Koryaks and Kerek - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditional marriages were endogamous. Among almost all groups of Koryaks, not only were marriages between cousins possible, but also marriages between siblings. The distinguishing feature of marriage was working for one's future wife in her father's home. The period of work was indefinite and could last from several weeks to several years. The wedding ceremony included the "grabbing of a bride," in which the bridegroom had to touch the bride's genitals while she and her relatives attempted in every possible way to prevent him from doing so. Mixed marriages (with members of neighboring groups such as Even, Yukagir, etc.) were not prohibited, especially among the reindeer herders, but settled Koryaks and Kereks were more conservative in this regard. Today civil marriages are performed according to the laws of Russia, and mixed marriages are not condemned.

Domestic Unit. The main unit of traditional economic life was the community. It consisted of parents, their children, grandchildren, and other relatives. A community of settled Koryaks lived in one semiunderground hut; its members hunted together at sea in a single boat; the catch was communal property. The patriarchal community of reindeer herders also lived in a single dwelling. The bases of its existence were a reindeer herd, the products of gathering, and supplemental activities. The communities were led by elders who directed all economic and social life, represented the community in interethnic relations, and performed religious-cult functions. There were several families in a community. By the second half of the eighteenth century these communities had started to disintegrate, especially among settled Koryaks. This brought about the economic isolation of the family. Nowadays all Koryaks live in families no different in organization from those of the Russian population.

Inheritance. Koryaks did not own land. The main form of property of reindeer-nomads were reindeer herds that were inherited in the male line. In the Soviet period the problem of inheritance lost its significance.

Socialization. Infidelity was the transgression that, above all others, merited a social reaction in the community. It was punished by execution or exile. Respect for elders was secured by the ancestor cult, which was preserved until the Soviet period.

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