Altaians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The Altaians generally maintained a patrilineal organization. The local communities were bound together by ties of common descent, and their closest kin were generally their closest neighbors. Just as they traced their descent from father to son, so they maintained their village organization in terms of the patriline. This was most markedly developed among the southern Altaians. The more northerly of these peoples had village groups based on territorial and neighborly bonds rather than on kinship.

Traditional Turkic social organization was based on patrilineage, in particular the descent line called seok (lit., bone). Descent in the seok was still reckoned into the twentieth century among the Telengit. The seok roughly coincided with the patrilineal clan, or gens, and in traditional times was the unit of tax collection and of political, juridicial, and military organization. Traditionally, the seok was an exogamic unit. The importance of The seok and related traditional units were marginalized early in the czarist era through administrative reorganization and through contact with Russian peasants and merchants, primarily in the more northerly districts of the Altai, among the Chelkan and Kumandin.

The members of the seok hunted together, exchanged goods with one another, and were closely interdependent. Kinfolk distinguished those who were related to one another through the father from those related through the mother. The mother came to her husband's village from another village and from another patriline. Family and village organization was basically patrilocal. Within the patriline, close attention was paid to rank by order of birth; the younger brother paid pro forma respect to the elder brother, as to the father. As among other Turkic peoples of Central Asia, however, the youngest son inherited his father's house and the land immediately surrounding it.

Marriage. The selection of the bride is sometimes determined by the groom's parents. Matchmaking is an obligatory part of the marriage ritual. The soliciting of an agreement for marriage is accomplished by representatives (the matchmakers) from the groom's side. In the past, abduction of the bride was not uncommon. The bride must make her new home at the residence of the groom's parents. During the wedding she pays respect to the fire of her husband's clan, prepares tea for the guests, and receives gifts of cattle, money, furniture, and so forth.

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