Khanty - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Principles of patriarchy and patrilocality guided traditional marriages. Flexible households also allowed matrilocality, bride-service, and even bride-capture. Wealthy non-Orthodox Khanty could in principle have multiple wives (sisters were preferred), but in practice polygamy was rare. Despite widespread poverty, gifts to a bride's family of reindeer, furs, meat, crafts, and, by the twentieth century, rubles, were common, as were dowries. Traditional Khanty wives considered both the gifts and dowry insurance against mistreatment in their husband's families, for if they ran home, payments had to be returned. This attitude was not shared by Soviet Khanty, who claimed that the payments and arranged marriages made women slaves. As late as the 1930s weddings featured bloody sheets displayed and torn to pieces by the bride's mother, after which the new bride sat behind a curtain in her husband's family home while others caroused nearby. She emerged to work but was forbidden to show her face to her male in-laws.


Inheritance. Patrilineages traditionally regulated territory usufruct and male inheritance of animals. They controlled dowry size and allowed female inheritance of animals only when there was no logical male heir. Sale of land was rare, but when it occurred an entire lineage shared the proceeds. Collectivization made lineage territories obsolete.

Socialization. Participating in male hunting and fishing trips, young boys were trained in survival skills. They tended reindeer and, at puberty, were initiated into kin-group lore, rituals, and responsibilities. Girls were brought up reserved, obedient, and constantly working. They left home as brides as young as 12 years old. Soviet boarding schools changed these traditions, without fully instilling values of "young pioneer" Socialist training.

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