialist Revolution. During the first few years the prevailing literary form was poetry, which was permeated with a profound feeling for the struggle against the oppressors, the intervention, and the counterrevolution and was characterized by appeals for a free life. A national drama also emerged, represented by the plays of A. F. Konakov (1887-1922), M. Shketan (la. P. Mairov, 1898-1937), V. Savi (V. A. Mukhin, 1888-1938), N. S. Mukhin, and Tynysh Osyp (I. A. Borisov, 1893-1971).

During the 1920’s, Shketan’s short stories described the struggle of the new against the old, as well as the victory of progressive forces in the Mari village (the short story “The Sins of God,” 1923). The journals U ilis (New Life; published in Moscow from 1922 to 1927) and U wi (New Force; published in Ioshkar-Ola from 1926 to 1936), as well as the newspapers, printed short stories by a number of Mari writers, including Ia. Eleksein (la. A. Alekseev, 1893-1965), I. Lomberskii (1896-1956), and D. Orai (D. F. Bogoslovskii, 1901-50). At the end of the 1920’s the first Mari novellas were published: Chavain’s Deserters (1929), which focused on the Civil War, and The Downfall of the World (1928) by Shabdar Osyp (I. A. Shabdarov, 1898-1943). Mari poetry matured and became artistically more convincing (Shabdar’s collection of poems Sounds of Gusli, 1929).

The visible features of the new life were important in the creative art of young poets such as M. M. Ivanov (born 1905) and Ia. lalkain (la. Ia. lalkaev, 1906-43). Chavain’s drama Apiary (1928), which laid the foundation for a national dramaturgy, used elements of folk music and folk dancing.

The 1930’s were marked by the appearance of works in the larger genres—novellas and novels. The socialist transformation of a village is described in Shketan’s novel Erenger (1933). Shabdar’s novel A Woman’s to Path (1929-37) depicts the political development of a Mari woman, who becomes a conscious builder of socialist society under Soviet power. The novellas and novels of Mari writers such as N. V. Ignat’ev (1895-1941), lalkain, and Orai are a chronicle of the life of the Mari people and their struggle for liberty and happiness. In the novel Elnet (1936), Chavain gives a profound and truthful description of the ideological growth of the Mari intelligentsia, which had boldly chosen to struggle against tsarism and the national bourgeoisie. The subject of Chavain’s historical drama Akpatyr (1935), in which Mari dramaturgy of the 1930’s reached its peak, is the participation of the Mari people in the Peasant War of 1773-75 under Pugachev. During the 1930’s, Shketan created his best dramas and comedies. S. N. Nikolaev (born 1908), whose musical comedy Salika (1938) has been popular with Mari audiences for several decades, began his literary career in 1930.

During the prewar years Mari poetry was represented by the works of Miklai Kazakov (N. I. Kazakov, born 1918), I. Osmin (I. I. Osmin-Loginov, born 1915), M. Main (M. S. Stepanov, born 1914), N. Il’iakov (1913-67), and A. Bik(A. I. Bikmurzin, born 1915). The strongest feelings expressed by Mari poetry during this period stemmed from the ideas of Soviet patriotism and friendship among peoples.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), Mari poetry was particularly powerful. S. A. Vishnevskii (born 1920) and Kazakov wrote verses and narrative poems that expressed ardent love for the homeland and hatred for the enemy. The poet Main wrote sketches in verse on the military exploits of Soviet soldiers. In his verses and narrative poems Osmin wrote about the workers in the fields. During the war G. Matiukovskii (G. I. Matiukov, born 1926) and A. Kaniushkov (born 1925) began their careers as poets. Essays by N. Lekain (N. S. Eremeev, 1907-60), H’iakov, and Orai and short stories and novellas by K. K. Vasin (born 1924), who focused on historical and revolutionary topics, occupied a leading place in Mari wartime literature.

In the postwar period Mari prose was enriched by many works, including Lekain’s novels and novellas In the Fire of the Great War (1948) and Land of Our Forefathers (books 1-2, 1956-60), Orai’s Unfading Star (1950) and Through the Mists (1951), and Il’iakov’s People and Years (1957). Eleksein’s The Toimaks Family (1955), V. M. Ivanov’s (1923-71) The Storm (1965), and Erykan’s Cholpan Ivan (1966) also furthered the development of Mari prose. Contemporary Mari prose is represented by the short stories and novellas of A. Michurin-Azmekei (A. S. latmanov, born 1912), V. N. Kosorotov (born 1930), A. Asaev (A. A. Asylbaev, born 1912), and A. luzykain (A. M. Mikhailov, born 1929). Vishnevskii, Matiukovskii, Bik, and Kaniushkov were among the many Mari writers who created new works. The works of I. lakimov (born 1929) and V. Kh. Kolumb (born 1935) are popular in Mari poetry. In 1950, Kazakov’s well-known collection of poems Poetry, My Beloved was published. In 1971, Nikolaev wrote the drama The Commissars, which has been staged in the theaters of the republic, as well as in other parts of the Soviet Union. Audiences have been attracted to the dramas of N. M. Arban (born 1912), A. A. Volkov (born 1923), K. M. Korshunov (born 1929), and N. F. Rybakov (born 1932). Fruitful work has been done in the republic by Russian writers and poets. A. S. Krupniakov (born 1920) has published the novels A kpar’s March (1970) and Lada (1972).

Among the republic’s literary scholars and critics are Asylbaev, Vasin, M. A. Georgin (born 1920), V. Stoliarov (born 1918), and S. Eman (S. I. Ibatov, born 1910).

Like all the multinational literature of the Soviet Union, Mari literature has developed in the socialist realist vein. Works by Mari writers have been translated into Russian and other languages of the peoples of the USSR. They have also become well known abroad. In the republic many works by Russian and Soviet Russian writers, as well as by writers from the other Soviet republics, are being translated into the Mari language. The Mari Section of the Writers’ Union of the USSR was established in 1934.


Architecture and art. Archaeological excavations near lurino uncovered primitive clay and stone sculptures of animals dating from the second millennium B.C. Metallic ornaments were first made during the Bronze Age.

Characteristic of folk architecture is the hewn log hut with an open rectangular yard, a summer kitchen (a cookhouse with a windowless frame and a double-cambered roof), and a storage area (a storehouse, sometimes two-storied, with a gallery-balcony on the second story). Villages were built without any particular plan until the second half of the 19th century, when street plans were first drawn up.

The oldest and most characteristic forms of Mari folk art are wood carving (buckets and ladles with handles shaped like horses, bears, or birds), patterned weaving, birchbark braiding, and designs stamped on birchbark. More recent folk arts include metal ornaments, bent and braided .furniture, and walking sticks with designs burned into them. In ornamentation geometric figures are frequently combined with plant and animal motifs. Of particular interest is old-fashioned embroidery, in which the ornamentation, usually in rich red shades, is outlined by a black or blue border. The old traditions have been revived and developed in the works of L. A. Orlova and other master artisans. Sometimes Soviet emblematic symbols are worked into the ornamentation.

During the Soviet period cities have been built according to general plans, and since the 1930’s a number of monumental stone buildings have been erected, including the admiralty, which is now the university (1936, architect A. Z. Grinberg), the M. Shketan Mari Theater of Musical Drama (1960, architects P. A. Samsonov and M. F. Ni), and the office building of the CPSU oblast committee and the republic Council of Ministers (1971, architect S. A. Kleimenov). All of these buildings are in Ioshkar-Ola. Buildings for educational institutions have been erected, as well as hotels, sports complexes, motion-picture theaters, palaces of culture, and apartment houses. In 1941 the Mari Section of the Architects’ Union of the USSR was established.

During the mid-1920’s the Russian artists V. K. Timofeev and P. A. Radimov, as well as the Mari artists A. V. Grigor’ev, K. F. Egorov, and E. D. Atlashkina, laid the foundations for professional representational art. The State Free Art Workshops were established in Koz’modem’iansk (1920-23). In Ioshkar-Ola a branch of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia was founded in 1926; the Mari Artists’ Association, in 1940; and the Mari Section of the Artists’ Union of the RSFSR, in 1961 (since 1968, the Artists’ Union of the Mari ASSR).

During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the republic’s artists produced posters. B. I. Osipov and I. M. Plandin worked on topical pictures. During the postwar period I. I. Mamaev, A. S. Pushkov, Z. F. Lavrent’ev, A. I. Butov, and S. F. Podmarev were among the Mari artists whose paintings used contemporary themes, as well as themes from the history of the Mari people, Iu. S. Belkov and A. P. Zarubin painted portraits of their contemporaries, and P. T. Gorbuntsov, B. S. Pushkov, and N. P. Karpov painted landscapes. Free-standing and monumental sculptures have been created by F. P. Shaberdin, O. A. Dedov, and V. M. Koz’min. L. L. Akazeev, A. G. Orlov, and I. A. Mikhailin have worked in various techniques in book illustration and in the graphic arts. The art of theatrical stage design and decor is represented by the creative work of F. P. Shaberdin and A. A. Brovtsyn, and that of monumental-decorative art, by the artistry of A. F. Novoselov and I. P. Miasnikov.


Music. Before the Great October Revolution, Mari music was represented solely by the artistry of the folk song, especially by monophonic folk songs of diverse genres. Owing to different historical and geographical conditions, Mari folk songs fall into three basic groups: mountain, lowland, and eastern folk songs. As a rule, they use a pentatonic scale. Shifting meters are often encountered, especially in longer songs. In dance music precise rhythm and a constant measure are common. The most typical Mari form is the two-part couplet consisting of two periods.

Among the folk instruments are the kusle (gusli), shuvyr (pipes), tumyr (drum), shialtysh (pipes), puch (various types of horns made of birch and other woods), kovyzh (two-stringed violin), and shushpyk (whistle). The three-stringed violin and the two-row harmonica developed later. Dance pieces are usually performed on folk instruments. In 1908, A. K. Aptriev compiled the first collection of Mari folk songs (Collected Songs of the Cheremis).

The systematic collection of musical folklore was not begun until after the October Revolution. Many Mari folk songs have been notated and published by V. M. Vasil’ev, I. S. Palantai, Ia. A. Eshpai, A. I. Iskandarov, K. A. Smirnov, and D. M. Kul’shetov. The development of professional music in the Mari ASSR was promoted by the establishment in Ioshkar-Ola of an arts technicum (1931), a choral group (1933), and the Radiokomitet Chorus (1944).

The founder of professional music in the republic is I. S. Palantai (Kliuchnikov), who has composed numerous songs and choral works and arranged many folk songs. He organized the first professional choral group and was the first to introduce polyphonic choral singing into Mari music. A. I. Iskandarov and N. A. Sidushkin have paid a great deal of attention to creative choral composition. The first Mari instrumental works (suites for symphony orchestra) were written by the composer and musicologist Eshpai (Ishpaikin), who has drawn on the folklore of the Volga peoples in his creative work. Instrumental music developed further in the creative work of L. N. Sakharov and K. R. Geist. The first major works for symphony orchestra were written by K. A. Smirnov, whose compositions include two symphonies. A great contribution to the development of Mari music was made by the composer Eshpai, in a number of whose works the Mari folk melos is creatively transformed (for example, the composer’s symphonic dances, concerti for piano and orchestra, and Third Symphony).

A major representative of Mari music is A. B. Luppov, the composer of works for symphony orchestra and of the first national ballet— A Forest Legend (1971). The first national opera, Akpatyr (staged in 1963), was written by E. N. Sapaev. Since the late 1960’s the Mari republic’s most productive composers have been I. N. Molotov (the opera Elnet, 1970), V. P. Kuprianov (suite for symphony orchestra, 1970), and V. P. Danilov (concerto for violin and orchestra, 1971). Among the Mari ASSR’S performing artists are the conductors A. I. Iskandarov, N. A. Sidushkin, and B. A. Reznikov, all of whom are Honored Art Workers of the RSFSR, Honored Art Worker of the Mari ASSR L. A. Taigil’din, and Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR and Honored Artist of the Yakut ASSR G. F. Tanygin. The republic’s most outstanding singers include L. K. Krasnov, Honored Artist of the Mari ASSR V. E. Smirnova, and Honored Artists of the Mari ASSR M. A. Myl’nikova, L. F. Kovaleva, A. A. Venediktov, and V. A. Vorontsov. Instrumentalists include People’s Artist of the Mari ASSR P. S. Toidemar and Honored Art Worker of the Mari ASSR A. R. Sidushkina. Among those who perform Mari national dances is Honored Artist of the RSFSR and People’s Artist of the Mari ASSR N. P. Druzhinina.

As of 1973, the Mari republic’s performing arts groups were the M. Shketan Musical Drama Theater (1968), the Choral Society (1958), a philharmonic society (1939), and the Mari Song and Dance Ensemble (1939). Organizations specializing in music are the Arts Section of the Mari Research Institute of Language, Literature, History, and Economics (1930), the House of Folk Creativity (1946), the Mari Division of the Composers’ Union of the RSFSR (1940), the Music College, and 22 music schools.


Theater. The emergence and development of a national theater art were closely associated with the assimilation of the rich resources of folk creativity and the use of the realistic tradition in the Russian theater and drama. Judging from the evidence available, during the prerevolutionary period there was only one theatrical production in the Mari language (1910). After the Great October Socialist Revolution amateur theatrical activity developed a great deal, laying the foundation for the creation of a professional theater. In 1919 the Traveling Theater of the Mari People opened in Ioshkar-Ola with a production of Tynysh Osyp’s Because of the Law. Productions of the Russian classics, as well as of plays by Soviet, including Mari, playwrights such as S. G. Chavain and M. Shketan, played a great role in establishing professional, realistic theater in the republic. Of great significance in the development of the Mari theater was the work of the Mari Studio of Musical Dramatic Art, which was organized in 1927. Its production of Chavain’s Apiary (1928), which drew on the traditions of folk music and choreographic creative art, laid the foundations for Mari musical drama and became a part of the repertoire of the Mari State Theater, which was founded in 1919. (In 1948 the theater was named after M. Skhetan.) In 1930 the state theater group took part in the All-Union Olympiad of National Art in Moscow. This opportunity to share their ideas with the masters of the Russian theater, as well as with representatives of the other fraternal republics, was a fruitful experience for the leading figures in the Mari theater.

The production of S. N. Nikolaev’s Salika (1938) was an important expression of the republic’s young theater. Among the most notable works produced during the Great Patriotic War, the early postwar years, and the early 1950’s were N. M. Arban’s Janlak Paset (1944), The Young Guard (1946), which was based on A. A. Fadeev’s work, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1951), and Gogol’s The Inspector-General (1952). A number of plays from the 1930’s repertoire were revived, including Chavain’s The Mari Company (1951), Akpatyr and Apiary (both in 1956), and Water of Life (1968) and Shketan’s Eh, Parents. . . (1952 and 1970). In a 1962 production of I. F. Popov’s The Family the character of V. I. Lenin was presented to Mari theater audiences for the first time. In addition to Russian and foreign classics, during the 1960’s and early 1970’s plays by artists from the fraternal republics were staged, as were the works of a number of Mari playwrights, including Shketan, Chavain, S. Nikolaev, Arban, K. M. Korshunov, N. F. Rybakov, A. Volkov, Ia. lyvan, and P. Esenei.

The republic theater group recruits its members from among the graduates of the Mari Studio of the Leningrad Theatrical Institute (1954) and the State Institute of Theatrical Arts (1965). Located in Ioshkar-Ola are the Republic Russian Dramatic Theater (founded in 1936) and the Puppet Theater (1943). Among the directors who have worked in the Mari theater are N. I. Kalender, N. D. Stanislavskii, G. I. loseliani, A. B. Velizhev, E. G. Amantov, and I. S. Babenko. Actors who have worked in the Mari theater include Honored Artists of the RSFSR and People’s Artists of the Mari ASSR T. G. Grigor’ev, G. M. Pushkin, A. G. Strausova, and A. T. Tikhonova and People’s Artist of the Mari ASSR I. I. Rossygin. As of 1973, actors working in the republic’s theaters included Honored Art Workers of the RSFSR and the Mari ASSR S. I. Ivanov (principal director of the Musical Dramatic Theater) and G. V. Konstantinov (principal director of the Republic Russian Theater), Honored Artists of the RSFSR and People’s Artists of the Mari ASSR N. E. Popova, S. I. Kuz’minykh, V. N. Privalikhina, M. T. Romanova, and I. T. lakaev, and People’s Artists of the Mari ASSR V. D. Burlakov, I. S. Matveev, and M. M. Mikhailova. Also working in the Mari theater were Honored Artists of the Mari ASSR L. A. Bulycheva, L. P. Zhiretskaia, N. A. Konstantinova, A. N. Mikov, I. S. Nikitin, P. P. Rep’ev, and M. N. Sapozhnikova and Honored Art Worker of the Mari ASSR I. K. Emel’ianov (principal director of the Puppet Theater).



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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.