The Mari El Republic is a federal subject of Russia (a republic). It is in the European Russia region of the country, along the northern bank of the Volga River, and is administratively part of the Volga Federal District. The Mari El Republic has a population of 696,459 (2010 Census).
Yoshkar-Ola is the capital and the largest city of the Republic.
Mari El is one of Russia's ethnic republics, established for the indigenous Mari people, a Finnic nation who have traditionally lived along the Volga River and Kama River. The majority of the Republic's population are ethnic Russians (47.4%) and Mari (43.9%), with minority populations of Tatars and Chuvash. The official languages of Mari El are Russian and the Mari language. Mari El is bordered by Nizhny Novgorod Oblast to the west, Kirov Oblast to the north, Tatarstan Republic to the east, and Chuvashia Republic to the south.
The Republic is located in the eastern part of the East European Plain of Russia, along and mostly to the north of the Volga River. The swampy Mari Depression is in the west of the Republic, contrasted by more hilly landscapes in the east where the highest point of the Republic (at 278 meters (912 ft)) is located. The Republic borders with Kirov Oblast in the north and east, the Republic of Tatarstan in the southeast and south, the Chuvash Republic in the south, and with Nizhny Novgorod Oblast in the west and north.
Ancient Mari tribes were known since the 5th century, though archaeologists suspect that the Mari culture is much older in its roots. 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 the Tsardom of Russia (governed by Ivan the Terrible) after the fall of Kazan in 1552.
After the Russian Revolution, under the Bolshevik regime, the Mari Autonomous Oblast was established on 4 November 1920. It was re-organized into the Mari ASSR on 5 December 1936, at the same time as the enactment of the 1936 Soviet Constitution. In its present form, the Mari El Republic was formed on 22 December 1990. On 21 May 1998, Mari El alongside Amur, Ivanovo, Kostroma, and Voronezh Oblast signed a power-sharing agreement with the federal government, granting it autonomy. This agreement was abolished on 31 December 2001.