Russian Traditions and Customs
The Russians are one of our brotherly ethnic groups, and we home. Their traditions and customs, which have been passed from generation to generation, are largely similar to those of the Kazakh. They have been able to maintain tight contact with the locals, preserving their traditions and adopting the host culture at the same time. Being an expatriate community, they have not lost their traditions, their language – they have been passing it from parents to children. The Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev commented upon it in the following way, “We are one Kazakhstani nation! Our Mangilik El, our great and proud Kazakhstan is our destiny! Mangilik El is the national idea of a Kazakhstani home for everyone, our ancestors’ dream. Over the 22 years of independent progress, core values have been created to unite all Kazakhstani people and make the basis of our future. They are not lofty. They are the values of the Great Kazakhstani Way, the country’s time-tried experience. It is our shared history, culture, and language.” In another speech, he said, “In spite of the rigor of tsarism, the echo of the revolution, and the totalitarian burned, the Kazakhs and other ethnic groups inhabiting our country have been able to preserve their unique culture.” Let us study the traditions and customs of the Russians, who have been living so close to us and preserving their ethnic authenticity.
A custom, which is considered specifically Russian, is crockery breaking. It mostly indicates changes. For instance, it is practiced after childbirth, at weddings, and in case of death.
When a baby is born, rice or semolina should be cooked in a special glass dish. The dish is served after the basic meal. One who puts the biggest amount of money into it gets the privilege of breaking it. When the dish is broken, the porridge should not spill. This rite is aimed to bring happiness, wellness, and prosperity to the family. The young mother is the first to try the dish. After the guest have eaten it, the host gives the rest of the porridge to farm animals or scatters it in the garden. The baby is placed in a suspended cradle or a wooden bed, and people pass an iron knife around it three times. If it is a boy, a knife should be put under its pillow; for female babies, it should be scissors. It is meant to protect the baby against evil eye.
Weddings also involve crockery breaking. If the bride crosses the threshold as an honest girl, her mother-in-law is to break her most expensive dishes on the following day. The pieces should be very small; she has to destroy the plates and cups. It is meant to bring prosperity and wellness.
When bad news come or somebody dies, women wear black dresses and black head wraps. Remarkably, when somebody dies, the tablecloth should be placed the wrong side out, and the dishes, including spoons, should be put upside down. The reason is that spirits of dead people are believed to join the meal. After the internment, the family breaks crockery filled with water or wheat so that the remaining relatives can be safe and sound.
During a funeral, an iron object should be placed under the coffin, and a contained filled with water is put at the head of the deceased one. It is meant to let spirits rest in peace.
As it is with Kazakh people, the man is the head of the household and the one to protect the family. A man’s possessions are believed to be sacred. For instance, the bride takes off her husband’s shoes immediately after the wedding ceremony and keeps it high. Most probably, it is meant to symbolize the man’s position superior to his wife.
Some Russian customs involve spoons. Let us study some of them.
For instance, their respect for men prevents them from stirring food with the latter’s spoons. It would inflict poverty on the family. Spoons used by men were believed to protect children against evil eye in early days. After a man’s death, his spoon was treated as sacred and kept in a clean place.
Young men and girls presented each other with spoons to express their feelings.
There are certain customs for building a house or moving into a new one. For instance, when a family moved to a new house, they let a cock enter the yard first. A household without a cock was considered to be doomed to emptiness. Even if some animals appeared there, he cow would surely have scarce milk. The Russians are known to be superstitious. They let a cat enter the house first as the one who comes in first is believed to be the first to die. When moving away from their house, Russian families used to take either fire or cinder from their old house with them.
Another baby custom is that of placing a newly baptized child on the threshold. The guardian spirit of the threshold was meant to protect the baby and make his future home sound and prosperous. Children who died before nine months were buried at the basement of the house. This is what underlies the Russian traditional prohibition to stand, eat, and greet each other on the threshold. Only full orphans can eat bread-and-salt at the threshold. It is meant to prevent the children from thinking about their parents and getting scared. In general, Russian threshold customs resemble those of the Kazakhs, since the latter believe it to be a sacred object too.
Window taboos. The Russian believed windows to provide a connection with the outer world. Thus, one should not spit, pour water, and throw bones out of widows. It is a taboo to let a cat go out of a window too. When a person dies, honey water is placed on the windowsill. It was believed to help the dead person’s soul become purer. The water stood there for a day. If a baby died before being baptized, his coffin was taken away through the window.
Generally speaking, the Russian have certain ethnic-specific holidays and festive traditions. They include Easter celebration, Christmas, Rusalka, Yarilo, Petrovki, Kupala Night, Bashikho, and Troitsa.
According to our hero Bauyrzhan Momyshuly, “national traditions are a rich legacy”. The western philosopher V.Belinskiy said, “Traditions and customs are tried by centuries. They are respected and passed from generation to generation.” That is why it is our duty to cherish and preserve our traditions and customs.
Source of information: “Sons and Daughters of a Good Family». Almaty 2000. Sanat Publishing House.