Skip to main content

Between Tradition and Modernity: Marriage Dynamics in Kyrgyzstan

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. In our definition, “choice marriages” are not limited to marriages that result from decisions made solely and even primarily by the groom and the bride. In the context of Kyrgyzstan, as in many similar contexts, inputs from parents, other relatives, and even nonrelatives typically play important roles in most, if not all, marriages. Therefore, “choice marriages” are distinguished from “arranged marriages” by the fact of both the groom’s and the bride’s involvement in the marriage decision.

  2. The oldest respondents in our data turned 16 in 1978, but there were no marriage occurrences before 1980. Our results might not be representative of the early 1980s because our sample has very few respondents who were in the peak marriage years at that time. Although this is a limitation, we believe that it does not affect the main results as variations in marriage risks during the last Soviet decade were probably minor.

  3. We experimented with more categories for place of residence by additionally estimating risks for residence in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, and subdividing urban and rural settlements into those located in the northern and southern parts of the country. The use of more nuanced classifications revealed no informative associations, and therefore we do not report corresponding results here (available upon request).

  4. The effects of socioeconomic characteristics could possibly vary over time, reflecting, for instance, changes in gender-specific labor demands during the economic crisis and subsequent economic recovery. However, we leave this matter for future investigation because our data do not allow for a further splitting of the already small sample that would be required for an analysis of temporal trends across gender.

References

  • Agadjanian, V. (1999). Post-Soviet demographic paradoxes: Ethnic differences in marriage and fertility in Kazakhstan. Sociological Forum, 14, 425–446.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Agadjanian, V., & Dommaraju, P. (2011). Culture, modernization, and politics: Ethnic differences in union formation in Kyrgyzstan. European Journal of Population, 27, 79–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Agadjanian, V., Dommaraju, P., & Glick, J. (2008). Reproduction in upheaval: Ethnicity, fertility, and societal transformations in Kazakhstan. Population Studies, 62, 211–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Agadjanian, V., Dommaraju, P., & Nedoluzhko, L. (2013). Economic fortunes, ethnic divides, and marriage and fertility in Central Asia: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan compared. Journal of Population Research, 30, 197–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Agadjanian, V., & Makarova, E. (2003). From Soviet modernization to post-Soviet transformation: Understanding marriage and fertility dynamics in Uzbekistan. Development and Change, 34, 447–473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amsler, S., & Kleinbach, R. (1999). Bride kidnapping in the Kyrgyz Republic. International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 4, 185–216.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anson, J., & Meir, A. (1996). Religiosity, nationalism and fertility in Israel. European Journal of Population, 12, 1–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Avdeev, A., & Monnier, A. (2000). Marriage in Russia: A complex phenomenon poorly understood. Population, 12, 7–49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bahramitash, R., & Kazemipour, S. (2006). Myths and realities of the impact of Islam on women: Changing marital status in Iran. Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 15, 111–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borbieva, N. O. (2012). Kidnapping women: Discourses of emotion and social change in the Kyrgyz Republic. Anthropological Quarterly, 85, 141–170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brusina, O. I. (2008). Sharia and civil law in marital relations of the Muslim population in Central Asia. Anthropology and Archeology of Eurasia, 47, 53–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coontz, S. (2004). The world historical transformation of marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 974–979.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dadabaev, T. (2007). How does transition work in Central Asia? Coping with ideological, economic and value system changes in Uzbekistan. Central Asian Survey, 26, 407–428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denisenko, M. (2004). Marriage in Kyrgyzstan. In Z. Kudabaev, M. Guillot, & M. Denisenko (Eds.), Population of Kyrgyzstan (pp. 206–241). Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic (in Russian).

  • Denisenko, M., & Kalmykova, H. (2011). Nuptiality and divorce. In M. Denisenko (Ed.), Population of Kyrgyzstan at the turn of the XXI century (pp. 93–117). Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: UNFPA (in Russian).

  • Dommaraju, P., & Agadjanian, V. (2008). Nuptiality in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia. Asian Population Studies, 4, 195–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fargues, P. (2000). Protracted national conflict and fertility change: Palestinians and Israelis in the twentieth century. Population and Development Review, 26, 441–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feyisetan, B. J., & Akinrinola, B. (1991). Mate selection and fertility in urban Nigeria. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 22, 273–292.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frejka, T. (2008). Determinants of family formation and childbearing during the societal transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Demographic Research, 19(article 7), 139–170. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Galloway, P. (1988). Basic patterns of annual variations in fertility, nuptiality, mortality, and prices in pre-industrial Europe. Population Studies, 42, 275–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gerber, T. D., & Berman, D. (2010). Entry to marriage and cohabitation in Russia, 1985–2000: Trends, correlates, and implications for the Second Demographic Transition. European Journal of Population, 26, 3–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ghimire, D. J., & Axinn, W. G. (2013). Marital processes, arranged marriage, and contraception to limit fertility. Demography, 50, 1663–1686.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ghimire, D. J., Axinn, W. G., Yabiku, S. T., & Thornton, A. (2006). Social change, premarital nonfamily experience, and spouse choice in an arranged marriage society. American Journal of Sociology, 111, 1181–1218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handrahan, L. (2001). Gender and ethnicity in the “transitional democracy” of Kyrgyzstan. Central Asian Survey, 20, 467–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handrahan, L. (2004). Hunting for women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 6, 207–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heaton, T. B., Cammacj, M., & Young, L. (2001). Why is the divorce rate declining in Indonesia? Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 480–490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heleniak, T. (1995). Economic transition and demographic change in Russia, 1989–1995. Post-Soviet Geography, 36, 446–458.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoem, J. M. (1971). Point estimation of forces of transition in demographic models. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B, 33, 275–289.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoem, J. M. (1976). The statistical theory of demographic rates: A view of current developments (with discussion). Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, 3, 169–185.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoem, J. M. (1986). The impact of education on modern family-union initiation. European Journal of Population, 2, 113–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoem, J. M., & Kostova, D. (2008). Early traces of the second demographic transition in Bulgaria: A joint analysis of marital and non-marital union formation, 1960–2004. Population Studies, 62, 259–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoem, J. M., Kostova, D., Jasilioniene, A., & Muresan, C. (2009). Traces of the second demographic transition in Central and Eastern Europe: Union formation as a demographic manifestation. European Journal of Population, 25, 239–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, G. W. (1994). Marriage and divorce in Islamic Southeast Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, G. W. (2010). Changing marriage patterns in Asia. Resource document (Asia Research Institute Working Paper No. 131). Singapore: Asia Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.ari.nus.edu.sg/docs/wps/wps10_131.pdf

  • Jones, G. W., & Gubhaju, B. (2009). Trends in marriage in the low fertility countries of East and Southeast Asia. Asian Population Studies, 5, 237–265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katus, K., Puur, A., & Sakkeus, L. (2008). Family formation in the Baltic countries: A transformation in the legacy of state socialism. Journal of Baltic Studies, 39, 123–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kennedy, S., & Bumpass, L. L. (2008). Cohabitation and children’s living arrangements: New estimates from the United States. Demographic Research, 19(article 47), 1663–1692. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.47

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kierman, K. (2001). The rise of cohabitation and childbearing outside marriage in Western Europe. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 15, 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinbach, R. (2003). Frequency of non-consensual bride kidnapping in the Kyrgyz Republic. International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 8, 108–128.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kleinbach, R., Ablezova, M., & Aitieva, M. (2005). Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village. Central Asian Survey, 24, 191–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinbach, R., & Salimjanova, L. (2007). Kyz ala kachuu and adat: Non-consensual bride kidnapping and tradition in Kyrgyzstan. Central Asian Survey, 26, 217–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koroteyeva, V., & Makarova, E. (1998). Money and social connections in the Soviet and post-Soviet Uzbek city. Central Asian Survey, 17, 579–596.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lockwood, W. G. (1974). Bride theft and social maneuverability in Western Bosnia. Anthropological Quarterly, 47, 253–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Louw, M. (2013). Even honey may become bitter when there is too much of it: Islam and the struggle for a balanced existence in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. Central Asian Survey, 32, 514–526.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mkrtchyan, N., & Sarygulov, B. (2011). Change of ethnic population structure. In M. Denisenko (Ed.), Population of Kyrgyzstan at the turn of the XXI century (pp. 82–92). Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: UNFPA (in Russian).

  • Nedoluzhko, L. (2011). Fertility and family planning. In M. Denisenko (Ed.), Population of Kyrgyzstan at the turn of the XXI century (pp. 118–147). Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: UNFPA (in Russian).

  • Nedoluzhko, L., & Agadjanian, V. (2010). Marriage, childbearing, and migration: Exploring interdependences. Demographic Research, 22(article 7), 159–188. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2010.22.7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ohlsson-Wijk, S. (2011). Sweden’s marriage revival: An analysis of the new-millennium switch from long-term decline to increasing popularity. Population Studies, 65, 183–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oppenheimer, V. K. (2003). Cohabiting and marriage during young men’s career-development process. Demography, 40, 127–149.

    Google Scholar 

  • Perelli-Harris, B. (2008). Ukraine: On the border between old and new in uncertain times. Demographic Research, 19(article 29), 1145–1178. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Philipov, D., & Dorbritz, J. (2003). Demographic consequences of economic transition in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe.

    Google Scholar 

  • Philipov, D., & Jasilioniene, A. (2008). Union formation and fertility in Bulgaria and Russia: A life table description of recent trends. Demographic Research, 19(article 62), 2057–2114. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.62

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phillips, A., & James, P. (2001). National identity between tradition and reflexive modernization: The contradictions of Central Asia. National Identities, 3, 23–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Retherford, R. D., & Ogawa, N. (2006). Japan’s baby bust: Causes, implications, and policy responses. In F. R. Harris (Ed.), The baby bust: Who will do the work? Who will pay the taxes? (pp. 5–48). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Retherford, R. D., Ogawa, N., & Matsukura, R. (2004). Late marriage and less marriage in Japan. Population and Development Review, 27, 65–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roche, S., & Hohmann, S. (2011). Wedding rituals and the struggle over national identities. Central Asian Survey, 30, 113–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Santow, G., & Bracher, M. (1994). Change and continuity in the formation of first marital unions in Australia. Population Studies, 48, 475–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sobotka, T., Zeman, K., & Kantorová, V. (2003). Demographic shifts in the Czech Republic after 1989: A second demographic transition view. European Journal of Population, 19, 249–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tazmini, G. (2001). The Islamic revival in Central Asia: A potent force or a misconception? Central Asian Survey, 20, 63–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, A., Axinn, W. G., & Teachman, J. D. (1995). The influence of school enrollment and accumulation on cohabitation and marriage in early adulthood. American Sociological Review, 60, 762–774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, A., Chang, J. S., & Lin, H.-S. (1994). From arranged marriage toward love match. In A. Thornton & H.-S. Lin (Eds.), Social change and the family in Taiwan (pp. 148–177). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weir, D. R. (1984). Life under pressure: France and England, 1960–1980. Journal of Economic History, 44, 27–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Werner, C. (1997). Marriage, markets, and merchants: Changes in wedding feasts and household consumption patterns in rural Kazakhstan. Culture and Agriculture, 19(1/2), 6–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Werner, C. (2009). Bride abduction in post-Soviet Central Asia: Marking a shift towards patriarchy through local discourses of shame and tradition. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 15, 314–331.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Bank. (2013). World DataBank. Washington, DC: The World Bank. Retrieved from http://data.worldbank.org/country/kyrgyz-republic

    Google Scholar 

  • Zakharov, S. (2008). Russian Federation: From the first to second demographic transition. Demographic Research, 19(article 24), 907–972. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.24

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zang, X. (2008). Gender and ethnic variation in arranged marriages in a Chinese city. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 615–638.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lesia Nedoluzhko.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5 Exposures and occurrences (aggregate and distribution in %), nonarranged and arranged marriage
Table 6 Exposures and occurrences (aggregate and distribution in %), marriage without bride kidnapping, with mock kidnapping, and with forced kidnapping

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nedoluzhko, L., Agadjanian, V. Between Tradition and Modernity: Marriage Dynamics in Kyrgyzstan. Demography 52, 861–882 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0393-2

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0393-2

Keywords

  • Nuptiality
  • Traditional marriage
  • Modernization
  • Central Asia
  • Event-history analysis