One of the 21 autonomous republics of Russia, the home of the Mari people, who speak a Finno-Ugrian language. It has an area of 23 000 km2 and a population of about 750 000, and its capital is Yoshkar-Ola. It is east of the city of Nizhniy Novgorod in European Russia, abutting the Chuvash Republic to the south across the River Volga (Mari Viche), and Tatarstan to the east.

The name may also be seen spelt as Mariy-El or Marii-El. In Mari it is also known as Marintasvalta 'Mari Republic'. The Mari were formerly known as the Cheremiss.

The area was ruled by the Khazars from the eighth century, the Bulgars from the ninth, the Golden Horde from 1236, and Russia from 1552. It became autonomous in 1920 and an ASSR in 1936. The presidents since the end of the Soviet Union have been

Vladislav Zotin 1991-1997
Vyacheslav Kislitsyn 1997-2001
Leonid Markelov 2001-

The flag is a horizontal tricolor of light blue, white, and red, the white stripe wider, with in darker red on the white, and shifted towards the hoist, a geometrical sun symbol above the name (in Cyrillic) MARIY EL. The flag is unusual in that this device is not repeated on the reverse, which is the plain tricolor.