Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Berdyshes have a " cherry on top": they could be used as an axe or glaive, but in close quarters the weapon could be gripped within the space bordered by the concave rear end of the blade and the handle, and the fighter could use the blade as a stabbing weapon. Also, they served as supports for the harquebuses.
They are known in Egypt an Turkey since 15-16 centuries, but in Russia they became known only at the end of 17 century ( Yu. Kukin's review of them). Per him, they were adopted by the Russian " streltsy" ( "shooters") from Polish-Hungarian Infantry. Thus, likely, they originally started in the Ottoman Empire.
The holes at the back of the blade are not specific for the Russian troops: in fact, Kukin notices briefly that their presence was just occasional.
The attached pics are from a book by A.B. Viscovatov on Russian military weapons, published in 1848 and from Suzdal Museum.