It has always been a place where religions, cultures and traditions mixed freely, greatly influencing local craft. Years later, the Karabagh weaving craft was recognized by the UNESCO, who put it in their list of Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage.
Since the eleventh century, inhabitants of the Caucasus have produced knotted pile rugs. Despite the fact that weaving carpets was mainly a job for Armenian women, there were plenty of extremely talented male weavers who helped to significantly develop this ancient art. The oldest known Karabagh carpet found in Armenia is dated to the early thirteenth century. Referred to as Artsakh, the rug was probably woven in the village of Banants, located near Gandzak.
The carpets themselves have an important place in Armenian culture. The word gorg, meaning carpet with a thick pile, was mentioned for the first time around 1242–1243 on a inscription on the wall of the Kaptavan Church in Artsakh. In the nineteenth century Armenian carpet weaving went through a renaissance, developing at rapid pace. It was caused by a massive interest in the craft in many areas in Karabagh, mostly for commercial purposes. The town of Shushi, where many weavers lived, became the center of the regional carpet-making.
The most unusual of the antique Karabagh carpets are rose patterned, clearly created in response to Western taste, utilizing geometric pink and red flowers, bouquets arranged in garlands with swags, on grounds of dark blue or black. Decorative ideas and motifs appropriated from many different societies include those of Persia, Russia, Mongolia, Turkey and Arab origins. Charming Armenian inscriptions, an important part of the whole design, inform about both the weaver and date of completion of the piece and are often proudly displayed in antique rugs. Ebullient and theatrical antique Karabagh rugs are frequently formatted as long narrow kellehs, gallery carpets or wide runners. Commonly, there are two types of Karabagh rugs: those of Armenian and Azerbaijan variety. Their most popular motifs included depictions of dragons and eagles, often very ornamented. Armenian variety’s designs were extremely diverse not only in their style, but also color. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, had even more types, as they were further divided into four categories: Guba-Shirvan, Ganje-Kazakh, Karabakh and Tabriz. Each of them was different from the rest, due to different cultural backgrounds, materials available and local weaving traditions.
Sought after by designers and collectors alike, Karabagh rugs are known for having possibly one of the oldest and most varied patters among all Caucasian rugs. While they share a resemblance with numerous other carpets such as Aubussons and Savonneries, they also stand for Armenian culture and old traditions which are reflected in their mesmerizing beauty and highest quality. Hardly any carpet can compare to their grandeur and elegance.