Dancing And Sacred Groves: What Does It Mean To Be Mari?
The Mari El Republic in central Russia is home to the Mari people, an ethnic minority that proudly preserves its traditions. Sometimes described as "Europe's last pagans," locals speak a Finno-Ugric language and observe pre-Christian rituals, although some also follow the Russian Orthodox faith. The Mari religion centers on believers' connections to nature, with rituals taking place in sacred forest groves. RFE/RL photographer Sergey Peteryaev asked Mari women to pose in traditional dress and describe their impressions of Mari identity, language, and faith.