(ENG) The villagers of Tonshaevo attend a performance of traditional music and dance Mari. (ITA) Concerto di musica tradizionale Mari nel villaggio di Tonshaevo.
[ EPF 2015 FINALIST ]
There is a population with Finnish ancestors living in a rural area near Joshkar-ola, in the Republic of Mari-El, Russia. They are called Mari, speak a language belonging to the Ugro-Finnic and use a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet. They settled in this area around the fifth century a.C. The current population is about 600,000 people.
The Mari are the last pagan population of the West. They live in symbiotic relationship with nature, which is celebrated as the basis of their existence. Nature exerts a magical religiosity on people. It is the mother who protects man, beneficial as long as he does not try to destroy it. The cyclical nature of the land merges with the ancient pagan practices. The faith of the Mari worships the gods of the four natural elements.
(ENG) A man bring the water from the well of sacred water. For the people Mari nature has a double meaning, not only vital economic resource but also and above all spiritual, the place where they can be officiated sacred rites. (ITA) Un uomo estrae acqua di una sorgente ritenuta sacra.
(ENG) An old woman drinks an 8% degrees beer from a bottle in the early morning. (ITA) Una donna anziana sorseggia una birra di primo mattino.
(ENG) Typical Mari country house. They live a very simple life, bucolic. Small villages made of dirt roads and few houses. (ITA) Tipica casa di campagna Mari. La regione è disseminata di piccoli villaggi fatti di strade sterrate e abitazioni rurali.
(ENG) A woman go to wash clothes in the river during the summer. (ITA) Una donna intenta a lavare i panni nelle acque del fiume sacro.
La tavola e’ imbandita per lo spuntino. I Mari hanno l’abitudine di consumare pasti moderati ma frequenti e con elevato contenuto di cibi proteici e grassi ai quali affiancano tè o caffè.
(ENG) Women discussing in a hot summer afternoon. Tonshaevo village (ITA) Donne discutono in un caldo pomeriggio d’estate. Villaggio di Tonshaevo.
(Eng) In short Russian summers, life takes place completely outside. (ITA) Due bambine fanno merenda con un cocomero in giardino.
A young boy having fun while is running with the bike of his father in the countryside around the village. (ITA) Un giovane attraversa i campi con la moto di suo padre nelle campagne attorno al villaggio.
(ENG) Tea time for Natasha, wearing typical Mari clothes. (ITA) L’ora del tè per Natasha, che indossa abiti tradizionali.
In the sixteenth century, Christianity was imposed on them by Ivan the Terrible and their territory was annexed to the Russian Empire. However, the religious subjugation was never fully accepted, they in fact retain their beliefs in a significant amount of pre-Christian elements. In the twentieth century, with the rise of the Soviet Union, it was officially forbidden to celebrate rituals and sacrifices. During the Cold War many prominent personalities of the Red Army, fascinated by their magical power, turned in secret to the Mari spiritual guidance looking for answers on the possible outcomes of their military strategies. In the 90’s the economy of the Mari, which was based on agriculture and livestock, entered a crisis with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Poverty and unemployment led young people to migrate to the big cities in search of a stable future, abandoning their villages and their ancient traditions.
In this journey back to the origins of man, in search of languages and cultures not yet disappeared, i came across this peasant ethic not yet affected by time. Among dances and forests, a pagan beauty emerges from this forgotten people.
(ENG) Most young people are having fun in the nature which returns to flourish, including an abundance of lakes and rivers that freeze during the winter and in the summer they offer unspoiled places of entertainment. (ITA) Ragazzini affacciati sul pontile dopo il bagno. Durante il breve periodo estivo i giovani si divertono immersi nella natura che torna a fiorire. Laghi e fiumi, che per gran parte dell’ anno sono ghiacciati o troppo freddi, diventano per due mesi il principale luogo di svago.
Landscape around Novitarial village. Mari-El Republic.2014
A woman coming back home before the sunset in winter time. Chursola village.
(ENG) A flock of sacred geese. In the mythology of Mari people geese are the most important offering to the gods. (ITA
(ENG) Home prayer. The priest celebrates the prayer to bless the food before being taken in the ritual offering to the gods. Novitarial village, Mari-El Republic, 2014 (ITA) il Kart, principale leader spirituale benedice gli omaggi offerti da una famiglia prima che vengano portati al rituale nella foresta e offerti in dono agli dei. Villaggio di Novitarial, Repubblica di Mari-el,2014
(ENG) In the mythology of the Mari people, geese are the most significant. Each family rushes to the function with a goose for sacrifice, symbolizing the connection between various elements such as water, earth and sky. Before offering the life of the animal spirits, it is critical that this is calm and gentle because otherwise it would defeat the good wishes and, by doing so, the Kart caresses him with a leaf birch, first moistened and then heated on a fire to create a cloud of pleasant steam. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic, 2014 (ITA) Oche scelte per il sacrificio agli dei della foresta. Bosco sacro di Chursola.Repubblica di Mari-el 2014.
(eng) Mari peole pray in the sacred grow during the big ritual they celebrate on the 1th of november before the winter starts. For Mari represents the beginning of winter, therefore, given the harshness of the coming season, for them is the best time to ask the favor of the spirits that govern the cycles of life. Among all the most important entity is Yumo, considered the creator of the highest laws governing the cosmos. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic. 2014 (ITA) Preghiera collettiva nel boscosacro durante il grande rito si celebra il 1 novembre. Per Mari rappresenta l’inizio dell’inverno, il momento migliore per chiedere il favore degli spiriti. Tra tutti l’entità più importante è Yumo, considerato il creatore delle leggi più alte che governano il cosmo. Bosco sacro di Chursola, Repubblica di Mari-El, 2014
(ENG) Fisherman on the bed of a frozen river. Chursola village, Mari-El Republic, 2014. (ITA) Pescatore all’opera sul letto del fiume appena ghiacciato. Villaggio di Chursola, Repubblica di Mari-el,2014
Raffaele Petralla (33) is a documentary photographer. He graduated from the School of Roman Photograph with a three-year master in 2007. His research focuses on environmental issues and socio-anthropological. Winner of awards and honorable mentions of international level. His works have been exhibited in several important European galleries and published in many magazines.