Family Structure and Respect of Kin

This collection hosts videos and stories of how Kalmyks educate their children, venerate their elders, kinsfolk, and ancestors.

In Kalmyk culture the father represents the whole family and takes all important decisions. The mother's role is to look after the household and to bear and bring up children. Being at the bottom of the family hierarchy, the children are supposed to obey their parents and support them in their old age. Children, especially young ones, are not supposed to participate in the conversations of elders and are taught to do household chores from an early age.

Relatives on the father's side (avgnr) enjoy special privileges and respect, which is reflected in their treatment and roles. For example, during celebrations they sit on the most prestigious seats, are the first to be given gifts as well as the right to utter the first well-wishes. Important decisions relating to the clan or lineage, including the performance of various rituals, weddings, etc., are, as a rule, made by these relatives. Also, out of respect, the bride is not supposed to utter the names of her husband's paternal relatives. Instead, she has to find name substitutes or nick-names when addressing them. This name-calling prohibition, also known as khadmlkhn, is part of a wider tradition of name-tabooing. Paternal relatives are also expected to be more formal, demanding, and businesslike. By contrast, relatives on the mother's side (nagtsnr) are viewed as more forgiving and easy-going, which reflects traditional ideas about 'maternity' and 'femininity'. Their influence on clan-related matters is supposed to be only implicit. Nevertheless, maternal relatives are given important roles in certain rituals such as a child's first haircut where the maternal uncle first cuts a lock from the child's hair.


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 28
  • ItemOpen Access
    Vera Tepkeeva, About kinship
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-11-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Churyumov, Anton
  • ItemOpen Access
    Lyalya Dzhavanova, About my in-laws
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-12-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
    Lyalya says that she was always obedient to her mother-in-law and never complained about her in-laws to her husband. Lyalya always wore a headscarf and socks in front of her husband’s relatives.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Maria Pozharova, about traditional women
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-06-11) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Churyumov, Anton
    Maria says that in the past at weddings people sang a special song to make the bride sob. It was believed that sobbing at her wedding would make her married life happy. Today, in contrast, people stopped singing such songs, and even if they sing, brides do not react to it in the slightest. In the past a married woman could not show herself to her husband’s older relatives without covering her hair. She also could not walk in front of them barefoot. Today, in contrast, girls and women wear tight trousers.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Alexandr Tarancheev, respect for older people
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-04-28) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Sandzhiev, Artur
    Alexandr talks about how children should behave in the presence of older people: We were taught from childhood that children should not talk before older people or interrupt them. Children were in general encouraged not to talk in the presence of the grown-ups. Young people do not address their older relatives by their first names. There are special terms of address for each category of relatives, including older siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so on.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Yavanova, About Communal Spirit and Respect for Older People
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-13) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Galina says that when she was a child in her village people helped each other and respected older people: When I was a child I listened to my parents. Now when I think of it I understand that our elders helped and looked after each other. When I was in the second or third grade, our neighbor was a young bride, 19 years of age, who had an 8-month old baby. When her husband went away to graze sheep in a sovkhoz in Chernye Zemli, she stayed alone at home. It was in winter that she was alone. My father said to me: ‘My daughter, did you finish your homework? Go and help that young bride’. I used to go to her house every day. Whenever I came the bride would be very happy to see me. She would go straight out to clean her yard, fetch water and feed the livestock. After a couple of hours, she would come back, give candies to me and say: ‘That is it, now go home’. Also, I knew that in our village two families had lost their mothers. One man was left with five children to look after, and the other had four children. My mother made wool socks for them every year. I helped my mother clean wool. When I was 15, an old woman said to my mother: ‘Galya, send children to Kema’s, the milkmaid. Her mother is blind, and her children are small. Her house must be in filth. Go and help her out’. We, five girls, went and cleaned her house from morning to evening. Now I understand that back then we helped each other. In our village we had a lonely old woman. All her children had died in Siberia, and her husband went missing during the war. We all pitied her. My mother used to say to me: ‘You often go to Elista and Troitskoe. Bring her some clothes. It will earn you merit’. I used to bring her clothes, and once even bought her earrings on the occasion of the 8th of March (i.e. the International Women’s Day). In the past, we all helped each other and supported the weak among us. The elders taught us to help others, and we followed their advice.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Tikeeva, My Respect for My Ancestors
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-13) Terbish, Baasanjav; Okonov, Andzhur; Seleeva, Tsagan; Okonov, Andzhur
    Galina says the following: I do not know much about my ancestors, but my mother used to say to me: ‘You have many ancestors. Commemorate them once or twice a year. Book well wishes for them at the temple. Offer food by throwing candies and biscuits to the roof’. So, once a year I book well wishes for my grandmother, grandfather, great grandfather, and other ancestors. I make food offerings at the temple and give sweets to children. I follow traditions.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Mandzhieva, About the Aavikhn Clan, Its Land and My Father
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-15) Terbish, Baasanjav; Okonov, Andzhur; Okonov, Andzhur; Seleeva, Tsagan
    In this interview Galina talks about the Aavikhn clan, its land, and about his father who was from the Bootkhud clan. alina: My father knew many interesting stories. I think the land of my (husband’s) clan, Aavikhn, is also interesting. There is a saying that, ‘People from the land of the Aavikhn clan live happily. Whoever leaves this land, becomes poor’. I’ll give you an example. In 1997 a girl from our clan got married to a man from Chilgir. We, her relatives, went to pay her a visit. Among us was an old wealthy man who had many horses. He said to us: ‘The land of the Aavikhn clan gives happiness to its people’. On 14 June 2003, five of us – including me, Boova Arnyudaev, Maria Badaeva, Roza Lazareva, and Sergei Dzhalaev — set out on a journey to the places that had temples in the past. There is one particular hill. In the past on that hill there stood several nomadic temples housed in yurts, including a temple of the Aavikhn clan, a temple of the Asmud clan, a temple of the Noinakhn clan, and a temple of the Khavchn clan. We all bowed on the hill and moved clockwise. There is a valley nearby where in 1928 the Khambo Lama gave teachings to a large audience. Maria Badaeva, who was with us, had participated in that teaching during which she received her Russian name. The yurt temples nomadized from that hill further to a place called Altsynkhuta that had a stationary temple in a wooden house. It served as a winter station. The land of the Aavykhn clan has its spirit-protectors. People who leave this land end up in unhappy situations. When Kobtsev left this place, he died not long afterwards. We had a veterinary doctor who also died as soon as he moved to another place. I am telling you this based on my analysis. So, when we prayed on that hill, it rained lightly and then a rainbow appeared in the sky. We took pictures, went to Elista to have the negatives developed, but nothing appeared on the photos (which proves the miraculous power of that place). My father told me many stories. He was from the clan of Bootkhud. (As you may know) During Tsagan Sar and Zul we make bortsg biscuits in the shape of a bird. When I asked my father why we made such biscuits, he relayed a legend to me: ‘Once upon a time the ice mountains melted down, flooding the land. People did not know how to get to the dry land. One old man made a bird and gave it life. The bird showed the people the way to the dry land.’ The founder of the Bootkhud clan was a blacksmith. When we make offerings, we include a bird-shaped biscuit as well. My father also told me that inside our clan we have two sub-clans, namely the Doomakhn and the Daagnakhn. The Doomakhn is a small grouping, consisting of not more than seven families. Since the Doomakhn had few people, the Bootkhud took them into their clan and helped them. Where does the name Daagnakhn come from? The story is as follows. The Bootkhud had a beautiful foal. The Kalmyk word for a foal is ‘daag’. One day people from Khanata stole that foal. Upon learning about the theft, the Bootkhud people went to Khanata and took a boy as hostage, saying: ‘Return our foal and we will return your boy’. Nobody, however, came for the boy. The Bootkhud people brought up the boy. He grew up, married and became the founder of the Daagnakhn (i.e. ‘people of the foal’). Question: Tell me about the blacksmiths. Galina: People say that the Bootkhud clan originates from a blacksmith. The old man who created the (legendary) bird was a blacksmith. My father was a very skillful man who could do many things. He could weave a rope, make whips. I keep his whip on the wall in my office. My father put electric lamps both inside and outside of our house. He also made tools to grind grain. These tools are in Ergeninskiy now. With his skills he glorified the clan of Bootkhud who originate from a blacksmith.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Mamonova, Hospitality and Respect for Older People
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-10-28) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
    Galina talks about how Kalmyks showed their respect to their elders. She says that older people were always offered to sit in respectable places and were served fresh tea and food. It was customary to inquire about the guest’s clan affiliation and other news. People really tried not to offend those who were older by age. Kalmyks loved hosting.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Erdneeva, Naming Practices and Rules of Behaviour
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-01-26) Terbish, Baasanjav; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
    Galina talks about how married women behaved, and how they addressed their husbands’ brothers. She also laments that the Kalmyks have forgotten their traditions and native language: Married women kept taboos. It was forbidden for women to address their husbands’ relatives by their first names. Instead women used other forms of address. For example, one’s husband’s older brothers were addressed as ‘deede’ or ‘baav’ and younger brothers as ‘baaja’. I still don’t call my husband’s brothers by their first names. A married woman also could not show her hair or be bare foot in front of her husband’s relatives. When paying a visit to someone, women had to sit close to the door. Parents-in-law could not sit on the bed of the young couple. The same was true vice versa. Today, by contrast, people sit wherever they want and go wherever they wish. Even children became capricious. People have forgotten their traditions. Everyone speaks Russian, even old women barely know Kalmyk. I always ask them: ‘Whom were you born from, Kalmyks or Russians?’ One woman said to me: ‘We were taught so in Siberia’. I also lived in Siberia, but I still speak Kalmyk. Siberia is in Siberia, and Kalmyks are now in Kalmykia. Kalmyk people should speak their language.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Erdneeva, My Advice to Young People
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-01-26) Terbish, Baasanjav; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
    Galina gives advice and laments the loss of traditional values among the younger generation: Young people should stop drinking vodka, partying and offending older people. They should learn more, listen to older people and their parents, respect the elderly, and treat their younger generation with affection. There is a saying that vodka and shulmus (evil spirits) walk together, and that the shulmus always prevails. In my family, my children do not smoke, let alone drink. Young people today have stopped listening to their elders, although there are still some who listen and greet us in Kalmyk. One should not take revenge on others or befriend revengeful people. It is also not advisable to revive old animosities. Smart people will understand, but those who are stupid are not worth explaining such things to. There is a proverb ‘When the hat fits, it is pleasant to the head’.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Ekaterina Dorzhieva, Respect for Older People
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-13) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira
    Some people commemorate their diseased relatives a year, two, three, five, or even 15 years after their death. I am already in my 70s. I live with my husband. Our parents passed away many years ago. Ekaterina says the following: Some people commemorate their diseased relatives a year, two, three, five, or even 15 years after their death. I am already in my 70s. I live with my husband. Our parents passed away many years ago. What merit they had accumulated in their lives, they will use it in their next lives. I go to the temple and book well wishes for their memorial service. At home, I have a couple of pictures of our parents. I always bow to them. Recently my husband’s nephew had difficult surgery. After the surgery, he paid us a visit. After drinking tea, he bowed to the pictures on his way out. I tell all my relatives to bow to these pictures. My husband’s nephew has recovered and is doing all right now. Different people have different thoughts. There are young people who have pure, clean thoughts, and who respect their parents. There are also those who do not. The sky sees it all. We have been brought up to show respect to older people, which we will always do.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Zoya Kheichieva, About Domestic Education
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-11-12) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira
    In this interview, Zoya talks about a traditional Kalmyk upbringing. Zoya: I was born in Siberia. Although I don’t remember this, but I was told that I had a Russian god mother named Rudychiha (who was my midwife). Kalmyks have a special respect for their midwives and consider them as part of their family. Traditionally, boys were taught how to ride a horse at the age of 4. They learnt how to throw a lasso, train horses, and look after livestock. By contrast, girls helped their mothers tidy up the house and collect dung for fuel. In my childhood I also collected dung in the steppe. In the summer we collected dung and put it in piles, and then smeared it with liquid cow dung. In the winter we used these piles as fuel. We collected dung with our mother. This was part of my upbringing. We also made tea when our mother requested it. Whereas Torghuts first boil water mixing it with milk and then add tea leaves, we, Derbets, boil the water with tea leaves from the outset. Our mother did not teach us specifically how to make tea, we learnt it ourselves by helping her. When a sheep was slaughtered, its skin was put aside to dry for about 3 days. In the summer we sheared the sheep, spun the wool, made threads, and knitted socks and scarves. We also learnt all these by just watching and imitating the grown-ups. In this way girls learned to do everything around the house: to cook, to wash dishes, to process a sheep’s skin, to spin, to sew, and to knit. Mothers knew that their daughters would marry away one day. To be a good daughter-in-law, girls had to know how to do the house chores. Girls married at the age of around 17. Being very fond of their daughters, Kalmyks raised them with love, because they would endure hardships in their husband’s family after marriage. In their paternal house, girls always had their own bed, whereas sons slept on the floor. Question: Were there any bans about what girls or boys could and could not do? Zoya: Of course, there were always bans and prohibitions in the family. For example, boys could not spit at will. Girls had to sit correctly, and keep their posture up. Today there are so many overweight women around, whereas in the past Kalmyk women were slim and fit. People received cosmic energy through the spine, you see. That is why they tried to hold their spine upright. Also, it was forbidden to hold one’s hands behind the back, or cross the hands on the chest, because by doing this we obstruct energy from reaching our body. Although it was considered to be a sin to break these rules, in fact all these rules helped people control themselves and be more cultured. People say that in the Kalmyk language we do not have words of abuse. I tried myself, but could not find swear words. Kalmyks always kept themselves clean, behaved appropriately, respected their elders, and loved their young. Question: How should people treat their fathers? Zoe: Children highly respected their parents. When our father raised his voice or looked at us sternly, we sat quietly, wondering if we had done anything wrong. When he was around at home, we also behaved quietly, letting him have rest. When we were naughty, our mother used to say: ‘I will tell your father about this’, which was enough to make us feel afraid. It is also said that noone can really repay their mothers’ kindness. There is a legend about this. One man decides to repay his debt towards his mother. He asks one old man, ‘How can I repay my mother’s kindness?’ to receive an answer, ‘Carry your mother on your shoulders wherever you go’. The man follows the advice and carries his mother on his shoulders without letting her step on the ground. After a while the man again asks the old sage, ‘Did I repay my mother’s kindness, do you think?’ The sage says, ‘No’. The men carries his mother on his shoulders for the rest of his life, but never manages to repay his debt towards her, because it is our mothers who give us life, raise us, and give us strength and health.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Yuriy Bembeev, About Respect for Elders and Life After Deportation
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-07-18) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
    Yuriy says that in the past Kalmyks were respectful towards their elders and guests and always addressed them as ‘thee’. People consumed alcohol with measure and did not behave badly. For their behaviour, Kalmyks were respected by other ethnic groups. Upon their return from Siberian exile, Yuriy’s family grew corn, watermelons, and wheat, which they sold.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tatyana Dzhambinova, About the Traditional Kalmyk Family
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-12-24) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Koldaev, Tseren; Churyumov, Anton
    Tatyana talks about her understanding of a proper Kalmyk family: My grandmother taught me a lot of things, including my family’s genealogy. My ancestors were enterprising people, Cossacks, who served in the Russian army in the First World War. I know my genealogy 12 generations back. On my paternal side, we had Cherkess women, that is where a crook on our noses comes from. In our family we are 4 children. Our mother brought us up correctly, and now she enjoys the fruits of this upbringing. We all support and love our mother. Many ask my mother about how she raised us. She replies: ‘We lived, worked quietly by ourselves, and harmed nobody’. It is the mother’s responsibility to bring up her children. The father is the symbol of his family, no matter how much or less he earns. Today people do not understand this anymore. I, as a wife, know my place in my family, and I don’t ask my husband unnecessary questions. In fact, girls need to be taught how to behave properly and make their husbands feel like they are the head of the family. In this sense, I belong to a traditional Kalmyk family. There is a tendency to tighten the rules of divorce, which I support because this may save families going through this. Today, families headed by single parents is a serious problem. When women earn more than men, this changes the dynamic in the family. Excessive freedom that women enjoy has turned their heads. I do not call for a return to cruelty or patriarchy though. I am just saying that in a modern democratic environment, families should be based on a peaceful foundation where every member of the family knows his/her place. Women should defend the good name of their husbands’ clan and show respect to his relatives. Today, many families live separately from their grandparents, which I disapprove of because we lose connection between generations.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Bulyash Chumudova, Respect for Elders
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-13) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Bulyash says that in the past Kalmyks addressed different people differently, depending on their gender, age and the degree of kinship. She also says that the young people respected the old. Here is her interview: Bulyash: We respected our parents. We called our mother ‘aak’, our father ‘baav’. Men who were older than our fathers, we called them ‘aav’. Old women were addressed as ‘eej’ or ‘aaj’. Today all men are addressed equally as ‘uncle’. We addressed our grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, etc. differently. People should make offerings to their ancestors, gods and Tsagan Aav by saying: ‘Let my offerings reach Tsagan Aav, my ancestors, all gods and Buddha Shakyamuni’. During Zul people need to say the following when making offerings: ‘Oh, dear gods, thank you for the years that you have bestowed on us. Let the past years be strong, and the new one – happy’. After this, you need to add a year to your children’s ages by lighting candles. We live according to Kalmyk traditions. During Tsagan Sar we make bortsg biscuits and give them to children as a present. We also make tea offerings to our ancestors and lamas. During Tsagan Sar or Zul you also need to give your elders their share of tea and butter. Question: When one makes offerings, does that person need to say: ‘I am making an offering to the protectors of my ancestors’. Bulyash: Yes, people say this.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tatyana Dordzhieva, Traditional Education
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-11-15) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton; Dovurkaev, Karu; Gedeeva, Darina; Ubushieva, Bamba
    Tatyana talks about the strictness of her Kalmyk upbringing: In the past, we did not pat children on the head when they were naughty. Not only did teachers scold such children at school, but we also dressed them down at home for misbehaving. By contrast, today children run to their mothers to complain who in turn sue the teachers. When I was growing up in Siberia, I looked after sheep. One evening I really wanted to play with a ball, and in a hurry I began to drive the sheep faster than usual. On the way, an old Russian man grabbed me by my ears and scolded me: ‘Don’t you drive the sheep so fast, you’ll spoil their wool, do you understand?’ At home I complained about him to my mother who only said that the man was right. My father always advised me to bring up my children in strictness so that they became obedient and did not get spoilt. I raised my children as my father had taught me. Although I raised my 4 sons strictly, I brought up my daughter with love and affection.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sofya Olzeeva, Worship of Ancestors
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-09-26) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Sofya talks about how to make offerings to one’s ancestors and deceased parents: After old people die, those who are left behind should remember them and make offerings to them. During Zul or Tsagan Sar, people put offerings for their ancestors on the altar, including meat, tea, sweets, and biscuits. At least once in 3 years, those who live outside Kalmykia should come to their ancestral land and visit to the graves of their ancestors. Offer a sprinkle of vodka to the grave, walk around it 3 times clockwise, and put biscuits and sweets on the grave. After that go to the temple for a monk to read special prayers for your ancestors. After the prayers, leave white money and coins on the altar and bow. When you make fresh tea in the morning, pour it into a cup and put it as an offering on the altar. It can be drunk in the evening either by your husband or a grandchild. For example, I myself cannot drink this tea offering from the altar because I came to my husband’s clan from the outside.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sofya Olzeeva, Respect for Elders
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-09-26) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Sofya talks about how Kalmyks should respect their elders, parents, and grandparents: People should know their ancestors 7 generations back. In the past, people knew up to 9 generations back. Those who know their ancestors, think of them and remember them. This is what I call respect. I know my ancestors 7 generations back. The names of my ancestors are as follows: Zunda, his son Gesl, his son Badma who had 5 sons. It is a big sin not to respect one’s grandparents. Kalmyks show respect to their grandparents by giving them delicious food, making them a soft bed, visiting, inquiring about their health, helping, and taking care of them. After they are gone, their souls will bless their children and grandchildren. If one does not have free time to go and visit their parents and grandparents, that person should be able to give them at least a phone call and enquire them about their health. People also should show respect to their elders during traditional holidays of Zul and Tsagan Sar. My sons and daughters-in-law always pay us a visit during traditional holidays. They telephone us to congratulate during professional holidays such as the Day of Teachers, the Day of Transportation Workers. On such days, I sleep well, because I know that my children are thinking and caring about us. On important occasions such as the birth of a child or when someone is going away to study or to serve in the army, young people should always receive blessings from their elders.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sofya Olzeeva, Maternal and Paternal Relatives
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2015-09-26) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Sofya talks about maternal and paternal relatives and their functions at Kalmyk weddings: Maternal relatives are called ‘nagtsnr’. Traditionally, maternal relatives have always been held in high regard. It was believed that those who respected their maternal relatives live long and happily. Maternal relatives are always seated in places of honor and are served food first. At weddings, however, it is one’s paternal relatives that command more respect. For example, a maternal aunt is never included in the wedding delegation for the bride. When I was young, I was not allowed to be in my brother’s wedding delegation. Nor was my husband Sergei included, because we were like two fingers always together. I discuss this topic of maternal relatives in my book. One’s maternal aunts are referred to as ‘nagts egchnr’. One’s mother’s brother is referred to as ‘nagts baajaa’ whereas her sister as ‘nagts jaajaa’. People did not use the first names of their maternal relatives when addressing. Paternal relatives are referred to as ‘uynr’. Paternal relatives within 3 generations are considered as close relatives. Close relatives do not marry each other. In the past, the Kalmyks did not call their relatives by their first names, instead they used other forms of address, including such words as baajaa, ik baajaa, bichkn baajaa, ik aak, bichkn aak. This was done out of respect to relatives. It were paternal relatives that participated in all important decisions that affected the clan. Hence, during weddings, paternal relatives have an important role to play. They bring the bride for the wedding, see her off, occupy the most prestigious seats at the wedding.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sergei Muchiryaev, Respect of Elders
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-04) Terbish, Baasanjav; Okonov, Andzhur; Okonov, Andzhur
    Sergei talks about traditional upbringing and the importance of growing up with one’s grandparents: What was considered to be good in the past? If grandfathers and grandmothers were alive, it was considered good. Today we live far from our elders. I used to know a man called Ochir Mandzhiev, a war veteran. He told me that once his son came home drunk before his wedding. In the morning Ochir looked at his son who was still sleeping. He pulled his son off the bed by his legs and whipped him well. This is how a real Kalmyk upbringing used to be. If everybody was brought up like this, the young people would have been different to how they are now. Today children swear, and get spoilt. The young people do not speak their language, they speak Russian only. I say this. If they had grown up according to old laws, they would be tidy, cover their hair and never show their bare foot to elders. Without grandmothers and grandfathers around, it is impossible to upbring children according to old traditions.