Like all Caucasian people groups, Lezgis have been weaving carpets in the Caucasus Mountains for centuries. Ancient writings of travelers who journeyed through this area bear witness to this craft which has been handed down from generation to generation. Traditionally a woman’s job, mothers would spend countless hours teaching their daughters how to weave. Each bride showed her skill and creativity by weaving a set of carpets as a dowry for her future marriage.
Today, less and less Lezgi women are making carpets in their home. Even the carpet workshops in Qusar and Piral have recently shut down. One report says, “Out of the 82 villages in the Qusar region, only 2 still have a significant weaving population. While the total population of Qusar region is 82,000 people, there may only be 100 women still weaving today.” Modernization, mass production during Soviet times, and declining markets has all led to a drastic decrease in carpet production among the Lezgis. As a result, not only have private weavers disappeared, but also the traditional means of producing carpets are also being lost. Spinning and dying wool naturally, distinctive intricate design, and traditional weaving are secrets that are passing away. Recently, there have been some attempts by Azerbaijani companies to preserve – and even revive these traditions, but organizations like Dugul Looms and Sehrli Daxmaciq go farther by putting an emphasis on helping the local weaver provide fair income for their families.
Caucasian carpets are categorized by types, regions, designs and symbols. Lezgi carpets are found mainly in the Kuba region, Shirvan region, and Derbent region – where Lezgis live. Even small Lezgi villages have become famous for producing particular carpet designs over the years. Because carpet designs have mixed so much over the centuries, it is difficult to say which designs and symbols are really Lezgi. Typical Lezgi designs are the “Lezgi Star”, “S-pattern”, “Dragon”, “Sunburst”, “Arm-flower”, Gonagkand and Prayer Rugs. There are many symbols available from life, and whichever ones are used by the designer/weaver is usually a matter of taste. However, the most distinctively Lezgi carpet type is the Sumakh. It is has a unique flat-woven structure, and is largely attributed to the Lezgi people. There are many antique Lezgi sumakhs displayed in museums and private collections around the world today.