A BRIEF HISTORY OF WAR RUGS
The war rug culture of Afghanistan has its origins from the time of Russian (former USSR) occupation of Afghanistan from 1979, and has continued through the continuous military, political and social conflicts. Afghan rug-weavers began designing the war rugs almost immediately after the Russians invaded their country.
War rugs are traditional Persian or Oriental rugs depicting war related images, such as helicopters, tanks, guns, etc. They come from, primarily, Afghanistan and were first woven around 1979. However, some would rightfully argue that original “war rugs” are old Persian rugs depicting the battles with men on horseback and swords. Yes, the war rugs’ designs change accordingly with war weapons of the time.
These area rugs are also made of traditional fibers such as wool, silk and cotton. They have intricate designs, bright patterns with bold colors.
At first glance they look like the area rugs woven for hundreds of years by the tribal peoples of Afghanistan. But instead of traditional motifs such as floral patterns, abstract designs, these rugs feature tanks, helicopters, jets, hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.
Men on horseback with swords in their hand had been the nearest significant image relating to the war found on tribal rugs. But the invasion by the Russians gave Afghans an abrupt familiarity to modern warfare. As Afghan men went to the battlefield to fight, women (for nearly all rugs are woven by women) began weaving these area rugs. Due to the total chaos and downfall of the socio-economic conditions, and also due to the violence faced in their daily lives, the women were confined to their houses. As a form of protest they began weaving these rugs featuring different aspects of the war and started one of the first woven blogs, if you will, to pass on their stories to the world and future generations.
Initially the patterns and images were subdued and hidden. But as the war progressed, the patterns became bold and the designs more distinguished. One could easily identify particular guns such as AK-47s, Kalashnikov rifles, and automatic pistols.
The war rugs’ modern form shows the collapse of the World Trade Center, and many Americans find it depressing. After 9/11, Afghan weavers began to depict the attacks with minute precision.
Although the first war rugs that came into the market did not find any popularity among the collectors, presently they have become more acceptable and popular due to their traditional color combination, fine weaving and historical details.