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.