Germans - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The rural German population tended to have larger families (six to twelve children) than those living in the cities, with the biggest families usually consisting of three or four generations. The number of children born in each family dropped to an average of two to three in rural homes and one to two in urban-based families after private land ownership was abolished and no longer provided a source of income. The accelerating trend toward urbanization has also influenced the decline in the birthrate.

Marriage. In the rural areas before 1917, Germans tended to marry within their religious communities. Following the demise of the church in the twenties and thirties, however, religious differences came to play less of a role, and by the end of World War II, they were no longer a consideration. The number of interethnic marriages has greatly increased in the meantime. By the end of the seventies, at least 47.5 percent of all married Germans in the Soviet Union had chosen a partner of another nationality. This percentage was lower in the Central Soviet Asian republics and in Kazakhstan. Mixed marriages occur most frequently with Russians and Ukrainians.

Inheritance . Prior to the Russian Revolution, land in the Volga Lands was the property of the mir and usufruct was periodically redistributed. In German colonies in southern Russia, German laws regulating the inheritance of the farm by the youngest son were in effect, but were superseded by Russian inheritance laws after self-government was abolished in 1871. Since the nationalization of lands and of the means of production in 1917, individuals have the right only to use, not to own, domestic buildings and farmland. The property and leasing laws passed in 1990 have brought little change.

Socialization. The older generation used to be held in respect, as were clergymen and teachers in rural communities. Urbanization has reduced families to two generations, thus changing the role played by older relatives.

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