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Patriarchal society

Patriarchal society — a society in which authority in the family is vested in males through whom descent and inheritance are traced. In its secondary meaning patriarchal refers to a society that in modern times still has an incomplete social structure and retains archaic or traditional forms of hierarchical family relations (dominated by males), property relations, and economic life. This secondary meaning of a patriarchal society is an apt descriptor for much of *Carpathian Rus’ at the end of the nineteenth and outset of the twentieth centuries, in particular the high mountain and upper foothills.

In these areas it was still possible to encounter the tradition of large family units, in particular among the *Boikos, or Verkhovyntsi/Highlanders, and the *Hutsuls, where three generations all lived under one roof. Their homesteads were known as the dovhyi budynok (long house) among the Boikos/Verkhovyntsi and the hrazhda (square, enclosed complex with a middle courtyard) among the Hutsuls. Property in these extended families was not divided so that it would not decrease in value. The family’s agricultural lands were worked in common as was grazing livestock, all of which required cooperative effort. Economic life was not based on market relations but rather was self-sustaining and at a subsistance level. In other words, at best the homesteads produced enough to provide for the minimal physical sustenance of the family and its offspring.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the role of the father, the ultimate authority figure in Rusyn patriarchal society, was being gradually undermined. The second generation sons were striving to opt out of the large family units by leaving the village entirely often in search of work and temporary or permanent emigration to North America. The patriarchal social environment in *Subcarpathian Rus’ and the *Presov Region was decisively broken during the agrarian land reforms introduced by the new Czechoslovak regime in the 1920s. Whatever patriarchal elements may still have existed in Rusyn family relations were completely eliminated after World War II. In the *Lemko Region traditional village life and patriarchal social relations were destroyed when the Lemkos were resettled to the Soviet Ukraine (1945-1946) or forcibly deported to the western regions of Poland (1947). In Subcarpathian Rus’ and the Presov Region the last remnants of patriarchal relations disappeared during the forced collectivization of agriculture carried out by the Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia (see also Communism).

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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