in The Explanation of Ideology, emmanuel todd said about the russians [pgs. 35-36]:
“This distinctive characteristic [husband and wife being of very similar age] in the make-up of the Russian family has been confirmed by recent historical and statistical studies of the local censuses of the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1849 in one district of Great Russia close to Riazan, the average age difference between husband and wife was only 0.6 years. In the domain of Mishino which forms part of this district the age difference between marriage partners was 1.7 years in 1814; but most significantly 43 per cent of the women were older than their husbands. At the same date 78 per cent of households (or domestic units) represented the ‘ideal’ form of community family: that is they brought together under the same roof several married couples, parents and adult children. The average age of men at marriage being around twenty suggests the cohabitation of fathers-in-law aged from forty to forty-five with daughters-in-law between twenty and twenty-five married to husbands who were slightly younger. This peculiar demographic equilibrium permits the development of the traditional syndrome of Russian culture, incest between father-in-law and daughter-in-law, which is expressed with feeling in popular stories familiar to nineteenth-century folklorists and mentioned in Friedrich Engles in ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.’ Father-son rivalry appears, transposed and watered down, in Turgenev’s ‘First Love….'”
when i first read that i thought, ok, todd is letting his … ooo la la … french imagination get away with him. but now yesterday evening i read something in Peasant Farming in Muscovy that might support his “scenarios” [pg. 81]:
“Early marriage was usual. In 1410 metropolitan Fotii instructed his subordinates not to marry a girl of less than twelve, ‘but marry her when she enter her thirteenth year.’ In 1758 Daniel Printz noted that many girls married before puberty, at age ten, and boys at twelve or fifteen. An early seventeenth-century document regarded marriage as normal for female slaves at eighteen, for males at twenty and for a young widow two years after the death of the husband…. An Englishman in Russia about a century later than this commented that ‘they marry very young in that countrey, sometimes when neither the Bride nor the Bridegroom are thirteen Years of Age’. This may well be an exaggeration for the marjority of marriages, but the fact of early marriage seems well established. This indeed appears to be a characteristic pattern for Eastern Europe and has survived into modern times…. A further indication of early marriage is to be found in the fact that there are at least three variant forms of a term indicating a man who has an illicit relationship with his daughter-in-law. The terms snokhar’, snokhach and snochnik (cp. snokha, daughter-in-law) may indicate differences in such a relationship but also show it was once fairly widespread. The Metropolitan’s Justice, a law code dating perhaps from the end of the fifteenth or from the sixteenth century, though based on earlier materials, continued to lay down a fine of 100 grivnas for this relationship, the same as for two brothers sharing one woman; these were the highest fines; bestiality, on the other hand, was cheap at 12 grivnas. One way of attempting to adjust the land-labour ratio given a shortage of hands would be to marry off a young son to an adult but young female; this would account for the custom being fairly widespread. In such cases the wife would live with her husband’s family and an adult worker was added to the farm; sexual relations between father and daughter-in-law were, as it were, a bonus which lasted until the young son became sexually mature.8
“Footnote no. 8: In Bosnia such a custom continued into the twentieth century (personal communication of Professor Dubic).”
i have to wonder what “fairly widespread” means (don’t go there) — how common were these “incestuous” affairs? and by incestuous, todd means canonically incestuous … unless the father-in-law is also the daughter-in-law’s uncle…!
how common were these incestuous affairs — and was it common/uncommon that children were produced by them? ’cause if they were, the family relationships get very kentuckian. i mean, if the daughter-in-law has, say, one kid by her father-in-law(/uncle?) and then the rest of her kids by her husband(/cousin?), then the eldest sibling is both half-sibling AND uncle/aunt(/second cousins?) to his/her brothers/sisters(/first cousins once removed?). good grief!
and it’s too late in the evening for me to even think about what such family structures might do to the evolution of altruism in these populations, or what they might mean for the inclusive fitness-related behaviors of all the actors in question.
and, once again, the (sometimes very) young ages of marriage in medieval and rather modern russia are markedly different from ages of marriage in northwestern europe. probably ’cause of the lack of manorialism in medieval russia.