Subsistence and Commercial Activities. At the close of the nineteenth century practically all Maris were engaged in agriculture. The main cereals cultivated were rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, and millet. Horses and cattle were kept but, as a whole, animal domestication did not play any prominent role in the traditional economy. Beekeeping had been an important activity for a long time, and hunting was also pursued—in particular, in the backwoods and swamps of the left side of the Volga. Honey, furs, tar, and wood coal served as market goods. Today agriculture is carried on in large units—collective and state farms. Wheat, potatoes, and flax have grown in importance as cultivated plants. The expansion of the area cultivated for fodder speaks of increased livestock rearing and dairy farming. During the Soviet era, industrial output grew manyfold. The metal industry is now in a leading position, and paper manufacturing, woodworking, and light industries are also well developed.
Industrial Arts. In the past a girl's abilities were, to a high degree, judged by her weaving and embroidery. Despite being officially replaced in the 1930s, the woman's folk dress continues to be an important means of ethnic identification and a sustainer of handicrafts. Currently, however, most of the aprons, smocks, caftans, head scarves, imitation silver coin embellishments, and boots needed for weddings and other special occasions are made in state-owned workshops. Traditional basket weaving persists, as does the making of various folk-art wooden articles.
Land Tenure. In feudal Russia, the Hill Maris were privately owned serfs, whereas the Meadow Maris were state owned. Village communities practiced a three-field system of agriculture. After emancipation, the separation of the peasants from their communities involved many difficulties; the process accelerated somewhat only after the Stolypin reforms of 1906, but the reforms also added to the economic polarization in the countryside. The Soviet regime collectivized agriculture by 1937; the peasants' privately run plots were limited to subsidiary smallholdings.