Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
One cannot define a shashka outside of its geographic and ethnic origin. It is originally a Circassian weapon that spread into Daghestan, Chechnia and partly into Transcaucasia.
It went to the Ottoman Empire with Circassian exiles, muhadjirs, and there are well documented examples manufactured there.
Other than those two areas there were no examples of a true Caucasian pattern in other cultures, societies etc.
Attempts are made to ascribe the so-called Beduin sabre ( Negev, Sinai) to simplified version of Caucasian shashkas brought to the area my the above muhadjirs. The problem with it resides with the existence of almost exact copies of the "Beduin" examples among Croatian Kraisniks, votive swords in the Sword Mosque in Qairuan, Tunisia and Sardinian Leppas. It forces one to suspect that the above "shashka-like" examples are just simple ergonomic sabers not reflecting any ethnic heritage.
At the end of 19th century Russian government established a Cossack Brigade in Iran under the tutelage of Russian officers. The Iranian recruits were armed with Russian military sabers 1881 pattern and we still see "Russian Military Shashkas" with Persian numbering on e-bay. Those have absolutely nothing to do with Caucasian tradition.
In the 19th century Russians occupied Central Asian Khanates and had close ties with the Afghani military ( see. P. Hopkirk " The Great Game"). That , most likely, was reflected in military Afghani pseudoshashkas , that combined both local ( eg integral bolster etc) and Cossack elements inherited by them from their Caucasian foes ( suspension system, forked pommel, - both " Caucasian" but not quite).
The other Central Asian guardless sabers ( including Bukharan) were not military, but truly indigenous weapons, and as such were not modified according to foreign influences. Khanates had no regular armies and consequently no regulation weapons. Individual masters followed old traditions and had no incentive or reason to copy weapons of the occupier.
We recently encountered yet another fascinating pattern: "Indian pseudoshashka" with tunkou and D-guard but no quillons. I do not know where to place it. I may only cautiously suspect that it also has derivative features of a Khyber, but may be very wrong.
Thus, if we want to discuss Shashkas, we are obligated to limit ourselves to the Caucasian examples and their locally-produced ethnic copies ( Ottoman Muhadjirs).
We may legitimately discuss the degree of "Caucasian" influence ( through Russian cossacks) upon Afghani military examples of guardless sabers. That is why, IMHO, Lebedinski was correct in calling them "pseudoshashkas".
The rest of guardless sabers, from Ottoman yataghans to Bukharan sabers, Khybers, Parangs etc have nothing to do with Caucasian tradition and the term shashka should not be allowed to touch them:-)
There cannot be such thing as French Katana, Japanese Jambia , Congolese Sgian Dubh or Vietnamese Kattara.
Certain weapons around the world are inseparable from their ethnic roots and that is how it should be.