Maris - Sociopolitical Organization

The Maris are strongly attached to the peasant way of life; their involvement in industry and education still remains relatively slight. Immobility and firm ties with the soil explain to a considerable extent why the Mari participation in the Bolshevik Revolution was negligible. Later, too, the percentage of Maris who were members of the ASSR's Communist party organization generally lagged somewhat behind the titular nationality's proportion of the population. Like other Republics in the Russian Federation, the Republic of Mari has certain symbols of statehood but administratively it ranks as a province (oblast). It is divided into fourteen districts; in about half of them Maris are a nominal majority of the inhabitants. The districts, in turn, are broken down into rural councils, which are the basic units in the countryside. Each administers around ten villages on the average.

The first manifestations of Mari nationalism became apparent in the late nineteenth century: sects striving to protect old religious habits expressed the idea, "To undo our faith is equal to undoing us." A formally organized national movement got its start after the February Revolution of 1917, but in the course of the 1920s the possibilities for spontaneous ethnic organization again diminished; soon the policy of indigenization ( korenizatsiya ) of administration and culture was also ended. Those supporting ethnic freedom were brought under strict party control. Moreover, the national intelligentsia was harshly persecuted. Collectivization obviously caused some ethnic tension as well For decades all this dampened popular initiative and hindered the formation of genuine ethnic self-consciousness. Only after the political atmosphere changed with perestroika were there again some signs of emerging ethnic organization among the Maris. The reclassification of the Mari ASSR as the Republic of Mari is one outcome of this change.

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