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.
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:
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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