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The Mari people living in the Republic of Bashkortostan are mostly followers of their ethnic religion (“Mari paganism”). There is also a small group of Orthodox Christians, formed in the midst of the Mari pagan population as a result of forced baptism in the past. Since the 90s of the last century, the Mari people have also become acquainted with Protestantism, from different denominations of which only Lutheranism has had a tangible impact on the religious life of the Mari people. The teachings of Luther were preached among them by Finnish missionaries, who positioned themselves as representatives of a kindred Mari people. The use of the ethnic factor was one of the main reasons for the dynamic development of the Mari Lutheran community in Bashkiria. As a result of successful preaching work in the city of Birsk, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria was formed, which at one time was also the center of the Ural Brotherhood. The parishioners are Mari people, whose original religion before baptism was paganism, in worship and community life a large role is given to the Mari language and elements of ethnic culture (national costume, folk music, etc.). The pastor is a local native, Marian V. Abdullin, who received a higher theological education. In addition to the Birsky parish, small Lutheran groups were also formed in the cities of Ufa, Neftekamsk and some rural settlements. Based on published sources and field research materials, the article examines the history of the spread of Lutheranism among the Mari people of the region and the formation of the community, as well as some anthropological aspects of its functioning (the reasons for the adoption of a new religion, relations with pagan tribesmen, their attitude to the original religion and its rituals, the use of the Mari language and elements of traditional culture in Lutheran worship, etc.).

Keywords: Mari people, Lutherans, Protestant missionaries, Birsky parish, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, Republic of Bashkortostan

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2021.3.15-25

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About the author

Ranus R. Sadikov – DSc (History), Chief Researcher of Ethnography Department, R.G. Kuzeev Institute for Ethnological Studies – Subdivision of the UFRC RAS;
6 Karl Marx str., Ufa, 450077, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia;
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