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Old 26th August 2019, 12:03 AM   #1
ariel
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Default Origins of shashka

The origin and the timing of appearance of the Caucasian shashka are unknown. The prevailing notion says that they first appeared in Circassia sometimes at the end of the 18th century. The latter had been agreed upon because there were no confirmed images or actual examples of shashkas before the early 19th century.

Well, recently a paper was presented at one of the Russian historical meeting that pushed the age of shashka back to at least 17th century, with iconographic images of it coming from Western Georgia ( not Circassia).
The authors, S. Talantov and L. Dvalishvili, examined frescoes of several Georgian churches. There was a custom to draw portrais of " ktitors" , i.e. donors of funds for the erection or renovation of Greek- Orthodox churches ( in the Catholic world they were called " donators").
Here are several pictures.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:10 AM   #2
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Default Fresco1.

Imereti, Geguti church, first half of XVII century. In the middle stands Baka Iashvili wearing a shashka.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:15 AM   #3
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Default Shashka 2

Church in the village of Nodjikhevi, Meghrelia, 1640-1643. Member of Dadiani family.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:23 AM   #4
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Default Shashka 3

Svaneti, church in Chikareshi, standing Taibukh Kipiani, Mid XVII century.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:27 AM   #5
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Default Shashka 4.

Svaneti, Chikhareshi, mid- XVII century. Djanbalat and Merab Kipiani.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:30 AM   #6
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Default Shashka 5

Same church as above. Gotcha Kipiani.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:35 AM   #7
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Default Shashka 6

Racha, church Nikortsminda, 1660-1670. Merav and Levan Tsulukidze, separately Kaikhosro Tsulukidze.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:39 AM   #8
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Default Shashka 7

Same place/ time. Varadebul Tsulukidze. On the left actual photograph, on the right museum copy.
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:43 AM   #9
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Default Shashka 8

Imereti, Upper Vani, XVII century. Member of Chidjavadze family
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Old 26th August 2019, 12:51 AM   #10
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Default Shashka 9

Imereti, Kulashi church, XVII century. Member of Mikeladze family.
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Old 26th August 2019, 02:19 AM   #11
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Default Discussion.

These iconographic evidences prove beyond doubt that a guardless saber worn edge-up was widely known in Georgia in XVII century. Such sabers were first attributed to Circassians and called shashka , bastadization of the local Sash-ho, big knife.
Obviously, Georgians did not called their sabers shashkas. The authors mention several variants: Lekuri, Tcholauri and Uvado Khmali ( " saber without a guard").

One can reassess images of guardless sabers shown in the 1757 miniatures of a Persian manuscript about battles of Nader Shah with the Afghanis. It was found by Alexej Kurochkin, appearing on this Forum as Mercenary. See attached pictures.

It is uncertain to me whether fighters carrying " shashkas" belong to Persian or to the Afghani army, or both.

The fighting part of Nader Shah's army consisted mainly of Caucasians; Georgians, Armenians, Circassians. They might have carried their national weapons.

The same was true of the Abbas I army: it consisted significantly of Georgians and the commander of the entire Persian Army was Allahverdi Khan ( Undiladze), a former ghulam. This army conducted a major war with Afghanis and Uzbeks at the end of 16th century, and Georgian weapons might have served as an inspiration of the Afghani ones during Nader Shah campaign.

The bottom line, we still know very little about the guardless sabers, but the article of Talantov and Dvalishvili gives us a real food for thought by re-dating the origin and the time of appearance of shashkas in Georgia.
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Last edited by ariel : 26th August 2019 at 03:33 AM.
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:56 AM   #12
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Hi Ariel,
I have two questions:
first your definition of the shashka is a guardless saber only or do you include the eared pommel?
Second question do you think that shashka and yataghan are related?
Thanks
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Old 26th August 2019, 04:24 PM   #13
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This is a $64,000 question, but...
All frescoes show pommels in profile, and the better-preserved ones show them to be identical to the later Caucasian shashkas. None of them show a view along the edge. Thus, no conclusion can be made re. presence or absence of slits ( eared handles).

Bakradze and Kiziria published a highly-documented paper about guardless sabers of Western Georgia ( it is in Russian only, AFAIK), raising a question of them being forerunners of a classical shashka. Those Lekuris do not have eared handles.

The question of yataghan/shashka connection is tempting, but uncertain.

On the one hand, it is possible to assume that Western Georgian guardless sabers adopted the Ottoman fashion of "ears". Indeed, Western Georgia was under significant Ottoman influence ( and, occasionally, occupation). However, early yataghans ( Suleiman, Bayazet etc) did not have eared handles, and the origin of ears on later yataghans is a complete mystery. Who adopted it from whom, or was it just a parallel development still requires a lot of info we do not currently have.

On the other hand, shashka as such is not a yataghan. Yataghan was a secondary weapon of infantry, worn tucked under the belt, almost horizontally across the body, edge down, drawn directly by the right hand. Kind of a long knife.
Shashka was a primary infantry/cavalry weapon carried almost vertically along the leg, edge up, drawn by the dominant right hand reaching across the body. It never (!) had recurved blade. It was a slashing, not a cutting weapon, a saber rather than knife.

Again, the minutiae of weapons of that areal are either irretrievably lost, or not found yet. Let's hope that Turkish and Georgian weapon historians redouble their efforts to find the " pro's" and the "con's" of the potential connection between the two. They have access to primary sources that we do not have, as exemplified by the study of monumental art shown by Talantov and Dvalishvili. As of now, my answer to your question is purely circumstantial, and I shall gladly accept better evidence.
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Old 26th August 2019, 06:17 PM   #14
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Ariel, this is an absolutely outstanding topic!! and seldom ever tenaciously approached in the west (English sources). I have long thought that you and Kirill Rivkin had the 'market cornered' on the shashka.
I have long had interest on these, since the early 90s when I first began trying to research these swords. While in those times I learned a great deal on them from Oliver Pinchot, whose expertise on their typology has been well known for decades, I wanted to learn more on their history.

My first 'breakthrough', or so I thought, was when I found and somehow obtained a copy of "Origins of the Shashka" (1941) by Jacobsen & Triikman which was published in the journal of the Danish Arms & Armour Society.
After months of trying to get this article translated, I found that the title was somewhat misleading as far as 'origins' yet still intriguing insight into some Central Asian swords.

As far as I have known, the guardless sabre in itself was known from ancient times, and it seems Steppes tribes such as Avars used them c. 4th c. AD.
Also the guardless sword was known used by the Sassanians in the 6th and 7th c. AD as described by Trousdale in "The Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia" (Smithsonian #17, 1975, p.95). The data on these was cited by Thom Richardson in Coe ("Swords and Hilt Weapons" p.177) in his paper on Asian swords as from:
"Notes Iraniennes XIII" Tres Epees Sassanides, 'Artibus Asiae' 26, 3/4
p.293-311 , by R. Girshman.

While it seems that swords without guards are of course, well represented throughout history, the distinctive adoption of them as an indigenous and exclusive type in the Caucasus is difficult to classify as to a specific influence.
Whatever the case, these examples shown are compelling proof of such swords in these regions in the 17th c.
This certainly moves back the generally held notion that the shashka as a form 'probably' began in the 18th century, and most examples known to collectors are mid 19th into early 20th c.

Until the publication of Kirill Rivkins brilliant work, "Arms and Armor of the Caucusus", 2016) there has been virtually no work in English on these mysterious and fascinating sabres, so advancing more on their history is resounding and long overdue.
Nicely done Ariel, thank you!
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