View Full Version : The Mari: Europe's Last Pagan Nation Under Threat

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005, 09:39 PM
URGENT ACTION - An appeal to the authorities of Russian Federation to stop infringing on political and cultural rights of the Maris, a 600 thousand strong nation, was distributed today by a group of American, British, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian politicians and public figures.

They urge the Russian government to immediately stop the rising tide of discrimination and persecution of Mari nation in the Republic of Mari El, and to initiate an investigation into the assault on prominent Mari leader Mr. Vladimir Kozlov who was beaten nearly to death earlier this month. Kozlov is the editor-in-chief of an international Finno-Ugric newspaper and head of the all-Russian movement of the Mari people. The authors call on human rights organizations of the world to support the action. Everyone is called to join the appeal at the Internet address


Among those who signed the appeal are former speaker of the Finnish parliament Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen, former president of Estonia Mr. Lennart Meri, long-term adviser of U.S. governments Prof. Paul Goble, composers Veljo Tormis from Estonia and Kari Rydman from Finland, First Vice-President of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prof. John Hiden from Britain, and former Finnish foreign minister Pertti Paasio.

The appeal of western politicians was published on 22 February in the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat and Estonian Paevaleht, dailies with the greatest circulation. It was the reaction to a report by the Mari El Association in Moscow issued 7 February. According to the report, local officials did not even launch investigation into other similar
cases of attacks on leaders of political opposition.

The association condemned the attack on Kozlov and called on Mari representatives in the Russian State Duma to take an action to stop 'the political terror' and ensure the constitutional rights to all citizens in Mari El. The report asked the international community and especially the Finno-Ugric nations of Estonia, Finland and Hungary, relatives of the Mari people, to speak out against this dangerous trend.

From UNPO website at http://www.unpo.org/news_detail.php?arg=38&par=2018

Death and the Sun
Wednesday, July 27th, 2005, 10:58 AM
There were a couple of threads on Stormfront about this not too long ago, with interesting replies from the Russians there:



Friday, October 14th, 2005, 10:11 AM
Among Russia's Finno-Ugrian nations Nature-religion, Paganism, has been preserved in the out-of-the-way places. The Mari are said to be Europe's last Pagan nation. In isolated collective-farm villages the traditions are still in use. During the time of persecution in the 1930's religions were forbidden, including the Nature-religion. This was nonetheless practiced in secret, as was also the Christian religion.

Around five years ago began the Nature-religion's rise. It was tried as a part of the strengthening of the nation's identity. In the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, plans were made with the assistance of state authority for a Nature-religion temple with a 2,000-person capacity. Due to a lack of funding the project dried up. The [thread of the] sacrificial tradition is being broken. The young people are becoming estranged from it. In the cities people are almost completely without religion.

In the Mari village's schoolyard the people of the collective farm were assembled to receive us, the women in splendid folk-costumes that they had made themselves, serving, after some music according to custom, bread, salt and drink [this is also the traditional Slavic gesture of hospitality]. As the hosts in charge, there were the director of the collective farm, the chairman of the cultural society, the collective farm's hero of labor, and the sacrificing priest in his official [i.e., priestly] garb. The collective farm, which was founded in 1930, includes four villages. There are 760 residents there. The collective farm's production of grain and livestock products is brought to the capital of Bashkiria, Ufa.

Nature Worship

It was with hospitality that we guests, [who had been] in many places addressed as beloved kinfolk, were guided to the holy place, to the Nature-religion's chapel and the sacrificial spot next to it. The sacrificial priest told [us] about the traditional sacrificial ceremony. The place of sacrifice has been the same since ancient times. During the year there are two big sacrificial celebrations, in the spring and in August. Meat, milk and grain are sacrificed to the Gods in the campfires. The smoke of the sacrifices rises up to the Gods. The Dead are remembered and the Gods are asked to bring good health and harvests. The first [serving of] food is offered to the Spirits. The leftover food is taken out into the yard for the birds.

The sacrificial celebration is held at the same time as the Christian Easter. Weddings and funerals are conducted in the chapel. In addition, in the villages they have their own smaller sacrificial celebrations. Fragrant fabrics are hung from wooden poles to placate the Gods.

The village elders choose the leader of the worship proceedings, the sacrificing priest, from amongst themselves. The ceremonies and other traditions are learned from the elders. On a wall in the chapel, and even in the school, are prayer instructions. The director of the collective farm gave quite a fiery speech in defense of the Nature-religion.

On the morning of the sacrificial celebration, before sunrise, we go to the cemetery to get the souls of the Dead. With the Spirits we go for a bath [in a sauna]. The first scoop of water we toss [onto the hot rocks] for the Spirits. We light candles. The biggest candle is for Satan, so that he won't harm or tease us.

As a guest at the sacrificial proceedings

In another village we observed what was for us a unique event: a sacrificial ceremony. The sacrificial grove is six kilometers from the village, behind a channel that could barely be called a road, where we were bouncingly delivered in an off-road vehicle. The sacrificial place is on an unspoiled forested hill. Beneath it is a sacrificial spring, where one could see money that had been thrown there as a sacrifice or redemption, with coins putting an end to small sins.

The sacrificing priest had quietly died, and a new one had not yet been chosen. An elderly woman led the worship-and-sacrificial proceedings. On the sacrificial table there were bread, eggs and drink, which were hallowed in the smoke of the sacrificial fire. In front of the roofed altar there was a beam, in the rear were votive lamps (!) [the exclamation mark in parentheses appears in the original text - I do not know what it signifies]. Next to it was a small, roofed booth, in which burned three votive lamps. The middle one was for the Great White God, who the sacrificers, however, did not know how to name more precisely. The God of the hill is prayed to. All that is good is requested for oneself, for one's own village, for the Mari nation, and for the whole world. Also, for us they requested a good journey and all the best in everything else too. Those who have been baptized [into Christianity] also take part in the sacrificial proceedings. Many a sacrificer made the sign of the cross! The age-old Nature-religion tradition runs deep.

In the food sacrifice a portion is thrown into the fire; the smoke lifts the prayers up to the Gods [in Russian Orthodox Christianity also, the smoke of the incense that is burned during church services is believed to carry the prayers of the faithful up to God]. In animal sacrifices, for example at Easter, geese or other birds are sacrificed. The blood, internal organs and shin-bones are burned. The meat is cooked and eaten with the sacrificial porridge. The sacrificial drink is poured into the flames . Pieces of cloth are tied to poles. A piece of cloth is tied around the part of one's body that is sick, and is then brought to be blessed, and the disease or trouble is removed. The cloth is tied to a tree or pole in order to convey the prayers to the God of the hill, who removes the trouble (provided that the sacrifice pleases him?). The birch and rowan are holy trees.

There are a couple of hundred sacrificial groves that are still used. Half of the Mari people support the Nature-religion, half support Christianity.

The Nature-religions accept Christian influences in clothing, belief, buildings. Their clothing tells about their nation and religion. The Mari want to preserve their faith. Their neighbors the Chuvash also had a Nature-religion.

Five years ago in Udmurtia, our going to the local sacrificial grove angered the village shaman, who was infuriated with fire in his eyes. When it became clear that we had not come to them for the purpose of desecrating the holy places, the shaman calmed down. In the man-made clearing there were hundreds of horses' and cows' skulls and shin-bones in the sacrificial spruces/firs [the Finnish word "kuusi" can mean either "spruce" or "fir"]. Spruces/firs are men's trees, while birches are women's. The remains from the sacrificial fires were fresh. The blood from a sacrificed black ram is poured into a hole in the ground, for the Earth Mother, the blood from a white ram [is poured] into the fire, whence it ascends as smoke up to Inmar, the God of the Air [in Finland he was known as Ilmari; 'ilma" means "air" in Finnish]. Inmar is a men's God. In a building with the name "Kuala" the sacrificial porridge is being cooked, into which the meat of the sacrificed animals is chopped up. To wash this down, we drink a strong black moonshine.

The Nature-religion will yet survive for a long time, although through urbanization and the passing of the generations it is becoming ever scarcer. Also, expanding missionary work is transforming former Nature-religion practitioners into Christians.

By Toivo Lyyra; translated from the Finnish by Roy Tapio Kosonen
This article is from the Finnish newspaper "Karjala", appearing in the issue of 4 October 2001. Statements appearing in brackets are by the translator.

Source (http://www.galacticapublishing.com/archive/2002/yuletide/lp_the_mari.php)

Saturday, October 15th, 2005, 03:49 PM
The 21st century and still the Christians work to convert rural peoples. I find it especially sad in this case as they are indeed the last of a Pagan community/nation. It's sick, in my opinion. But I guess the Church only cares for "spreading the word"...as if it hadn't done that enough.

This is especially true:


Greetings to you all!

I was just thinking about that article that I recently sent to you all about the last Pagan nation in Europe. I am haunted by the thought that these people almost built a 2,000-person capacity temple for their religion, and with state approval, but were thwarted by a lack of funds.Meanwhile, Christian churches, Muslim mosques, Buddhist temples and Jewish synagogues all over the former Soviet Union receive plenty of money from their co-religionists living outside of Russia. What's wrong with us that we don't do the same for our co-religionists, the Mari? I think we should notify all members of our Way about this, and start a fund to finance the construction of this temple. Think about it - a genuine temple of a surviving pre-Christian religion erected on European soil! Let's spread the word about this and make this into reality! Read the last sentence of the article - these good people are under assault and they need us.

For tribal solidarity,
Roy Tapio Kosonen

Ryan Kirk
Saturday, October 15th, 2005, 05:33 PM
If anyone knows if there is a fund or a charity set up to donate money to this cause I would definitely support it.

Saturday, October 15th, 2005, 05:53 PM
Indeed, so would I. But it seems that the contact button on Galactica is not working for me. But definitely something to try and inquire about.

Thursday, September 7th, 2006, 01:06 AM
Russia Moves to Ban Religious Rites of Indigenous Finno-Ugric People Mari

A pagan priest is on trial in Russian Volga region for allegedly inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred.

Vitaly Tanakov, a descendant of the ancient priests family, has written a book dedicated to the traditions and religion of Mari, a Finno-Ugric people numerous in the region. He distributed the book, entitled “The Priest Speaks”, at ethnic gatherings and celebrations.

However the authorities saw the book as violating the constitution, and charged Tanakov with inciting hatred and hostility as well as humiliating the dignity of a group of people for their nationality, language and religion.

Experts analyzing the book reported nothing criminal about its contents, and said the charges were totally groundless.

Moreover, human rights activists said that if Tanakov is sentenced for describing the Mari national characteristics in his book, the trial will actually outlaw thousands of the people in the republic for speaking their own language, practicing their own religion and performing their rites.

The Mari people have often voiced concern about discrimination they suffer from the Slavic population.


Thursday, September 7th, 2006, 05:45 AM
Judging from this (http://www.mosnews.com/news/2006/09/01/islconf.shtml) article from the same mosnews.com Russia seems to be more interested in appeasing it's Muslim minority.

The country also gained observer status in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 2005, and “should feel that it is part of the Muslim family,” Ravil Gainutdin, president of the Russian Council of Muftis, told AFP. “As a member of the UN Security Council, Russia will be able to actively defend the rights of Muslims and prevent rules being dictated that they oppose,” Gainutdin said.

“The Islamic world wants Russia to return to the role the Soviet Union played in the Muslim world,” Gainutdin said.

The Soviet Union was a prominent supporter of Islamic countries in conflicts with Israel, including the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 and the October War between Egypt and Israel in 1973.

So instead of encouraging native ethnic religions in their country, now they might feel that they are "part of the Muslim family." At one time Russia was considered successor to the Greek Empire and bulwark against Islamic expansionism, now this.

Saturday, September 9th, 2006, 09:59 AM

Russian Federation:

Mari National Activists Prosecuted for Exercising Freedom of Expression

Vienna/Moscow 1 September 2006.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) are concerned that two Mari national activists have been prosecuted merely for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression in the Russian Republic of Mari El, where the Finno-Ugric Mari people constitutes the titular nationality.

A Mari religious leader, Vitaly Tanakov, who earlier this year published a brochure about the peculiarities of the Mari people and its religious beliefs, has been charged with “incitement to ethnic, racial or religious enmity” and “abasement of human dignity on the basis of religion, national or racial affiliation” under article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Another Mari activist, Nina Maksimova, who chairs the organization Mari Ushem, faces similar charges for helping to distribute the brochure at concerts and other cultural events. If the two activists are found guilty, they could be sentenced to heavy fines or up to four years’ of imprisonment.

The IHF and the MHG believe that the two criminal cases are politically motivated and represent an attempt to punish Tanakov and Maksimova for their involvement in the Mari national movement of Mari El.

In recent years, members of this movement have faced growing harassment because of their efforts to promote the rights and the interests of the Mari people and to communicate their concerns about official minority policies. Members of the movement have, inter alia, been ridiculed and denigrated in state-controlled media and subject to intimidation, arrest, prosecution, dismissal and violent attacks.(1)

Legal experts from the local human rights organizations Man and Law and AGORA, who carefully analyzed the brochure authored by Tanakov, unequivocally concluded that there is nothing in the publication that would justify prosecution under Criminal Code article 282.

Thus, the criminal charges brought against Tanakov and Maksimova are in apparent violation of international human rights standards protecting the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.(2) The IHF and the MHG are also concerned that the cases against the two activists are part of a broader trend in Russia of abusing anti-incitement legislation to persecute civil society activists, journalists and others considered politically threatening.(3)

A hearing in the two cases was initially scheduled for 30 August 2006 but has been postponed until 7 September 2006 following an appeal from the defendants to be permitted to use the services of legal counsel of their own choosing instead of those of state-appointed lawyers.

The IHF and the MHG call on the authorities of the Republic of Mari El to immediately drop the charges against Vitaly Tanakov and Nina Maksimova and to respect their right to promote the culture and traditions of the Mari people in peaceful and legitimate ways, including by exercising their internationally protected right to freedom of expression.

If the legal proceedings against Tanakov and Maksimova are continued, the two activists should be granted an open and fair trial and granted an effective opportunity to challenge the charges against them.

For more information:
Vienna: Henriette Schroeder, IHF Press Officer, +43-1-408 88 22, +43-676-725 4829
Moscow: Irina Sergeeva, MHG Project Coordinator, +7-495-207 0769

A press release published by Man and Law on 28 August 2006 (in Russian) is attached.
________________________________________ ________________________________________ _______
1) For more information, see the joint IHF and Moscow Helsinki Group report, The Human Rights Situation of the Mari Minority of the Republic of Mari El from February 2006.

The report is available in English and Russian at


A Finnish summary can also be found at the IHF website.

2) Compare article 10 of the European Convention for Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant for Political and Civil Rights. The Russian Federation is a party to both of these treaties.

3) For example, in February 2006, a Nizhny Novgorod court applied article 282 of the Criminal Code to convict a human rights activist involved in efforts to highlight human rights violations committed in the context of the conflict in Chechnya.

The activist, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, who is executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence. For more information about this case, see the chapter on the Russian Federation in IHF, Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Report 2006 (Events of 2005), at