Kuba oriental rugs are named for the city and the area of Kuba (Quba), located in modern-day Azerbaijan, close to the Caspian Sea in the northeastern part of the Caucasus region.
The other major Northern Caucasian rugs include the Derbend and the Dagestan. Notable rugs from the Southern Caucasian area include the Kazak, Karabagh, Gendje, Moghan, Talish, and Shirvan rugs.
Weaving in the Caucasus regions can be traced back as far as the Bronze age. Kuba was at one time a Khanate (state or region) of Persia. In 1828, Persia divided Azerbaijan and the territory of today’s land became part of the Russian empire while the southern part of Azerbaijan became part of Persia. Azerbaijan became an independent nation in 1918 but in 1920 was absorbed into the Soviet Union. It finally gained its independence as a sovereign nation in 1991.
Each region of Azerbaijan had a carpet weaving school established hundreds of years earlier. The schools were named for the various regions. There were Kuba, Baku, Shirvan, Gendje, Kazak, Karabaugh, Nakhichevan, and Tabriz. The Kuba region was the largest rug center in Azerbaijan. The town of Kuba was in early times a collection point for rugs from the mountainous region (just as Gendje was) due to its location.
Often, antique rugs made in Kuba, Baku, and Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus were also included under the term Shirvan. Kubas however, can be differentiated from the Shirvans and Dagestans by their dense, ribbed structure and their higher knot count.
Pileless or flatwoven rugs were also woven in Kuba but are linked to an earlier period of rug weaving. These included pileless rugs such as Shadda, Verni, Jejim, Zilli, Sumak, Kilim, and Palas, all classified as to the style of weaving, the color, structure, and amount of ornaments.
Although, as we will see below, there are many subtypes of Kuba rugs, generally speaking the foundation was usually constructed with wool though cotton was sometimes used.
The warp (up and down cords) were usually finished by tying them together in several rows of knots.
The knot was the symmetrical or Turkish knot.
The sides were usually finished with a blue or white selvage of wool or cotton.
As was usually the case with rugs from this region, 2-ply wool was typically used for the pile and it was usually clipped short.
Kuba rugs had detailed and tightly woven patterns. They used some medallion motifs but they had so many other designs, they did not use medallions as often as other regions in the Caucasus.
Typically, the center field consisted mainly of several guls and other motifs with a lot of scattered large and small elements of different forms. The motifs were geometric ones. The border ornamental patterns usually included various stripes.
The Kuba region had a plethora of various tribes. The rugs
incorporated a wide variety of designs and these designs could differ even from
village to village.
Because of the number of tribes, there were many subtypes of antique Kuba oriental rugs from many regions, each differing from the other with a diversity of designs. Some of these included:
Of these, the Chi Ci types and the Gonaghends are the most
(Please note: The many different rug and town names can often be found with different but similar spelling. For Ex., Quba for Kuba. We have used the most common spellings here.)
Below are examples of some of the different types of Kuba Oriental Rugs:
These are also known as Kuba and Dagestans. The motifs include guls and crawfish which surround medallions. The dominant colors are dark-green and yellows.
There are several types of these rugs including the Alchagul, Hyrdagul, and Syrt Chi Chi Rugs. Some have tiny flowers which fill the center field. Others have a particular motif that recurs in horizontal and vertical rows in the center field. Some have large rosettes flanked by diagonal bars.
They are finely knotted and highly collectible. Many have cotton wefts (side to side cords).
These rugs have medallions which some be;ieve depicr musical instruments. The center field background is typically dark navy blue or dark red.
The center field contains the large element called a zenjire or dargy. Several other squares or quadrangles are added as well. The background of the field is typically dark navy blue or red.
These rugs have a large medallion in the center field. Small crosses typically decorate the center medallion. Some of the geometric motifs resemble images of primitive farm tools.
The Gonkahend rugs are very collectible today.
Typically, there is a polygonal oblong medallion in the middle of the field with large polygonal lantern-type elements on the top and bottom of the center medallion.
The center field of these rugs mainly consists of several large rhomboid -shaped gul motifs surrounded by various other forms and shapes.
This type of Kuba rug is known for the repeating 'scissors' shape in the center field. This is the most ancient of any other Azerbaijani rug. The motif of horns on the left and right of the field symbolize heroism and courage.
The border design typically contained a 'running dog' outside border usually woven in blues and whites. These rugs typically had one or two primary borders rather than one primary border and multiple guard borders. The cabbage rose flower motif as well as the St. Andrew's Cross could usually be found in the field.
The center field is typically covered with vertical gul motifs and richly ornamented.
The center field is covered with variations of one shape in a grid of squares.
Typically, the center field contains a number of gul motifs.The center field background color is usually dark red, dark navy blue, or beige.
As stated in articles on other rugs from the Caucasus region, after WWII, the revival of the Caucasian rug industry began. Unfortunately, the appearance of these rugs and the way in which they were produced had changed dramatically. Production went from a cottage industry to large state controlled Russian workshops and factories employing hundreds of weavers.
Cotton foundations were used rather than wool. Synthetic dyes, rather than the original natural dyes eliminated the subtle color variations (abrash) of the earlier rugs. The factory style of production removed the spontaneity of design of the original rugs, which was replaced by scaled layers and symmetry and fewer and more simplified patterns based on a small number of the original Caucasian designs.
Although there are individuals and organizations attempting to revive interest in weaving in Azerbaijan, it is a very difficult situation, especially due to the oil boom which has contributed greatly to the dislocation of traditional life.
Today, there are rugs from Pakistan with Caucasian designs that resemble the original models more closely than do recent productions form the Caucasus. These rugs use natural plant dyes and are very durable. They are often sold under the name of 'Kazak.'
Only time will tell if the people will be willing to return to weaving as a suitable and profitable way to make a living. One such project called "Antique Rugs of the Future" was established several years ago in Azerbaijan.
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