Karelians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is a union of two lineages. Traditional weddings lasted several days, with plenty to eat and drink, magical occurrences, poems, and lamentations. The percentage of church weddings was not large. Small-scale weddings, in which the bride moved to the groom's home, with the ceremony performed only thereafter, began to develop in the late nineteenth century.

Domestic Unit. In the early twentieth century, and still to some degree until World War II, extended families of three or four generations did exist, although the common domestic unit was the nuclear family. The family can be categorized as patriarchal, patrilinear, and patrilocal. If a family had no sons, the daughter's husband could come to live in the house as a kodavävy (live-in son-in-law). The izändä (head of the household) was the father or oldest son, who directed the outdoor work and made financial decisions. The emändä (mistress of the house), generally the wife of the izändä or oldest woman, supervised stock raising and indoor tasks. Gender division was also expressed by the names for the wife: if her first child were a boy, she was called mucoi, akka if the child were a girl.

Inheritance. Land inheritance could be either in the form of actual ownership or land use. Although different laws were enacted in Finnish and Russian Karelia, there were many common features regarding inheritance. Men and women had equal legal rights. Widows, too, have been able to inherit the farm and run it. In practice, however, a son generally inherited the farm because women moved to their husbands' homes. According to customary law, the girls received some personal effect from the household (e.g., a cow, goat, textiles, spinning wheel). If the household had no son, the kodavävy or even some outsider's son might become head of the household and in this way inherit it. Currently, Finnish law mandates that the widow and children inherit. In Soviet Karelia individuals could inherit houses and other personal effects, but not land.

Socialization. Previously the Karelians socialized primarily within the family and village. Traditions were strong; the guiding influence of living and dead relatives was great. Tradition had been adapted to the doctrines of the Orthodox church, which represented the official socializing force. In the twentieth century the school, various hobby groups, and mass media have become increasingly important factors in socialization.

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