Kildamni Ethnographic Questionnaire

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Kildamni Ethnographical Questionnaire

Dr. Zahar’s Ethnographical Questionnaire was compiled by David Zahir to help in the description of concultures, and can be found in the files section of the Conculture group at Yahoo.


Questions of Place

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.

The Kamchatka Peninsula in Northeast Siberia; the northernmost Kurile Islands (Paramushir) and the Commander Islands.

Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?

Cold subarctic, though perhaps moderated slightly by the surrounding ocean. Summer is short, cool, and humid; winters are long and cold.

What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?

Primarily volcanic eruptions, which are fairly frequent and can be very violent and destructive. Tsunamis are also frequent; likewise, earthquakes are a constant threat.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

Agriculture is limited because of the short growing season. Crops consist mainly of cabbage, lettuce, kale and other greens, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips; rye and oats to a limited extent; hay for livestock. Several species of berries are an important source of food, and in modern times are essentially cultivated crops as well as exploited in the wild. Pine nuts are also a key foodstuff, and are also "farmed" to an extent nowadays.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

Reindeer is by far the most important "red meat". Beef, mutton, and pork products are comparatively rare; poultry and game birds are consumed in greater quantity. Fish, however, is the main source of animal protein -- several different species of salmon, as well as herring, halibut, mackerel, whitefish, etc.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

Fresh fruit (other than native berries); fresh vegetables (out of season, or types that can't grow in Kamchatka); fresh beef, pork, and mutton; chocolate; some spices; corn (maize) products.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

Aside from homemade moonshine, kvass and vodka are the most common types of alcoholic beverage found in stores and restaurants, followed by beer, sake, and whisky. The traditional form of airak, or fermented mare's milk, is made with reindeer milk by the Kildamni, but is quite rare nowadays and really only used in ceremonial or formal situations. Moldavian wine and Armenian brandy were usually available and inexpensive during the existence of the USSR but have since fallen into short supply.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

Yes. Water shortages have never been a problem, and famines have not occurred since the 1700s. However, food shortages have been more persistent -- most recently during and after World War II (food rationing only ended c. 1955.) Nowadays ample nutrition is not a worry; still there is limited variety and selection compared to developed countries. Food security is a long-standing priority of the government and is a major factor in economic planning and foreign policy.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

Debatable -- different sources would argue for fish, geothermal energy, natural scenery and wildlife (i.e., ecotourism), furs, Leninism, futurism, reindeer, or marijuana.

What is its most valuable resource?

In terms of percentage of GDP, the most valuable resource (or resource-based industry) is petroleum and natural gas extraction. Fishing was clearly the leader as late as 1980-85, but was hugely reduced by the stringent conservation policies put into place in the early/mid-70s.

What resource is it most lacking?

Climate conducive to extensive agriculture, or even more rapid or dense growth of forest cover. As it is, the mediocre or poor soils and short growing season make the current population highly dependent on imported foodstuffs; logging is limited by the scanty tree cover and slow rate of regrowth.

How do people travel from one place to another?

Pretty much the way people in average modern countries travel: automobiles, airplanes, trains, ships, etc. Snowmobiles and tracked vehicles are fairly widely used in the countryside, however, and almost everyone can ski and snowshoe. Animal transport (horses, reindeer, dogs) is a major part of the national mythology but in reality very limited and somewhat artificially kept alive at this point.

Are the borders secure? In what way?

There is only a tiny land border, in the north. Even during times of high tensions with Russia/the USSR the land border has not been seen as a particularly vulnerable area: it's far too remote from any population centers or logistical bases for the Russians/Soviets to exploit. The borders that are felt to be insecure have always been the marine borders (and since the 1920s, the borders of Kilda airspace). Military invasion has come from the sea (the Russians in 1854 and 1908, the Japanese in 1941), and the same goes for infiltration of enemy spies and saboteurs (in the last two hundred years, the Russians, Japanese, Americans, Germans, and British). General remoteness and frequently terrible weather conditions provide some added maritime border protection, it's true. Currently the threat to national territories is primarily one of poaching on the Exclusive Economic Zone by foreign fishing fleets.

How many people live here?

Where in this place to they congregate?

The largest center of population is around Avacha Bay -- the city known in OTL as Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, and which in this ATL was founded some four hundred years earlier as the Lower Capital of the displaced Khitan imperial court. Probably the second-largest town is the one at the mouth of the Kamchatka River, corresponding to our Nizhne-Kamchatsk. The majority of the population is urban; maybe 2/3 to 4/5.

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

The eastern coast is sparsely populated; the two mountain ranges are almost uninhabited. In the old days, the mountains were avoided for religious~superstitious reasons, and even today some people think they're inhabited by dangerous spirits. The many volcanoes are also given a wide berth for obvious reasons.

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

It may be a cliche, but the most numerous domestic animal is the reindeer. They're raised in large flocks, mostly in the east and north of the peninsula, for meat, milk, leather, and antlers. Smaller herds, much tamer, are also kept to provide animals for riding and traction. Dogs and horses were also introduced in protohistoric times, and somewhat later cattle. All three could be used for transportation, but were also eaten and used extensively as sacrificial animals right up into the twentieth century.

All the other domestic animals are modern introductions: chickens, pigs, sheep, and goats. For that matter, honeybees, muskrats, and freshwater pearl mussels could also be considered "domesticated animals".

What are the most common wild animals?

Mosquitoes, gnats, midges, horseflies...

But seriously, the macrofauna most often thought of in connection with their territory would be things like salmon, bears (the largest in the world, no matter what the Alaskans say), sables, mountain sheep, marmots, seals and sea lions, and vast numbers and varieties of seabirds and waterfowl.

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

Dogs really aren't kept as pets, but as working animals. They're certainly not allowed into people's homes, for example. They're treated badly by European/American standards; they're not seen as "man's best friend" or anything of the sort. Keeping other animals that are edible (by Khitan standards) as pets is also unheard of, so no pot-bellied pigs, bunny rabbits, or rodents in general. Reptiles and amphibians are also right out.

Cats are probably the most common large pet. Goldfish and small songbirds are also fairly common; tropical birds such as parrots are extremely rare. Raccoons, coatis, and other Procyonidae, along with North American skunks, are surprisingly popular pets despite their only marginally domesticated nature. Originally imported as fur animals, they became more favored as pets; a feral population of raccoons has also established itself around the larger towns. Likewise, crows and ravens live in close commensal arrangements with the human inhabitants -- not only do they fill the niche of pigeons in Khitan cities, they are allowed into houses and buildings despite the mess they can create.

Questions of Time

How far back does this society's written history go?

Back to the settlement of Kamchatka by immigrants from Manchuria in the first half of the twelfth century: a number of stone inscriptions date to this early period. Literacy was preserved through the 'medieval' period though only very marginally and historical records for this period (roughly 1200-1550) are primarily based on oral literature. Written history proliferates after this -- both natively-produced and in accounts by European and Japanese explorers, missionaries, traders, and diplomats.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

Many believe that the history of the Khitan people as known through Chinese records is also part of their history. This would push the historical horizon back at least to the start of the Liao dynasty (907) and even earlier, through references to the Khitan tribes and their ancestors in Chinese annals. This view is not universal in Kilda society, and tends to be associated with right-wing and nationalist political movements. It does seem a stretch to refer to the Khitan of the Liao dynasty in North China as being "the same" society as the mixed Mongolo-Tungusic tribes that emigrated to Kamchatka following the dynasty's collapse.

What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?

The earthquakes of 1737, 1952, and 1923 (in descending order of catastrophe), each of which killed thousands of people and damaged or destroyed large amounts of housing, boats, etc. The 1779, 1907, 1945, and 1955-6 volcanic eruptions were also very destructive. The extremely severe winters in the early 1790s also caused enormous hardship and many deaths.

What was the best thing that every happened to them?

It's hard to say what single incident or turning point they think was the most fortunate, but probably the "best" historical turn would be identified as maintaining de facto as well as de jure independence during the 18th-19th centuries, and managing to not fall wholly under the power of either Russia, the United States, Japan, or even Britain or France.

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

The strands of domestic political thought, some of which go back as far as the 1890s, that were sympathetic to certain elements of Japanese 'military socialist' and 'state Shinto' ideology, and so directly contributed to the disgraceful incidents of collaboration with the Japanese during the period of the Pacific War.

What in their past makes them proud?

What are they afraid of happening again?

What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?

What do they assume the future will hold?

How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?

What are the most popular stories about the past?

Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?

Do people think the present better or worse than the past?

Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?

Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

Only one at a time.

Who decides on a marriage?

In modern times, an adult man and woman, without the need to consult their families. Historically, marriages were arranged by the parents, often when the future bride and groom were still rather young. Arranged marriages were legally abolished c.1810 but persisted unofficially through the nineteenth century.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Marriages can be dissolved very easily, by either party; it's a matter of filing some paperwork with the government and one's employer, housing cooperative, etc. Contested or disputed divorces are usually handled through a mediator, or failing that through lawyers retained by each party. Divorce has been available on these terms since the 1920s; rates of divorce are quite high, on par with the USA or Russia.

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

Usually the mother, though not by an overwhelming majority of the cases.

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

Culturally, as sexual relations with someone you're not married or publicly "committed" to. If you're single, you can't commit adultery and are considered "blameless". Social opprobrium of adultery comes from family and close friends; coworkers, acquaintances, and the general public wouldn't be expected to care.

Legally, there's no such thing as adultery in either criminal or civil code, and there's no basis for punishment of it.

How are families named?

There's really two levels of family names: the "clan" names and surnames in the modern sense. The clan names number perhaps 15-25 and each consists of a large number of individuals in separate families; they date back mostly to the medieval period (roughly 1100-1600 CE) though some are more recent imports. Membership in a clan normally by patrilineal descent, though matrilineal rules apply in a few -- which means that some individuals may claim membership in two clans, and use both names. On the other hand, large numbers of people don't belong to any clan at all. For the last two centuries, you can only be a member of a clan by birth, not by marriage or adoption.

Family names are a more recent innovation, first appearing in the early 1700s but not becoming ubiquitous until the first half of the nineteenth century. Some are adaptations of clan names, or names of defunct clans; others are geographical in origin and described the location in which the founding ancestors of the family lived. Others are patronymics in origin; yet others originate in professional or rank names (in particular, from hereditary titles and ranks held by members of the old imperial court). Many are foreign in origin, brought by immigrants.

Perhaps two-thirds of all citizens have a clan name; about 90% have a family name. A small number go only by their personal or given name.

Only members of the Russian minority community use patronymics, and then only amongst themselves.

What happens to orphans?

Often they're adopted by more distant family members; failing that, they're sometimes adopted by friends of the parents (much more often than in other cultures). If not, they're placed in the care of the state, which tries to find adoptive parents for them if they're under the age of 12. Above that age, they live in state-run orphanages, which are a bit more like "group homes" than carceral institutions: a number of professional adult caregivers looking after a small number of children living in a residential program, and who attend regular schools in the community.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Are premarital relations allowed?

Allowed and in fact expected. The ideal of female virginity at marriage existed among them only as an affectation of the high aristocracy, and then only for a hundred years or so. In post-Revolutionary days it actually had negative value. That's faded now, but the assumption would be that both bride and groom would have been sexually active before their marriage.

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

What secret vice actually is practiced?

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foreigners?

All kinds of unsavory ones, frankly: bestiality, rape, pedophilia. They think the entire English-speaking world is obsessed with the first; they're constantly talking about it and making jokes about sheep, or reindeer. They think the Japanese are addicted to rape and child porn.

Acceptance of homosexuality hasn't spread very far compared to the rest of the First World, and it's very much seen as a part of "foreign culture", like Libertarianism and pizza. (But see below for what they think "homosexuality" means.)

How do people react to homosexuality?

Fairly poorly, overall -- it's seen as a mild form of mental illness that, like Tourette's Syndrome, is socially embarrassing and best kept quiet. There's no legal sanction against it nowadays, and in fact it's illegal to discriminate against homosexuals (though only insofar as it's illegal to discriminate on the basis of physical or mental handicaps).

However, that's complicated by the local definition of homosexuality. Cross-laborers have been widespread for hundreds of years, and at least since the 1500s strongly institutionalized as something approaching the modern concept of "identities". The catch is that native culture strictly recognizes them as members of the adopted gender in all respects, including definition of their appropriate sexual partners. Hence the scandal and public outrage in '62 when a certain fighter pilot and WW2 hero, considered a role model of manliness to an entire generation, was found to be cohabiting with another man... even though said pilot was biologically female. That was considered "homosexuality" by the Kildamni.

How do the genders dress?

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

How do younger adults address their elders?

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?

If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?

If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?

How do people demonstrate grief?

What does this society do with their corpses?

What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?

Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

What are the most popular games? How important are they?

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

How do people react to physical deformity?

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?

What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?

Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?

What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?

Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural

events/beings do people fear?

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?

Who has the right to give orders, and why?

What titles do various officials have?

How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?

How do government officials dress?

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

How are people executed?

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Questions of War

Who declares war?

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

What form of warfare does this society use?

Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?

How does someone get command of troops?

Where do the loyalties of military units lie?

Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?

Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

Questions of Education

Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?

Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?

Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

What are the least-favorite?

How respected are artists?

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?

How might a very successful artist live?

What forms of theatre does your society have?

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

Questions of sex and marriage

Is sex confined to marriage?

Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?

Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?

Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?

How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?

What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Questions of death and burial

What is their understanding of death and dying?

Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?

Is the family responsible for the body?

What part do the priests play?

Are there cemeteries at all?

Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?

Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

Questions of suicide

What do people in this culture think about suicide?

Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?

Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?

Is it worse than murder?

Questions of Law, Justice and Police

Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?

Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?

How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?

What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?

Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?