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What is Oysuzlu?

Öysüzlü (Oysuzlu) is the name of two villages (Ashaghy Öysüzlü, Yukhary Öysüzlü) located in Tovuz district of the historical Kazak (Qazakh) Region of Azerbaijan. These two and neighboring villages are inhabited by Ayrim, Kazak and Shamshaddin tribes of Azeri Turks. The names of these villages are in Azeri Turkic language.

Etymology: Öysüz or Öksüz means a “nomad” in all Oghuz dialects, including Azeri. The closest equivalent of “Ö” in English would be a rounded version of the "u" in "burn" for the long Ö sound and the short Ö sound like "u" in "fur".

Map 2. The location of the Tovuz district in Caucasian Region



Latif Kerimov* claims that these two villages (Map 1) are responsible for the weaving of so called Öysüzlü rugs.

*The development of ornamental and pictorial carpets in modern Azerbaijan is closely connected with the name of the great carpet designer and national artist Latif Husein Kerimov (1906-1991) . Scientific chronicler, historian of Azerbaijani carpet art, carpet designer and artist, Kerimov was also a connoisseur of Azerbaijani and Eastern literature and a virtuoso of the naskh and nastaliq styles. Using his profound knowledge of traditional ornamental art, he created new decorative motifs. Kerimov founded the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpet and Applied Arts, which opened in Baku in 1967. He was also involved in organizing two international UNESCO-sponsored symposiums, “Oriental Carpet Art” and “Azerbaijani Carpet Art”, held respectively in 1983 and 1988 in Baku. Kerimov’s unique works were exhibited in many countries. He carried out extensive research in the field of applied decorative arts. His creations and his erudition both contributed to the diffusion of Azerbaijani culture, and he was one of the most celebrated intellectuals in the East.

Perhaps these two and other surrounding villages in Tovuz District wove this type of rugs, but the main weaving area of this design should be Borchaly (Bordjalou) Region.

In the map 3, the red and green areas show the location of the historical Kazak and Borchaly Regions.


The first Turkic tribes who appeared in the region were some of the Scythians tribes (Ancient people of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who appeared in Transcaucasia in the 7th century BC), Bunturks (early Turkic people appeared in Transcaucasia 4th century BC), Huns (a group of Turkic nomadic pastoral people who, appearing from beyond the Volga, migrated into Europe c. 370 AD), Bulgars (Turkic people that migrated to Europe from Central Asia in the 4th century), Barsils (a semi nomadic Turkic tribe), Khazars (semi-nomadic Turkic people who dominated the Pontic steppe and the North Caucasus from the 7th to the 10th century), Kypchaks (also known as Poloves, Cumans or Kuns) and later Oghuz Turks (from the 10th century).

The present day Turkic population of Kazak and Borchali regions can be considered as the descendant of the above mentioned tribes - mainly Kypchak and Oghuz.

THE TRIBES OF KAZAK REGION TODAY: Ayrims, Shamshaddins and Kazaks

It is worthwhile to mention shortly about the history of these tribes, who were the weavers of many antique Kazak rugs (Kazak, Akstafa, Tovuz, Shamshaddin, Gedebey and Göyche(Sewan)) districts).


Ayrim: It is believed that Ayrims came to the region within 30 000 Turkmens, who were forced to move from Anatolia to Azerbaijan by Tamerlane, when he defeated Sultan Beyazid in Ankara Battle (1402). It is unknown, to which Oghuz Tribe Ayrims belonged to.
Timur (April 8, 1336 – January 19, 1405), normally known as Tamerlane in English, was a 14th-century conqueror of much of western and central Asia, founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia


Shamshaddin or Shamshaddil: Shamshaddin was a subtribe of Dhulkadirli Tribe. Dhulkadirli (Dhu ‘l-Kadirli) was the name of a large ulus of tribesmen (mainly Bayat, Afshar and Beydili tribes of Oghuz), widely spread not only in E. Anatolia but also in Safawid domains, where they formed an influential element in the state. Shamshaddin tribe took their name probably from a tribal leader whose name was Shamsaddin.

In the first quarter of the 16th century, Shah Ismail I Safavi (1501-1524) assigned Tovuz and neighboring districts to Shamsaddin tribe. The region was within the boundaries of Karabagh Beylerbeyi (a province of the Safavid Empire).

Shah Ismaill Safavi (July 17, 1487 – May 23, 1524) was the founder of the Safavid Empire

Kazakh or Qazakh: They are considered as a subtribe of Kypchak. The subgroups of Kazakh are Salahli, Kesemen, Poylu, Demirchiler etc.


The motifs of this type of rugs have pre-Islamic Turkic totemic sources. Many geometric devices used in Oysuzlu type of rugs can be found commonly in rugs of Turkic speaking people of Central Asia: Turkmen, Kyrghyz, Kazak and Karakalpak.



Although the design is attributed to Oysuzlu by L. Kerimov, it is almost certainly known that the rugs with this specific design were produced in the villages of Lowland Bordjalou Region, not in Oysuzlu village of Tovuz District (Kazak Region).

The main feature of this design is having two interlocked grounds in the central field: the green and red areas in this example (background vs. foreground). The composition of the central field consists of the three hooked medallions and half hook-rimmed lozenges on the sides of the central field aligned on the vertical axis.

The cruciform device inside the ketebe of the central medallion is often found in Kazak, Ganja, Bordjalou and even in some Kuba rugs in different forms. The device basically consists of a cross with the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns.

Here are the same type of hooked devices in various shapes used in so called “Sewan” rugs.

What does this motif represent for? It could well be representing a tamga – a mark used mainly by Turkic people representing an emblem of a particular tribe or a clan. They used tamgas to identify property or cattle belonging to a specific Turkic clan, usually as a stamp. Some tribes, like the Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep), put their tamga on their flags and stamped their coinage with it.

The Karakalpak Kochot Pattern

A considerable number of Kyrgyz and Kazak rugs contain a motif frequently described as Karakalpak kochot. The similarity of the Karakalpak kochot and Borchaly/Oysuzlu device is clear. Karakalpak kochot also consists of a cross, the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns. A very similar motif occurs in the embroidery of the Karakalpaks of the Aral delta (especially on the top of skull caps). In fact, this motif can be found in the applied art works of all Turkic People, from Central Asia to Iran, from Caucasia to Anatolia:

Koch or Kosh (qošqar) means a ram in all Turkic languages. As the name of this motif in Kyrgyz and Karakalpak is related to a ram, this suggests us the motif could be representing ram’s horn.


The hooked gül /inner medallion which is containing the ketebe and the cruciform device can be related to the early Central Asian forms and a number of Turkish rugs from Anatolia.


The hooked medallion can also be considered as a stylized Mughan or so called Memling gul.


Depiction of a ‘Memling Gul’ rug in a still-life with a flower vase by Hans Memling, before 1494

A 19th century Kazak rug with Mughan (Memling) Gul motif

A 14th -15th century Turkish rug with Mughan gul motif

18th century Konya rug with stylized Memling Guls

A Lakai Uzbek mapramach with a Memling gul pattern

A Karkalpak qarshın with a Memling Gul motif


The main border on an ivory ground consists of half hook-rimmed lozenges arranged opposite one another and staggered. The similar motifs are found in Anatolian and other Caucasian weavings a lot. In Turkey, the motif is often referred as scorpion or tarantula. The below picture shows different type of hooked elements used in Anatolian and Caucasian weavings (pile rugs, kilims, mafrashes etc.)

Similar elements can be found in the applied art of all Turkic People - the most prolific weavers in Central Asia, Anatolia and Caucasia.

The similar hooked element which is called "Koch Buynuzu" in Anatolia, Kochkar in Turkmenistan, Qoch Buynuzu in Azerbaijan, Kochkor in Uzbekistan, Koshkar Muiz in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, symbolizing the power or fertility is perhaps the most abundantly used element between all Turkic people. The similar shapes can be found in the weavings of other ethnic groups such as Kurds and Luris too.

Central Asian Kyrgyz/Kazak rugs with Kochkar Muiz / Ram’s Horn motif



The following two pieces are also attributed to Oysuzlu by Kerimov. Although the hooked zig-zag border is generally considered as one of the most common features of antique Bordjalou rugs, the connection of this pattern to Tovuz Oysuzlu rugs needs a further investigation.


The third rug which is also attributed to Oysuzlu by Kerimov carries strong features of the NW Karabagh (Kelbajar-Chilebord (Chelaberd) District) rugs.


Structure analysis of Borchaly and Oysuzlu (Tovuz) rugs:

Borchaly rugs with hooked medallions and half hook-rimmed lozenges:
Warp: always wool, Z 3 S, beige or brown
Weft: always wool, Z 2, light red or dark red, 3-5 shots
Pile: wool, Z 2
Pile height: 8-10 mm
Knots: Symmetrical (Turkish), 70 000 – 90 000 knots per square meter
Selvedge: in most cases, 2 cords of wefts wrapped around warps, sometimes wrapped with supplemental threads

Oysuzlu (Tovuz) rugs:
Warp: always wool, Z 3 S, beige or brown
Weft: always wool, Z 2, light red, dark brown or dark red, 4-5 shots
Pile: wool, Z 2
Pile height: 10-11 mm
Knots: Symmetrical (Turkish), 60 000 – 80 000 knots per square meter
Selvedge: 2-3 cords of wefts wrapped around warps

The backside of an antique Tovuz rug


Ağdağ near Öysüzlü village

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