Kin Groups and Descent. Traditional Armenian cultural practices have changed dramatically since the 1915 genocide and subsequent dispersal of Armenians from eastern Anatolia. Many traditional elements still characterize contemporary Armenian life, however, particularly in rural villages of the former Soviet Union. The most general category of Armenian descent was the azk, a nonresidential community of Armenians with kinship and political loyalties. The largest unit of Armenian kinship was the clan ( gerdastan ) . While this term may refer to the immediate relatives of a single parent or grandparent, it is also used to describe patriarchal, patrilineal clans that included ancestors in the male line, sometimes extending as far back as six or eight generations. These clans resembled other European and Caucasian clan organizations dating back to the Middle Ages. Among the many responsibilities of the head of the clan were the maintenance of clan honor, consent for all marriages, the burial of deceased clan members, and the avenging of blood feuds. Clans often served the purpose of self-defense against other clans and other peoples.
Although the clans were not characteristically residential, they sometimes occupied a particular territory within a village. In such cases, a network of blood ties constituted a cooperative economic unit, and consensus was required among male members for the disposal of any property. Both residentially and nonresidentially based clans were exogamous, with strict taboos against marriage between second cousins and between god kin and against levirate.