Kumyks - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage and divorce were governed by Sharia (Quranic law). Marriage took place at age 15 or 16 (or later). A specially entrusted person ( arachï ) carried on the negotiations with the parents of the girl and, when the chances for a favorable courtship were good, matchmakers were sent. A kalim (bride-price) was paid for the bride, part of which went to her relatives and part to buy the dowry. In addition, the husband had to make a payment ( gebinhaq ) that guaranteed some security to the wife and children in case of divorce or the death of the husband. The betrothal was marked by formalities. To fix the conditions that had been accepted by both parties, something of value was given to the parents of the bride. The wedding was conducted with due pomp, and all the villagers were usually invited. The groom remained in the house of a close friend, where celebrations also took place, albeit in a narrower circle.

Domestic Unit. In the nineteenth century the basic domestic unit was the nuclear family, although there were also undivided families (and familial communes of twenty-five to thirty people). The natural growth of the family led to the segmentation of the commune, usually at the death of the head of the family. (The family head was usually the oldest man, but also one distinguished by his experience, a competent organizer, and a skillful worker—or, less commonly, a senior woman, who likewise enjoyed irrefutable authority.) New families consisting of three or four generations of relatives were headed by the sons of the deceased leader. All members of the family obeyed the head, but for important questions the main role was played by the family council, which was comprised of all adult men and some older, more experienced women. The family maintained and developed many-sided relations within the village commune, regulating the productive, sociopolitical, and cultural life of the village.

Inheritance. All property and food products were considered to be owned by the entire family. The possessions of members of a family consisted of property that had been transmitted to them through inheritance or acquired through the common labor of the family. A woman's dowry was considered her personal property. If a man initiated a divorce, the woman retained everything that she had brought from her parents' house and, in addition, the payment she had received on entering into the marriage. Some types of property (mills, sometimes land) continued to be owned jointly by the members of a large family even after a general division (they took turns using it, or divided the income). The youngest son ordinarily remained in the paternal home, conducting a joint household with his parents. On division of the family household, only the men had rights to the property. A young woman could count only on her dowry. The head of the family had a right to a supplementary part of the property, particularly when unmarried daughters or other relatives remained living with him. If the family consisted of several generations, the property was divided among the oldest brothers. The development of trade and financial relations and of private property, as well as peasant reform, led to the shift from large family units to small family ones.

Socialization. The severity of custom and the ascetic, spartan form of life, did not traditionally allow a man to take part in the raising of small children or to display parental feelings. The woman was occupied with the rearing of children, although, in the presence of strangers or outsiders, she, too, was expected not to caress her children or show her feelings. The education of boys differed from that of girls; it was instilled into a boy that he was called to defend those close to him in the future, to play an independent role in the family and in society, and to become a good worker in the fields. In the girl, on the other hand, a complaisant or obliging character was cultivated; she was taught to care for children and to do housework. All of this was realized by means of a native pedagogy involving instruction in work, play, ritual, and children's folklore.

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