Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Astvatsaturian’s book is based exclusively on the materials from the State Historical Museum ( Kremlin) and, in a smaller part, from St. Petersburg collection ( Hermitage? I am too lazy to check her book). She tried to develop systematic classification of yataghan origins based on decorative elements. But the final product reminded the tongue-in cheek passage from the Borges’ scheme allegedly taken from an ancient Chinese manuscript about classification of animals: “ those belonging to the Emperor, suckling pigs, frenzied, sirens, fabulous , etc...”
Really good specialists lived in Istanbul’s Topkapi and Askeri Muze, and in Yugoslavia. But she could not go there: Turkey was a NATO country and Yugoslavian Tito professed independent view of socialism, being a traitor of Lenin-Stalin’s dogma. Thus, for example, anything with niello was viewed by her as coming from Eastern Anatolia due to her belief that Soviet Caucasus was the cradle of niello-ed silver ( like the current example). Maria Shercer and Dora
Boscovich could have educated her , but... alas, trip to Tito’s lair of anti-Soviet ideology was out of the question.
On top of that, Astvatsaturian did not know foreign languages and her transliteration of foreign names of weapons was pathetic in its ignorance. There were independent sabers klych and klykh, mech and megg etc. She was a talented , productive and dedicated historian of weapons but she had a misfortune of living and working in a wrong country. Her book about more familiar subject, i. e. Caucasian weapons, is a masterpiece however.
In her defense, even contemporary Turkish books, such as Yasar’s “ Yataghans” are just as bad: every example there is labeled as just “Ottoman” :-)