Sunday, November 8, 2020

A Shared Religion Compensates for Other Cultural Differences in Inter-Ethnic Marriages, Chebotaryeva and Volk Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 7 – The Soviet government held up the growing number of ethnically mixed marriages as evidence of the fusion of nationalities in the USSR, although most studies at the time concluded that such marriages were less stable than those between members of the same nationality.

            But one aspect of this situation, the fact that most ethnically mixed marriages were between couples who shared a common faith and therefore many common cultural values, was not emphasized and another, the role that religion plays in such marriages regarding distribution of gender roles, was not much studied.

            Now, two Moscow scholars, Elena Chebotaryeva and Marina Volk, have filled those gaps in a new study (”Life and Family Values Similarity in Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Faith CouplesBehavioral Sciences (2020) at summarized by Marina Selina at

            They examined the value orientations in 69 couples, 20 of which were mono-ethnic and mono-religious (Orthodox) Russian, 30 were inter-ethnic and inter-religious where the husband was Arab and Muslim and the wife Russian and Orthodox, and 19 were inter-ethnic but with a common religion, Russian women and Armenian, Ossetian, and Georgian men.

            The overall conclusion of the study is that “the membership of the partners in a single religious confession compensates for differences in values” rooted in nationality but that as many have suggested, “the most satisfactory family relations all the same were among mono-cultural couples.”

            It is generally believed, Chebotaryeva and Volk write, that “people who conclude inter-ethnic marriages encounter a multitude of difficulties. Usually these are connected with differences in mentality, education, values, cultural and social norms.”

            Because of these difficulties, “couples in inter-ethnic marriages are less satisfied with their family life than people in mono-ethnic families, but at the same time, they are much more open to the discussion of problems in their relationships” and if they share a common religion, their chances for “a harmonious marriage” are greater.

            Among men and women who belong to different ethnic groups, the two say, “normative (common cultural) values play a greater role than do individual ones, and a common religion helps lower tension in the relationships including differences in the understanding of gender roles.”



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