Nogays - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditional marriages were arranged by the parents. The head of a family unit could have as many as four wives; other males had only one. The age of marriage for women was 13 to 15, for men 15 to 25, although many men could not marry until the age of 30 to 40 because they could not yet afford to pay the kalim (bride-price), an important feature of Nogay marriage agreements. The kalïm, formerly paid in livestock and later in cash, would be distributed among members of the same lineage. In addition to the bride-price, the groom also had to provide lavish gifts for the mother and adoptive mother of the bride. Marriage was strictly exogamous to the patriline. In some areas marriage was prohibited to any prospective couple sharing an ancestor seven or eight generations back in the father's line. In other areas exogamy extended not just to the line of the father but to the whole tribe. As a result, Nogays were well aware of the origins of their lineage and tribe. There may also have been regular marriage relations between two tribes, although this has been documented only in one area and is considered a relic of earlier practices. Marriage to relatives through the matriline, however, was totally unrestricted. Today marriages are decided by the future bride and groom on the basis of romantic love, and payment of a bride-price is a rare phenomenon.

Domestic Unit. By the late nineteenth century the nuclear family was prevalent among nomadic Nogays, whereas among the sedentarized Nogays the extended patrilocal family was more common (the extended family is considered an earlier form). Extended families among the nomadic Kara Nogays consisted of seven to twenty-five members spanning three generations, although it is believed that such families were in the process of disintegration at the time. "Uncomplex" nuclear families consisted of parents and unmarried children; "complex" nuclear families also included some kin of the husband. Today most families are nuclear families, although Nogays have relatively large numbers of children.

Inheritance. When large families were divided into smaller families, property was distributed either according to Islamic religious law (Sharia) or customary law ( adat ). Upon the death of a father who was head of a household, property was divided among the sons of the father; the younger generations did not have a separate share. Unmarried daughters received half of a son's share (although according to customary law they could not share in the house or land). Under Sharia, the wife received one-eighth of the property of the entire family. If the property was divided during the lifetime of the head of the household for the purposes of dividing the large family, the father received most of the property. Property was usually divided equally among the sons, but custom allowed supplements for the oldest and the youngest sons. Multiple shares could also be apportioned to the youngest unmarried son to provide for the expenses of marriage and establishing his own household. If there were no male heirs, the daughter had to give up even her share to the closest relatives in the male line, whereas the son could inherit all if there were no female heirs.

Socialization. Children traditionally were reared by the women of the family. The head of the household was an absolute authority with the right to punish members of his family. Respect for elders was important, and strong traditional customs regarding hospitality continue to have some importance. Mass education began in the Soviet period.

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