Yakut - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, for wealthy Yakut, marriage could be polygamous. More common, however, was monogamy, with occasional remarriage after the death of a spouse. Arranged marriages were sometimes politically motivated. Patrilineage exogamy was reckoned strictly; those one could marry were called sygan. Until the 1920s many marriage arrangements were complicated and protracted, involving financial, emotional, and symbolic resources of the bride's and groom's extended families. This included the matchmaking ritual; several formal payments of animals, furs, and meat to the bride's family; informal gifts; and extensive dowries. Some families permitted poor grooms to work in their households as a replacement for the bride-price. Occasionally bride-capture occurred (it may have been more common in pre-Russian times). Wedding ceremonies and their attendant feasts, prayers, and dancing, were held first at the household of the bride's parents, then at that of the groom's. The couple usually lived with the groom's parents or settled in a nearby yurt. Since the 1970s interest in limited aspects of ritual and gift exchange has revived, although few couples are paired through matchmakers. In the 1980s one young man was chagrined to find that a woman he had fallen in love with on a train was a distant cousin, a forbidden marriage partner according to kin rules still observed.

Inheritance. By customary law, land, cattle, and horses, although used by households, were controlled by the patriline. Animal or land sale and inheritance were approved by elders. But by the twentieth century smaller families were keeping resources, in part because of the decline of large horse droves. Men owned most of the wealth and passed it to their sons, especially elder sons, although the youngest son often inherited the family yurt. Mothers could pass on dowries to daughters, but the dowry could be forfeited by bad behavior. In theory, dowries included land, as well as goods, jewelry, and animals, although in practice elders rarely gave land to another lineage. Soviet law limited inheritance to goods, and nonstate housing could be bequeathed at individual discretion. Most apartments and summer houses were kept in families.

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