Inside the family in Chechen Culture
Respect of elders. Every Chechen family, without a single exception, respects and cares about the elder generations of its members, in particular about the parents.
Parents usually live together with one of their sons. A good daughter-in-law kicks off the day tidying up the in-laws’ part of the house. Free from this, she may attend to other matters. The first thing the sons do when getting back home in the evening, is to go to see the parents, to talk and to share with them the day’s joys and sorrows.
It is not only their children but all other members of the family who take care of the old couple. Grandfathers are usually called “big fathers,” and grandmothers, just “mothers,” in Chechnya. Children may sometimes disobey their mothers. They will be forgiven for this. But it is absolutely inadmissible to disobey a grandfather, a grandmother or some other representative of the older generation of the family members or neighbors.
Only an ill-mannered person will remain seated in the presence of elder people or will sit down without a repeated request from his seniors. It is inadmissible to drink alcohol in the presence of one’s parents or any other older relatives. One should watch his manners and cannot raise his voice in a conversation with an older person.
If the parents live separately from their sons, the children are especially attentive to them: the best food shall, for example, be given to the parents. It is an old tradition of the Chechen countryside that the parents live in a separate small house built for them by their children, right by the wall of the children’s house. The children try to create the most comfortable conditions for the parents and meet all the requirements of the old age.
Relations between family members. Most Chechen families are big. Several brothers usually live, together with their families, in the same village or even on the same plot of land. They observe the age-old rules of conduct in family relations.
Conflicts and quarrels between their children or womenfolk are settled by the eldest male or female member of the family.
If someone has hurt the feelings of her children, the mother of the family should make no complaint to her husband. She may, under the worst of the circumstances, appeal to either of the husband’s relatives, but it is bad manners to pay attention to children’s quarrels, grudges and tears.
Chechen children know their uncle will be the first to meet a request or come to their aid. An uncle would rather tell his own offspring to leave him alone. But he will never leave unheeded a nephew’s or a niece’s request.
The older members of a family feel responsible for the well-being of the younger generation. The younger generation feel responsible for the elders. The elders are responsible for the consolidation of family relations. The parents must do their best for accord and understanding in their sons’ families. They must be very considerate to their daughters-in-law. The father-in-law must avoid hurting his daughters’-in-law feelings: they should not see him undressed and he may not drink alcoholic beverages when either of them is around.
Family honor. The Chechens are accustomed to put the merits and shortcomings of an individual on the family bill. If someone has done wrong, the faces of his numerous relatives “will darken,” and the whole family will go around with bowed heads. If someone has done well, people say that “nothing else could be expected from a member of that fine family,” or that “the son of such a father could not behave in a different way.”
Children brought up in the spirit of the family tradition are competitive-oriented. They want to be “yakh,” that is “better than anyone.” Their elders insist that they should be “yakh, that they should under no circumstances be worse than their playmates.” They should neither let others hurt a weaker being nor be the first to start a fight.