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'Our Primitive Customs' and 'Lord Kalym': The Evolving Buryat Discourse on Bride Price, 1880–1930

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This paper explores the origins of debate regarding bride price (Rus. kalym) among the Buryats in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as expressed in literary texts and media reports. Buryats began denouncing the practice after the mid nineteenth century, when bride price became more monetised and burdensome for ordinary families arranging marriages for their sons. Progressive, literate Buryats proposed a new approach to marriage and women's roles, based on romantic affinity instead of economic interests. The debate moved community meetings (suglans) to literature and the stage at around the turn of the twentieth century. During the early Soviet era, bride price continued to be denounced by Buryat writers, though it had become increasingly rare. Kalym was transformed into a symbol for women's oppression in general, and a means for demarcating the backwards Buryat past from the progressive Soviet future.


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