Nakhchivan: a centuries old tradition of carpet weaving
By Peter Tase
The Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, in Azerbaijan, has gained a world class reputation for its well developed culture that is reflected in the numerous techniques of carpet weaving, architecture, its school of archeology and philosophy, sophisticated regional commercial routes and a deeply rooted tradition of education.
Over the centuries carpet weaving had been promoted in home affairs, and in certain periods appeared many types of carpets such as: bast mat, palaz, kilim, sumakh, varni, shadda, zilli, cechim.
Nakhchivan has been for many centuries at the cross roads of trade routes and horse caravans, one of the most recurring places in Eurasia, where consumer goods and commodities would cross its territory and turn it into a logistical center at the heart of Eurasian land mass. Nakhchivan rose to a strategic importance during the rule of the Mongols. It was described by the geographers of the time as a big city built by bricks. In Nakhchivan a special importance have taken the cities of Julfa and Ordubad; the former was destroyed by Shah Abbas of Persia in 1605 at a time when he controlled this part of the territory; while the latter (Ordubad) remains as a testimony of ancient history of Azerbaijan, as it shows to the world a myriad of archeological parks and fortresses that have endured overtime and embodied the great spirit of patriotism throughout the history of Azerbaijan.
A great number of merchants and visitors would come from neighboring regions, making Nakhchivan as an entry point of different influential cultures, the result of this socio-cultural fusion was portrayed in the art work where old traditions had emerged in harmony with admirable aesthetic elements that later would become evident in the carpet weaving traditions and in a wide array of motives used as a carpet decoration.
Nakhchivan has earned a global prestige, in regards to the abstract motives adopted in carpet weaving, incorporation of geometric patterns as well as a fashion that sprouts abstract plant and bird images.
In Nakhchivan a genuine expression of art are the carpet knick-knacks or drawings that were as important as other components such as: visual arts, engineering design, school of architecture, pottery, carving and embroidery. In the region of Nakhchivan, local artists respect the rule of symmetry while making carpets' compositions; together with the art works of professional ornament painters who have made an impact on images displayed on carpets since the period of late antiquity.
Such carpets are mainly custom made by professional tailors and are observed in the flamboyant houses of the rich and wealthy throughout Europe. In Nakhchivan, carpets appeared for the first time in the XIV century and emerged as the main income generation source in the region during the XVI and XVII centuries, in addition to trade and architecture.
In late medieval centuries, there existed cities where certain tailoring technique was applied; different styles were in Tabriz and Ardabil to mention a few.
For the production of carpets wool and silk threads of high quality were interlocked. This allowed complex pictorial composition of multiple elements. These artistic sources mainly include national culture and aesthetic peculiarities and additionally contain Muslim aesthetic styles.
The Azerbaijani art of carpet weaving is substantially characterized by the fact that it has hardly changed its unique compositions over many years.
Such a tradition was passed down from generation to generation and emerges as the oldest region to artistically elaborate carpet motives.
Both in the literature and in the daily use, such carpets are very well documented, while maintaining in Azerbaijan more than a 150 different types of compositions and designs. The laws of Azerbaijan apply restrictions in regards to the exports of carpets abroad.
Hand woven carpets, as mentioned earlier, are works of art and thus may not be exported. It always requires the approval of the committee of expert at the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpets and craftsmanship, in charge of issuing a permission to export such a national treasure for Azerbaijan.
The meetings of the advisory committee are held every Wednesday at the 49 Asaf-Zeynally Street in down town Baku. The services of this committee are charged according to the tariff regulations.