Courtship and Marriage

Several different patterns of male-female courtship and marriage exist among the Kyrgyz. Among rural populations, a more traditional approach toward courtship exists, which often includes some aspects of arranged marriage. In pre-Soviet times, marriages were often arranged between tribal groups prior to the birth of children (bel kuda). Betrothal of small children who were still in their cradles was called beshik kuda. Agreements between the kuda sook were honored even in the event of a death, when the customary law of levirate required a brother or a relative to marry the widow. Today, matchmakers are still used and usually attempt to link families together. Although such arranged marriages were illegal, during the Soviet period, as were the payments of bride-price (kalym) and dowry (sep), these practices continued throughout the last century and are being revived in the post-Soviet society.

Among more urban Kyrgyz, marriages are the result of a young man and woman deciding on such a union.

Such an approach resembles many modern marriages. They usually seek out a judge to perform the ceremony and, more recently, many are also seeking the blessing of a mullah (Islamic cleric).

Upon marriage, a young couple is often given "guardian parents" for the newly married (okul apa and okul ata—authorized or entrusted mother and father). The parents of the groom arrange for an established married couple to act as sponsors, confidants, and mentors to a newly married couple. It is understood to be a very private and confidential relationship, but it was also kept very private during the Soviet period because it had once been considered anticommunist to have an okul apa and okul ata. According to the tradition, after the okul parents have been identified, contact with them is up to the young couple. If there is no contact, then it is considered a formal process and no gifts are exchanged. But if the young couple seek out the okul parents then the relationship has two aims. One is to provide a good model for the couple, and the second is to make contacts stronger between families, since they are not blood relatives.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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