linkfest – 02/18/13

A Genetic Code for Genius? – more on the bgi project.

Genetic components of political preference“[I]ndividuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. That in-group orientation can translate into preferences on political issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, and war, as well as political behaviors such as voting behavior and political participation.”

Baby-making among non-whites by political orientation over time – from the awesome epigone.

Higher Levels of Neanderthal Ancestry in East Asians Than in Europeans (Wall et al. 2013) – @dienekes’.

Gildea (1992): A lost IQ study of transracially adopted Koreans – from jason malloy.

Unchanging Essence“Shea says that no anthropologist in his right mind would think that existing cultural variation among humans had anything to do with genetic differences between existing populations. It will be interesting to discover the alleles that made him say that.” – heh. – from greg cochran.

Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain“The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.” – via steve sailer.

Peter Turchin on the Big Picture – (on “cycles of inequality”) – from steve sailer.

Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’

Why Almost Everyone in Russia Has a Dash Cam“The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists. ‘You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,’ Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year.”

Why Children Must Inherit Their Last Names from Their Father, Not Their Mother – from kanazawa.

Bacteria boost fixes symptoms of autism in mice“[I]nfecting pregnant mice with molecules from a flu virus caused autism-like symptoms in their offspring. The pups were less social, squeaked less and displayed repetitive behaviours. They also had a ‘leaky’ gastrointestinal tract that allowed bacteria to move in and out of the lining. In addition, the bacteria present in their gut were significantly different from that found in mice without autism-like behaviour. Studies in humans have also identified links between gut bacteria and autism. For example, a 2011 study identified a significant lack of Bacteroides in children with autism.”

How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist“He spent much of the past decade working on a memoir instead’ ‘Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists,’ which comes out this month.” – heh.

The Weird Irony at the Heart of the Napoleon Chagnon Affair – definitely all very weird.

bonus: The Pilgrims as Illegal Aliens“Letting in immigrants means letting in your future rulers.”

bonus bonus: Illegal Immigrations and Black Unemployment“It’s peculiar … that those who can usually be counted on to highlight any disparity between blacks and whites — whatever the reason and no matter how slight the disparity – have said not a word about the effect of illegal immigration on blacks.”

bonus bonus bonus: Sea slug loses penis after sex but grows another the next day“Invertebrate may discard organ like a dirty needle to avoid carrying competitors’ sperm.” – ouch!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Bronze Age beads that are worth their weight in gold: 4,000-year-old burial chest unearthed on Dartmoor ‘one of most significant historical finds in a century’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Could the sea be conscious? Research reveals how tiny plankton behave like a marine ‘megamind’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Debate Continues: Did Your Seafood Feel Pain?“Scientists disagree on whether your seafood suffered.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Norway jails Rwandan for 21 years over role in 1994 genocide“Similar cases against Rwandans have been brought in neighbouring Sweden, Finland and Denmark.” — nordic countries’ jurisdictions extend globally (perhaps even throughout the entire solar system?) — just thought you should know.

(note: comments do not require an email. two sea slugs, two penises … say no more!)


linkfest – 02/03/13

Can plants be altruistic? You bet, says new CU-Boulder-led study“‘Embryos with the same mother and father as the endosperm in their seed weighed significantly more than embryos with the same mother but a different father,’ said Diggle, a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. ‘We found that endosperm that does not share the same father as the embryo does not hand over as much food — it appears to be acting less cooperatively.'” – previously: even plants do it!

How to Survive a Siberian Winter“[T]he study shows how, over the more than 25,000 years that modern humans been lived in Siberia, various peoples have adapted to the region’s cold weather and meaty food sources through selection on multiple genes that control several biological mechanisms.”

National intelligence and personality“‘[T]aken together, Big Five traits and IQs of various cultures statistically explained 70% of a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The most important predictors of economic success were intelligence and extraversion, which proved to be strongly positively related to GDP.'” – from mangan.

Childhood intelligence is heritable, highly polygenic and associated with FNBP1L – from race/history/evolution notes.

IQ and homicide – from the awesome epigone.

HVGIQ: Cuba – from jason malloy.

New Geology study raises questions about long-held theories of human evolution“While the shift to bipedalism appears to have occurred somewhere between 6 and 4 million years ago, Feakins’ study finds that thick rainforests had already disappeared by that point—replaced by grasslands and seasonally dry forests some time before 12 million years ago.”

Ice Age Lion Man is world’s earliest figurative sculpture – 40,000 years old! – h/t dienekes.

New study sheds light on the origin of the European Jewish population“Elhaik’s findings strongly support the Khazarian Hypothesis, as opposed to the Rhineland Hypothesis, of European Jewish origins.” – h/t jayman!

Aztec conquest of Xaltocan led to population replacement – from dienekes.

Students with Autism Gravitate Toward STEM Majors – duh.

When Taking Multiple Husbands Makes Sense“Historically, polyandry was much more common than we thought.”

The supposedly educated believe in astrology“‘Only 52% of science majors said that astrology is ‘not at all’ scientific.'” – from mangan.

Some chores linked to less sex“Couples in which the husband did plenty of traditionally male jobs reported more sex than those in which the guy didn’t.” – but you already knew that, didn’t you? (~_^)

bonus: Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit – from jayman! (i LOVE baloney! fried baloney sandwiches — mmmmmm! (^_^) )

bonus bonus: ‘I feel like a stranger where I live’“As new figures show ‘white flight’ from cities is rising, one Londoner writes a provocative personal piece about how immigration has drastically changed the borough where she has lived for 17 years.”

bonus bonus bonus: For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II“In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Stone Age tribe kills fishermen who strayed on to island

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: America’s most luxurious reservation: Huge homes of country’s richest Native American tribe where members make $1m EACH“The tribe is also well-known for their charitable giving. It often donates cash to poorer tribes and charities across the country. Since 1996 they have given away $243.5 million…. ‘If it wasn’t for Shakopee, especially during this time when things are tough for loans, tough in this economy — there’s tribes who would be in a very tough situation,’ Ernest Stevens, chair of the National Indian Gaming Association explains. ‘There’s nobody in the gaming industry that I know of that can compare to what Shakopee does.’ In 2010 they were given a Jefferson Award for Public Service.”

(note: comments do not require an email. lion man.)

i thought he was just being french

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).”

wait. what?!

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.

(note: comments do not require an email. i want to go here. i really want to go there! kizhi pogost.)

traditional family systems in medieval russia

ihtg asks: I did not know there was a disappearance and then reemergence of the extended family in medieval Russia. Why did that happen?”

good question! i dunno. (^_^)

szopeno suggested: “maybe they [the zadrugas or extended families] are not reflection of distant past, but rather a common reaction to reappearing problem (external dangers, scarcity of resrouces etc).

that makes a lot of sense to me. perhaps family types — nuclear or extended — are just populations’ responses to their environmental/economic conditions. if there are plenty of resources — plenty of land for all — perhaps families can be small ’cause everyone can spread out. but if population density is high and there’s a shortage of resources/land, perhaps families band together. certainly cousin marriage generally seems to be a way of keeping wealth or resources (land, goats, whatever) in the family, so maybe keeping the extended family physically together is another sort of response to difficult-ish circumstances. keep the labor force together along with the wealth. and keep everyone nearby the family’s resources so that they can benefit from them, provided there’s enough to go around.

i’m going to hypothesize right now, though, that it’s probably easier for families in inbred populations to clump together than in outbred populations — or it would come more naturally to them anyhow.

ihtg was responding to this quote from that racey book, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 [pg. 138]:

“Changes in Russian versions of canon law on incest coincided with changes in family structure. The proto-Slavic zadruga fell into disuse as a residential system in twelfth-to-fifteenth century Russia, although landholding continued to be communal. There the residential household usually consisted of a nuclear family, occasionally joined by an elderly parent or a young bride.”

twelfth-to-fifteenth century “russia” seems to cover (if i’ve got it right) the latter part of the kievan rus’ principalities [882–13th century], the first part of the muscovy days [1283–1547] and all of the novgorod republic [1136–1478] (and other polities?).

note that although nuclear families seem to have been living on their own in russia during these centuries, “landholding continued to be communal.” (this sounds rather like the medieval men of kent.)

anyway. about the kievan rus’, we’ve got janet martin in Medieval Russia: 980-1584 telling us [pg. 65]:

“The vast majority of the Kievan Rus’ population, who both materially supported the Riurikid princes and depended upon them, were peasant farmers (smerdy). Despite variations derived from tribal background, geographic location, and other factors, the peasants of Kievan Rus’ shared many characteristics and were regarded as a single undifferentiated social stratum. Among the free members of society, peasant men and women had the lowest social status.

Peasants lived in their own huts with their nuclear families, and farmed their own plots of land using their own tools and livestock. Their households were grouped into rural villages and organized into communes (vervi or miry), which had their roots in the tribal and clannic ties among the population. By the Kievan era, however, the communes had a territorial identity as much as a clannic one. Members of each commune shared common pasture lands, meadows and forests, and fishing and hunting rights. They also, importantly, shared responsibilities for tax payment and other legal obligations.”

so these kievan rus’ communes were clan or tribal based. nuclear families may have been living in their own, independent houses, but extended family bonds were clearly still there.

in Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century, jerome blum suggests [chapters two and three] that the change over from slash-and-burn farming techniques — which required a lot of labor — to a two- or three-field agricultural system resulted in the breakdown of extended families in medieval russia. maybe. both he and martin also talk about the kievan rus’ opening up new areas of forest for settlement, so maybe that right there offered an outlet for the apparently expanding population. maybe you didn’t have to stay at home with mom and pop and everyone else anymore if you went off and moved to some unsettled area of the dnieper valley. i dunno.

in Peasant Farming in Muscovy, robert smith (no, not THAT one) talks about that population expanding out into new territories as well, so again maybe that’s the key to the nuclear families in russia during these centuries. maybe. smith also claims that, at least in the 1400s, there is no evidence for extended family living arrangements [pgs. 80-83].

i don’t know anything about the family types in the novgorod republic (yet!), so i’ll have to leave it there for now.

todd categorized the russian family type as an exogamous, patriarchal community family. he was talking about the 1500s-1800s. dunno if he had that right or not, but it certainly seems as though for the four hundred preceding that period, russians were not living in extended family groups — at least not in the same household. it’s likely they lived in the same neighborhood — hamlet, village, commune — though since land was still held communally in the clan-based communes.

previously: medieval russian mating patterns and mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional timber house, novgorod.)

medieval russian mating patterns

following up on this post — mating patterns in medieval eastern europe — i thought i’d get more specific on the mating patterns of the medieval russians.

first of all, russians did not adopt christianity until 988 a.d., so that puts them something like 400 years behind western europeans with regard to cousin marriage proscriptions from any christian religious authorities. like the roman catholic church, the orthodox church in the east did ban different types of cousin marriages at different times, but the timing was different from that of the catholic church.

the first question is: did the pre-christian russians inbreed/marry endogamously?

in Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700, eve levin says [pgs. 136-37]:

“The Slavs abhorred incest long before the introduction of Christianity. Authors condemned outsiders, usually unjustly, for their incestuous customs. The traditional definition of incest, however seems to have been a sexual relation between members of a family living as a unit. In-laws were included, but not more distant relatives who did not share the same household, especially through the female line. Thus Slavic notions of propriety in matters of consanguinity did not coincide in all respects with the dictates of canon law.”

it’s likely, although debatable [pgs. 7-8], that the pre-christian russians lived in patrilineal extended family households (they certainly did at later points in time — see below — as did other slavs like the poles), so paternal first- and perhaps even second-cousin marriage probably didn’t occur given the pre-christian slavic ideas on incest, although this is just a guess on my part. cousin marriage with maternal cousins would not have been ruled out, though, and since it is the most common form of cousin marriage in the world, i wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the pre-christian russians practiced it. in any case, they likely practiced some form of endogamous marriage since nearly all peoples everywhere and at all times do/did. again, just a guess.

later in the medieval period we start to be on more solid ground with historical records and such.

1100s-1400s: Code of Jaroslav – bans on close incest (parents and children, siblings, etc.) but not on cousins specifically. just a vague ban on “marriage within the clan.” to me that doesn’t sound very different from the pre-christian slavic ideas on incest, i.e. avoiding whomever lives in the household, nuclear family members out to possibly paternal second cousins. so, perhaps, not much of a change in mating pattern from pre-christian russia right up to the 1400s. that’s another 400 years of in-marriage compared to all of the out-marrying northwestern europeans were doing. levin suggests (see below) that during this time russians did not the consider marriage of cousins to be incestuous.

end of 1400s/1500s+: first, second and third cousin marriages banned, both paternal and maternal. this is the restriction that western europeans had to follow for 700 years from the 1200s through the 1800s — some (northwestern europeans) did more than others — and western europeans had already had first and second cousin marriage banned starting in the 400s, and out to SIXTH cousins in the 1000s-1100s. this restriction may not have been seriously implemented in russia until the 1500s, though (see below).

i don’t know what the russian orthodox church’s regulations have been in more modern times — or what the regulations may have been in the soviet union or in russia today. if the russian orthodox church’s regulations are similar to the greek orthodox church, then there ought to be a ban on marrying first cousins. don’t know when this started for the greek church, or the russian one if that’s what they follow.

in any case, looking away from other sorts of endogamous matings, it seems as though the russians had a ban on consanguineous marriages (first and second cousin marriages) for just about 500 years, whereas (north)western europeans have had such a ban for almost 1600 years. that’s an 1100 year difference. if we calculate generations at 20 years, that’s a whopping 55 generations difference. whoa.

here are some more excerpts from levin [pgs. 137-39, 142-43]:

“Orthodox canon law recognized four types of consanguinity: by blood, by marriage, by adoption, and by spiritual bond. Slavic hierarchs recognized restrictions on intermarriage and extramarital intercourse for all four cases….

“Changes in Russian versions of canon law on incest coincided with changes in family structure. The proto-Slavic zadruga fell into disuse as a residential system in twelfth-to-fifteenth century Russia, although landholding continued to be communal. There the residential household usually consisted of a nuclear family, occasionally joined by an elderly parent or a young bride. The lists of peasant family units in wills of this period and the archaeology of aristocratic residences all point to the nuclear family as the dominant familial structure in this period. The rules on incest in the Code of Jaroslav reflect this familial arrangement. They prescribe fines for relations between parents and children or children’s spouses, brother and sisters, and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. More distant relatives are not named specifically, but are subsumed under the vague category of ‘marriage within the clan.’ This categorization implies that marriage was forbidden if a familial relationship was known to exist, but the exact degree of kinship was not an issue.

More extensive rules on incest appeared toward the end of the fifteenth century. Marriages between persons more closely related than fourth cousins were prohibited. If a union was contracted unknowingly between third cousins, it was allowed to stand only with great reluctance…. The reemergence of the extended family in late-fifteeth-century Russia made expanded incest regulations pertinent. Land cadasters, especially from Novgorod, reveal that peasants had switched to extended family living units akin to the South Slavic zadruga….

“According to most ecclesiastical authors, consanguinity up to the eighth degree [third cousins] precluded marriage, although some would permit a marriage between relatives in the seventh degree [second-cousins once removed, i think – h. chick], contracted unknowingly, to stand, albeit with a penance. Relationships through the male and the female lines were treated identically….

“Specific prohibitions on sexual intercourse between distant relatives by blood appeared only sporadically. Incest with cousins was more likely to be mentioned in Serbian penitential questions and trebnik nomokanony than in Russian or Bulgarian ones….

Russian codes earlier than the sixteenth century tended to omit specific regulations concerning illicit intercourse or marriage between second and third cousins, although descriptions of degrees of kinship forbade intermarriage between individuals so closely related. Apparently Russians from the eleventh century to the fifteenth century did not regard unions between cousins as incestuous. Even clerics who tended to be exacting in regard to the letter of the law, such as the Greek-born metropolitan Ioann II, had to make concessions to native attitudes. Ioann permitted marriage between third cousins, with a penance. The terms in which he outlawed marriage between second cousins make clear that such unions took place….

“Cousin marriages had a practical application: reconsolidation of ancestral lands. Because the Slavs practiced partible inheritance, the ancestral lands became fragmented after a few generations. While communal ownership by the zadruga mitigated the effects of partible inheritance for a time, eventually holdings became subdivided. When a daughter-heir could be married to her male cousin, the ancestral estate could be reconstituted, at least in part. That might have been the motivation in an instance of marriage between cousins in fifteenth-century Novgorod. Agrafena, an heiress of the boyar class, married her second cousin, Fedor Onkifovic. Together they possessed a large portion of the entailed estate of their common ancestor, but there were still other heirs, especially Agrafena’s sister’s son, who kept their shares separate. Incidentally, there is no evidence to suggest that the marriage was considered improper. Inheritance of landed property by daughters was a relatively unusual phenomenon among the medieval Slavs; it developed most fully in northwestern Russia in the fifteenth century. Consequently, there would not have been much community pressure on the church to reinterpret regulations on consanguinity to permit marriages between cousins.”

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe and traditional family systems in medieval and modern poland

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jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia

while looking around for books about mating patterns in eastern europe, i came across this very interesting book: Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia.

according to the author, there are, unfortunately, not a whole h*ck of a lot of surviving records related to births/deaths/marriages of russian jews from this era — most were destroyed during wwii. d*mn. however, she did find nearly complete records from a town called korostyshev in the ukraine (pale of settlement).

in 1847, there were 2,657 people (jews — it was a shtetl) living in korostyshev and they pretty much all married locally. now not all those 2,657 people would’ve been of reproductive age — there’d have been children and old folks in there, too. so, i dunno, let’s guess that around a quarter of them were of reproductive age (i don’t know if that’s right — i’m just guessing — take this with a grain of salt). that’s only ca. 664 people mating — 332 couples. that’s a pretty small group, i.e. it would’ve inevitably been pretty inbred.

and the author points out that cousin marriage was reportedly common amongst jewish in nineteenth century russia — and that certain networks of families inbred with each other over and over again. (this is reminiscent of well-to-do families in medieval european cities.)

i don’t know for how long these close mating patterns were practised amongst russian jews. obviously, as a separate ethnic group, ashkenazi jews mostly traditionally bred within their own group. but for how long did they marry cousins/within small family networks/mostly within the shtetl? from the beginning of the pale of settlement? earlier than that? i don’t know. what i do know — what i have learned over these past few months of reading about mating patterns — is that the patterns can change. peoples will alter their mating patterns as their circumstances change, so you can’t assume anything.

russian jews definitely married very closely during the nineteenth century. my guess is that they did so earlier as well, but that’s just a guess.

given the fact that ashkenazi jews in russia (and elsewhere in europe?) bred so closely for probably many generations, it’s not strange that geneticists have found that ashkenazi (and other populations, like sephardic) jews are related to one another within their respective sub-populations, on average, as though they were all fourth or fifth cousins.

here are some excerpts from Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia [pgs. 25-27]:

“Yikus (Family Lineage)

“‘As is well known, Jews are excessively picayune about good lineage,’ wrote a commentator in ‘Evreikoe obozrenie,’ and thus ‘yikus plays an extremely important role in marital matters.’ One need only peruse the genealogical histories of famous Hasidic dynasties or rabbinical families to ascertain the importance of lineage in marital unions. Despite the adage that ‘a shoemaker’s son does not marry a rabbi’s daughter,’ it was possible, if rare, for someone of modest descent to marry into a distinguished family….

“The emerging class of Jewish entrepreneurs, intent on gaining elite respectability, place a high premium on family status in choosing partners. According to Aleksandr Poliakov, his grandfather’s cousins — the illustrious bankers and railroad financiers Iakov, Samuel, and Lazar Poliakov — married off their daughters to ‘different dynasties of European bankers, as well as French and German aristocrats.’ Bound by commercial as well as cultural ties, upper-class Jews often met in salons or over intimate Sabbath dinners, where their children were introduced to one another. Aleksandr Poliakov’s own father met his wife, Flora Shabbat, the daughter of a prominent first-guild merchant, over a Sabbath meal in Moscow.

“No matter how distinguished the family lineage, it had to be ‘pure’ — that is, there was to be no suspicion that ‘he or she was the offspring of an illicit union’ or a convert from Judaism. One way to avoid a ‘tainted’ individual was to limit marriages to relatives or a close circle of known families. Judaism even encouraged cousin marriages, particularly during the Middle Ages, when relatives were given priority over strangers. These marriages were deemed advantageous not only because they strengthened common bonds but also because they provided an opportunity to combine assests and expand markets.

Although data on consanguineous marriages in Russia are lacking, contemporaries claimed that they were ‘very common,’ largely because of the narrow circle of eligible partners for any given class of Jews. This geographic endogamy impelled one Jewish observer to write that ‘the expression “Kol Yisrael ahim” or “all Jews are brothers” is true in this sense, that Jews [who] belong to one strata of society and reside in one area, always find out that they are related when discussing their family backgrounds.’ The strategy of marrying relatives was particularly pronounced in small towns. It was due to concerns about family lineage, as well as to restrictions on geographic mobility (i.e., legal restrictions on residency, poor communications and transportation, and the high costs for travel).

That observation indeed finds confirmation in the metrical records. These archival materials are unusually complete for Korostyshev, a small town in Kiev province with 2,657 Jewish residents in 1847. Unlike many Ukrainian towns where the metrical records were destroyed during World War II, Korostyshev preserved metrical books from the mid-nineteenth century to 1915, thus representing some of the most complete runs of Jewish metrical books in the entire Ukraine. Significantly, they reveal that most residents married locally — that is, to people from Korostyshev or, at most, from nearby villages and towns (Zhitomir, Berdichev, and Radomysl’). Still more striking were the marital bonds between small family networks — for example, the countless marriages among the Fuksmans, Gershengorens, Trakhtenbergs, and Ratners (all of whom lived in Korostyshev or nearby Zhitomir). Another network included the Vinikurs, Tsiponiuks, and Abrumovichs; this cluster overlapped with a group that included the Kagans, Umerskiis, and Peigers. And so on until, several decades later, many Korostyshev residents were distant or even close relatives. Devorah Baron’s description of small shtetl families was indeed perspicacious: ‘In our little town, families joined together by marriage ties often resembled well-fitted but separate sections of garment; all that was needed was the skillful hand that would join the seams.'”

“Jews [who] belong to one strata of society and reside in one area, always find out that they are related when discussing their family backgrounds….” sounds like what happens to me whenever i travel back to the “old country.” (~_^)

previously: jewish inbreeding and jewish endogamy on mallorca and cousin marriage rates amongst nineteenth century english and english jews and inbreeding in nineteenth century alsace-lorraine (including jews)

(note: comments do not require an email. shtetl.)