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European people, numbering about 670,000 in the late 20th century, who speak a language of the Finno-Ugric family and live mainly in Mari El, Russia, in the middle Volga River valley. There are also some Mari in adjacent regions and nearly 100,000 in Bashkortostan (Bashkiriya). Mari is their own name for themselves; Cheremis was the name applied to them by Westerners and pre-Soviet Russians