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Belarus Customs & Etiquettes

Since Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cultures are very close and thus share much in common, many of the same principles of behaviour that can be applied to Russians and Ukrainians, are also applicable to the Belarus populace.

"Sardechna zaprashayem!" is the traditional expression used when welcoming guests, who are usually presented with bread and salt. Shaking hands is the common form of greeting. Hospitality is part of the Belarusian tradition; people are welcoming and friendly; and gifts are given to friends and business associates.

Until modern times households based on extended kinship relations (zadruga – joint families) were popular. The traditional zadruga household includes the father and all his sons living on one piece of land. Each married son would have his own hut, but the land, animals, and equipment was owned by the entire family. The family also worked and ate together. Private ownership was limited to personal belonging. Such extended family may have included as many as fifty members united under the authority of one senior. Interestingly, the family's head was not always the natural father or grandfather and the extended family often included distant relatives or even strangers who may have been adopted as family members. Labour invested in the farm rather than blood relations regulated the kin membership. A stranger could have become a family member temporarily or for a lifetime and in some situation could have acquired a status of the head of the extended household.

Usually, the father would assume the position of the family's head and after his death any of his sons (usually the oldest), or his brother, or even a stranger, could take up his position in the family. There was no official title of the position, although several folk terms exist. The kinship also regulated profit sharing. If an adult member had been separated from the kin and had not contributed labour, he would not participate in profit sharing. A son who was absent and did not contribute to the welfare of the kin would not get the same share as other family members including those who were not blood related. Some remains of this kin structure persisted until the Soviet times.
The senior of the kin always directed the work of the men, while his wife took care of the women's activities. The father held the legal title to the property, but he was limited in the possibilities to sell or trade the family assets for as long as there were legal heirs. The custom was designed to protect the children and their rights to own property. When the property was sold, minors, after reaching the legal age, could have claimed the sold property as theirs. There are records that on several occasions courts ruled in their flavour.





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