Ukrainians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Domestic Unit. The large extended family is the oldest family form in the Ukraine. It was composed of several generations and was characterized by a collective household and common property. Relations in the family were regulated by norms of common law, and the head of the family saw to it that they were observed. The relatively early formation of commodity-money relations (sixteenth to seventeenth centuries) and, subsequently, serfdom, caused Ukrainian families to disintegrate at a faster rate than in Belarus and Russia, although in some regions (Carpathia, Left Bank) traces of extended families were present in the nineteenth century. Most dispersed into separate households ( dims). From the eighteenth century to the present, the small, nuclear family of parents and children has been the primary type.

Certain features of extended families were retained in the nuclear family: the bridegroom paid the wedding expenses, marriages were sanctioned by the traditional legal settlement, men controlled the family, the head of the family maintained his special role, and so on. The modern Ukrainian family has fewer children than did the traditional family. The number of ethnically mixed marriages has increased, especially in the cities.

Marriage. Many traditional customs are in evidence in family life and in the celebration of family holidays. These include the lavish wedding ceremony, its traditional foods, and the custom of uniting the bride with the bridegroom. There are no wedding ceremonies without the trial music (violin, tambourine, and dulcimer). The Ukrainian wedding ceremony retained features peculiar to it alone, both in the ceremony itself and in the overall character of the wedding, which reflected unique aspects of the Ukrainian family. Patriarchal traces were less pronounced in Ukrainian than, for example, in Russian weddings. The Ukrainian wedding did not have wedding lamentations of the bride; she neither covered her head with a scarf nor tearfully beseeched her father not to give her away into a strange family. In some regions, as noted by the sixteenth-century French author Beauplan, the woman took the initiative during the engagement. Before the nineteenth century there was a custom that, as a sign of rejection, the young woman gave the proposing party a pumpkin. This is the origin of the expression "to get a pumpkin" (i.e., to get rejected). In modern Ukrainian weddings, there are many regional differences regarding beliefs, magical gestures, traditional food, the degree to which archaic traits are retained, and the role of the parents in the wedding ceremony. In modern marriages the prewedding cycle and the wedding ceremony itself are shorter, although some traditional elements (e.g., the repertoire of songs) are retained. Especially in the cities, some forgotten traditions (folk symbols, elements of humor, the wedding bread) are reappearing. Customs connected with the birth of a child were more common in the Ukraine than in Russia or Belarussia, especially the rite of purification and customs symbolizing the acceptance of a child into the family.

Inheritance. In certain regions of the Ukraine (Left Bank, the south, Slobozhanshina), the father's property was traditionally distributed evenly among all the members of the family, including the daughters. In the Right Bank regions, where the traditions of the Lithuanian state were maintained, women's inheritance was restricted but even there a woman had the right to personal property and materizna —that part of the land that was inherited through the female line of the family. The latter is considered unique to family relations in the Ukraine.

Traditions, public morals, and norms of common law determined inheritance practices. For example, unmarried people inherited less. In the marriage contract the amount of the bride's dowry, which consisted of a trunk and cattle, was specified, as were the bridegroom's ransom and the parents' and relatives' donations. In most parts of the Ukraine a son-in-law who was accepted into a family with no sons was equal with other members of the family in his rights to property. With the advent of capitalism the role of parents in the management of family relations decreased.

Kinship Terminology. The extensive kinship terminology reflects the ramification of the kinship system: in addition to the usual East Slavic lineal terms for great-grandparent (e.g., pradid {grandfather}), there are terms for in-laws (e.g., machukha {mother-in-law}) and other affines, depending on the linking spouse (e.g., svekor {husband's father}, tesha {wife's father}), including the husband's brother's wife ( yatrov ).

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Mar 18, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
Thank you so much for making this! It helped me very much with my Y.I.G work! :)
David Kereliuk
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May 24, 2016 @ 6:18 pm
My ancestry is Ukrainian and my name has many variations , as many as the Immigration Officer's abilities to spell or pronounce the names of immigrants coming to Canada / USA . I have always been told Tato is the Ukrainian word for "father" but cannot confirm this in any Uk - English translation venues ...the closest is "Tatko" ??? Any help on this ?

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