The play of colors, texture and symbols; these multicolor stories have always been a part of Artsakhian living. Carpet weaving is a traditional art form popular in all regions of Armenia and Artsakh. Our carpets have their individual signature, due to their unique features and popularity. Before the spread of synthetic aniline dyes in the 1870's, the rich coloring of the Artsakh carpets was reached only with natural dyes derived from specific plants and minerals of the region. Indigo (blue) was imported from the East, and Vordan (red) from the Ararat valley keepint the natural methods of coloring.
These beautiful carpets were an inseparable decoration of home like a family heritage that was also being gifted but were not made for sale. They were also considered to be family talisman symbolizing fertility and prosperity. But bear rug from home was considered a bad omen.
In the early twentieth century, most cities which were producing handmade carpets had discontinued their activities due to mass killings and deportations, causing also loss of valuable Armenian carpets. The art of carpet weaving passed from generation to generation, but the destruction and the separation of families have made it almost impossible to continue this tradition. But the black lane ended.
The Artsakh carpet weaving as an art form was again in demand during the Soviet era in XIX - XX centuries. Shoushi carpets were considered the best in the region and sold in all neighboring cities. In 1907, Shoushi carpet factory employed 120 women who were producing 600-700 carpets in a year, most of which were exported to Europe. During Soviet times, the factory was moved to Stepanakert.
Today, these gorgeous carpets and rugs are produced not only in Shoushi, but in the villages Chartar and Mets Tagher, ethnographic house-museum of Nikol Duman of Tsahkashat village. They are quite popular and have a high reputation for excellent quality. For Artsakh carpet weavers use mainly dark tones of red, blue and brown colors.
Among well-known pieces we can mention carpet “Gohar", a unique example of ancient Armenian carpeting that Tigran Kouyoumdjian, the director of the Armenian Studies Program of the University of Fresno, California described as "the biggest and softest", was woven in Karabakh and has a signature, which specifies the name of the weaver, "Gohar" and the date 1700.
Another well-known carpet Nerses - woven in 1731 in Artsakh for Catholicos of Aghvank, is stored in the Jerusalem Church of St. James.
The most widespread type of Armenian carpet is probably “Vishapagorg”. Dragons, "Vishap" in Armenian, were the most common symbols in Armenian Highlands signifying protection and support. Vishapagorgs usually had ornaments of dragons, the tree of life, phoenixes, and symbols of eternity and victory. The god of war and power was called Vishapaqagh, which mean “the conqueror of dragons and evil”. Armenians believed that having vishapagorg in their house, would keep them away from evil, as they have already conquered the dragon. The tradition of weaving vishapagorgs in Armenian carpet history dates back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BC.