Woman from the village of Gil. Quba Uyezd. Baku Guberniya. Late 19th – early 20th century. Lezgins

It is highly likely that the photograph shows not just a typical Eastern Caucasus dweller, but a Lezgin woman in the present-day meaning of the term. What corroborated this assumption is the name of the village, where Lezgins now account for over 95% of the population.

Qusar is the administrative centre of Qusar District, where Lezgins account for 90% of the population. At various times, the town was part of various administrative units. In 1836 it was visited by the prominent Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. In the 1930s Qusar was made a district centre within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic

Festival in the town of Qusar. The Azerinform Agency chronicle. Qusar District. Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970s. Lezgins

Early in the 20th century many inhabitants of Qusar were Russian, which is partly corroborated by old houses with double-pitch roofs. Most of the Russian families left the area before the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The town’s architecture has since changed, many old houses being rebuilt and new ones put up to match the owners’ tastes and pockets.

A house ornamented on the peak of the gable by the flat metal-plate figures of a horse and a cockerel. The town of Qusar. Qusar District. Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970

The town of Qusar. Lezgins

This master welder born in the Lezgin village of Dyuztair is a permanent resident of Qusar. He has three sons, each one having a family of his own. The youngest son with his wife and children lives, as is customary, in his parents’ house.

The old house has a balcony along two sides of the upper storey, with overhanging branches of a pear tree in the foreground. The village of Gil. Qusar District. Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970

The town of Qusar. Lezgins

One of the girls said her mother annually took her to Saint-Petersburg to visit her father, who had worked there for seven years. The children and teenagers living in Qusar have a much better command of the Russian language than their same-age peers elsewhere in Azerbaijan. The reason is, first, that many have relatives working in Russia (often in Siberia) and secondly, that tuition in many of the town’s schools is in Russian. The local people also actively use Lezgic, much more so than, say, the Gabala Lezgins, where middle-aged people communicate in Azerbaijani.

Boys from the village of Leze (Laza). Quba Uyezd.

Baku Guberniya. 1880s. Kyurins (Lezgins)

The Kyurin term is ambiguous, as are most of the 19th century Caucasus ethnonyms. It is an external designation given for the Kyurin Khanate (subsequently okrug). Gradually, this designation spread to all Lezgin communities, ncluding the inhabitants of the Samur Okrug and Quba Uyezd. On a par with Kyurinian (Lezgic), scholars used to include Rutul, Tsakhur and Agul in the Kyurinian group of languages. Early in the 20th century the Kyurins discarded this ethnonym because the people themselves never used it. Today, the term Kyurinian is used by linguists to denote one of the Lezgic dialects.

The village of Laza is located in a depression in the foothills of Mt. Shahdag (4242 metres above sea level), on an old caravan track leading through the passes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. There is a village of the same name on the other side of the track, in Gabala District, where it was probably founded by incomers from the original settlement. Lezgins

The village of Laza. Lezgins

The village currently numbers 23 households. The inhabitants own a total of 400 sheep that they take turns shepherding during summer and keep in sheds during winter. One of the inhabitants said he kept 16 sheep, 2 cows and 2 calves. He either sells the home-made cheese himself or uses the services of middlemen.

Laza can be reached by a good road owing to the fact that a skiing resort has recently been built in the vicinity of the village.

Kerimkhan Kerimov, a former sheepherder, near the local community center. The town of Qusar. Qusar District. Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970. Lezgins

“The main language spoken in the district is Lezgic; however, according to the inhabitants of the village of Gil in the Qusar District, it is vastly different from the language spoken by Lezgins in Dagestan. Many people have been telling me that they often have difficulty understanding Dagestanian Lezgins.”

E.G. Torchinskaya. An Account of the Journey to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1971. Archive of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. F. 2. Op. 1. D. 1704. L. 7 (in Russian)

Aslan Orudzhev in front of the District Executive Committee building. The town of Qusar. Qusar District. Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970. Lezgins

Sumakh, a napless Lezginian carpet. Quba Uyezd. Baku Guberniya. Late 19th – early 20th century

The areas of the Caucasus populated by the Lezgins’ have a reputation for traditional carpet weaving. Up to the end of the Soviet period women in practically every family used to make carpets and rugs, of which many are still used in homes. Particularly well-known are Lezginian napless carpets called sumakhs. During the Soviet period carpet-making factories were established in some towns and villages in Dagestan and Azerbaijan, only to be closed down after the disintegration of the Soviet Union Ramiz, formerly the director of the Qusar factory, organized, jointly with a colleague of his, a private manufactory producing pile carpets, which appear to be in greater demand today. He is responsible for marketing, and that is why most of the rooms in his house are piled with rugs and carpets of various sizes and with diverse patterns.

The areas of the Caucasus populated by the Lezgins’ have a reputation for traditional carpet weaving. Up to the end of the Soviet period women in practically every family used to make carpets and rugs, of which many are still used in homes. Particularly well-known are Lezginian napless carpets called sumakhs. During the Soviet period carpet-making factories were established in some towns and villages in Dagestan and Azerbaijan, only to be closed down after the disintegration of the Soviet Union Ramiz, formerly the director of the Qusar factory, organized, jointly with a colleague of his, a private manufactory producing pile carpets, which appear to be in greater demand today. He is responsible for marketing, and that is why most of the rooms in his house are piled with rugs and carpets of various sizes and with diverse patterns.

Sumakh, a napless Lezginian carpet. Quba Uyezd. Baku Guberniya. Late 19th – early 20th century

Carpets are made from Australian yarn using obsolete Soviet-time weaving looms. Patterns are based on the tables found in the book by Liatif Kerimov, an Azerbaijanian artist, art historian and carper weaver.

The carpet weaving manufactory is located in the neighbouring Shabran District rather than in the towns of Qusar and Quba. An Azeri woman who used to work at the local carpet-weaving factory is the workshop supervisor. Working under her authority are about 35 female weavers, mostly of Tat and Azerbaijanian background. The production facilities include another workshop and two apartments adapted for carpet-weaving. At one point there were as many as 200 weavers employed.

A large carpet (2.5 m by 3.5 m) is manufactured by a team of seven or eight weavers. They work eleven hours a day, with lunch and tea breaks. On average, it takes 2.5 months to produce a carpet. The weavers don’t get paid until the carpet is completed; therefore, the longer they work, the later they get their wages. The work completed, the weavers relax for two weeks. Small rugs are normally woven at home.

The Qusarchai River valley and Mt. Shahdag