Russia | Understanding opennes of its culture

The derivation of name ‘Russia’ is often argued upon. While some say “Rus” is derived from the name of a tribe , others say it is derived from an ancient name for the Volga River.

Relations and Marriage

Romantic love is considered the only acceptable motivation for marriage, and there is a long tradition in literature, poetry, and song of idealizing lovers’ passion. Contemporary practices highlight more pragmatic and cynical aspects of marital relationships, such as improving one’s economic status or housing prospects.

Traditionally it was mainly an economic contract between the heads of two households, reinforced by the payment of the wedding costs by the groom’s household and the provision of a substantial dowry by the mother of the bride.

In the past, both patrilocal and matrilocal marriage were practiced but today the former is preferred and more frequent. In matrilocal marriages, parents without sons adopted a son-in-law under a contract that stipulated that he support them for the remainder of their lives and give them a decent burial.

Although marriages today are individual commitments, they are often associated with obligations to older female relatives. In Kemerovo, for example, families can gain prized housing rights by means of a co-resident grandmother, real or adopted, who is thus protected and in turn helps with child care and household tasks.

In today’s generations, people frequently meet partners at school, university, or at work, although discotheques and clubs in the cities have become popular meeting places. Premarital sex and single parenthood have always been common but marriage continues to be a major socio-religious act. Since premarital sex is generally accepted, and marriages arising from unplanned pregnancies are not uncommon.

Since the 1930s, 23 years has been the average age of marriage. 97 percent of adults marry by age forty, and most before age thirty. Approximately one-half of all marriages end in divorce wherein economic hardship and alcohol abuse are the contributing factors.

Ethnic intermarriage is fairly common in Soviet, and most people have at least one ancestor of a different nationality.

Wedding Ceremonies

  • Paying the ransom: When groom arrives at the bride’s home, he must pay a ransom for the bride
  • Traditional ceremony: takes place in a church and is divided into two parts: the Betrothal and the Crowning. The service traditionally takes place in the morning, after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, during which the wedding rings were blessed by being placed on the Holy Table.
  • Civil ceremony: takes place at the department of public services known as ZAGS where the couple is greeted by family members with bread and salt
  • Tour of the city: newlyweds and their witnesses travel around the city in a limousine
  • Reception:
    • The first toast is made to the newlyweds and after the first shot, the guests begin to shout Gorko, Gorko, Gorko,…. Gorko means “bitter”
    • At this point the couple must kiss for a long time to take out the bitter taste of the vodka
    • The second toast is made to the parents
    • The new couple dances the first dance of the night
    • The guests dance, sing, play games and make toasts

Family

An extended family living with the husband’s family characterized peasant life in the past. Today, the size and structure of the household unit is more flexible, although patriarchal control over the labor and behavior of the household is usual across social classes.

Nuclear family has become the most important domestic unit and most married couples want an apartment of their own, away from their parents. But housing shortage and high cost of new housing have made this a challenge, and families are often forced to live in apartments holding three generations.

Many couples with children live with a widowed parent of one spouse who provides child care and food preparation. A grandparent’s monthly pension may contribute significantly to the family budget.

Inheritance

Before the revolution, property was divided among all the living sons but for most families today all children have the legal title to their parents’ or grandparents’ property. This requires officially registering of the children as residents of those places before the death of the title holder. Otherwise, the title can revert to the government.

Kin Groups

Kinship is reckoned bilaterally, although usually stressed the paternal. Until the mid-19th century, kin terms for over sixty specific relations were in common use because even across distances, close relations are maintained. But lack of geographic mobility, support in hard times, and regular visits has caused this to cease.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Russian kinship terminology was defined by the exogamic units set by churchly canon: four “links” for consanguinai kin, two for affinal; only the archaic term dyadina (father’s brother’s wife, mother’s brother’s wife) extended further.

No distinction is made among consanguinal kin between male and female lines of descent; cousin terms derive from sibling terms; gender suffixes distinguish the sexes among the consanguinai kin of ascending generations and among affinal kin (except daughter’s husband and son’s wife); and the terms for daughter’s husband and sister’s husband are merged.

To this day on the collective farms, and to a lesser extent in the cities, various joint household budgets persist. Christenings, reverence of icons, and parental blessings of various kinds strengthen human relations.

 

Ethiopian Culture

Author's Note: 
This is to understand how Ethipian culture has evolved over time, how the natives live in their society, celebrate their culture and aspire towards a better knit family

The name “Ethiopia” is derived from the Greek ethio which means “burned” and pia: meaning “face”: the land of burned-faced peoples.

Ethiopia was home to some of the earliest hominid populations and possibly the region where Homo erectus evolved and expanded out of Africa to populate Eurasia 1.8 million years ago. The traditional theory states that immigrants from the Arabian peninsula settled in northern Ethiopia, bringing with them their language, proto-Ethiopian (or Sabean), which has also been discovered on the eastern side of the Red Sea.

Society and its Stratification

There are four major social groups.

At the top are high-ranking lineages, followed by low-ranking lineages. Caste groups constitute the third social stratum. Slaves and the descendants of slaves are the lowest social group. This four-tier system is traditional; the contemporary social organization is dynamic, especially in urban areas.

Symbols of social stratification in rural areas include the amount of grain and cattle a person possesses. Apart from health, the amount of education, the neighborhood in which one lives, number of automobiles and the job one holds are also symbols status.

Marriage

Arranged marriages are the norm, although it is becoming much less common now in urban areas. The presentation of a dowry from the male’s family to the female’s family is commonly observed which may include livestock, money, or other socially valued items.

The proposal usually involves elders, who travel from the groom’s house to the parents of the bride to ask for the marriage, who then decide when and where the ceremony takes place. For the wedding, both the families prepare food and drink brewing wine and beer and cooking food.

Family

Family structure is much larger than the typical nuclear unit. The oldest male is usually the head of the household and is in charge of decision making. Men, usually having the primary income, control the family economically and distribute money. Women are in charge of domestic life and have significantly more contact with the children. The father is seen as an authority figure. Children are socially required to care for their parents, and so there are often three to four generations in a household.

However, with the advent of urban living this pattern is changing and children often choose to live far from their families and thus have a much harder time supporting them.

Kinship

Descent is traced through both the mother’s and father’s families, but the male line is more valued than the female. It is customary for a child to take the father’s first name as his or her last name.

In rural areas, villages are often composed of kin groups that offer support during difficult times. The kin group in which one participates tends to be in the male line. Elders are respected, especially men, and are regarded as the source of a lineage. In general, an elder or groups of elders are responsible for settling disputes within a kin group or clan.

China: Understanding society and culture

Author's Note: This is to understand the essential pillars of Chinese culure, their relations- how they marry, how they get out of marriage and why?

The early sages in China believed that the family was the basic element of society since a family is bonded through blood. The relationship between father and son is the core of the relationship and is extended further to encompass relationships between husband and wife, monarch and the subject, senior and junior and between friends.

These are called the Five Cardinal Relationships, and they include most of the relationships between people in a Chinese society even today.

Benevolence is considered the highest standard of social ethics and the nation’s moral benchmark when its welfare is at stake. The notion of righteousness is often regarded as the core value and the supreme standard of ethics.

Some say benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, intelligence and faith are the five fundamental moral principles and righteousness the core value of the Chinese society.

Defining Kin

In Chinese culture, “nine grades of relations” is an important concept when it comes to application of laws and observing rituals. Since the Han Dynasty, there have been two separate interpretations of what is defined by the nine grades. Each interpretation is based on societal and political needs as the ruler of the day see fit.

The older interpretationdefined the nine grades of relations strictly in the paternal line. That is, nine generations from great-great-grandfather down to great-great-grandchildren. This interpretation was officially recognised after Tang and Song dynasties. While, the contemporary interpretation defines these nine grades of relations to be four generations from the paternal line, three from the maternal line, and two from the wife’s.

Institution of Marriage

There are essentially six rituals in a Chinese wedding, despite China’s long history and many different geographical areas, which are as follows:

  1. Proposal: When an unmarried boy’s parents find a potential daughter-in-law. Then they locate a matchmaker who discusses marriage on the part of two families yet unknown to each other.
  2. Birthdates: If the selected girl and her parents accept the proposal, the matchmaker would match the birthdates which is used to predict the future of that couple-to-be. If the result of is good, they then would go to the next step.
  3. Bride price : At this point the bridegroom’s family arranges for the matchmaker to present a bride price to the bride’s family.
  4. Wedding gifts: The groom’s family would then send an elaborate array of food, cakes, and religious items to the bride’s family.
  5. Arranging the wedding: Before wedding ceremony, two families would arrange an auspicious day for wedding.
  6. Wedding Ceremony: The final ritual would be the actual wedding ceremony where bride and groom become a married couple, which consists of many elaborate parts:
    1. Wedding Procession: from the bride’s home to the groom’s home
    2. Welcoming the Bride: the bride’s family stops at the door of the groom’s home followed by ceremonies to welcome the bride
    3. Actual Wedding Ceremonies: the couple would pay respect to the Jade Emperor, the patron family deities (or patron buddhas and bodhisattvas), paying respect to deceased ancestors, the bride and groom’s parents and other elders, and paying respect to each other

In traditional Chinese society, there are three major ways to dissolve a marriage.

  1. no-fault divorce:  due to personal incompatibility, provided that the husband writes a divorce note.
  2. state-mandated annulment: when one spouse commits a serious crime against the other or his/her clan.
  3. husband may unilaterally declare a divorce: based on one of the following seven reasons
    1. The wife lacks filial piety towards her parents-in-law
    2. She fails to bear a son
    3. She is vulgar or lewd/adulterous
    4. She is jealous
    5. She has a vile disease
    6. She is gossipy
    7. She commits theft

Egypt: Now and Then | Before and After of Arab Invasion

The culture of Egypt has thousands of years of recorded history as ancient Egypt is among the earliest civilizations on this planet. Since then, Egypt has maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Egyptians, from Greek is derived from Late Egyptian Hikuptah “Memphis”, a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name Hat-ka-Ptah (ḥwt-k3-ptḥ), meaning “home of the ka (soul) of Ptah”, the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis. Arabic was adopted by the Egyptians after the Arab invasion of Egypt.

Many Egyptians today feel that Egyptian and Arab identities are inextricably linked while others believe that Egypt and Egyptians are simply not Arab, emphasizing indigenous Egyptian heritage, culture and independent polity, pointing to the perceived failures of Arab and pan-Arab nationalist policies. Egyptian critics of Arab nationalism contend that it has worked to erode and/or relegate native Egyptian identity by superimposing only one aspect of Egypt’s culture.

Egyptians carry names that have Egyptian, Greek, Arabic, Turkish, English and French origins, among others. The concept of a surname is lacking in Egypt. Rather, Egyptians tend to carry their father’s name as their first middle name, and stop at the 2nd or 3rd first name, which thus becomes one’s surname.

Honour is an important facet of interpersonal relationships. Respect and esteem for people is both a right and an obligation. An individual’s honour is intricately entwined with the reputation and honour of everyone in their family. Honour requires that Egyptians demonstrate hospitality to friends and guests. A man’s word is considered his bond and to go back on your word is to bring dishonour to your family.

Family Values

  1. The family is the most significant unit of Egyptian society.
  2. Kinship plays an important role in all social relations.
  3. The individual is always subordinate to the family, tribe or group.
  4. Nepotism is viewed positively, since it is patronage of one’s family.
  5. The family consists of both the nuclear and the extended family.

Relationships

Egyptians prefer to do business with those they know and respect, therefore expect to spend time cultivating a personal relationship before business is conducted. Who they know is more important than what they know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contracts. Egyptians believe direct eye contact is a sign of honesty and sincerity, so be prepared for disconcertingly intense stares.
Egyptians are emotive and use hand gestures when they are excited. In general, they speak softly, although they may also shout or pound the table. This is not indicative of anger; it is merely an attempt to demonstrate a point. One should demonstrate deference to the most senior person in the group, who will also be their spokesperson.

Marriage and the Family

The Egyptians appear to have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind. Women attend markets and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving! Men in Egypt carry loads on their head, women on their shoulder. Women pass water standing up, men sitting down. To ease themselves, they go indoors, but eat outside on the streets, on the theory that what is unseemly, but necessary, should be done in private, and what is not unseemly should be done openly.

The nuclear family was the core of Egyptian society and many of the gods were even arranged into such groupings. There was tremendous pride in one’s family, and lineage was traced through both the mother’s and father’s lines. Respect for one’s parents was a cornerstone of morality, and the most fundamental duty of the eldest son (or occasionally daughter) was to care for his parents in their last days and to ensure that they received a proper burial.

Kinship

Countless genealogical lists indicate how important family ties were, yet Egyptian kinship terms lacked specific words to identify blood relatives beyond the nuclear family.

For example, the word used to designate “mother” was also used for “grandmother,” and the word for “father” was the same as “grandfather”. Likewise, the terms for “son,” “grandson,” and “nephew” are identical. “Uncle” and “brother” (or “sister” and “aunt”) are also designated by the same word. To make matters even more confusing for modern scholars, the term “sister” was often used for “wife”.