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The Mari Traditional Religion (MTR) is a syncretic religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
and the traditional faith of the Mari people
of the republic of Mari El
The Mari El Republic is a federal subject of Russia . Its capital is the city of Yoshkar-Ola. Population: -Geography:The republic is located in the eastern part of the East European Plain of Russia, along the Volga River. The swampy Mari Depression is located in the west of the republic...
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...
. The religion encompasses animist beliefs, Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....
, and elements of Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...
Islam . The most common are and . : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...
. Subject to persecution in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
, the faith has been granted official status since the 1990s by the government of Mari El, where it is recognized as one of the three traditional faiths along with Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Some activists claim that MTR believers are subject to pressure by Russian authorities as part of a wider campaign to russify
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...
Mari culture. Vitaly Tanakov, an adherent of the faith, was charged with inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred after publishing the book The Priest Speaks
The Mari faith includes tree worship, animal sacrifices and comprises a pantheon of at least nine deities which are said to be substances or hypostases of Osh Kughu Yumo—Mari for "Great White God". These substances include the life-giving Ilyan Yumo, a birth goddess Shochinava and Agavairem, a god of creative powers.
The religion is one of Europe's last traditional belief that has survived Christianisation although it has co-existed with Russian Orthodoxy for generations. Many Maris today are baptized as Christians yet they attend traditional prayers rather than Church services. A sociological survey conducted in 2004 found that about 15 percent of the people of Mari-El consider themselves adherents of MTR. Since Maris make up just 45 percent of the republic's population of 700,000, this figure means that probably more than a third of them claim to follow the old religion.
Mari intellectuals maintain that MTR believers should be classified in groups with varying degrees of Russian-Orthodox influence, including "Rush Faith" followers, who might even go to church at times; followers of "Marla Faith" who are baptized; and nonbaptized "Chi Mari."