Nivkh - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Age, among the Nivkh, is associated with wisdom and accorded respect. The shaman, however, may have more prestige and command more respect than an elder clansman. Traditional everyday life-style was dictated by the economy and the division of labor that was associated with it. Slavery was rare (see "Division of Labor").

Political Organization. Clans were also political units in the sense that it was the clan that dictated alliances and arbitrated settlements through the payment of blood money. During the periods of czarist and Japanese economic exploitation, there was little room for political organization, action, or expression. With the advent of the Soviet period, the Nivkh gradually melted into the new economic and political system after an initial period of hesitancy. A very small ethnic group that never posed a threat to the Soviet ideology or economic system (or to any other group in the area), the Nivkh were in a privileged position: they could exploit their political or cultural aspirations, if these were feasible and reasonable. Thus, even during periods of officially proclaimed and enforced atheism, the Nivkh enjoyed relatively more religious freedom than larger groups, which threatened Soviet ideology.

Social Control. Clan cohesion and a pyramidal system based on age allowed for a tight system of control. The payment of blood money replaced an earlier form of the vendetta—obligatory vengeance along clan lines. The rites connected with the payment of blood money were regulated by the members of a neutral clan, who also officiated at the ritual: confrontation, ritual duel, ritual killing of a dog, and payment of the sum.

Conflict. Sympathies and antipathies toward coterritorial groups (traditionally Tungusic and Ainu) are not pronounced. Relics and fragments in Nivkh folklore tell of "wars," but it is difficult to find empirical evidence of these. Nivkh armor is considered a treasure and seems to have been used mainly to make payments or for other obligations rather than in combat.


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