Zoya Kheichieva, About Domestic Education
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
MetadataShow full item record
Terbish, B. (2015). Zoya Kheichieva, About Domestic Education [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42560
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.
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42560