Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
I am glad we agree on the lack of relation between the Bukharan and the Caucasian examples and on the uniqueness of Shashka as a separate, Sui Generis, type of guardless sabers.
We have neither physical nor iconographic examples of Caucasian shashkas older than late 18th- early 19 century. Nobody knows whether this is due to their late appearance, to the multiple reuses or just losses of the old examples or simply to the lack of "iconographers". I discount here the so-called "parsunas" ( bastardized " person" ), rather primitive portraits of Cossack atamans of late 18 century, wearing fully-developed shashkas with typical Circassian pommel decorations simply because they were painted posthumously.
But let me offer a somewhat heretical idea: Caucasian shashka owes its genesis to Ottoman yataghans. Crimea was an outcropping of the Ottoman Empire, had documented yataghans early on and was supplying a lot of weapons to Circassians. In turn, Circassia, a vassal of the Crimean Khanate, was a secondary vassal of the Ottomans. Also, Georgian kingdoms were in an on-and-off state of war with Turkey and were often controlled by it . One can easily imagine that they could have adopted the eared handle ( simplifying it to the hilt, pun intended) and marrying it to their familiar saber blade, creating a cheap, simple and much more functional weapon. The adoption of such a "hybrid" might have been facilitated by the already present Western Georgian sabers without a guard ( see works of Vakhtang Kiziria)
As to the "eared" pommels of Afghani pseudoshashkas, they are just a narrow cleft ( very Caucasian) rather than widely spread Ottoman. And their suspension system is purely Caucasian/Cossack, not a "tucked-under-the-belt" Ottoman. Moreover, their appearance tightly follows Russian occupation of Central Asian Khanates and stationing of Cossack cavalry there. The Ottomans had only limited if any influence in Central Asia at that time.
At the end of the day, we can only hope that this issue will be specifically addressed by the Caucasian historians and ethnographers, and there are brilliant people there! Not much hope for the Afghani contribution, though....