Turkmens - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Turkmens are generally endogamous, choosing spouses from within their own tribe. This contrasts with the strict exogamy of other Central Asian peoples such as the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. Marriage ceremonies are conducted according to Islamic rites, although this practice was often discouraged by Soviet authorities. Women traditionally marry very young (in their early teens), but their spouses can be much older. This is because of the practice, which continues to this day, of asking relatively high bride-prices for daughters. This forces men to wait until they can earn enough to afford to marry. The high bride-price historically also served as a means of leveling income by redistributing wealth. Traditionally, newlyweds would not actually live together until two or three years after the wedding, when the bride would come to live with her husband and his family. Polygamy, though allowed under Islamic law, has always been rare among the Turkmens. Modern Soviet life weakened—but did not eliminate—many of the traditional marriage practices of the Turkmens. To this day Turkmens almost never marry non-Turkmens, especially Russians or other Slavs.

Domestic Unit. The Turkmens maintain a traditional extended family with the fathers accorded formal authority within the home, although wives and elder sons may exert considerable informal influence. As sons marry and establish their own households, they continue to live in close proximity to their father and practice economic cooperation. Soviet housing shortages and internal passport laws to some extent strengthened rather than weakened the traditional Turkmen extended family.

Inheritance. The Turkmens follow traditional custom rather than strict Islamic law regarding inheritance. Each son receives his portion of inheritance after he marries and forms a separate household with his own children, usually sometime between ages 30 and 40. The youngest son remains with his father until the latter's death and then receives all remaining property. Naturally, the Soviet legal system provided other possibilities in determining inheritance.

Socialization. In accordance with the value system of Turkmen society, men are expected to show great respect and deference to their elders, especially their father, grandfather, and even elder brothers. Women are expected to show even greater subordination, traditionally covering their mouths with their headcloth in the presence of male guests or even their own in-laws. Turkmen women, however, have never worn veils as was common in neighboring Islamic societies. Historically, women would sit in less honorable places within the yurt. Even in modern times, Turkmen women often remain in separate parts of the home when the husband is entertaining guests.

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