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XII Mari Song Festival

On 10 June, the 12th Mari Song Festival took place on Siukhin field in Hill Mari region, Republic of Mari El. The first Mari Song Festival was in 2002 and the song festival tradition has been adopted from Estonia.

mari laulupidu

After the hour-long performance of the combined choirs, a choir singing competition took place. In total, about 500 singers gathered, somewhat less than previous Song Festivals, where 700-800 singers sang in a joint choir. The organisers said that this is due to the impact of COVID-19. Some of the choirs stopped their activities and there was a couple of years break in organising Song Festivals.

A peculiarity of Mari Song Festivals is that they take place every year. Simultaneously to the Song Festival, there are open-air theatre performances, an accordion players’ competition and national tests of strength. The best people of different professions are thanked, such as farmers. However, the celebrants are greeted by a stylised 16th-century Hill Mari prince, Akpars. The prince who in 1546 led a delegation of Hill Mari to Moscow to ask for his land to be included in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and who in 1552 supported Ivan IV the Terrible, when he conquered Kazan.

Fenno-Ugria’s adviser Jaak Prozes, who took part in the Mari Song Festival in 2004, recalls in his diary: “What can I say about the festival? Can’t say anything right now. At the same time at the banquet table it seemed that the state officials and organisers were satisfied. Yet, it was inappropriate for me to say anything about the content of the festival, I just handed over gifts from the Estonian Ministry of Culture and expressed the wish that the expectations of the Mari to see an Estonian choir at the next song festival is justified. Now thinking about it, however, I find that half of the Song Festival’s repertoire in Russian is too much, too much. After all, it is a Mari Song and Dance Festival. I also didn’t understand why the best farmers should be thanked at a song festival. And also, since the tradition of the song festival is not yet rooted, they should think about how to make sure that the spectators stay on the benches, and not wander between the barbecue and beer tents or watching some gambling game. It was just sad to watch the Mari song, which came from the soul and heart, reverberate from empty benches.”