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Caucasian Rugs

CAUCASUS is a general government belonging to Russia, and including Transcaucasia. The designs of the many rugs woven in this section of country are all parts of a system, and each design bears certain marks whereby its class may be identified.

Daghestan rugs are made in fine wools, and the mosaic designs are generally beautifully and skilfully done. The figures are nearly always geometrical, and in the form of diamonds, long octagons, lozenges, hooks, and small crosses. The colors of the best Daghestans are so well selected, that although there is no shading there is seldom anything aggressive or startling in the effect. Blues, reds, yellows, ivory, and other hues are chiefly used. The rug has a short, close pile, and although the texture is rather thin, the rug is very durable.

Derbent rugs, though woven at Derbent, the chief city of the province of Daghestan, differ somewhat from the Daghestans proper, being much softer and thicker. They are also more loosely woven, and have a longer pile. The designs are geometrical, several star devices often occupying the field ; and here again we see the hook, which is a feature of the entire Daghestan province. There is a good lustre in the Der-bent rugs, and the coloring is often quiet and inconspicuous in dark blue, red, yellow, and ivory. Sometimes a soft pink is noticed.

Kabistan (Cabistan) rugs are woven at Kuba. They resemble the Daghestans to such an extent that they are often sold under that name. They have, however, more variety of design, although, as in the Daghestans, the diamond is generally a prominent feature, and often three large and many small diamonds are seen. The texture is firm, and the pile cut very close. Soft reds, greens, a delicate fawn, and browns are the usual colors. The borders may be in stripes, or with crude animal or bird devices. The antique Kabistan is very beautiful. Its texture is like velvet. Often one, and sometimes two borders contain the small single pink which is a most decorative floral ornament. The reds, light greens, ivory, and plum colors are arranged artistically, and quaint animal forms are often seen.

Karabagh rugs have characteristics of the other Caucasian rugs, but are more crude in coloring. Red is the chief color used. The rugs are coarse and quite crude in effect. The old-time rugs were vastly superior in workmanship.

Kazak rugs are woven by a nomad tribe dwelling among the Caucasus Mountains. There is a certain strength and vigor about the Kazak rugs that seem to be in harmony with the tribe that weaves them. The word Kazak is a corruption of Cossack; and the durability of these rugs, as well as a certain boldness of effect in their designs and colors, corresponds with the hardihood of the people who weave them. The rugs are thick and soft ; their colors are blues, soft reds, and greens. Often the field is a deep rose or a green, sometimes with one or more geometrical figures and several medallions, or with the palm-leaf design in rather large size through-out. When the palm leaf is used, it is generally deco-rated with a smaller leaf of a different hue. Many varieties of small designs are also seen, including circles, diamonds, squares, and the tau cross, which is almost al-ways present. Some of the antique Kazaks are very fine.

Shirvan rugs are attractive from their quiet, agreeable tints, and fine, even texture. They are made in large quantities, and readily sold. The best are of white wool, but the inferior ones may hold cotton or goat's hair. Often blues and whites are the colors employed, with markings of red or yellow. Sometimes there are stripes in the border, one wide stripe followed by a series of narrow ones. The hook is a frequent design, and may be found in the field, incasing some geometrical figure. Sometimes a conventionalized floral design is observed in the border.

Soumak rugs ought really to be called Shemakha, for that is the name of the town in the government of Baku from which they are exported. But the contraction of the word into Soumak is now universal. Erroneously too, these rugs are known as "Kashmir," for the sole reason that they are woven with a flat stitch and the loose ends left hanging at the back, just as they are in the old Kashmir shawls. The designs bear a resemblance to those of the Daghestans, and the hook is omnipresent. The best are durable, and sometimes a rarely beautiful Soumak is discovered, distinguished from the ordinary specimens by its soft hues and fine texture. One that I have in mind is of a rich blue field, with geometrical figures in terra cotta shades, and a rare bit of green in the way of ornamentation ; the field of an-other is rose, and the geometrical forms are in deep blues, old blues, and ivory.

Tchechen (Chichi or Tzitzi) rugs are made by the Chichi nomads living among the mountains of Daghestan. The rugs have a strong resemblance to the Shirvans, and are often sold under that name. They are of about the same color and quality, but are wider. In the border there are frequently geometrical designs arranged between two or more stripes, and the tau cross is sometimes seen.

( Originally Published Late 1900's )

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