Kazakhs - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Rather close kin relations were preserved between persons counting back to the seventh generation. Men who were united by this kinship group were not allowed to select a wife from it. In other words, an exogamic clan up to the seventh generation existed among the Kazakhs. Several such clans constituted an even larger clan, which also had one common ancestor. In turn, these clans were united into even larger groupings, groups of which formed tribal unities, entering into three zhuz (see "History and Cultural Relations"). The Kazakhs considered all these clans and tribes to have a common origin or forefather. Specialists maintain that although the ancestors of the exogamic clans were actual personages, those of the larger clans and tribes were legendary or fictitious. The oldest zhuz of the Kazakhs consisted of eleven large tribes, namely Dulat, Alban, Suan, Sary-Uysun, Srgeli, Ysty, Oshakty, Chaprashty, Canyshkly (Katagan), Kangly, and Zhalair. All these tribes in ancient times entered into a union of tribes, headed by an usun. In turn, each of these enumerated tribes consisted of several large clans. Thus, the Dulat tribe consisted of four clans: Botpay, Chmyr, Saikym, Zhamys. These also consisted of several clans. For example, the Botpay clan had four subclans: Xudaykul, Chagay, Bidas, and Kuralas; the Saikym clan had ten; the Chmyr clan, three; and the Zhamys clan, seven. Each of these subclans was divided into yet smaller groupings down to the exogamic clan and family-kin groups. Every Kazakh knew his own genealogy, at least to seven generations. Thus, the Kazkahs could always determine their kinship ties to one another. Large tribes of Kazakhs entered into the Middle Zhuz: Kipchaks, Argyns, Naimans, Kere, and Uaki. Three large tribes constituted the Younger Zhuz: Bayul, Alimul, and Zetyru. Historical tales and legends associated with the origin of a given clan or tribe also exist. Every Kazakh clan and tribe had its own tamgy, a clan symbol, as well as a war cry, the uran.

The memory of membership in a given tribe or clan still persists among the Kazakhs, even down to the smallest grouping. The Kazakhs of the oldest generation know this particularly well. In connection with the growth of national self-awareness, the interest in one's past has awakened among the youths as well.

Kinship ties among the Kazakhs were traced along both the male and female lines. The children of the daughters or sisters of a woman were called zhien by her other relatives, whereas the latter were called nagashi by the former. In accordance with centuries-old traditions, the Kazakhs attempted not to offend their zhiens and not to refuse them anything, insofar as was possible. According to customary laws, the zhien could take any valuables from the relatives of the mother up to three times.

Kinship Terminology. Kazakh kinship terminology shared many features with that of other Turkic peoples of Central Asia, such as differentiation of age within generations, recognition of many degrees of lineal and collateral agnates, and recognition of maternal as well as paternal lines. Consonant with their penchant for calculating kinship, Kazakhs had numerous terms designating consanguinity and affinity.

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