Tats - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . From time immemorial the Tats have practiced agriculture (wheat, barley, maize), cattle raising, viticulture, and gardening. Livestock raising (sheep, cows, bulls, buffalo) is practiced in the mountain villages.

Clothing. The traditional male and female apparel of the Tats basically resembled that of the Azerbaijanis. The basic garments were the shirt ( zirshein ) and trousers ( shalvor ). Men's outdoor clothing included the ghabo (the shirt known throughout the Caucasus as the arkhalug ) chokha (or chukho ), and wide trousers (shalvor). The ghabo tightly cinched the waist, from which it spread out with gathers. The chokha was worn with a leather belt with silver ornaments. The chokha was worn over the ghabo, frequently unbuttoned. On the chest along the sides were sewn gazyri, small tubular holders (originally for cartridges). Sheepskin coats ( pustin ) were worn. The trousers were tucked into knitted wool socks. Most Tats wore footgear of raw leather of the bast shoe type ( tirakh ) and a sheepskin hat ( papakha ). This hat bore strong associations of honor, prestige, and prosperity—it was rarely removed, and to snatch the papakha from someone's head was a profound insult against its owner. A semispherical hat ( tezek ) was also worn. In cold weather a cloth bashlyk was donned. The outdoor clothing of the women included a short arkhalug ( chotghonou ), detachable and gathered at the waist, with a rectangular cut on the chest, and a very wide skirt ( pazhæ ). On their feet they wore leather shoes with wedge heels, backless but with upturned toes. The headgear consisted of a cap (worn by older women), a fillet ( Iæchæq ), a light-colored shawl ( kxlæqin ), and a dark woolen shawl ( charshou ) covering the woman's whole figure. In cold weather this shawl served as a warm outer garment. Women's headgear was fringed with gold and silver threads and decorated silver coins. Various types of jewelry were obligatory: necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. The masculine and feminine costumes were sewn out of silk, velvet, satin, wool, and cotton; bright colors were preferred, predominantly red among women.

Food. Bread ( nu ), unleavened and leavened, was baked from wheat flour. The unleavened bread was made in the tænur, a clay oven in the shape of a truncated cone set into the earth. Bread from leavened dough was baked on a cast-iron or clay griddle ( saj ). Flour soups ( ardavá ) were eaten, including soups prepared with buttermilk and seasoned with sorrel and soup with noodles ( ærishta ). Other dishes included pastries ( qitab ) with a filling of pumpkin or green onion; pilaf ( ash ) with various seasonings; khinkal (similar to dumplings) ; haricots; peas, and other vegetables (pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, marrows, and peppers); fruit (apples, pears, plums, quinces, cherries, peaches, pomegranates, and apricots); and greens. In some areas watermelons, other melons, and grapes (eaten fresh or, in winter, dried) were cultivated. Walnuts figured in many Tat dishes. Dairy products consumed include cheese ( pænir ), sour cream, curds, butter, cream ( qeimaq ) and qutuq (fermented milk of the yogurt type). Meat (most frequently mutton) was a rarity in the daily diet, but it was obligatory on holidays, when entertaining a guest, or at weddings. Beverages included infusions of grasses, flowers, and sweetbriar berries; tea only appeared in the village settlements toward the beginning of the twentieth century and was an expensive, prestigious commodity. Homemade vodka ( araq ) was prepared out of berries or fruits. The basic sweet was honey, and halvah and treacle were made.


Industrial Arts. The Tats were noted for their carpets (with nap and without), which were handwoven by the women; they also knit patterned woolen socks. The brass vessels with engraved ornamentation made by the master craftsmen of the village of Lagich enjoyed wide renown. At the beginning of the twentieth century seasonal work in the oil fields of Apsheron and the fisheries of Mingechaur and the Caspian Sea gained increasingly greater significance. At the present time many of the traditional crafts of the Tats have been abandoned. Brass vessels are no longer made, the demand having declined at the beginning of the twentieth century as cheap factory-made vessels became available. Carpet making has been maintained, but the quality of the carpets has declined with the introduction of aniline dyes into the production.

Division of Labor. Labor was divided on the basis of gender and age. The men plowed, sowed, grazed cattle, were involved in hunting and certain crafts, built houses, and went on seasonal work. The women fulfilled household duties, educated children, were engaged in some crafts, collected fruits and grapes (with the help of the children), and helped in gathering and bringing in the harvest.

Land Tenure. In traditional Tat society the following forms of land tenure were commonly known: private, communal, feudal, and mosque property ( waqj ). The peasants' private holdings included the garden plots (which were inherited). The head of the family could sell his farmland; his neighbors enjoyed preemptive rights. The plow land, pasturage, forests, and hay fields were the property of the village commune, which divided them among the households constituting the commune. Land reallotments were rare. In the 1930s collective farms (kolkhozy) were established. The kolkhoz workers own small private plots.

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