Laz - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional Laz economy was based on agriculture—carried out with some difficulty in the steep mountain regions—and also on the breeding of sheep, goats, and cattle. Seminomadism is still practiced by some of the Laz, who each year take their flocks to the upland summer pastures. Orchards were tended and bees were kept, and the food supply was augmented by hunting. The only industries were smelting, celebrated since ancient times, and the cutting of timber used for shipbuilding. Until the introduction of tea growing in the 1960s, which has grown steadily in importance in recent years, the only bulk export was hazelnuts. The Laz were much given to seafaring, however, and readily engaged in trade, particularly the slave trade. They were notorious kidnappers, especially of young children, and until the nineteenth century engaged in regular slave hunts. Many Laz have emigrated to other parts of Turkey and, before World War I, to Russia as well, where, in the towns, they have a reputation as cooks and pastry chefs. After amassing some savings with which to buy land, they usually return to their native villages.

Clothing. The traditional Laz men's costume consists of a peculiar bandanalike kerchief covering the entire head above the eyes, knotted on the side and hanging down to the shoulder and the upper back; a snug-fitting jacket of coarse brown homespun with loose sleeves; and baggy dark brown woolen trousers tucked into slim, knee-high leather boots. The women's costume was similar to the wide-skirted princess gown found throughout Georgia but worn with a similar kerchief to that of the men and with a rich scarf tied around the hips. Laz men crafted excellent homemade rifles and even while at the plow were usually seen bristling with arms: rifle, pistol, powder horn, cartridge belts across the chest, a dagger at the hip, and a coil of rope for trussing captives.

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