Family Structure and Respect of Kin
About this collection
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.
(Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-12-01)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.
(Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-06-11)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, ...
(Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-04-28)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 ...