Udis - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The Udi village community traditionally comprised small and large patriarchally organized families and patronymic groups.

Marriage. The Udis observed exogamy, and the typical marriageable age was 16 for boys, 13 for girls. Traditionally, marriages were arranged through negotiation between the parents of marriageable children. After an agreement was reached, the young man, his parents, godfather, and other male friends and relatives celebrated the betrothal. They thereupon proceeded, in a formal procession, to the fiancee's home, driving before them a ram with ribbons and lit candles affixed to its horns. The members of the procession bore four copper or wooden trays ( khoncha ) laden with sweets, cooked chicken, and wine; they also brought the wedding ring and fabric for the bride's dress. After presentation of the gifts the two parties agreed on the wedding date (generally within a year). From this time the young man had the right to visit his fiancée at her home, in the company of some of his close friends. Likewise during this period the fiancée became acquainted with women from her fiancé's family, who would bring her presents. There was also a formal presentation of gifts purchased by the fiancé (dress, shoes, linens, watch, etc.) to the young woman. Besides the numerous presents exchanged between the two families, the fiancée was obliged to provide "money for the road" (10 to 60 rubles), a "bribe" of 12 rubles, a silver belt, coins to adorn the bride's headdress, and many other items. The wedding took place over three to four days. Relatives and friends of the groom headed to the bride's house and escorted her back to the groom's home, where she was presented with yet another gift by the groom's father. The groom brought melted butter on a dish, which he smeared on the doorposts, and the groomsmen ( makrukh ) applied butter over their lips in the form of a moustache. The bride was escorted into the house under a canopy of crossed swords. Throughout the wedding feast the bride stood with veiled face behind a curtain in a corner of the room, accompanied by her father's sister. Her new mother-in-law brought her food to eat. Meanwhile the groom was seated at the table with the guests. (Nowadays the bride and groom sit together at the wedding banquet.) It was customary for the host to present the musicians with gifts of money ( shabash ). The bride's parents did not attend the wedding. Contemporary Udi weddings preserve some old traditions. They have been shortened to a single day (usually Sunday), although weddings have become more lavish and more guests are invited.

Domestic Unit. In the nineteenth century Udis mostly lived in small families, consisting of parents and their children. Large patriarchal families were primarily observed at Nij. These included parents and their married sons. Each couple had their separate room with its entrance from the balcony. The chief of the family was the father or, in his absence, the eldest son; the chief exercised considerable authority over the other members of the family, who submitted to him without question. The chief occupied the place of honor by the hearth, decided matters concerning the household, and assigned tasks. The eldest female held similar authority in regard to the preparation and distribution of food.

Family life was governed by certain constraints on interaction. Women dined separately from men, did not speak to outsiders, and kept their distance from them—a wife could not leave the homestead without the permission of her husband. For a period extending to many years after her arrival in the household, a daughter-in-law was not permitted to speak to her husband's father, nor (for a lesser period) her mother-in-law. She was expected to stay out of the presence of her husband's elder brother and father and of elders from outside the family for several years after her marriage. After the father-in-law presented her with a gift, she could speak to him. For his part, the husband avoided contact with his wife's parents and close relatives for a week after the wedding. On the eighth day he invited his in-laws to dinner, to indicate the end of the avoidance period. According to custom the daughter-in-law had to perform certain obeisances before her in-laws: she had to kiss the hands of her husband's parents and elder brother and each evening wash the feet of all elder males in her husband's family.

Inheritance. The rights of inheritance were fixed by customary law. The inheritance was divided evenly among sons, with unmarried sons receiving a larger portion to cover future marital expenses.

Socialization. Children learn to work beginning at an early age. By the age of 8 a boy is helping his father in most tasks, and a girl her mother. A high premium is placed on moral training.

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