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Old 26th July 2009, 11:30 PM   #1
pallas
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Default volga bulgarian/bashkir weapons?

would these be synonymous with those of other steppe peoples? (kipchaks/mongols/tatars) or did they use weapons that were more in line with their slavic neighbors?
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Old 27th July 2009, 04:07 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pallas
would these be synonymous with those of other steppe peoples? (kipchaks/mongols/tatars) or did they use weapons that were more in line with their slavic neighbors?


Hi Pallas,
I will say you always ask intriguing questions. The history of these peoples is fascinating, but extremely complex and a hopefully our members who study these fields of history will clarify some of the detail.

It is important to note that weaponry does not recognize geographic nor any specific boundaries, and the diffusion of weapons through trade, warfare or other means is of course inevitable. This is particularly the case with nomadic groups, and it is always helpful to know which period or time frame is being considered, which Slavic neighbors.

Also the terms Mongol and Tatar were often broadly applied in history in comprehensively referring to many tribal groups and ethnicities. It seems in many if not most cases the languages were closely related obviously by harmonious contact, such as Bashkik/Kypchak stated to be related to Tatar.

Broadly stated, I would say that in certain cases and degrees, many of the weapon forms used by these tribal people were probably close in form and perhaps even acquired from many of the associated groups and peoples they came in contact with.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 27th July 2009, 04:24 PM   #3
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Hi pallas,
this link
http://forums.swordforum.com/showth...ian#post1043234
might contain some little info on the bulgars. Apparently during the period in question there was a lot of exchange betwen the various steepe cultures. IIRC , Russ Mitchell (also from SFi) mentioned in one of his posts something along the lines of Bulgars being obliged (by the Byzantine emperor) to adapt swords with "western cross" that would remind them of the servitude/loyalty to the Eastern-Byzantines (as opposed to the somewhat more curved "Turkic" or even Magyar crossguard).

Cheers,
Samuel
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Old 27th July 2009, 06:11 PM   #4
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When one speaks of Bulgarians, one needs to differentiate between the Danube and Volga Bulgarians.
While Danube Bulgarians became Orthodox in the late 9th century, the Volga Bulgarians asopted Islam and maintained relations with the Caliph in Baghdad as a natural ally against the Khazars.
Finds from Volga Bulgaria show a variety of blade forms - from straight double edged Northern European swords with Scandinavian/Rus origin to sabres and palashes (a sword with a straight back but slightly curved edge, a precursos to the sabre), more typical of nomads.
So to answer the question - the Volga Bulgarians used weapons characteristic of all of their neighbors, and probably also Arab and Eastern Roman weapons, which they surely ahd access to through trade. I suppose that in some obscure Russian archeological magazine there is a detailed study on the weapons found in Volga Bulgaria. Would be really nice to find it, as the Volga Bulgarians were the first army tod eal a major defeat to the Mongols shortly after the battle of Kalka.

As for Danube Bulgaria, there is a book on swords from the Dark Ages found in Bulgarian soil. I personally severely doubt Russ Mitchell's statement, but am interested to know what it is absed on. As mentioned, Bulgaria adopted Orthodox Christianity in the late 9th century, and in the prior two centuries most of the times the Bulgarian Khans were able to impose a tribute on the Basileus. A few decades after the adoption of Christianity, the Bulgarian armies were besieging Constantinople and the wars lasted until the early 11th century, when Basil II finally managed to conquer Bulgaria. I cannot see how the Basileus had any way of dictating hilt fashion among his enemies during these times, but would be happy to learn.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 27th July 2009, 06:44 PM   #5
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Samuel and Teodor, thanks for coming in on this, I was looking forward to the detail and fascinating perspective always brought in on the history of these times and regions.
It seems like the accounts of the simple crossguard sword being likened to the cross abound, especially as literature on the history of Christianity sought to adopt many types of symbolism, I think the chi rho is another example. Even in the Sudan, where I sought to discover the term which the native people used to describe the sword we know as the kaskara, I found instances where members of some groups insisted it was simply called 'cross'.

Over the years I have only had little contact with Russ Mitchell, but he seems extremely knowledgable on the Magyars and the history of these regions. Still I also rather doubt the viability of the comment on the use of the sword with simple crossguard being required for its association to the cross, and I feel reasonably certain he is recounting something in earlier writings.

All best regards,
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Old 28th July 2009, 06:56 PM   #6
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Hello gentlemen,

I found the post in question :
http://forums.swordforum.com/showth...lgars#post99153

Particularly
Quote:
To that same degree, there is circumstantial evidence from a Byzantine missionary that the Bulgars may have switched from using a curved sword to a cruciform one as part of the conversion process to Christianity.



Teodor any idea who was the missionary or what he might be talking about?

*SPECULATION TIME!*

Personally , I am only vaguely familiar with the pre 1000 A.D. era , but as far as the byzantine sabre ( the so called "paramerion" ) is concerned (and depicted in art) there seems to be some degree of "christianization". To put it differently, the adoption of a more western/byzantine crossguard on a sabre/backsword/pallash/whatever-non-straight-double-edged blade seems to be somewhat visible (well, at least in art).

Note the crossguards (and perhaps even the lack of yelmen) which might (or not) have been a feature of adoption and "christianization" of a foreign weapon.





St-Mercurius circa 1295, Macedonia.
Look at the crossguard which resembles that of the straight period-byzantine swords.








Frescoe from Pec (Serbia, at the time vassal of the Byzantines) painted circa 1316. This fabulous picture sports both a gently curved (minus a yelmen) sabre and a straight sword ; both having a very similar (albeit not identical) gilded hilts (interesting to note is the somewhat peculiar "gilded" first-quarter of the sabre's false-edge).

Perhaps it was similar with the Danube Bulgars/Bulgarians


Cheers,
Samuel
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Old 28th July 2009, 07:49 PM   #7
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Personally, I find it highly unlikely that the Danube Bulgarians switched their edged weapons due to any religious reasons. If there was a change in Bulgarian weapons, it was likely due to the constant trading and warfare with the Empire, which lead to an exchange of tactics and weapons. After a few centuries in the Balkans, apart from any local production, imported blades and hilts were much more likely to come from the Eastern Roman Empire and Central/Western Europe rather than from the Central Asian production centers.

The frescoes are much later, from the Second Bulgarian Tsardom at a time, when Bulgarians have been Christians for centuries (same for the Serbs). When it comes to the First Bulgarian Tsardom however, none of the archaeological finds seem to support the theory that the hilts the Bulgarians were using changed after the conversion to Christianity. Of course, the sample of finds is too small to make any generic conclusions anyway.

The topic was for the Volga Bulgarians and their weapons, however, which are even more obscure. Trying to come up with ideas on what Bulgarians from Kazan and Bolghar could have used based on what has been found in Pliska and Preslav may be tricky - there certainly were some similarities as certain shapes were left from the times when all Bulgarians lived in a common country, but the distance and the differences in cultural and military influences must have also played a part.

Best regards,
Teodor
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