Nivkh - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The preferred (and traditionally required) model was matrilateral cross-cousin marriage: a man married his mother's brother's daughter. This man—let us say, of clan B—took his wife from clan C (i.e., his mother's brother's clan) and gave his daughters in marriage to males of clan A. The groom paid the bride-price in goods to the bride's kin. Marital residence was patrilocal.

Domestic Unit. The basic group was the independent nuclear family. Monogamy was the rule, but there was a certain amount of polygyny. Group marriage among the Nivkh was reported late in the nineteenth century by L. Shternberg; it attracted the attention of Friedrich Engels, who published a note on it in 1893.

Inheritance. Local headmanship was inherited patrilineally; the designated heirs had precedence over sons. Movable property was divided equally among the sons. Those members of a clan who were unable to work were supported by the clan.

Socialization. Traditional family life was intimate. Children were weaned relatively late. The separation of the sexes was not rigid, except for the postpartum segregation of the mother. Maxims and sayings played an important part in perpetuating traditional social behavior. Hostility was easily expressed, but equally easily allowed to dissipate. Education was introduced in the 1930s by the Soviet regime. The traditional ethos forbade sexual relations for unmarried women, at least theoretically.

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