Central Asian Dyes
Two sources identify vegetable dyestuffs, one early in the Russian
period, another two decades later. The first list comes
from the polytechnic exhibition of 1872;.
the second, materials sent to the Chicago Exposition of 1893
by the Turkestan Governor General. .
Turkestan was a special government jurisdiction which included
all of Russian Central Asia -- today’s Turkmen, Kazak,
Uzbeg, etc. republics.
The Khiva and Bukhara khanates remained officially independent
into the 20th century and seem to be outside the scope
of these lists. Synthetic dyes arrived first in the area’s
northern tier; the khan of Khokand, for example, banned their
use at about the time of the 1872 compilation. Turkmen territory,
the southern rim, received them somewhat later, varying, of course,
by location but generally a bit after 1890.
Terms used here, presumably Turkic, are transliterated from
Russian and some of the resulting English may have a double distortion.
The 1872 List
- Ruyan’ – madder, grown in the area,
especially Kokhand; it can be found in the wild; it is used
for the coloring of silk and of mats.
- Isparyak’ – yellow zhivokoct’ grows
wild in abundance in the neighborhood of Tashkent and other
places; it yields a fine yellow color, which is used for dyeing
silk and yarns.
- Pugak – fungus [gubka] growing on
mulberry trees and used for dyeing sheepskin coats in a muddy
yellow-green; a lot of it is brought out of Khokand
- Tukhmyak’ – the flowers of saphora
Japonica, a shrub growing in local gardens; from the
flowers of this shrub they obtain a green dye, but the use
of it by and large is not extensive.
- Gul’khairi – the flower of black hollyhock,
grown in gardens as a beautiful plant; it is used, although
rarely, for dyeing silk in a black color.
- Narpuc’ – pomegranate rind, in large
quantities, is imported from Namangan; used for the making
- Kyzil’-Bakam’ – sandalwood, imported
from Russia and used as a red dye for silk and chamois; since
the importing of fuksin the use of sandalwood and
cochineal has considerably diminished.
- Kara-Bakam – Brazil wood imported from Russia
for dyeing in a warm-violet color.
- Buzgunch – galls from the leaves of the pistachio
tree, used as a tanning substance.
- Kermyak’ – rhubarb root, growing in
abundance in neighboring mountains, used for tanning leather.
- Nil’ – indigo, found on sale in several
types; all these come from India and have great use in the
art of dyeing, both for coloring all shades of light blue and
in a green color, which is achieved through dipping material
of a given color into an indigo solution.
- Asil’ren’ -- cochineal, imported from
Bukhara and used for dyeing silk in a red color; it costs 3
rubles a funt’ [pound]; in Tashkent in the spring,
on young leaves of ash and other trees, it is possible to find
cochineal, but the natives, at least up until now didn’t
make use of it.
If, when making [perechislennym’] a more intense
dye, the local chrnila-ciyi is added by the natives
to the recipe; and if such material is counted, the list of local
dyes will be longer.
Siyai – in association with black tush’ is
prepared as follows: in a smallish cup they fire linseed oil
and collect lamp black, created by burning; they boil the resulting
soot with rice and water; then harden the oil to a considerable
thickness and use it as sizing for wallpaper, and for painting
Overall – Neighborhood dyestuff establishments which dye
yarns and fabrics make only a light blue color; dyeing of other
colors is involved with particular masters of this work, preparing
each time the necessities for dyes in the required color strength;
dyeing of silk, for example, is almost exclusively done by Bukhara
The 1893 list
- Marina (madder) roots.
- Saf-flower seeds; the dried flowers of this plant yield a
red dye, cartamin, insoluble in water.
- Seeds of wild plants Kermek (Rheum Emodii) and Taran
(Rheum spiciforma); the roots contain a tannin substance
employed by dyers for fixing colors.
- Seeds of ‘Ispariak’-- yellow
larkspur (Delphinium hybridum var. Sulphureum) grows
wild and yields a good yellow dye; Tukhmiakflowers
of the tree Sophoria Japonica yield a good
- Galy buzgunch -- gallnut, growing on leaves of the
pistachio tree; its deconcoction serves as a mordant for black
and other dyes.
- Bark of the balanstine [pomegranate] Anarpust’;
serves as a mordant for black dye.
liubitelei estestvoznaiiya antropologii i etnografii, Politekhnicheskoi
vystavka, 1872, sbornike politekhnicheskoi vystavki,
vypuske vgoroi, Vol 2, pp. 14/15, 1872.
of the Russian Section, World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893,
Reports | Print
Richard E. Wright, All Rights Reserved