Carpet-making in Uzbekistan
has to do with a 1986 Uzbek survey by Sadykova et al of Uzbekistan’s kustar’ (home craft) industry in the 19th and 20th
centuries. One Central Asia academic specialist thinks
that the period when this book was written was one of improved quality in
Soviet scholarship. The book does give
that appearance. Its notes and
bibliography include much of the literature, and there is an extensive glossary.
All crafts are covered. In spite the assertion of the importance of
carpets and carpet-like items these make only a modest appearance, both in text
and in illustrations, none of which is a pile product. For textiles, it is hands down that
embroidery is the principal craft.
The book can
usefully be read bearing in mind the work of V. G. Moshkova et al. Although much of its material stems from field research carried out between
1929 and 1945, it acknowledges that the Uzbek text is substantially dependent
upon four pre-revolution publications, among them that of Baton Felkersham,
which deals to a considerable extent with the matter of Uzbek carpets.
Moshkova, and Sadykova all use the geographic ordering principle of “Uzbekistan”,
not quite the same in the three studies. Both geographic scope and administrative nomenclature differ. Ethnicity is blurry. It is also true that where a rug was observed
does not necessarily mean it was made there, or connect to a clan, and it is
wise to view the clans themselves as of mixed ethnicity. People of alleged arab descent, self-styled
Turkmen Uzbegs, Karakalpaks, and others are mentioned. The Moshkova text treats four subsidiary areas of
Uzbekistan and not the whole: Samarcand , the Nurata basin, the Fergana valley,
map shows the geography and administration of Imperial Russia; the best maps to
use for tracking down place names are those in the English version of Moshkova.
al These illustrations, none of them pile items, show some of the design
characteristics of various Uzbek kustar’ textile products.
Fabric, kyrpachit, -- heavy cloth
Tashkent, beginning of the 20th c.
The same – Bukhara, beginning
of the 20th c.
Zarbof chopon –golden [thread] man’s khalat , outer layer
of satin, inner layer silk. Bukhara. 19th c.
Suzani -- silk thread, heavy cloth, bosma stitch [one of
artistic stitches]; seams, iyrma stitch [artistic chain
filling out a corner, nina, or curlique, ilmokli
biziz; for wall
Samarcand, beginning of
the 20th century
Suzani -- sateen (cotton), silk thread, bosma and ilmok
[hook] stitch, Samarcand,
Zhoinamaz -- small prayer
carpet, silk thread, heavy cloth,
ilmos stitch, Bukhara, 2nd half 19th c.
– silk thread, bosma and iyrma stitches, Tashkent,
the 20th c.
Chaishab [not in glossary] – silk
stitches, seam bosma,
iurma stitches. Tashkent. Beginning of 20th c.
text reads as follows in slightly rough translation
developed the distinctive features of the furnishings in the abodes of the
people of Uzbekistan, as well as all Central Asia – plentiful carpets, felt
manufactures, but also various mats, used fairly often with modest assortments
of wooden furniture. While frequently
important in the traditional lifestyle of settled groups, but chiefly in
nomadic living – carpets, palasi, felt,
in our times retain their functional purpose and continue as works of native
carpet-making of the peoples of Uzbekistan is deep seated and abundant. Well known in three categories, they are:
short-napped carpets gilam, high pile dzhulkhirs (zhulkhirs), and palas [flatwoven]
fabrics, extremely varied in techniques of execution and coloring.
as women’s domestic economic activity was developed in almost each
livestock-breeding and livestock-agricultural area. Production of master carpet-makers (gilamchi) or gilambof, gilamduz for the most part satisfactorily met the needs
of household use; selling in city markets remaining only a small portion.
developed state of native creative activity led to its being one of the leading
employment positions among the artistic crafts of Uzbekistan. The development of women’s handicraft art
drew into their life its own beauty, diverse in its own traditional variations,
at the same time always retaining local distinctive qualities.
areas of Bukhara were distinguished by colorful and diverse designs, large
size, and high pile. In certain places
in Samarcand and Sir Daria oblast’s [administrative areas] more plain [simpler] carpets with uncomplicated
patterns, in a reddish-dark-blue range were made. There are few varieties of Samarcand
carpets. Interesting tightly woven
carpets with close cropped pile, in the center field of which usually [were]
arranged eight-sided medallions filling in with the same type of design. The most popular medallion was kalkon nushka (with the bukv. [???] design in the border.) In particular parts of Samarcand oblast’ there was a wide range and
proliferation of carpets, in the central field of which could be discerned
narrow ornamental stripes in large oblique diamond shapes with a blending of
the same type of medallions. The
ornamentation consisted for the most part of rows of rombov [diamond shapes]. Brevity and expressiveness – such were the esthetic parameters of these rugs.
“The Nurata area was distinguished by an
output consisting entirely of fluffy light carpets (zhulkhirs) of medium size. They have less density, cheaper [lesser quality] fabric, and
looseness. The composition of the
central field forms longitudinal stripes, filled in with a repeat pattern. The border’s appearance is that of a row of rhombovs and triangles [which] reinforce
the geometric evenness of the design.
art masters of the kishlaks [hamlets]
of Aim, Dardak in Andizhan oblasti were
involved. Their carpets were of a
successful consistency of strict red-dark blue coloring, making it possible to enjoy firm, durable,
and beautiful vegetable handsome madder, ruyan, and indigo, up to the end of the 19th c. when [they] were replaced
by aniline dyes.
“In a number
of Fergana villages several semi-nomadic groups of Kirgiz and Uzbek populations
make carpets of red and dark blue deep shades. Skillful blending by refined
processing produced a wonderful combination of scarlet, strawberry, dark-red
with a saturated dark- and bright-blue. The composition of the carpets was formed by a central field and border
framework [made] out of one primary and two accompanying stripes. The central field was decorated with
medallions, ornamental motifs, sometimes involving straight or breaking lines,
with figures in the form of quadratic diamonds with ornamental motifs inside,
stripes, infilling of repeating designs, etcetera. The carrying out of linear-plant
designs gave an austere beauty to these carpets. Sometimes the central field was decorated
with a medallion or image of a flowering bush, vases with flowers – typical for
the decorative art of Central Asia. Carpets
with such designs were called Kashgari [a city east of Bukhara and Samarcand].
“Palasi were extensively employed in
daily life. The best were considered to
be Bukhari. They were of large size,
with prominent designs in white, red and yellow. The manufacture of palas distinguishes itself from the techniques of
carpet-making. A smooth surface from
interlacing yarns of the base and wefts, whereas the surface of pile carpets
forms an additional layer of yarns. The
people in certain kishlaks near
Shakhrisab and Karshi were engaged in their manufacture.
“Palasi manufacturing produced two types: dorozhki [bands] fabrics from narrow
moveable looms, and large palasi in
one piece. Narrow palasi bands and dorozhki were sewn together and from them were
created distinctive palasi, bags,
small bags, window curtains. Also made
were ropes, lassos, felt hats, socks, fabric from camel wool and goat down.
fabric from the city of Ura-Tube was particularly renowned -- homespun
materials from sheep and camel wool, in particular, for the manufacture of the
men’s upper garment, chakmon, put on
over the quilted batting of a khalat. This material also went as warm linings, kebanak, into woolen khalats.
was made in daily life of felt namats [numuds]. These covered yurts, covered the floor
together with carpets, and were employed for pack loads. The production of felt primarily engaged
women. Washing and beating the wool,
sprinkling water, spreading [it] in even layers for the making of felts and mats
(chii) which are rolled and tied up
with cords. Making a roll was done by
beating [the material] with the hand, [then] rolled and shaken, and moistened
from time to time with water. After some
time the package was turned upside down, jumped onto, filled [saturated] with
water, navivali, and pressed with a
wooden rolling pin until finished as a koshma. Koshmas were white, grey, and colored; especially valuable were the thick and dense
independent commerce existed in the making of insoles for rubbers, boots, and
other shoes. Insoles were made from koshmas and were embroidered along the
edge and in the center with different colored cotton yarns. Craftsmen always have had a significant stock
of insoles for attracting buyers by the brightness and intricacy of
embroidery. In Tashkent there were 40
craftsmen who made inner soles.
craftsman, patakchi, sat; with feet
he pressed down on the material beneath a small table and with very rapid hands
embroidered. In addition to small tables, ish taxta, the craftsmen used
scissors, kaichi, and a chain stitch
hooked needle, kruchka bigiz. The pattern was not copied but made up on the
spot by eye. They used Kashgar koshmas – kashgar namat – (from Osha) in blue, yellow, red and white colors,
as well as thin koshmas.
sole was formed from two pieces of felt, between which were sewn layerings of
reeds, buira chub, increasing the
strength of the soles. Plastic was glued
together with paste, sirach. Except for insoles already edged, items were
fitted for the purchaser.
times almost all elements of traditional carpet, palas, and felt making survive. Carpet-making is developing an industrial base in the republic. Carpet undertakings are present in Samarcand,
Sarkhandar, Khorezm, Kashkadar oblasts,
the Fergana valley, and the Karakalpak ASSR. Original high pile carpets –zhulkurs – with good looking delightful color -- the same as before -- continue the fame of the Samarcand
masters. They have not forgotten the
complicated techniques gashari, terma, [widely used, but no details of
weave specified] of Sukhandar palas-making. The patterns of koshma with expressive half-diamond ornamentation continues popular
in Surkhandar, Karakalpak, Khorezm, and the Fergana valley. “
who had spent time in the region, has this to say:
they are nomadic or settled, all Uzbeks make carpets. In Turkestan, [a large territory encompassing
several imperial provinces] only those carpets on which the pattern is visible
on the right side but not on the reverse are called Uzbek carpets (S. M.
Dudin). The Uzbeks use only horizontal looms. The wool is usually quite coarse and of
uneven quality, since the Uzbeks raise sheep whose wool is not particularly
fine-stapled, and they use wool from a number of different breeds. A unique characteristic of Uzbek palasi, met nowhere else in Central
Asia, is the fact that they are sewn together from separate strips.
“One of the
most widely used patterns is a design of rhombus shapes and of stripes with
hook-shaped projections. This pattern
also occurs frequently in Afghanistan, but with one difference – the inner
field of the rhombuses are treated differently. Incidentally, it should be pointed out that according to S. M. Dudin,
the namazlik or prayer rug is called
in Uzbek a siluche, while the runner,
an iolam among the Yomuds, is called
only the nomadic tribes among the Turkmen and the Kirghiz make carpets, among the
Uzbeks this work is done by the settled tribes, or to be more accurate, the
carpets made by them are of higher quality and are therefore more
noteworthy. This explains why in
Turkestan and even in the Caucasus these carpets are not called Uzbek, but are
usually named after the place of manufacture, namely ‘Bashir’ and ‘Kerki’. However these same carpets are also sometimes
named after the Uzbek tribe that produced them, for instance “Kizyl-Ayak”
(Dudin). It should, however, be noted
that one Uzbek tribe is itself called “Bashir”, and that the name “Bashir” and
“Kizyl-Ayak” also refer to Turkmen tribes (according to Bogoliubov, for
example). All of which demonstrates that
these questions have yet to be clarified.
to specific Uzbek tribes, we note, first of all, that the Bashir and Kizyl-Ayak
tribes roam in Turkestan principally near the Bukhara cities of Kerki and
Bashir, as well as in neighboring Russian districts. There are only slight differences between the
carpets of these two tribes, and both comprise a group which in the West are called
Bukhara carpets. Within this group of
carpets the Bukhara and Samarkand traders call those with a simpler geometric
ornament somewhat reminiscent of Tekke carpets (for instance, with octagons and
in only a few colors with red predominating) Kizyl-Ayak. Those with a more complex pattern of flowers
and suchlike, and with a greater range of colors they call Bashir carpets. This question has not yet been researched in
detail, but it may be of some consolation it may be said that no antique carpets
of either type appear to have survived, and that in general carpet production
as an important craft appeared among these tribes, as well as among the Kerki and
Bashirs, a mere forty years ago. Consequently,
these carpets attract the attention of scholars and enthusiasts less than other
Central Asian types. It would appear
that the Uzbeks’ old carpets have not been preserved because they were crude
and inartistic, and even in their own time were considered of little
value. Generally, old carpets
attributed to the Uzbeks are extremely rare. We include a reproduction of a prayer rug, the originality of which is
Uzbek Bashir namazlik XVII
Russian Museum Axexander III
Detail of a carpet (namazlik) Uzbek of
Kizil’-Ayak, XIX c.
Russian Museum Alexander III
Uzbek Kizil’-Ayak, mafrach’,
Russian Museum Alexander III
reference to the two places named above, I should explain that Kerki is a small
Bukhara settlement or town situated on the left bank of the Amu-Daria. Above the town looms a fortress and castle,
the residence of the bek [governor]. The people of Bukhara consider Kerki an
important fortification, and today it is the point through which large
quantities of merchandise enter Bukhara from Afghan Turkestan, and Bukharian
and Russian goods enter Afghanistan. Bashir is an enormous settlement on the right bank of the Amu-Dari between
Kerki and Burdalyk, and it too lies within the territory of the Bukhara
khanate. There are over 4,000 households
in Bashir, and almost half the population is employed in the production of
carpets and the half-silk fabric known as alacha.
to information gathered for us in 1902 by K. Laurenti, in Kerki and Bashir only
women weave carpets, while dyeing and the threading of the looms is the
responsibility of the men. At least part
of the wool is imported from Afghanistan, which explains why these carpets are
finer and brighter than other Uzbek carpets. In addition to clipped carpets, many palasi are also produced here, on the
horizontal looms placed directly on the ground that are used everywhere in
Central Asia. Actually, they cannot even
be called looms, so primitive is their construction. The yarn is simply stretched on pegs hammered
into the ground at equal distances. Even
big carpets, from five to ten arshins [11’ 8” to 23’ 4”] long and four arshins [9’ 4”] wide are made on this contraption. A large carpet can be manufactured much faster than one might think,
requiring just fifteen to twenty days. From three to five women are needed to work a small carpet, while ten,
twenty, and even more, are required for a large carpet. Goat and camel hair are never used, and the
wool is dyed locally. Earlier, before
the appearance here of alizarin and analin dyes they used only vegetable dyes
imported from India. The principal shade
in Kizyl-Ayak carpets is always a dark raspberry red, and since the best white
wool is used for the warp threads, the end fringe is white. A gray or even black selvage indicates a
carpet of inferior quality.
Kipchaks. The Kipchak Uzbeks roam in the
Zaryavshin valley. They should not be
confused with the Kara-Kirghiz tribe of the same name that lives in the Fergana
region, primarily in Andizhan district. We have no detailed information on their carpet production, but we can
state with certainty that their work has little merit.
tribe is particularly noteworthy for the production of luxurious palasi with plant motif designs, whereas
their clipped carpets are little different than the ordinary goods made by the
other nomadic Uzbeks.
Kalpaks, whose numerous population once gave them an important role in
Turkestan but who today number a mere 60,000, roam in the Amu-Daria delta, in
small groups close to Samarkand and the left bank of the Syr-Dari, north east
of Kokand. Despite a number of racial
characteristics they share with other Uzbek tribes, the Kara Kalpaks differ in
their ethnographic makeup and so are sometimes considered a specific
nationality. Their carpets are always inferior in quality and coarser than
other Uzbek carpets; the pile is very long and uneven, the design unrefined and
inadequately worked out – in short, they tend to produce a rather crude impression. However, at one time this was not the case
and one can find examples of excellent quality among the old carpets.”
The travel literature offers a glimpse which places the Sadykov description of rugs with nomadic Uzbeks, well back into the 19th c. as follows: having more tasteful interiors than the Khirgiz “… for the Uzbegs hang along the sides small carpets of home manufacture; and though the work be coarse, and the colours generally of a somber hue, dark red and brick colour in particular,…” 
been major changes in the borders of “Uzbekistan” since the imperial period in
which Felkersham wrote; significant portions of its then far west and far east
are gone and are free standing nationality republics.
and analysis of the Turkmen rug genre has taken place since the publication of
the three books mentioned here, and it is hard not to suspect that the better
types of carpets sometimes labeled Uzbek have now been coopted into the Turkmen
taxonomy. In this genre a great deal of
useful grouping of carpets by structure, motifs, and color schemes has emerged.
Linkage to the makers, however, seems to
remain fuzzy. Anchor pieces are rare.
Asia’s many political “national” jurisdictions are a Soviet invention (by the
then commissar of nationalities) and were imposed using other than clan and ethnicity criteria, resulting to
some extent in masking the complex make-up of Central Asia’s many tribal
A brief look
at the evolving terminology with respect to provenance may be a helpful
reminder that just who wove certain rugs in the current Uzbek and Turkmen
oeuvre may be a mystery. It is
Moshkova’s field work, not its general text, which is important.
attempt to the contrary notwithstanding it is doubtful that the making of pile
carpets was of much significance in the crafts world of the latter 20th c., if ever. The Uzbek textiles for the
most part were the product of the needle, not the comb.
promysly v bytu narodov [daily life of the people] Uzbekistana XIX—XX vv , Avtorskii kollektiv: N. S. Sadykova, L. G. Lefteeva, N. K. Sultanova, K. Tursunaltsev, Tashkent, 1986, pp. 56—58. A Russian curator’s work was published in
English at approximately the same time, a once over lightly review of all
Central Asian types: Tzareva, Elena, Rugs
and Carpets from Central Asia, 1984. There is no index or table of contents; text is minimal; illustrations
are excellent; Uzbek materials appear in pp. 168 – 179.
Srednei Azii kontsa XIX – nachala XX vv, Tashkent, 1970. For Anglophones: Carpets of the People of Central Asia, ed. and trans. by George W.
O’Bannon and Ovadan K. Amanova-Olsen, 1996. The relevant chapters are; Moshkova, V. G. and
Morozova, A. S., “General Information on Weaving in Uzbekistan”, p. 76 ff.;
Moshkova, V. G.,“Weaving of the Turkmen Uzbeks of the Nurata Basin”, p.107,
ff.; Moshkova, V. G., “Kyrgyz Weaving in the Fergana Valley”, p. 129, ff.;
Moshkova, V. G., “Arab Weaving of Kashkadarya Oblast”, p. 153 ff. The Moshkova book many years ago was somewhat
off-handedly (and unfairly) dismissed by the chief textiles curator of the
state museum in Prague as “warmed-over” Felkersham.
 O’Bannon, op.
cit., has included a useful note on this subject, p. 102.
This description seems to parallel that of a carpet
fragment illustrated in Moshkova and attributed to Samarcand oblast’. Moshkova, V. G., op. cit., p.53. Which in turn appears in color on p. 56 in O’Bannon, op. cit.
 Foelkersam, Baron A., Starye Gody, Starinnyie kovry
Srednei Azii, June, 1915, p. 35 ff.
Kerki was the uppermost navigable site on the river;
hence a water to land (or vice versa) transfer point.
Khanikov, Nikolai Vladimirovich, Bokhara: Its Amir and Its People, trans. de Bode, Baron Clement A., 1845, p. 81
– special stitch with hooks for chain-stitched embroidery
terma – the
name of a technique of palas-making,
widespread in its use
Richard E. Wright, All Rights Reserved