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.)


  1. Actually the population of Chechnya is much smaller than the official census data indicates. Both the local and national government had an interest in inflating the numbers for various reasons. The population of Chechnya is more likely to be around 700K-800K.


  2. When are you writing a book? I want to teach my kids this but they are young now. Asking them to go through all of your archives a decade from now would be a bit much. How about a 250-300 page book?


  3. One thing that just sprung into my head.

    Arabs have very poor reputations as fighters. I once met a man who was once a military adviser to Egypt who told all sorts of anecdotes about their cowardice in the wars again Israel.

    The Chechens are the precise opposite. Pound for pound, at least at the tactical level, they are some of the very best fighters in the world. Look how much trouble those two gave to the Boston police. They went down fighting hard, refusing to surrender or commit suicide like your typical Euro-wimp/Arab terrorists.

    So maybe we see a kind of curve. Endemic FBD inter-breeding = collapse of asabiya, useless soldiers. Clannish type in-breeding = awesome soldiers. Outbreeding = okay soldiers (but of course with all the technological and economic benefits that accrue to such societies which also bolster their military power).


  4. The Chechens being greater fighters probably has more to do with them being “mountain men”. The Arabs, in the end, are a bunch of farmers.


  5. Yeah, a book or some similar document would be very helpful. As I suggested before to Jayman, an introduction to HBD would be a smart way to spread these ideas.


  6. @chris – “…very quick off the mark.”

    always aiming to be timely and current here @hbd chick! (^_^) (unless i’m asleep. or inebriated. (~_^) )


  7. @g.w. – “lol, predictive power ftw :)”

    well, when i read about the chechens and blood feuds, i thought there must be some tower houses there somewhere. took a shot … and it paid off. (~_^)

    btw, i wonder … do tower houses make more sense in mountainous terrain in general? could there be some concern that one’s enemy might sneak up on you somehow using the mountains — use the terrain against you? i’m thinking that if you don’t live on the absolute highest peak in your region, maybe you really do need a tower house in case some enemy clan comes for you. maybe this doesn’t apply so much in flatter areas because your enemy just won’t be able to approach from higher ground. -?-


  8. @spike – “Actually the population of Chechnya is much smaller than the official census data indicates. Both the local and national government had an interest in inflating the numbers for various reasons. The population of Chechnya is more likely to be around 700K-800K.”

    @jk – “Spike I think, is onto something….”

    ah ha! thanks! well, in that case the gene pool is even smaller, of course, and the close breeding even closer:

    800,000 chechens / 215 teips = ca. 3720 individuals per teip (clan).

    3720 x 24 teips per tukkhum = ca. 89,280 individuals per tukkhum (tribe).

    89,280 / one-quarter = 22,320 / 2 = only ca. 11,160 available chechen chicks (that’s a very, very rough cocktail napkin calculation). that’s a lot fewer than the ca. 16,700 women i calculated in the post.


  9. @avi – “I suspected a Pakistani model when I heard the word ‘Chechen’ this morning. Interesting that this is not quite so.”

    yeah … you can almost guess the degrees/type of inbreeding (or outbreeding) — and, then, the family structure (nuclear/extended/clan/tribe) — by the degree of “reproductive guarding” of women in a society.

    women covered from head to toe in niqabs or burkas and practically can’t leave the house (without a male relative anyway)? LOTS of VERY close inbreeding (i.e. father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage — think arabia and afghanistan/pakistan).

    women modestly dressed with hair covered somehow (headscarf) and integrated into the larger society but at risk for quite a bit of sexual and/or domestic abuse (think turkey or chechnya)? quite a bit of close inbreeding, but not so much as arabia/afghanistan/pakistan/etc.

    women conservatively dressed, not necessarily with hair covered, but yet pretty well integrated into larger society. perhaps upper classes keeping a particularly close eye on their women, keeping them restrained in some way (think foot-binding)? quite a bit of inbreeding, but not the closest form, and not so much as the societies above.

    women lying around on beaches or in the parks half-naked and very well integrated into society? outbreeding.

    that’s my handy yardstick. (^_^)


  10. @anthony – “Apparently, at the top level, tribal politics in the Caucuses is being replaced by money and personal connections across tribes, with plenty of alcohol as a lubricant.”

    that was a fantastic read, thanks! (^_^)


  11. @anatoly – “Arabs have very poor reputations as fighters.”

    i hear this a lot about the arabs and, maybe it’s true, but i wonder about it. i mean, they were awfully fierce fighters when they stormed out of the arabian peninsula back in the medieval period. -?-

    perhaps the fact that they’re not anymore (if that’s really true) means that all the altruism/asabiya has been burned out of them. i’m not convinced, though.

    i like this…

    “So maybe we see a kind of curve. Endemic FBD inter-breeding = collapse of asabiya, useless soldiers. Clannish type in-breeding = awesome soldiers. Outbreeding = okay soldiers.”

    …but what i keep wondering about the arabs is if they just keep being put into the wrong context.

    the genius of mohammed (and the islamic leaders that followed him) was that he/they harnessed the arab tribes. all the tribesmen fought together with their fellow tribesmen … and any spoils were distributed to the various tribes.

    who on earth are the egyptian soliders fighting for? are the egyptian military regiments sorted by tribes/clans/extended families? probably not. i betcha that’s the problem right there. meanwhile, the chechens fight alongside their family members (even the two goofs in boston).

    i think you might be on to something, though — too much fbd inbreeding probably makes it hard to unite the clans (mohammed really was a genius). it might be easier for the chechens to unite their clans when there’s more cross-breeding between them.


  12. @t – “When are you writing a book?”

    @staffan – “Yeah, a book or some similar document would be very helpful.”

    a book or some similar document is definitely in the works! well … absolutely, definitely in the planning stages. (~_^)

    @staffan – “As I suggested before to Jayman, an introduction to HBD would be a smart way to spread these ideas.”

    i second the nomination that jayman writes an intro to hbd book! he’s an excellent writer (far better than me) and in general really good at ‘splaining things. (^_^)


  13. Looking forwards to reading that book. I hope it’s going to get written in your trademark lower case n’ smileys style.

    i hear this a lot about the arabs and, maybe it’s true, but i wonder about it. i mean, they were awfully fierce fighters when they stormed out of the arabian peninsula back in the medieval period. -?-

    Could it be that back then they practiced clannish inbreeding?

    We have to bear in mind that in the immediate centuries after the conquest, the Arab territories were exceptionally cultural and technologically productive. Consider all the things that begin with “al.” Even the asabiya we talk about was thought up by Ibn Khaldun.

    Considering the exceptionally IQ-depressing effects of FBD marriage, I think it is hard to imagine it being prevalent during that cultural blossoming. Maybe Islam was to blame – while it gave something for the tribes to unite around, it also sealed their long-term cultural doom by formally prescribing FBD marriage.


  14. @anatoly – “Could it be that back then they practiced clannish inbreeding?”

    maybe! or, maybe, they did in the generations just before their eruption from the arab peninsula. selection for traits does take some time, so there’s often a lagtime.

    the current thinking (from my favorite russian anthropologist (^_^) ) is that fbd marriage originated in the levant sometime before christ and was introduced to the arabs by migrating jewish tribes. here what he has to say:

    “At the time of its origin, FBD marriage had nothing to do with Islam. The cognitive problem solution seems to have occurred somewhere in the Syro-Palestine region well before the birth of Christ. Rodionov (1999) has recently drawn attention to the fact that this marriage pattern is widespread in the non-Islamic cultures of this area (e.g., Maronites or Druze) and that it has considerable functional value in this non-Islamic context in facilitating the division of property among brothers after their father’s death (Rodionov 1999). Like Rodionov (1999), I believe that this marriage pattern could hardly be attributed to Islamic or Arab influence here. It seems, rather, that this marriage pattern in the Islamic world and the non-Islamic Syro-Palestinian cultures stems from the same source.

    “But prior to the time of Islam, the diffusion of the FBD marriage pattern was rather limited. The only adjacent area where it diffused widely was the Arabian Peninsula (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994), where its diffusion can be linked with a considerable Jewish influence in the area well before Islam (Crone 1987; Korotayev 1996; Korotayev, Klimenko, and Proussakov 1999). In any case, by the seventh century, preferential parallel-cousin marriage became quite common among several important Arab tribes (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994). In the seventh and eighth centuries, an explosive diffusion of this pattern took place when Arab tribes, backed by Islam, spread throughout the whole of the Omayyid Khalifate. Although preferential parallel-cousin marriage diffused (together with Islam and Arabs) later beyond the borders of the Omayyid Khalifate, the extent of this diffusion was very limited. Hence, the present distribution of FBD marriage was essentially created by the Muslim Arab conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries. The strong correlation between the degree of the Islamization and the presence of FBD marriages is to a considerable extent a product of network autocorrelation produced by the Arab-Islamic historical context.”

    by the seventh century fbd marriage was quite common amongst the arabs, but when did it start becoming quite common in arabia? when was it first introduced? those two articles korotayev cites — negrja 1981 and kudelin 1994 — are both about arab societies between the fifth and seventh centuries, so maybe fbd marriage was not introduced until or before the fifth? not sure. i’ll have to try to get my hands on those articles.

    good thinking! thanks! (^_^)


  15. @hbd chick

    I probably shoulda extrapolated from what’s in that link – something to “consider” where the Arab armies are concerned (presently) is the ME was a battleground in the Cold War.

    That changed the complexion of what used to be Arab Forces – I’m probably not going to be understood very well – but that ~sixty years process lessened/loosened the constraints of Geography.

    Think along the lines of what Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were able to do at one point in time – then when the force dispersed…


  16. @anatoly – “I hope it’s going to get written in your trademark lower case n’ smileys style.”

    actually, i thought i’d spare everybody the lowercase letters. (~_^) (you’re welcome, everybody!)


  17. Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Inbreeding is corrected by patrilinearity, that is, the willingness to marry female complete strangers, and considering their offspring to be full group members. Patrilinearity has the added advantage of making your men very sexy.


  18. @oogenhand – “Inbreeding is corrected by patrilinearity, that is, the willingness to marry female complete strangers….”

    note that the chechens do NOT marry female complete strangers, but rather marry fellow members of the tukkhum, often/possibly preferentially third cousins.


  19. ““So maybe we see a kind of curve. Endemic FBD inter-breeding = collapse of asabiya, useless soldiers. Clannish type in-breeding = awesome soldiers. Outbreeding = okay soldiers.””

    I think there needs to be a distinction between individual fighting ability and group fighting ability.

    When the Arab conquests were happening the Arabs were a raiding culture and the men would have been partly selected on that basis for the previous n centuries – same with the Highland clans or any other clan-based raiding culture *while* they were still in the environment of constant low-level warfare – and for some time after that environment ended as the traits selected in the earlier hyper-violent environment gradually bred out in the newer more peaceful one – so one set of traits that might often be selected for in a clannish environment are traits that are useful in individual fighting but not directly because of the inbreeding but indirectly because of living in an environment where propensity and capacity for violence were being selected for.

    Chechens are pretty close in number of generations to living in a violent raiding culture so i think that will be a factor in individual fighting ability.

    The second (separate imo) aspect is group-fighting ability which to a large extent is simply a product of co-operativeness so if you look at that from the clannish-spectrum point of view then the clannishness or otherwise of a population will determine the *size* of the group that will be able to co-operate and *who* must be in the group for that co-operation to occur. If you take individuals from *different* clans and try and put them in an army unit they won’t be able to co-operate. If you make whole units out of individual clans then they will be able to co-operate but the size of the group will be tied to the size of the individual clans.

    So modern Arabs will have a level of *individual* fighting ability inversely proportional to “time since barbarian” which like most modern populations will be quite low *and* they won’t have the ability to morph into a unit like more outbred populations. 7th century Arabs would have high individual fighting ability from living in a raiding culture and high levels of co-operation as long as they were fighting in clan-based units.

    So imo

    Clannishness = okay warriors if organised in their own clan-based units. excellent warriors if organised in their own clan-based units *and* part of or recently part of a violent raiding culture

    Outbreeding = okay to excellent soldiers depending on the training


  20. Also, as JK mentions, in a modern hi-tech context intelligence is a critical factor especially regarding airpower.


  21. @ Greying Wanderer

    Thanks for making my “muddling” into something, er, relative to hbd.

    I know what I mean to say, hard for me to say what I mean.


  22. >in the immediate centuries after the conquest, the Arab territories were exceptionally cultural and technologically productive

    This is precisely because of the conquered peoples.

    The Muslims would either force conversion, or allow the Kafir to live in their territories as 3rd-class citizens if they paid an annual tax.

    I believe the cultural and technological achievements were those of the conquered and converted individuals, with the Muslims taking posthumous credit for them.

    Once the conquered were thoroughly assimilated, the FDB breeding and lack of selection rewards for cultural and technological achievements (as opposed to rewards for killing and raiding and raping a.k.a. Jihad) pretty much drove IQ and creativity down in those territories.


  23. @Pollock

    If non-Muslim men were to breed with captured Muslim women, the non-Muslim genepool would become more vicious, and better adapted to fight back against Muslims.


  24. @ oogenhand

    True in theory, but have you SEEN those women!?! I’m not sure I would be able to handle it. Might have to use a Polish flag for a burqa …


  25. Quoting myself

    “If you make whole units out of individual clans then they will be able to co-operate but the size of the group will be tied to the size of the individual clans.”

    Libya is a good example of this. Western special forces very quickly managed to create a reasonably effective force of infantry and light cavalry (if you equate techicals as modern light cavalry) by grouping them in their natural clan/tribal units – going with the grain. In ancient warfare that was all you needed. In modern warfare you need, artillery, airpower, air defence etc – that’s where a clannish population falls down. In Libya it didn’t matter because the western powers provided that component.

    I expect the Chechens who caused the Russians so much trouble fought in clan groups also as do the Afghans etc. It can work well when lo-tech infantry / light cavalry on their own can work well i.e. cities or mountains, and occassionally open ground if the other side doesn’t have any planes.

    Seeing how your idea fits military history so well is one of the first things that got me hooked on it but it’s not (imo) clannish = good/bad, outbred = good/bad it’s horses for courses – good or bad depending on the context.


  26. I’m with “T”: when are you going to curate a carefully revised, rigorously redacted book? I mean: I would buy it for sure. It would be *great*. And when I say *great*, I mean it.


  27. @tomás – “…a carefully revised, rigorously redacted book….”

    well, that’s the thing. i think that such a work would take a little time to prepare (esp. for me!), so it won’t be ready next week or even next month. (~_^)

    but plans are being made! notes are being scribbled on cocktail napkins. the pages have been numbered. (~_^)


  28. @chick,

    Thanks for those Korotayev links! Definitely something I’ll want to look into. (I actually know of Korotayev, but from his work on education capital/development and cliodynamics. Fascinating stuff).

    PS. If you’re serious about writing the book, I highly recommend the program Scrivener. It has made my life a lot easier from when I was using Word.


  29. @anatoly – “Thanks for those Korotayev links!”

    you know, there’s a LOT of great research being done out there on muslim populations (arabs, central asians) by russian anthropologists! now if i could only speak (or at least read) russian. =/ (got the same problem with medieval german history and german historians … not to mention anything in chinese!)

    @anatoly – “I highly recommend the program Scrivener.”

    oh, thanks! i’ll check it out.


  30. @charles – “Recruits from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia”

    thanks! from the article:

    “While the army has been complaining of rampant draft dodging ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they also have reasons for not wanting recruits from some parts of the Caucasus. Even before 1991, the Russian dominated army warned company (units of about a hundred troops) commanders to not allow more than ten Chechens in their unit. Experience had shown that ten or more Chechens (or other men from the Caucasus) would form a very tight, tough, and disciplined clique that would prey on the other troops in the company and cause all manner of discipline and crime problems.”

    oops! =/


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