Ossetes - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Until the Revolution the traditional forms of social and familial structure existed. The highest level within a close blood relationship was the mykkag (family, clan), which consisted of several patronymically related extended-family households. Such a large family is called îw fydy fyrttæ (sons of one father) ; the patronymic family, in which all male members had the same ancestor, was considered to be the "family of the first category." The name of this ancestor served as the base for the formation of the common name of the clan; this has become the modern surname. This kind of family consisted of all the brothers with their wives and children, their parents, their uncles with their families, their grandparents, and so on. They all lived and worked closely together and shared, for example, defense towers and cemeteries. A very important position in the family was occupied by the oldest woman ( khîstær ûs ). The "family of the second category" was represented by more distant relationships. The law of exogamy, which had been absolute within this group in the past, is still observed in most cases. A member of the "family of the second category" is called ærvad (member of the same family). Another form of relationship was that with the qonaq (fictive kin): anyone other than blood-related persons could obtain the status of qonaq, including members of other Caucasian peoples. Qonaq friendships were considered to be as binding as familial relationships; the duties were the same, including even the reciprocal obligation of blood vengeance.

Kinship Terminology. Ossetic kinship terminology has a simple structure and coincides with the common Iranian system. Some expressions, however, show interesting semantic changes. For example, ærvad, which reflects the Old Iranian word for "brother," now denotes "brother in an enlarged sense, kinsman"; the original word for "daughter," dyghd, exists only in the compound kho-dyghd, "the husband's sister." It has been replaced by chyzg, "daughter," which is derived from a Turkic word.


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