Kubachins - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Throughout their history the Kubachins have based their economy on arts and crafts. Agriculture and animal husbandry have had an auxiliary character. The chief crafts were metal working, carving in stone and wood, construction work, and the processing of bone. Women's trades were knitting, embroidery, weaving (textile production), and the preparation of felt and felt footwear. There were no organized guilds or shops in Kubachi. Master craftsmanship was transmitted by inheritance. Migrant labor has been used since the second half of the nineteenth century. Some Kubachins are proprietors of goldsmithing workshops (who make use of hired labor); others are buyers, moneylenders, or antique collectors. A significant number of Kubachins ply their arts and crafts elsewhere in Daghestan and in the cities of Central Asia. They spend summers in Kubachi and get married there, but work abroad for seven to eight years, where they prosper. Then they return to Kubachi to spend the remainder of their days.

Clothing. Women more than men have maintained the traditional Kubachi style of dress: a shirt (or dress) cut like a tunic; a heavy brocade coat with short sleeves (out of use today) ; headgear consisting of a square fillet to which multicolored bits of cloth are sewn, a white towellike, embroidered covering, and a woolen kerchief; and white felt slippers (now out of use) and embroidered, knitted socks. At weddings Kubachi women wear dresses made of Eastern brocade, head coverings embroidered with gold and silver thread, and various adornments—silver chains on the headgear, large golden rings, silver bracelets, and breast pendants finished with bone, pearls, and gems. The male attire was of the same type as that of other peoples of Daghestan: a shirt cut like a tunic; straight-falling pants; a quilted coat ( beshmet ) and a long, narrow, collarless coat ( cherkeska ); boots of morocco leather or felt; a fur jacket; and a fur cap. Also part of the clothing complex were a silver belt, a dagger, and cartridge belts for the cherkeska. Today this male attire has been supplanted by standard European urban clothing.

Food. The traditional food of the Kubachins is in general analogous to the food of other peoples of Daghestan, but with some distinctive ingredients. The basis of the diet is grain, meat, and milk products. There are dishes made of wheat and maize flour (pieces of dough boiled in a meat broth with a garlic dressing and a bit of meat), French bean soup, rice, and lentils. The Kubachins make pies and dumplings stuffed with meat, curds, eggs, potatoes, tripe, and pumpkin. Dairy products include milk, cheese, curds, and milk soups with rice, pasta, and porridge. In recent times the Kubachins have added dishes borrowed from other peoples to their cuisine: borscht, soups, cutlets, and so forth.

Industrial Arts. The principal traditional craft was metalwork, including bronze stamping and the manufacture of water vessels, ritual dishes, and the covers for cauldrons; casting of bronze cauldrons and lamps; the manufacture of artistically finished sidearms and firearms; the manufacture of various adornments for women and objects of male attire (decorated belts, cartridge belts), and details of harness. These craft products had a wide market, far beyond the boundaries of the region. Perfection of a high degree was achieved in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the pouring of decorative bronze cauldrons and the manufacture of diverse ornamental bronze utensils. Carving on stone and bone reached its high point in the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries. On many stone reliefs there are masterfully incised scenes of the hunt, of competitions and rituals, depictions of animals and birds, or epigraphic ornamentation. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Kubachi, under the influence of Islam, representative forms were discarded in favor of abstract ornamentalism. Since that time there evolved the basic types of Kubachi ornamentation in the floral style, which has been widely applied in various aspects of popular art. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Kubachins began to work intensively in the production of finely worked silver, bone carving, gold inlay in side arms and firearms, and also jewelry manufacture, knitting designs, and sewing in gold thread. Kubachi became the main center in the Caucasus for the manufacture of high-quality armament and jewelry.

A new stage in the development of art began after the October Revolution. The small jewelry workshops organized in 1924 have become a mighty enterprise in the production of the popular arts of Daghestan, where 780 male and female master craftspeople work (of these, 200 work at home knitting patterned woolen socks and about 30 live in neighboring villages). New products are being developed, such as high-quality silver pitchers, vases, goblets, cognac services, decorated plates, and women's adornments. Examples of Kubachi craft have been shown at many native and foreign exhibitions (Brussels 1958, Montreal 1967, Osaka 1970, and so forth) and they have won prizes. Among the leading master craftspeople are R. Alikharov, G. Magomed, A. Abdurakhmanov, and G. Chabkaev. Examples of Kubachi art are kept in the some of the world's greatest museums (e.g., the Hermitage, the Louvre, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington).


Trade. Trade relations connected the village of Kubachi with many mountain villages and also with cities, particularly with the trade and craft centers of the eastern Caucasus, such as Derbent, Hukha, and Shemorkha. The trade route from Derbent to Gumik and Avaria ran through Kubachi. There were many bazaars in Kubachi to which were brought grain, livestock, animal products, fruits, metal products, pottery, wooden utensils, and sheepskin coats and caps. The Kubachins themselves sold the various products of their craft. Until the middle of the nineteenth century and perhaps even later, the exchange was primarily by barter.


Division of Labor. Among the Kubachins, in addition to specialization according to distinct crafts, there were also intracraft subdivisions of work. In arms making, for example, different craftsmen specialized in the manufacture of blades, barrels, locks, silver and bone ornamentation, and gold inlay in iron and bone.


Land Tenure. There were three forms of property among the Kubachins of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries: pastureland, common fields, and woods were communal property under the general ownership and usufruct of the village commune; hay fields and partitioned land constituted the private property of individual families; and ecclesiastical lands belonged to the mosques.


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