Caucasian Rugs: Akstafa
What is an Akstafa rug? A rather basic question but now that I have collected a few examples I started looking at how best to describe them.
In particular I was looking at a magnificent example from J. C.Oliveira of Macau.The Oliveira Three Medallion Akstafa
Jorge wrote in reference to a magnificent Akstafa:
"There aren't many 'Akstafa' rugs without the traditional large birds on the field. This is one of those few. Also it is uncommon to find those 'T'-shaped motifs. The same is valid for the small cruciform hooked motif at the medallions' centre. But the most unlikely depiction is the profusion of Talish rosettes, so typical of Talish rug borders. We find it in this rug's borders and inside the medallions. This feature confirms Ian Bennett, Murray Eiland and Harold M. Keshishian's opinion that most of the denominated 'Akstafa' rugs were actually not woven on the large town in the Kazak weaving district (near Lambalo and Shulaver) but rather on the Shirvan weaving area, probably on south Shirvan. The magnificent colours of this rug also suggest a southern Shirvan attribution."
So obviously when Jorge Oliveira, Ian Bennett, Murray Eiland and Harold M. Keshishian agree on something it is a pretty safe bet. I can not think of anyone who I respect more in the field of Caucasian Pile rugs although there are a few fellows at that level.
So then why not follow the leaders and attribute Akstafa Rugs to South Shirvan and be done with it? Well as I was looking for background information and local color I stumbled across an important find. In the Council of Europe Minister's Deputies CM Documents I found CM(2002)10 Addendum 4 (unclassified) 14 February 2002. The document gives clear and compelling proof that in the Akstafa region there is an Azeri enclave that includes the villages of Sadykhly and Boyuk (Boyuk Kazak) in Azerbaijan and the villages of Nazarly, Voyovka and Jandar in the Gardabani region of Georgia.
The people in South Shirvan who weave colorful rugs like this were Azeri. Now I differ with men such as Eiland in some respects. Murray places far more importance on geographic considerations than I do. I take an ethno-linguistic approach. I expect Azeri rugs to look like Azeri rugs no matter where in Azerbaijan they were woven. So Azeri who live near the Kazak region are still Azeri so the rugs they weave should be more like their kinsmen in South Azerbaijan than their unrelated neighbors.
To put it simply I feel that it is reasonable to attribute the Azeri rugs that we call Akstafa to the Azeri of the Akstafa region.