The North Caucasus mountain range is the tallest mountain range in Europe. Roughly the size of the state of Ohio, it stretches from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east, forming the border between Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
But what makes these mountains truly special are their inhabitants. The peaks and valleys are home to 45 different ethnic groups who have made their homes in the mountains for centuries. These hardy people have not only survived, but thrived, developing unique traditions and arts that differ from village to village, people to people.
True Caucasus Craftsmanship
Wool has been a staple of the North Caucasus for centuries. The Balkar and Karachay, who inhabit the region encircling Mount Elbrus, are the descendants of Turkic immigrants from Central Asia. Generations of these women have sat at the feet of their mothers and grandmothers, learning to knit the wool from their own sheep and have passed those skills down to their own daughters and granddaughters.
The Masters of Untsukul
The Avar village of Untsukul in Dagestan has long been a center for beautifully carved wooden items of all kinds. Compliments of their artistic mastery go back as far as the 17th century and continue to this day. Canes, vases, bowls, and even toothpick holders are shaped from walnut, apricot, or pear wood and then inlaid with beautiful metal designs.
Carpets of the North Caucasus
Herodotus, the Greek Father of History, wrote about the quality and beauty of the carpets from the North Caucasus. The Silk Road travelled through Derbent, providing both inspiration and export for the craft. Carpet weaving (ковроделие) has been a part of North Caucasus life for over 1,000 years. From the felt carpets of the Nogai to the hand-knotted carpets of Tabasaran, there are as many styles and forms as there are peoples.