Was this Russian art rug woven by
Molokans or Jumpers in Mexico?

Question: Oct 21, 2009, from Cheron Frazier <cheron (at) cox.net>

I am sending along some photos of a hanging rug which was purchased in Ensenada, Mexico, many years ago by my family. We were told that this hanging rug came from the Molokan village in the Guadalupe Valley some 15 miles away from Ensenada. My father loved Baja, Mexico, and took us regularly to both Rosarito and Ensenada when I was growing up in Chula Vista, CA. The wall hanging was already old when we bought it in the late 1960's and had a few small worn places. The design is intricate and was tightly woven on a loom, dyed wool yarn over a cotton warp. It is quite large, measuring about four feet wide by two and a half feet tall, and quite well done if somewhat primitive.
I am wondering if anyone at the Molokan.org website recognizes the costumes the men are wearing and what they are doing? The men are gathered around a campfire. One of the men is playing some kind of bagpipe. There is a man jumping with an axe in one hand and he is firing a gun in the other hand (is he jumping over the fire?). There is a large red dog looking at the men from the lower left side of the tapestry and there are plants and many trees in the background. Maybe some kind of celebration?
Hopefully someone there recognizes the design symbolism of this wall hanging and what it means and maybe even about when it was made. If not, perhaps you could please forward my email to someone with Molokan history knowledge who might know? Mostly this wall hanging has been kept in various drawers over the years and it is in about the same condition as it was when it was purchased.
Your help in identification of this rug hanging tapestry is much appreciated.
Thank you,
Cheron Frazier

Reply: Oct 23, 2009, from Adminiatrator@Molokane.org

Interesting. Our first impressions are:
  1. Definitely not a scene of sectarian Molokans or Jumpers, though one guy is jumping.
  2. The images are of Cossacks (deffinitely the hats), not religious peasant sectarians like Jumpers or Molokans who would have much different costumes, and no weapons or bagpipe. Cossacks did do a fire dance, and slavs celebrate the summer solstice holiday Ivan Kupala Day which includes male fire jumping.
  3. The Lizitsin family in Guadalupe valley were from Cossacks, maybe they did it or know who did.
  4. This could have been made by an artist who is a descendant of Molokan-Jumpers for the tourist trade. About 100 Russian descendants live in the area, most intermarried.
  5. Today we do not know who made it, or if any similar rugs exist.
  6. We would like a better photo to send around.
From what kind of vendor — street, store?  How much did you pay?

Are you still near San Diego? If so there are several Jumper-Molokan families in San Marcos near the UC campus, which was a Jumper-owned egg ranch. I can send you some addresses and you could show them the rug.

It would be best if you made one good photo by holding your camera high over the center and shooting with flash.

In the meantime I will post your story on the website and maybe someone will respond. Unfortunately our Mexico historian George Mohoff died last month, but his wife said she would pass around photos to others in LA from Mexico to see if anyone can help ID this artist.

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