questions some of us thought to ask

joshua keating wrote on his foreign policy blog last week:

Questions you never thought to ask: Is inbreeding bad for democracy?

heh. (~_^)

well, some of us HAVE thought to ask that very question, a couple of people waaaay before i did — going back to 2002 in fact:

Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development from parapundit.
Cousin Marriage Conundrum – from steve sailer. steve’s essay was also included in a volume co-edited by steven pinker, The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004.

keating is referring to the woodley and bell paper, Consanguinity as a Major Predictor of Levels of Democracy: A Study of 70 Nations, which was published last year and which i blogged about here (and here and here and here) — and steve sailer also blogged about at the time.

just to refresh everyone’s memory, woodley and bell found a negative correlation (r = –0.632, p < 0.001) between the frequency of consanguineous marriages in the 70 nations at which they looked and the level of democracy in those countries. in other words, the greater the amount of consanguineous marriages in a country, the less democracy it probably has.

keating is not convinced:

“As a counterpoint, Iceland — a country so isolated and sparsely populated that people need an Android app to keep them from hooking up with a close relative — has had a representative parliament since the 10th century and a culture of individualism so strong they write Nobel Prize-winning novels about it. So there.”

two things.

first of all, it should be remembered that woodley and bell specifically looked for success at liberal democracy (fwiw, ymmv). from the paper:

“As conceived here, democracy refers to a system in which there is opportunity for competitive elections and deliberative referendums, with broad public participation encouraged for both (Vanhanen, 2003). Democracy in this instance refers exclusively to the liberal variety where the emphasis is on competitive politics, rather than the classical type in which the focus is on consensus building and statesmanship (Werlin, 2002). Two key characteristics of liberal democratic systems include the presence of institutions that permit citizens to express preferences for alternative policies and leaders, and the existence of institutionalized constraints that prevent the misuse of power by an executive elite (Inglehart, 2003; Lipset, 1959; Marshall & Jaggers, 2010).”

secondly, tenth century icelandic democracy was not an example of liberal democracy — and wasn’t right through to 1262 when the norwegian crown took over the governance of iceland. rather, the icelandic commonwealth was a system based on consensus which i posted about previously here.

early medieval icelanders were represented at their alþingi by regional chieftans known as goðar. nobody elected these goðar — they were the local strongmen from various areas of iceland, and they typically inherited their position, although these chieftainships were sometimes sold. you could, in theory, pick your own goði to whom you swore allegiance, but apparently in practice this rarely ever happened — because a lot of medieval icelanders were kin to their goðar [pdf], and it’s almost always bloody awkward to break it off with family — especially when you can’t easily move to the other side of the island or something.

so these early medieval icelandic “representatives” bore little resemblance to the representatives we have in modern, parliamentary systems (h*ck – maybe that was a good thing!). if you were an early medieval icelander, your alþingi representative was likely your kin, and you were probably stuck with him for life — until his son took over. this was not liberal democracy.

did the early medieval icelanders marry their cousins? i’m not sure. it’s very likely that their immediate ancestors from norway did (like the early medieval swedes probably did), and the medieval icelanders ignored many other of the church’s teachings and regulations on marriage at the time [pdf], so i wouldn’t be surprised if they did. the fact that medieval icelandic society seems to have devolved from one in which kinship was comparatively unimportant to a state where large clans controlled the place also suggests to me that they married their cousins — or at least mated awfully closely (they may not have had to marry very close cousins since they were such a small population to start off with).

having said all that, when trying to work out why the medieval icelanders — or any other group for that matter — didn’t/don’t have liberal democracy, it’s not really important whether or not they were marrying their cousins at the time in question. well, it is … and it isn’t. (don’t pull your hair out just yet.)

what is important (i think) is whether or not the medieval icelanders — or any group-X — had been marrying their cousins over the long-term. i don’t think that there’s an instantaneous connection between cousin marriage (or other close mating) and failing to manage a functional liberally democratic system. what i think that there is are longer term evolutionary processes connected to inbreeding/outbreeding patterns and the selection for individualism vs. familism or clannism. and if you have clannism, liberal democracy will just not work.

woodley and bell acquired their consanguinity data from here’s a map of those data:

consang net

what stands out right away is that consanguinity rates are very high in the arab world, the middle east, north africa, and places like pakistan and afghanistan, while rates are really low in the u.s. and scandinavia. that seems to fit the cousin-marriage-doesn’t-promote-democracy theory. but the cousin marriage rates in china are very low — same range as england and western europe. why don’t the chinese manage to have a liberal democracy then?

what you have to understand is that this map is a snapshot. it is a moment in time (mostly the twentieth century). it doesn’t tell us much about the history of cousin marriage in any of these societies — whether any of it’s been short-term or long-term — and without knowing that, we can’t even start to guess at any effects the mating patterns (and related family types) might’ve had on the evolution of behaviors in these populations, including those related to clannishness.

once you know, for instance, that up until very recently, the chinese actually preferred cousin marriage, then you can — i think — begin to understand why they’re clannish (or, at least, extended family-ish). and why, therefore, liberal democracy doesn’t work there — or didn’t arise there in the first place either.

rinse and repeat for all the other locales on the map.

see also Cousin Marriage and Democracy @marginal revolution.

previously: liberal democracy vs. consensus building and democracy and endogamous mating practices and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. driving in iceland.)

recognizing your un-kin

if you want to be un-altruistic toward some un-kin of yours, it might be useful if you could spot who they are.

here’s some neat research [pdf] suggesting that perhaps we can do just that (further research is required, of course). this is one of those manipulated photographs studies — you know — where they take photos and alter them to look more or less like the subjects. note that the study was done on w.e.i.r.d. students — and way more females (n=112) than males (n=32):

“Kin recognition: evidence that humans can perceive both positive and negative relatedness” (2012)

“… The evolution of spite would have been greatly facilitated by the ability to recognize negative relatives (West & Gardner, 2010). The current study is the first to find such an ability among humans, one of only a handful of species (Keller & Ross, 1998; Giron & Strand, 2004) for which there is evidence of negative relatedness recognition, by introducing a novel cue to negative relatedness (negative self-resemblance). Specifically, we found opposing effects of positive and negative self-resemblance – cues to positive and negative relatedness, respectively – on trusting and attractiveness attributions, as predicted. This result provides a foothold for the possibility of the evolution of spiteful behaviour among humans. Future research should examine this possibility.

“Although the effects of positive and negative self resemblance in our study were generally small, our study was an experimental one. Thus, we controlled the strength of the manipulation. It was our intention to make the stimuli subtle, to ensure that the participants would not discover the nature of the manipulation. A subtle manipulation, however, will tend to lead to subtle effects. What we hoped to show was not that the positive and negative self-resemblance manipulations had large effects on preferences or behaviour in the context of a laboratory experiment, but that they had predictable effects at all, especially as these effects speak to theory (Prentice & Miller, 1992).

Relative to matched participants, focal participants generally had positive preferences for their own positive self-resembling faces but negative preferences for their own negative self-resembling faces across contexts….

here’s the relevant graphic:

negative relatives

Spite is hypothesized to evolve under relatively restrictive conditions (West & Gardner, 2010), and so it is expected to be rare. However, two conditions may, together, favour its evolution: (1) ‘viscous’ breeding systems and (2) the ability to recognize negative relatives. Population viscosity can make competition increasingly local among individuals (Taylor, 1992a,b), and local competition encourages the evolution of spite (Gardner & West, 2004). Furthermore, individuals immigrating into a viscous population may be strongly negatively related to members of the indigenous population, because immigrants are highly unlikely to bear the same (relevant) alleles as indigenous individuals (Krupp et al., 2011).”

for “viscous breeding systems” i think we can safely insert “inbreeding” or “cousin marriage” or “consanguineous matings.” they are all certainly viscous.

“Negative relatedness recognition can improve the targeting of a spiteful action to increase indirect fitness benefits (by delivering harm specifically to negative relatives whilst sparing positive ones), and our results provide evidence that humans have the mechanisms in place to do precisely this. Moreover, countless animal species use phenotype matching to determine relatedness, and other kin recognition systems exist that might also be employed to discriminate against negative relatives (reviewed in Krupp et al., 2011). Further discoveries that organisms have the capacity to recognize negative relatives will lay a foundation for the study of spiteful behaviour, arguably the last great unexplored problem of social evolution….”

what i’d like to see is some research done on actual inbred populations. maybe a comparison between a non-inbreeding population and an inbreeding one to see if either of the two groups is better at spotting their kin or un-kin.

for that matter, i wonder if kin in inbred populations actually look more like one another than kin in outbred populations (and, therefore, look more unlike non-kin). you would think they ought to since they share more of the same genes with one another. you’d think that’d affect appearance, too. remember the ghoul brothers from syria (click on picture for LARGER view)?:

ghoul brothers

redzengenoist said about them: “It really is striking how much they look like one another. Far more than I would expect the average family group to have similar appearance…. I’m thinking of selection for markedness of ingroup-ness. I can’t help but wonder if having a distinct ‘look’ helps to facilitate the evolutionary advantages of inbreeding….”

i noted: “and, like the big families i’ve known (from my slightly inbred area of the world), some of them look more like each other than they do to the others. the two (chubby guys, roundish faces) on the right and the guy all the way on the left look similar — those three look like mom? or dad? and the other five look more like each other — like the other parent (whichever one).”

maybe it’s easier to spot kin and non-kin in a “viscous” population. the more viscous the better, perhaps.

(note: comments do not require an email. play spot the relatives!)

dagestani avars

*update below*

just a reminder that, while the boston bombers — the tsarnaev brothers — are chechen, they are also avars (on their mother’s side). not that that should make too much difference as far as the tsarnaevs being clannish, since the avars are clannish, too.

there are only ca. three million people in dagestan and yet there are several dozen ethnic groups there, one of which is the avars. and then the avars, in turn, are further subdivded in 15+ sub-ethnic groups (who knows which one mrs. tsarnaev comes from), which are further subdivided into tribes (tukkhums), clans (teips), extended families and so on. THIS is a clannish society.

from The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (2008) [pg. 10 – links added by me]:

The Chechens are now considered exemplary of the mountaineers’ historic resistance to Russian rule, but that repuation is only partly deserved. People who lived much higher in the mountains — the Svans and Khevsurs of northern Georgia, for example — were generally the most antipathetic to outsiders; their religious practices, infused with animist beliefs, set them farthest apart from their Christian and Muslim neighbors. The real engine of the highlander uprisings of the nineteenth century lay farther to the east, in Dagestan. The very name of the region — literally ‘the mountainous land’ — is evidence of its central geographical feature: mountains and plateaus cut by fast-flowing rivers. A congeries of distinct languages and customs has long been characteristic of the area, with social ties formed along lines of clans, extended families, and village groupings. The major ethnic groups — the Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, and Lezgins, among others, with none accounting for more than 30 percent of the population — today represent the dominant factions in Dagestan’s precarious balance of regional, ethnic, and clan interests.”

we hear a similar message about the dagestanis (and also learn some more about the chechens) in The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (2010) [pgs. 72-73 – links added by me]:

“Research on the *wirds* and *teips* (clans and families) of the Chechens is difficult to collect and the findings generally frustrate the Western desire for order and clarity. But what this research has demonstrated by its inability to draw straight lines is that *there aren’t straight lines* and the Chechen and Dagestani (or Ingush, Kabard, and Balkarian among others) cultures are not vertical structures, or ‘power verticals’ to use the current Russian vernacular. The Muslim faith is a relatively flat hierarchy to begin with, but by looking at the mountaineer culture and its imposition of yet another layer of clan hierarchy on top of the religious one, it is easy to understand why the Caucasians have so much success at insurgent warfare. North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies. Because familial loyalty sometimes trumps religious authority, and because those same clan are often competing among themselves for status and hegemony, those societal ‘fractures’ were — and still are — exploited by the Russians….

“This particular characteristic of Caucasus culture is what gives it strength as an insurgency and yet ultimately keeps it weak when it comes time to make the final move toward independence.[24]”

“[24] Although Chechnya has been the primary focus of this book thus far, the Dagestanis have been as much a part of this conflict as anyone else. As of this writing, there are more attacks taking place in Dagestan than in Chechnya. The internal dynamics of Dagestan are even more fractured than Chechnya. Aside from the religious and family aspects, Dagestan is made up of more than 13 different ethnic groups — of which the Avars, Dargins, and Lezgins still comprise less than 60 percent of the population. In addition, there are Laks, Tabasarans, Rutuls, Aguls, Tsakhurs, Kumyks, Nogais, Azeris, Chechens, and Russians, and another 40 or so tiny groups numbering only about 200 total — and they all speak their own language — making Chechnya and its Vainakh cousin Ingushetia look downright homogenous.

clannishness is a strength. and at the same time, clannishness is a weakness.

and that quote about north caucasus social structures being perfect for basing insurgencies upon merits repeating:

“North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies.”


dagestan is a mess, and the russians have had to invest heavily in security there. Russia’s Battle with Crime, Corruption and Terrorism (2008) [pgs. 163-165 – links added by me]:

“[T]he personnel strength of the law-enforcement and security task forces in Dagestan was amongst the highest nationwide. The Interior Ministry’s personnel in Dagestan totals 25,000, meaning there is one policeman for every 100 citizens — one of the highest concentrations of policemen in Russia. Dagestan is also the only Russian region that has a specialized department to fight religious extremism within the local branch of the Interior Ministry.

“Information about the number of security officers in the republic is not publically available, but judging by media reports about anti-terrorist and anti-extremist activities in Dagestan, one can presume that the local branch of the FSB is well equipped in terms of manpower and resources. Local agents are reinforced by investigative teams sent on missions from other regional branches of the FSB. The republic is also home to four military brigades and several untis of the Federal Border Guard Service, which are stationed at the borders with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the south and southwest of the republic….

“Dagestani law-enforcement officers are overwhelmingly recruited locally and are active participants in power struggles among local clans and ethnic groups. This circumstance may be a contributing factor in perpetuating the assassination campaign, as the strongest political players in Dagestan may not be interested in pursuing a consolidated campgaign against the attackers, but would prefer to exploit the assassinations for their own political benefit….”

this part might be relevant to the boston bombing:

“In September 1999, Dagestan became the first Russian region to enacts its own law designed to fight religious and other forms of extremism. The republic’s parliament passed the law, entitled ‘On Countering Wahhabism and Other Extremist Activity,’ shortly after Islamist militants led by Shamil Basayev invaded Dagestan from the territory of the then independent Chechnya….

“Dagestan’s anti-extremism law provided a pretext for massive crackdowns by the republic’s law-enforcement agencies on practicing Muslims, and these routinely ended with extortion and abuses. The law also allowed police to detain individuals on such charges as possession of ‘extremist’ literature. These and other actions by the authorities have obstructed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly in Dagestan.

“As attacks against government targets rose, law-enforcement gradually widened the scop of its crackdown to target Muslims who preached individually. This move backfired, with dozens of abused young Muslim men joining anti-goverment insurgent groups or creating their own….”


“[T]he right of citizens to equal access to the civil service cannot be realized in Dagestan, since existing legislation and tacit agreements among the republic’s elite have put control of state jobs firmly in the hands of local clans and even failed to ensure rotation of the representatives of ethnic groups in these posts as had been required by the previous version of Dagestan’s Constitution.

“These legal provisions served to keep several clans — dominating all three branches of power — at the helm in Dagestan, and these groups have a deep vested interest in preserving the status quo.”

clannishness is a weakness.

dagestanis marry their cousins more regularly than chechens (chechens really do not, except perhaps for maternal third cousins). i’m not sure if this includes the avars or not. further research is required.

from Potentials of Disorder: Explaining Conflict and Stability in the Caucasus (2003) [pg. 120]:

“Evidence of the deep differences between Dagestanis and Chechens in the organisation of life is that among Dagestanis it is permissible and even encouraged for cousins to marry, whereas Chechens are still categorically opposed to marriages even with the same *teip*, i.e. between relatives through the father’s line, the unity of which can be traced deep into antiquity, over the distance of ten-fifteen generations; there cannot be marital relations as they are still considered ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.”

and from Cultures of the World: Dagestan [pgs. 70=71]:

“In most ethnic groups, people married inside their clan and, very often, they married their cousins….

“These traditions have gradually begun to change. More and more often, young people find partners of their own choosing, and marrying within one’s own ethnic group or clan has become less of a social or economic imperative. Although some people still prefer to subscribe to this once traditional pattern, inter-ethnic marriages are common in the republic’s cities. While Dagestani women usually marry men from other Dagestani ethnic groups, Dagestani men more and more often marry Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian women.”

update: stealin’ this from anatoly — a tweet from the younger tsarnaev brother (notice the hashtags):

jahar tweet

for more on the avars see One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups, pg. 67+.

see also: Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region

previously: those clannish chechens and random notes: 04/22/13

(note: comments do not require an email. avar guy.)

random notes: 04/22/13

the tsarnaev brothers’ mother is an avar from dagestan, not a chechen (their father is chechen [or is he? see below]):

“Hunt for Boston Clues Reveals Tanged Caucasus Web”

“… The brothers’ mother, Zubeidat, is an ethnic Avar, the predominant ethnic group in Dagestan, their father told The Wall Street Journal. Dagestan itself is inhabited by dozens of ethnicities and is home to mushrooming Salafist groups preaching the implementation of Sharia law in the republic.

“Having an Avar for a mother makes the brothers only half Chechen, but the fact that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan are still being labeled as fully Chechen in the international media only highlights how difficult it can be to get through the ethnic complexity of the North Caucasus. …”

not that knowing that someone is an avar makes anything clearer, since there are over a dozen (13? 15?) sub-ethnic groups amongst the avar of dagestan (no, i don’t understand any of it either!).

see also: Boston Marathon Bombings: Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Home

the avars (and other peoples of dagestan) are clannish, too — from Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan [pgs. 1-3]:

“With its mountainous terrain making travel and communication difficult, Daghestan is still largely tribal and, unlike in most other parts of Russia, the population (2,576,531 in 2002) is rapidly growing. Despite over a century of Tsarist control followed by seventy years of repressive Soviet rule, there are still 32 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language, and Avar is the most widely spoken with about 700,000 speakers. With so many indigenous ethnic groups, Daghestan is unquestionably the most complex of the Caucasian republics.

“In the lowlands can be found Turkic nomads: Kumyks, Noghays, and a few displaced Turkomans. In the northern highlands are the Avars, the Andis, Karatas, Chamalals, Bagwalals, Akhwakhs, Botlikhs, Godoberis, and Tindis. Still in the high valleys but going south toward the Georgian border are the Tsez (Dido), Gionukhs, Hunzibs, Khwarshis, and Bezhitas (Kapuchis). South of the Avar are the Laks, Dargwas, Kubachis, and Khaidaqs, all forming a related group of peoples. In one high village, standing apart from them, are the Archies, whose links lie further south with the so-called Lezgian peoples: the Aghuls, Tabasarans, and Rutuls. A few of the Lezgis and most of the Tsakhurs spill over into Azerbaijan in the south. Other Daghesantis who are restricted to northern Azerbaijan are the Kryz in one mountain village and three coastal ones, Buduks (one mountain village), Udis (two mountain villages), and Khinalugs (one mountain village). There is also a group called ‘Mountain Jews’ (Givrij or Dagchifut) who speak an Iranian language in Daghestan. They are sometimes called ‘Tats,’ but are not to be confused with the Muslim Tats further south on the Aspheron peninsula of Azerbaijan. In addition there are a few Daghestani Cossacks who are strongly assimilaed to indigenous patterns.

“Colarusso (1997) who compiled the above list, stresses that all thirty-two

“‘are distinct peoples, however small they may be, with their own languages, customs, costumes, arts, and architectures. Many are further subdivided by tribes, clans, and bloodlines. Conversely, most will traditionally form larger units for self-defence when threatened. This is particularly true of the smaller peoples of Daghestan. In ethnographic, social, and political terms the Caucasus is like a minature continent.’

“To give some idea of the problems caused by the linguistic mix, despite the fact that Dargi and Avar are spoken by people living side by side with each other they are in fact mutually incomprehensible languages (see Chenciner et al, 1997, p.9). Multilingualism is therefore virtually universal. Nearly everyone speaks Russian in addition to their own language, and many have some command of several neighbouring languages too….

Most of the ethnic groups ‘are subdivided into *tukhums*, or extended family clans, which traditionally did not intermarry and often fought long blood feuds. The *tukhum* managed the village affairs and laws. Today, the *tukhum* still functions as a unit, but to greatly varying degrees among different ethnic groups of the mountain land…. In the villages of Daghestan, the clans have their own tea houses in which their members gather.”

sounds familiar.

i tried to find out which teip (clan) [tайп] the tsarnaev family belongs to, but didn’t have any luck. not being able to read either russian or chechen didn’t make the project any easier!

i did, however, find out what village and region in chechnya the father’s family is originally from:

“Boston accusations shock brothers’ Kyrgyz hometown”

“…their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya….”

here is chiri-yurt [Чири-Юрт], which is in the shalinsky district of the chechen republic. according to the russian wikipedia page for chiri-yurt [google translation]:

In 1944, after the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, and the elimination of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic village of Chiri-Yurt was renamed Nadreche and populated by immigrants from neighboring Dagestan.[8] After the restoration of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, locality returned the former name of Chiri-Yurt.”

so … wait. does that mean that the chiri-yurtians (and, therefore, the tsarnaevs) are actually dagestanis and not chechens? i’m so confused….

also, an interesting tidbit from that haaretz article. recall that the tsarnaevs had been refugees in tokmok, kyrgyzstan:

“In Tokmok, the Tsarnaev clan alone inhabited a whole street before most of them moved back to their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya in the 1960s, residents said.”

finally, some neat towers from chechnya! these aren’t tower houses built to protect clans during blood feuds. instead these are a part of some larger fortress (built 800-900 years ago? in the 800-900s?) guarding the argun gorge which is near chiri-yurt. i thought they were cool!:


previously: those clannish chechens

(note: comments do not require an email. avarian wolf symbol. woof!)

those clannish chechens

*update below*

of course the chechens are clannish. the entire caucasus region is clannish (via ed west)! via a tweet from mark weiner (links added by me):

“Russia: War Destroyed Chechnya’s Clan Structure (Part 1)”

“Moscow, 4 January 2002 (RFE/RL) — The Chechens of Russia’s North Caucasus region are a tight-knit society based on extended families, or clans, guided by a council of elders. These clans, which traditionally lived together in a single village, are called ‘taips.’ During Stalin’s infamous deportation of Chechens to Central Asia — and even now, as war and social unrest have forced thousands of Chechens to leave their home villages and scatter throughout the republic or abandon the region altogether — the links remain strong between members of a single taip.

“There are more than 150 taips in Chechnya, each with its own traditions and council of elders….

“Traditionally, taip members can recall the name of their original ancestor from whom the clan originates. They can also recite the names and details about the lives and deaths — often on the battlefield — of at least seven generations of male ancestors.

“Ian Chesnov is an anthropology professor at Russia’s State Humanitarian University in Moscow. He spent several years in Chechnya studying cultural traits. Chesnov says that according to Caucasus tradition, a member of a taip is never abandoned in time of trouble. To the contrary, a taip acts as a kind of family network that makes sure all members have the support they need….

“The taip forms the core of Chechen society — and, many Chechens believe, predetermines the characteristics and personalities of its members. The perceived link between clan and character type is so strong that taips are considered a key aspect of the region’s political life as well….

Chechnya’s taips fall into nine distinct ‘tukums,’ or tribes. Legend holds that all Chechens descend from an original family of nine brothers, a belief represented by the Chechen symbol, which depicts a wolf encircled by nine stars. Batuev describes the tukums’ function:

“‘The taips are organized in nine tukums. A tukum is a political-military union meant to function in cases of [outside] threats or aggression. [The tukums] used to unify all the [Chechen] nation and the taips.'”

A tukum has no leader and is composed of a loose group of clans who share a common ancestry….

so, do the chechens inbreed/mate closely? according to the working theory around here, they ought to if they’re clannish (and they are). we should also be able to guess that the chechens have a history of inbreeding/close mating since they live in the mountains, and mountainous populations seem to have a tendency to inbreed (see also here) — like the auvergnats, for example.

from Mission in Chechnya (2002) [pg. 80] regarding some rules of the teips:

“4. Absolute marriage prohibition between members of one clan. This was the oldest rule. What caused such a prohibition? If those who are going to marry are in the same clan, they will not have numerous and healthy descendants — this is confirmed by the elders whose observation and life experience testified how negative the influence of close marriage was upon the descendants. The others assured them that the violation of exogamy would bring dangerous illness to those who were going to marry. Marriage prohibition inside a clan is not the consequence of a legislative act. Still, up to now the Chechens try to stick to this principle. Some clans taht took the way of exogamy violation (e.g. tsada khroevstsi) were shunned by the other clans. Why? Because a female relative of the father’s line is considered a sister of any member of the given clan. A blood relationship links with the Chechen people are so strong that they go through seven or eight generations. ‘Close’ or even ‘concerned’ relatives in the father’s line were not given the right either for marriage or for blood feud among themselves. Close relatives of the mother’s line, however, had the right for marriage and blood feud. It should be mentioned that the marriage inside the mother’s line for the first, second and the third generations was not recommended.

and from The Chechens: A Handbook (2005) [pg. 91]:

“Exogamy and endogamy

“To ensure the good health of their offspring, a prerequisite in the harsh mountainous environment, the Chechens tabooed not only close-relative marriage on both sides, but also interdicted association with any blood relative, which included all members of a clan. This meant that a man was constrained to seek his marriage partner from outside the clan, but from within the tribe: *taips* were strictly exogamous, whereas *tukhums* were endogamous entities. These traditional values are still adhered to even among city dwellers. Sources are not unanimous as to the prescribed degree of consanguineous removedness between potential marriage partners. It could be that there is no uniform rule espoused by all *tukhums*. However, at least three generations is the span of disconnectedness commonly agreed upon. Some *taips* of ‘foreign’ origin do not proscribe close kin marriages, this custom hinting at non-Caucasian or Daghestani origin.”

and from Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border: Images, Customs, Myths & Folk Tales of the Peripheries (2008) [pg. 240]:

“Marriages within it are forbidden. The Kists and Ingush maintain this tradition strictly, though in Chechnya this tradition has changed under the influence of Islam. Previously, marriage to one’s third cousin was forbidden; now it is welcomed.

some mixed messages there, but the gist of it i think is:

– no marriage within the patrlineal clan — the teip
– you should, however, marry within the bigger tribe — the tukkhum
– you can marry maternal relatives, but probably not closer than third cousins — this cousin marriage ban is probably a holdover from when the chechens were christian [pg. 256]. in fact, third cousin marriages might even be preferred (this reminds me of the greeks).

all of this sounds almost exactly like the marriage systems amongst some of the populations in the balkans, especially amongst the albanians — i.e. avoiding paternal cousin marriage but allowing maternal (distant) cousin marriage. a bit of exogamy, but also a bit of endogamy.

size also matters. the smaller your population size, the smaller the gene pool is going to be and, so, the closer the mating ultimately — which is what matters here (i think).

there are 1,206,551 chechens in chechnya as of 2010 — let’s call it 1.2M. there are somewhere between 130 and 300 teips (patrlineal clans) in chechnya — let’s call it 215 (that’s right in the middle). that gives us ca. 5,580 individuals per teip.

there are nine tukkhums (the larger tribes) in chechnya. if we assume that there is the same number of teips in each tukkhum (which might not be the case), then that’s ca. 23-24 teips per tukkhum. 5,580 x 24 = 133,920 individuals in a tukkhum. how many of reproductive age (i never know this)? one quarter? one third? if it’s one quarter, you wind up with ca. 16,700 women you are allowed to marry if you’re a chechen guy. compare that to the millions you could marry in the u.s. — if you’re american.

so chechens are close breeders. they’re a small population that marries within an even smaller tribe and may even prefer maternal third cousin marriage.

it’s no wonder, then, that they still engage in blood feuds (just like the albanians). you’d half expect them to build tower houses for protection during clan disputes like the albanians or the maniots.

oh, wait.

see also: Inside the deadly Russian region the Tsnarnaev family used to call home @foreign policy and Chechen asabiya and the Borat Brothers from steve sailer. *update* – and see also One Blessing Of Outbreeding from roissy.

previously: where do clans come from? and balkan endogamy and more on albanians

(note: comments do not require an email. chechen towers.)

schizophrenia and immigration

something else from The Diversity Illusion:

“Diversity can make people unhappy; it may even drive them mad. In London studies have shown higher incidence of schizophrenia, suicide and self-harm among ethnic minorities living in neighbourhoods with fewer people of the same group, than in areas where they are dominant, even when they are more affluent.83 Under the Marxist consensus this was always explained as a product of discrimination and prejudice, which could be solved through anti-racism measures. The mental health profession is even accused of racism because it disproportionately sections members of some groups. When in 2007 psychologist Swaran Singh co-published a systematic review pooling data from all British studies of detention of ethnic minorities under the Mental Health Act, and found no evidence that higher rates of detention were due to racism, he was denounced in public. And yet, he wrote, ‘careful studies in different countries have shown that rates of serious mental illnesses are high in all migrant ethnic minorities, indicating that this is a function of migration rather than ethnicity. Researchers have used culturally neutral assessment scales devised by the WHO, rated the assessments blind to ethnic origin of the patients, and even had psychiatrists from the Caribbean recheck the diagnoses. The findings stand’.84

“Mental illness is a part of the immigrant’s experience, a process that can be sad, stressful and isolating, sometimes even more so for the second generation. In 1932 Ornulf Odegaard, a Norwegian psychiatrist, reported high rates of schizophrenia among his countrymen in Minnesota, and it seems unlikely that this can be explained by the racism of American natives towards blue-eyed Nordic immigrants. And higher rates of psychosis in migrants have since been reported in several countries. A 2011 University of California report found that levels of mental illness were far higher among Mexicans in the US than Mexicans back home. As Dr Singh said: ‘Childhood exposure to economic adversity, family breakdown, social exclusion and living in areas with poor social cohesion all increase the risk. Ethnic minorities have higher rates of psychosis as they are much more likely to suffer these adversities….’

“High mental illness rates are caused by the shock of dislocation and diversity, a shock that can be sustained with community support. As Dr Singh explained, in minority groups ‘values and beliefs, family structure and community norms…can bolster resilience and reduce the impact of adversity’.” [kindle locations 1809-1834]

i’ve read about this before. what i’d like to do, though, is flip the premise on its head, jayman-style:

what if it’s not migration — and winding up in a diverse setting — that results in schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses?), but rather what if schizophrenic people — or individuals predisposed to getting schizophrenia — are more likely to emigrate?

assistant village idiot?

previously: “the diversity illusion”

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“the diversity illusion”

if you don’t follow me on twitter, you will have missed my flurry of quotes yesterday from telegraph journalist ed west‘s excellent new book, The Diversity Illusion: What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set it Right. (john derbyshire likes it, too, btw!)

the book is about the situation in britain, but an awful lot of what west has to say can be applied to the u.s. and elsewhere as well. i’m about halfway through it, so i still haven’t gotten to the “setting it right” part yet, but i’m gonna share some of my favorite bits so far with you right now (some of these might be a repeat from yesterday — sorry!). ok, here we go:

“In over sixty years of enormous change such debate [about immigration] had been restricted by taboo, fear and mockery. Immigration is the most thought about and least talked about subject in British history. [kindle locations 173-175]

Never in modern history has a free population simply suppressed discussion of a major issue. As Kevin Myers noted, the people of Britain and Ireland ‘have taken a secret, Self-Denying Ordinance not to discuss immigration or race in any meaningful way’. In living memory barely a newspaper article, radio or television show has seriously questioned the diversity orthodoxy, and even in the intelligent Right-wing press scepticism has had to be couched in such a cryptic way that the paper’s horoscopes are more candid.” [kindle locations 202-205]

“Labour’s attempts at creating a truly multicultural society have unquestionably succeeded. But why did the Government do this? What drove them towards imposing such an enormous change on England, one that will have profound, long-lasting and irreversible effects? And why did the entire political class go along with it? What, indeed, are the benefits of diversity? …

“[E]veryone in a position of power held the same opinion. Diversity was a good in itself, so making Britain truly diverse would enrich it and bring ‘significant cultural contributions’, reflecting a widespread belief among the ruling classes that multiculturalism and cultural, racial and religious diversity were morally positive things whatever the consequences. This is the unthinking assumption held by almost the entire political, media and education establishment. It is the diversity illusion. [kindle locations 344-346 and 386-389]

A belief in the benefits of a multicultural, multi-racial society is an article of faith in today’s largely atheist society; to not believe is to not be in communion. [kindle locations 411-412]

Liberalism on race (and many other subjects) is a status signifier…. If ‘Pygmalion’ were performed on the stage today Eliza Doolittle would not blurt out ‘not bloody likely’ but ‘bloody immigrants’.” [kindle locations 731 & 737-738]

[R]acism, or what anti-racists understand as racism, is a universal part of human nature, ‘as human as love’ as novelist Thomas Keneally put it. Racial *hatred*, however, is different, a pathological variation of that human preference for sameness and kinship. One might regret that, just as one might regret that greed, lust and violence are part of human nature, but building a society based on the assumption that they can be driven out through re-education is an optimistic idea.” [kindle locations 1009-1012]

“Writing about Tibet, liberal blogger Dave Osler once stated that China ‘has resettled Han Chinese colonists there to the point where Tibetans are at risk of becoming a minority in their own homeland’. On his own country he declared that ‘further mass immigration obviously has the potential to rejuvenate the population of this island once the politicians can get their head round the idea’. Tibetans becoming a minority in their country are a threatened species; the English are being ‘rejuvenated. Of course the Tibetans have no choice in becoming a minority, yet when the British express their opposition to ‘rejuvenation’ they are condemned as racists.” [kindle locations 1145-1150]


“Globalism has many benefits, but mixed with universalism it can become an ideological dogma that ignores the human consequences. Phillippe Legrain asks: ‘Why can computers be imported from China duty-free but Chinese people not freely come to make computer here? Why is it a good thing for workers to move within a country to where the jobs are, but a bad thing for people to move between countries for the same reason?’ That is because human beings are not computers. Goods can be freely moved about only because they can be discarded when they are no longer useful; humans cannot. Immigration is long-term and has permanent effects for everyone involved. [kindle locations 1279-1284]

“The universalist ideal rests on the belief that human beings are willing to share such a collective system with the rest of humanity. But evolutionary psychology suggests that humans have developed kin selection, those tribes with the strongest sense of in-group altruism being the most likely to survive…. No universal altruism has evolved because a sense of universal altruism would have no evolutionary advantage. Garrett Hardin argued in a 1982 essay, ‘Discriminating Altruisms’, that a world without borders or distinctions is impossible, because groups that practise unlimited altruism will be eliminated in favour of those that limit altruistic behaviour to smaller groups, from whom they receive benefits.

“An extreme example of this is the white liberal environmentalist who decides, for the good of the planet, that he or she should remain childless – the result being that future generations will contain fewer white liberals (some might argue that that’s not a terrible thing).” [kindle locations 1660-1669]


The latest projections suggest that white Britons will become a minority sometime around 2066, in a population of 80 million, which means that within little over a century Britain will have gone from an almost entirely homogenous society to one where the native ethnic group is a minority. That is, historically, an astonishing transformation. No people in history have become a minority of the citizenry in their own country except through conquest, yet the English, always known for their reticence, may actually achieve this through embarrassment.” [kindle locations 142-146]

great stuff!

i’ll stop there because i can’t (or shouldn’t) reproduce the entire book here. (~_^) read it yourselves! i highly recommend it.

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