Family Structure and Respect for Kin

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 bare, 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. In 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.

On this page, you can watch videos and listen to stories of how Kalmyks educate their children, venerate their elders, kinsfolk, and ancestors.

Alena Lidzhieva, About Traditional Education

Alena says that in her youth she could not go out freely. In general, children had to ask their parents for permission. Alena grew up without a mother. Alena’s father never allowed her to play outside for long. Alena was very afraid of him and tried to obey him. In the past, children showed great respect to their parents and were afraid of them. Even young adults did not dare to do anything without their parents’ consent. Even middle-aged men did not have the right to sit at the same table with elders, let alone drink alcohol with them.


Galina Mandzhieva, About the Aavikhn Clan, Its Land and My Father


Galina Yavanova, About Communal Spirit and Respect for Older People


Ivan Modunkaev, My Mother


Tatyana Dzhambinova, About the Traditional Kalmyk Family