Kin Groups and Descent. Each Karachay belongs to a familial kinship group ( tukhum ) , the members of which have a common name. Earlier the tukhum occupied a section of the settlement and had common hay fields and a cemetery. Marriages are forbidden within the tukhum. The members of the tukhum are obligated to help one another. A kinship group has its own brand for marking cattle and horses. If a member of the tukhum wanted to sell a plot of land, the land had to be offered first to other relatives within the tukhum, and only if they refused to buy it could it be offered to more distant relatives, neighbors, or strangers. Around the beginning of the twentieth century the tukhums lost the characteristics of a kinship grouping; existing social structures were dissolved and the functions of the tukhum—defense, distribution of land, and general decisions concerning the village—passed to the village commune, which maintained possession of the forests and specifically communal pasturelands. The lands of families that had left Karachay passed into the possession of the communes. The commune helped its members with irrigation projects, saw to defense, organized the upkeep of trade routes in the mountains, and so on. After the annexation of Karachay by the Russian Empire in 1828, the basic form of government became the assembly, replacing the popular gathering.
Kinship Terminology. Kinship in the patronymic group is reckoned in both the paternal and maternal lines. The kinship terminology is Turkic, the basic terms being ata (father), ana (mother), egech (sister), qarnash (brother); these could be combined to give atanï qarnashïdan tuughan (father's brother's son), ananï egechinden tuughan (mother's sister's son), and so on. Affinal kinship terminology, arising from marriage bonds between two families, uses the terms for blood relations with the addition of the word qayïn: qayïn ata (husband's or wife's father), qayïn qïz (husband's or wife's sister), and so forth.