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Yoshkar-Ola city is the capital of a small Mari El Republic located in the middle Volga River valley about 825 km (515 mi) east of Moscow of the Central European Russia. Closest neighbors of Yoshkar-Ola are Kazan, Cheboksary and Nizhny Novgorod cities. The region is a rolling plain, heavily forested with fir and pine. The population is mainly Russian (47%) and Mari (43%), with Tatar, Chuvash, Udmurt, and other minorities. Previously called Cheremiss, the Mari speak a Finno-Ugric language and are known for their wood and stone carving and embroidery. In the 8th century, the Mari were under Khazar rule. Ruled by the Eastern Bulgars from the 9th to the 12th cent., the Mari were then conquered (1236) by the Golden Horde. The Russians under Ivan IV assumed control in 1552.
Today Yoshkar-Ola is a relatively quiet, yet industrial city with reach traditions and very hospitable people. Along with rich cultural diversity, the area is also a home to numerous mineral springs used for medicinal purposes at local SPAs. Local Lakes and Rivers are classed among the cleanest in Europe offering great opportunities for rafting, kayaking, hiking, sightseeing, fishing, and hunting activities.