i had a post up a few months ago about mating patterns in medieval eastern europe which i said at the time was just a preliminary view on that whole region of the world since eastern europe is a pretty big place and i want to look at the mating/family patterns for that whole region from at least the early medieval period up until today (*whew! – hbd chick wipes brow*). here goes another post on part of the region — poland — which, again, should just be viewed as an initial peek at what’s been going on mating-wise in that part of the world over the past several hundreds of years.
szopeno left a comment on the previous post the other day saying that the zadruga, which i had mentioned in the post, is/was mostly just a southern slav thing and not a western slavic institution.
sho’nuff, according to wikipedia, a zadruga is/was:
“[A] type of rural community historically common among South Slavs….
Originally, generally formed of one family or a clan of related families, the zadruga held its property, herds and money in common, with usually the oldest (patriarch) member ruling and making decisions for the family, though at times he would delegate this right at an old age to one of his sons….
The zadruga eventually went into decline beginning in the late 19th century, as the largest started to become unmanageable and broke into smaller zadrugas or formed villages. However, the zadruga system continues to color life in the Balkans; the typically intense concern for family found among South Slavs even today is partly due to centuries of living in the zadruga system. Many modern-day villages in the Balkans have their roots in a zadruga, a large number of them carrying the name of the one that founded them.
Villages and neighbourhoods that originated from zadrugas can often be recognized by the patronymic suffixes, such as -ivci, -evci, -ovci, -inci, -ci, -ane, -ene, etc., on their names.”
so that’s the southern slavs. what about the western ones? – in particular the poles?
in The Explanation of Ideology, emmanuel todd says that the traditional family system in poland was the egalitarian nuclear family (see map here) which is also found in parts of france and spain and southern italy. the characteristics of his egalitarian nuclear family include:
– no cohabitation of married children with their parents
– equality of brothers laid down by inheritance rules
– no marriage between the children of brothers
todd’s sources for poland, however, number only four. two of them are a census and a survey both from the 1970s. while those are interesting, they don’t tell us much about the (evolutionary) history of polish family- or mating-types. the third source [in french] relates to the 1700s, again fairly “recent,” especially given that todd claims to be talking about traditional family systems dating from 1500 to 1800 — i already discovered that he had some very late data for ireland — now it looks like todd’s kinda fudged the data for poland, too. anyway…
his final source is a book entitled Poland, Its People, Its Society, Its Culture [pg. 348]:
“The Polish family is characterized by marked internal strain and attenuation of family ties which are the final product of a long process of disintegration. Before Poland’s partition in the late eighteenth century the family was given cohesion by an ideal of family solidaritary extending to a large number of relatives by blood and marriage. The ideal, which is still held by all strata of the population [this was published in 1958 – h. chick], stressed the feeling of belonging to the family group, the integration of activities of family members to obtain common objectives, the utilization of family resources for needy members, and the maintenance of continuity between the parental family and new family units. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, family ties had become so attenuated that the ideal was rarely attained except by upper-class and intelligensia families. The nuclear family of husband, wife, and children, rather than the extended family (which includes many other relatives), became the norm among all social groups.”
so the nuclear family is relatively new in poland — the first partition of poland was in 1772, so 1770s until 2010s that’s ca. twelve conservative generations (a generation equalling twenty years).
in the medieval period in poland, community families were the thing. from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500, Volume 3 [pg. 85]:
“A common residential pattern in the villages of medieval East Central Europe was an extended family of some kind. Nuclear families were not unknown, but the larger kinship group offered greater economic security in an uncertain environment, since its members could help one another. In Poland the so-called large family typically included three generations of men with their wives and children. The entire family worked the land together under the direction of the father or grandfather, and constituted the basic unit of social life.”
i don’t know if that qualifies as a zadruga, but the poles were definitely living in communal family arrangements in the middle ages.
here’s more from alan macfarlane [pgs. 18, 24-25, 31-32]:
“The central feature of traditional East European peasantry was that ownership was not individualized. It was not the single individual who exclusively owned the productive resources, but rather the household…. Galeski writes about the Polish family farm that ‘the children are both the heirs of, and workers on, the farm. As heirs they are also co-owners.’ ‘The farm is handed down from generation to generation, while the family — the successive usufructuries — carries a responsibility to its own children (and to village opinion) for the property in its charge….’
“[O]n the whole peasant societies are geographically relatively immobile. In the context of Poland, for example, this is taken for granted, our authors only alluding to it in asides. Thomas and Znaniecki suggest that one reason for the absence of romantic love is that it is psychologically impossible because ‘in most cases … all the possible partners are known from childhood.’ Galeski refers to the ‘marked spatial stability’ of the inhabitants of villages, stating that it is ‘a characteristic of the village community that the persons living in it are connected primarily by social, but also by territorial origin. They were usually born in the village or in a neighbouring village….’ The idea that people should spend their lives in half a dozen villages, or move from village to town and then back to the village is largely absent. Most of those who live in a community pass through all the major phases of their life in one area among a group of people they know from cradle to grave. Many of those around them are neighbours, but many are also kin, for one consequence of limited geographical immobility and an association between land and family is that territories fill up with kin….
“[W]e find Galeski referring to the ‘strong ties of kinship among the families which make up the community.’ This is reinforced by the frequent intra-village marriages and results in the fact that ‘there are usually only a few family names in the village community. The village consists of several interrelated large families (or clans). For this reason, a village is sometimes defined as a family neighbour group….’
“Shanin [who was writing about russian peasants – h. chick] observes that ‘the village community operates to a great extent as an autonomous society….’ This author speaks in many places of this community-based society, of the hostility to ousiders, the satisfaction of all wants within the community, and other features. The same phenomenon is noted by Galeski for Poland, where he argues that the local community acts as the central economic, ritual, cultural and social control unit: the ‘village community is a primary group. Relationships among the inhabitants are based on personal contacts.’ The result of this is that a peasant society is made up of a host of largely identical, but mutually antagonistic and bounded territorial groups…. Although it is clear that peasant societies will vary in strength of community boundaries, it appears to be generally true that such nations could be called ‘particularist’ rather than ‘universalist.‘”
so, from around 1000 to 1500, poles were mostly living in community family groups. i’m not sure what happened after 1500, but it sounds as though extended families and strong family ties lasted well up and probably into the 1800s.
what i don’t know is what the mating patterns of poles were historically. did they marry cousins? the russians did from time to time, but hey — that’s the russians. the poles became roman catholics in 966, so they ought to have followed all the church’s bans on cousin marriages. but being catholic and marrying cousins never bothered the irish much and, of course, dispensations have often been available (southern italians have very frequently married their cousins up until quite recently). from galeski we learn that, at the very least, marriage was pretty endogamous amongst polish peasants. sounds like the poles are more like the greeks than the english or the medieval rural northern italians.
macfarlane quotes galeski as saying:
“Relationships among the inhabitants are based on personal contacts.”
well, not just personal contacts but genetic relatedness. most of a polish peasant’s relationship were with immediate family, extended family, or distant family. as macfarlane said, territories pretty quickly fill up with kin.
update 04/18: i don’t have access to this dissertation, but it looks like a good deal of medieval poles paid little heed to the church’s regulations on marriage. not surprising. several other medieval (and modern!) european societies did the same (egs. the italians, the irish).
previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe
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