Maris are known in chronicles as Tsarmis or Cheremis people. Mari languages belongs to Finno-Ugric Volgaic group (along with Ersa and Moksha). The Maris have two languages: Hill and Meadow Mari.
2002 cencus of Russian Federation found the Mari group of people to have 604 000 members. The mother language is considered Mari by 464 000 of them (77%) of the population.
The Maris have two written languages: the Hill Mari and the Meadow Mari. Both belong to the Volga group of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic linguistic family. The nearest languages related to them are Moksha and Erzya. The number of speakers of either the Hill or Meadow Mari is 464 341 (76,8% of the total number of Maris).
The literature in these languages started to develop in the 19th century on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet. Both languages are official, as well as the Russian in the Republic of Mari El. In some rural schools instruction is carried out in the mother language up to the 4th grade, but later it is taught as a separate subject only. The local university has departments of Mari language and literature. In the Mari languages, books and periodicals are published in small numbers of copies, daily television broadcasts last a few minutes, and radio broadcasts last about an hour.
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