Major lakes include:
The Mari did not have a designated territory before Russian Revolution of 1917. According to the 2002 Census only 51.7% of the Mari within Russia live in Mari El, while 17.5% live in Bashkortostan. During the last Soviet Census (1989) 4% of the Mari of the Soviet Union lived outside of Russia.
According to the 2002 Census, Russians make up 47.5% of the republic's population, while the ethnic Mari make up 42.3%. Other groups include Tatars (6.0%), Chuvash (1.0%), Ukrainians (5,097, or 0.7%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population. 2,911 people (0.4%) did not indicate their nationalities during the Census.
|census 1926||census 1939||census 1959||census 1970||census 1979||census 1989||census 2002|
|Mari||247,979 (51.4%)||273,332 (47.2%)||279,450 (43.1%)||299,179 (43.7%)||306,627 (43.5%)||324,349 (43.3%)||312,178 (42.9%)|
|Russians||210,016 (43.6%)||266,951 (46.1%)||309,514 (47.8%)||320,825 (46.9%)||334,561 (47.5%)||355,973 (47.5%)||345,513 (47.5%)|
|Tatars||20,219 (4.2%)||27,149 (4.7%)||38,821 (6.0%)||40,279 (5.9%)||40,917 (5.8%)||43,850 (5.9%)||43,377 (6.0%)|
|Chuvash||2,184 (0.5%)||5,504 (0.9%)||9,065 (1.4%)||9,032 (1.3%)||8,087 (1.1%)||8,993 (1.2%)||7,418 (1.0%)|
|Others||1,703 (0.4%)||6,674 (1.2%)||10,830 (1.7%)||15,433 (2.3%)||14,015 (2.0%)||16,167 (2.2%)||19,943 (2.7%)|
Ancient Mari tribes were known since the 5th century. Later their area was a tributary of Volga Bulgaria and the Golden Horde. In the 1440s it was incorporated into the Khanate of Kazan and was occupied by Russia after the fall of Kazan in 1552.
The ethnic Mari people are under heavy Russification and Leonid Markelov has ordered many Mari language newspapers to close. Many ethnic Mari activists live under fear of violence. The Mari activist and chief editor Vladimir Kozlov was badly beaten after he published criticism toward Leonid Markelov's politics.
Traveling cheaply and quickly to various towns and villages in Mari El is made possible through a network of fifteen train stations, fifty-three bus stations, and numerous marshrutki. The republic is connected to different regions throughout Russia by daily trains to and from Moscow and Kazan, an airport located near Yoshkar-Ola, and a port on the Volga River in Kozmodemyansk. There are also four other minor river ports in Mari El.
There are many museums located throughout the Mari El territory. The largest ones include the National Museum, the Museum of History, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Yoshkar-Ola; the Museum of Arts and History, the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, and the Merchant Life Museum in Kozmodemyansk; and the Sheremetevo Castle Museum-reserve in Yurino. There are also museums dedicated to the poet Nikolay Mukhin and the composer Ivan Klyuchnikov-Palantay in Yoshkar-Ola and the house-museum of writer Sergei Chavayn in Chavaynur.
Five theaters are located in Yoshkar-Ola with performances in both the Russian and Mari languages.
For the past few years, the Mari El Republic has been participating in the national project "Education" ("Oбразование"), which is designed to improve education throughout Russia by bringing new technology into the classroom, improving material conditions in schools, and providing financial awards to extraordinary students and teachers.
Mari El is also the site of several mineral springs, many of which are located in the Ilet valley. Many small resorts and children's camps are also located on the various lakes throughout the republic.
There have been allegations that Mari El, and in particular its capital city Yoshkar-Ola, is a centre of operation for a number of international criminal gangs who obtain money from people by fraudulent means.
A number of dating scams are said to originate in Mari El, whereby criminals will place profiles on dating sites, often using fake identities and photographs (although the profiles will typically state that they come from a variety of locations in Russia and other former Soviet Union states). Young women typically establish a correspondence with people, "fall in love" in a very short time, and then attempt to obtain money on various pretexts.
Reports vary as to the extent of the problem, with some sources indicating that as many as 50% of the male and 90% of the female profiles on dating sites are bogus. Other sources are more conservative, however, and estimate that only about 10% of the profiles are false. The extent of fraud will vary from site to site, as some dating sites carry out more stringent checks and vetting procedures than others.
More than a hundred people were detained in the course of a special police operation, which had been held on September 13, 2006 by the Federal Security Service Department of Mari El. The operation was aimed at capturing the Internet scammers who posted introduction profiles on different sites, portraying themselves as women who wanted to get married to foreigners. In those profiles they used other people's photos illegally. Such Mari "fiancees" regularly tapped money from their men, motivating this with the necessity to learn English or paying for the driving lessons.
According to the special services, this criminal business was built on the following scheme. Organizers rented apartments in the quietest districts of Yoshkar-Ola, turned them into small offices, equipping them with satellite Internet access and several computers. The role of "fiancees" corresponding with the foreigners were mostly played by students, who received 10 or 15% of the amount they managed to tap from the clients.
It was the application from a German citizen, who had transferred 26,000 euros to his future fiancee's bank account in Yoshkar-Ola, that helped the police officers from "K" department to find the traces of the criminals. "The scammer did not appear to meet her future husband, she also never returned the money, and stopped corresponding. Later it was found out that the German citizen was sent a photo of a famous Russian ballet dancer instead of a picture of his possible fiancee", informs the press center.
Having checked up the information, officers of "K" department, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Mari El republic found out that the correspondence was carried on from a so-called "office" settled in an apartment in Yoshkar-Ola, where the seven members of the criminal group were arrested. Also, the police established the identity of the two organizers of the criminal business and the two women with a good knowledge of English, who helped with phone talks with foreigners.
During the search there were found 16 computers, a large amount of money, correspondence in foreign languages, bank tickets about money transfers from foreign citizens and other exhibits.