, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 861–882 | Cite as

Between Tradition and Modernity: Marriage Dynamics in Kyrgyzstan



The demographic literature on union formation in post-communist Europe typically documents retreat from marriage and increase in cohabitation. However, sociological and anthropological studies of post-Soviet Central Asia often point to a resurgence of various traditional norms and practices, including those surrounding marriage, that were suppressed under Soviet rule. We engage these two perspectives on union formation by analyzing transition to first marriage in Kyrgyzstan both before and after the collapse of the USSR. We use uniquely detailed marriage histories from a nationally representative survey conducted in the period 2011–2012 to examine the dynamics of traditional marital practices among that country’s two main ethnic groups—Kyrgyz and Uzbeks—focusing on trends in arranged marriages and in marriages involving bride kidnapping. The analysis reveals instructive ethnic and period differences but also indicates an overall decline in the risks of both types of traditional marriage practices in the post-Soviet era. In fact, although the decline has characterized all marriage types, it was more substantial for traditional marriages. We interpret these trends as evidence of continuing modernization of nuptiality behavior in the region.


Nuptiality Traditional marriage Modernization Central Asia Event-history analysis 



We thank Gunnar Andersson and Jan Hoem for their valuable comments on this article. The funding for the survey came from the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research (NCEEER), USA. The first author of this article is also grateful for financial support from Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research for the data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Demography Unit, Department of SociologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Center for Population DynamicsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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