Old Believers - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is patrilineal and agnatic. Kinship groups provide an important matrix of social ties that an Old Believer can rely upon for material help; the Oregon Old Believers make substantial purchases of property by borrowing large sums—without interest—from their relatives. The fictive kinship of the godfamily ( kumstvo ) also provides an important social network. Lineages, too, are important; Siberian Old Believers, for example, retain oral traditions about their immigrant ancestors who initially settled in the east.

Kinship Terminology, Like other Russians, Old Believers use lineal terminology for the first ascending generation. Kinship terminology reflects the structure of the traditional Old Believer household with its extended family and practice of exogamous, virolocal marriage. In the nineteenth century these households contained three or four generations and included up to fifty members. After marriage, the son brought his wife into his father's household, where she became an integral part of the domestic unit. Kinship terminology indicates the crucial importance of the assimilation of the new member. For example, the word for "bride" ( nevesta ) and the very similar word for "brothers wife" ( nevestka ) are etymologically related to the Russian "unknown" ( nevedomyi ). Both a bride and a brother's wife were strangers who had to be assimilated into their father-in-law's household. In the same spirit, both the sister's husband and the daughter's husband, who each remove a woman from the home, are referred to by the same term: ziat'. Even today the Oregon Old Believers repeat the old proverb the "ziat' loves to take" ( ziat' liubit brat' ).


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