Medvedev V. V. "…Beautifully enclosed by a willow fence" (.pdf)


The Chuvash people constructed fences enclosing their living places and property. There were several types of fences that enclosed settlements and plots of land, built up of various construction materials which depended on prosperity of farms, as well as on geographic environment. For example, there used to be «pryalso» (stack stands), wattle fences and palings, or palisades. Stones were also used in constructing fences. Nowadays Chuvash people enclose their private plots and yards by board fence, lath fence, brick walls or profiled sheeting, whereas old types of fences are still common in remote settlements and among older people. The names of different types of fences reflected the materials, local variations and cultural borrowings. Field fences and gates are worthy of special attention. While performing its practical purpose (namely, crop protection from the cattle), they also fulfilled a sacred function. People used stack stands or «pryaslo» for village fences as well as for yards. Field gates were also constructed out of stack stands. Those gates were mandatory not only in Chuvash rural settlements, but also in the settlements of neighbouring ethnic groups. A fence enclosed the space occupied either by a settlement’s inhabitants, or by a separate family, protecting people from misfortune. The Chuvash believed that field gates were protected by the God Pirĕshti. Both the boundaries of a farm stand and the boundaries of a settlement served as the borderline between the outer world and the habitable area. The function of distinguishing one’s own space and alien one was expressed in wedding and funeral ceremonies, as well as in hĕr aki or timer karta ceremonies. It was also used in sending recruits into the army. Crossing the field fence and leaving through the gates was similar to saying goodbye to native places, or to the beginning of a new life in a strange and unknown space. The farewell with the village and native places occurred exactly on that border line.


Key words: traditional culture, space, fence, village fence, field gate, the Chuvash people.


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