Easily one of the most striking of all Oriental rugs, the Kazak rugs have been desired since their modernization during the 19th century. Thanks to their bold, powerful design, durable materials, and the prestige of owning such a beautiful rug, they have been highly prized. For much of this time, the Kazak rug could be found in palaces, churches, and in the homes of the elite. While some were placed on the floor, many were displayed on the walls thanks to their striking design.
Kazak rugs originated in a tribal region which is now modern Afghanistan. As with the history of many rug designs, it came from nomadic tribes that used the rugs for both practical and decorative purposes. For many years, the rugs were limited in availability to that part of the world.
Modern History of Kazak Rugs
The rug originates in the 11th century in Armenia and Afghanistan in an area that lies just south of the Caucasus. They were created by Turkish nomads who learned their craft from the Armenians who had been creating various types of rugs since at least the fifth century A.D. The Kazak rug is not associated with a particular tribe, but rather from the region in which it was created.
Crafted from high quality wool, these rugs became more sophisticated in the use of hand-knots which allowed for greater detail in terms of the design features and patterns. The rugs themselves have enjoyed considerably popularity as they spread across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe during the 1800s. By the 20th century, the rugs became categorized as Oriental rugs and had plenty of competition in the marketplace which led to them becoming somewhat obscure for a while.
During the 1980s, the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan caused many refugees to flee into Pakistan. The result was that many of the weavers who resettled in the country brought their skills in creating Kazak rugs which started a revival of interest. That was augmented by the addition of new designs, materials, and colors that became available.
Creating a Kazak Rug
As with most Oriental rugs, the Kazak versions are hand-knotted. In fact, Kazak rugs have a high density of hand-knots compared to most Oriental rug designs. Basically, the more hand-knots in a rug, the sharper the design will be. This makes the motifs and decorations even sharper and more distinctive compared to many other rug designs.
A typical 8’ x 10’ rug requires almost 12,300 hours of labor which translates to over four years of work if you divide the labor into 8-hour days. You’ll find around 9,216,000 knots in a rug of that size. While this seems like an enormous amount of effort, the result is a rug that is highly decorative and durable, landing for many years with minimal maintenance and cleaning depending on how it is used. It’s also why Kazak rugs are so valuable and treasured.
The Kazak Motifs
What distinguishes this type of rug from its Oriental counterparts is the distinctive motifs. Consisting of characteristics noted for the tribe of the region along with compositions that are geometric in nature, the Kazak rugs offer many common patters along with animal representations. It’s quite common to see the following on a typical Kazak rug;
- Medallions, Hooked Polygons, and Diamonds
- Crosses and Rosettes
- Various Birds, Animals, Trees, and People
To create the patterns, only straight lines are used because of the unique hand-knotted techniques that create the rugs themselves.
Addition of Colors
Until the resettlement of the weavers, the basic colors that were used included white, gray, and black along with a few red dyes. For the most part, the dyes came from natural, vegetable sources and remained the main source of colors until the turn of the 21st century when synthetic dyes became more available.
Afterward the resettlement, there was an explosion of colors that came from the Pakistan region which included rusty red, teals, ivories, and deep indigo blues. While it might be argued that the Afghan weavers were heavily influenced by their Pakistani counterparts, it’s also true that having access to new colors promoted changes in the appearance of the Kazak rugs.
You can see the difference in the types of dyes used in terms of natural and synthetic which have created a new wave of interested in the Kazak rug.
Care and Maintenance
Since the pile contained within the rug is relatively short when compared to most other Oriental rugs, the washing process tends to use ancient techniques. This means that the rug piles are cut short and the rug itself is stone washed, just like with jeans. The result is that the rug maintains its beauty and color while not being damaged as with a modern washing process.
Rugs that are used for decorative purposes and hanged from walls require little maintenance apart from the occasional dusting and washing. However, rugs that are on the floor and subject to foot traffic will require more dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning.
Popularity of Kazak Rugs Today
There is little doubt that Kazak rugs, which are made in Armenia, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan have become quite popular around the world. There are many reasons why they stand out, but arguably the most important is the unique design thanks to the numerous hand-knots involved. Add to this the color patterns and features which make them quite beautiful.
The rugs are noted for their durable, colorful design along with their pleasing aesthetic qualities. Kazak rugs offer a variety of styles, the most noted are Hamadan, Nahavand, and Shirvan. You can find them in abundance at the local marketplace that offers Oriental rugs and particularly those that specialize in the rugs from the aforementioned regions.
For those who are looking to purchase Kazak rugs, either to collect or use in their homes or offices, they are as tough as they are beautiful which makes them a good investment. Having a Kazak rug in the home demonstrates your taste in the right way.