Avars - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally Avars of both genders married at about age 15. The wishes of the parents played a basic role in the selection of a bridal couple and the conclusion of a marriage; however, a young man always had the option of informing his parents of whom he wanted to marry. A couple whose parents were not in agreement with the marriage eloped or simulated an abduction; forcible abductions were rarer. Marriage was possible with relatives as close as first cousins. The girl was not given in marriage to a young man of lower social rank. A girl was also not given to an "outsider"—anybody who did not belong to the village commune. The conclusion of a marriage was marked by ceremonies, dances, receptions, songs, and sometimes horse races. The wedding ceremony took place with witnesses to its religious ritual: the public agreement of the couple was a required condition for the conclusion of the wedding. In the Soviet period new rituals and customs took root: the registered civil marriage has become obligatory and material expenses have increased. In earlier times land, livestock, and hay fields were apportioned for the support of the couple. The residence of the newlyweds was always patrilocal but with separate living quarters: the groom's father provided them with a room or built a new house. Today this tradition is being modified toward the provision of help with labor, furniture, room to live in, and money. In divorce, as in marriage, the woman traditionally retained all the property apportioned to her by her parents as a dowry, including land and livestock; the children remained with the father. The latter Sharia-based (Quranic) custom has been modified in accordance with Soviet law: the children now remain with the mother. The formal right to divorce used to rest with the man but now a marriage can be dissolved by either party.

Domestic Unit. Historically the Avars, unlike many other peoples of the Caucasus, lived in nuclear families, which, one supposes, reflected the early establishment of private property in land and the civil nature of the village commune. The Avars, notwithstanding the well-known modernization of their everyday culture, are very devoted to basic and traditional family values.

Inheritance. Inheritance was primarily from father to son; in the absence of direct heirs it was along collateral lines but within the tukhum. Women inherited one-third of the total inheritance. The wills were made by word of mouth to a trusted person but also in writing. Written wills were proclaimed in the mosque. Today the Avars, especially the urban dwellers, follow the Soviet laws of inheritance.

Socialization. In the education of children a major role was played by diverse games and athletic competitions, the contents of which fostered effective socialization. Study in parochial schools was free and voluntary (paid for by the commune), and at various stages there was a winnowing out of the most competent students. In the contemporary life of the Avars, especially in urban areas, education typically takes place in nurseries, kindergartens, and schools. The school reform that began in the 1980s presupposes a definite about-face in "ethnopedagogy."

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