Talysh society is class-stratified. The feudal class is represented by the khan and the bek estate, for whose benefit the peasants and craftsmen bore various obligations. In Soviet Talysh territory the feudal-patriarchal structure has been replaced by new social groups like the kolkhoz peasantry, workers, artisans, office workers, and intelligentsia, a portion of whom constituted the Communist party's administrative apparatus. Characteristic of the southern Talysh are the stronger traditions of village society and the greater retention of traditional social groups and relations. In traditional sociostratification among the Talysh, clan and tribal relationships, serving as mechanisms of self-government, have been well preserved. The sociopolitical structure of the Talysh prior to the unification with Russia was feudal, with strong patriarchal-class roots. The feudal ruler and chief leader was the khan of Talysh. The next level of the hierarchy was occupied by the beks. An important position in the administration was occupied by the clergy, who administered the territory in accordance with the laws of Sharia. The major part of family civil matters was resolved according to Sharia and customary law; the power of the khan as a judicator was limited by laws and customs. Qadis (judges) and mullahs resolved conflicts, as well as cases calling for a mediator. In specially stipulated cases, at the wish of the parties concerned, it was possible to appeal to the khan. The major part of civil and criminal matters among the peasants belonging to the khan or the beks were resolved by the latter. The majority of Talysh peasants ( maafi ) had an obligation of military service. The Peasant Reform of 1870 had little effect on the social structure of the Talysh; in Iranian Talysh territory, however, there was an intensification of elements of religious rule and self-government. In former Soviet territory the Talysh are governed by the laws of the Azerbaijan Republic: according to the constitution, the organs of government are the councils of people's deputies, which are elected in all settled points and administrative-district centers. In the 1990s, in connection with the independence of Azerbaijan, reforms are being carried out to strengthen the role of democratically elected members of local government. The Talysh are a divided people, partly in the sphere of the former Soviet political culture and partly in the sphere of the traditional Irano-Muslim world. Nevertheless, traditions of self-rule are well preserved in both spheres. Contemporary reforms in Azerbaijan are further democratizing and at the same time strengthening Muslim norms in law and politics.