245th ANNIVERSARY OF THE HERMITAGE
9 December 2009, permanent exhibition of Dagestan Art of the 14th - beginning of the 20th centuries opened in the rooms of the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage. 115 monuments of art of various periods are going to be presented at the exhibition.
Settlement Kubachi is situated in a mountain region of the Republic of Dagestan. Its history of origin as well as history of origin of its art still stirs up disputes. The name Kubachi in Turkic languages means ‘a craftsman making armour or a warrior wearing armour’, but it is not the original name of the settlement since its inhabitants do not speak Turkic but speak one of the Caucasian languages. In early Arabic geographic works there appears a name of some Dagestan possession Zirikhgeran, which translates from Persian as ‘producer of armour’, as early as in the 9th century. Despite the fact that its exact location is not known most scientists associate Kubachi and Zirikhgeran with each other due to its essentially similar meaning in different languages. Interest towards Kubachi settlement appeared in the 20-s of the 18th century when the Russian Empire began to expand its borders along the western coast of the Caspian Sea. In the middle of the 19th century Kubachi settlement took out citizenship of the Russian Empire. Those scientists, who visited the settlement, pointed out inscriptions, stone reliefs on building walls, and monuments of applied art. In the second half of the 19th - beginning of the 20th centuries inhabitants of Kubachi were renowned for artistic decoration of weapon that they produced together with the inhabitants of the neighbouring settlements. At the same period of time Kubachi jewellers started working actively in the cities of the Northern Caucasus and Transcaucasia; activities of Kubachi inhabitants on monument collection in Dagestan increased.
Large-scale study of Kubachi art started in the 20-s of the 20th century when the first expeditions had been organized and headed by Aleksei Bashkirov. At that time many wall reliefs dated to the 14th century were taken out of the settlement and thus formed two large collections one of which is at the Dagestan Museum (Makhachkala) and another is at the State Hermitage. Several monuments are stored at the largest museums of the world. A great number of reliefs is still in Kubachi.
At present there are two viewpoints to the origin of Kubachi art. In accordance with the first one it formed in Dagestan on the basis of local traditions and the second one is based on the legend about the arrival of ancestors of modern inhabitants of Kubachi from Iraq or Asia Minor. The subjects of some reliefs support this theory. Study of these monuments continues and it will help to determine which viewpoint is correct.
Exhibits indicating their belonging to Kubachi art or art of other neighbouring settlements are presented at the exhibition. Among them there are fragments of architectural decor of buildings from greyish green clay slate and sandstone, sepulchral stones, bronze and brass kettles, small handmade articles from stone, weapon, copper articles of various periods, work manuscript by Arabic author rewritten by Dagestan calligrapher. Most articles have been exhibited for the first time.
Exhibition curator is Anatoly Ivanov, leading researcher of the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage, candidate of science in history.
The Hermitage Days - 2009 project partner is BDO Unicon Ltd.