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Old 8th August 2016, 03:03 PM   #1
Ian
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Default Classifying shashka--a serious discussion of typology

Let's try something different!

A recent thread got sidetracked into a discussion of the terminology of shashka (pseudo-shashka, Buchara shashka, Afghan shashka, etc.) that did not advance our understanding of these swords. The debate about which name is correct, whether these are truly shashka, and so on became a circular discussion of yes it is, no it's not.

I am inviting the participants of that discussion and all others wishing to contribute to a serious rethinking of the question: what is a shashka, and what are the distinct sub-types that fall under that name?

The approach to be used here is a typological one, similar to that used by Ewart Oekeshott in his classical description of medieval swords. This method looks at how the weapon is constructed as it relates to its function. Decorative elements may help to define sub-types within a broad class.

You are being asked to look at these swords with a blank mind--no prior concepts of what they are or where they are from, starting with a completely blank sheet of paper. Then start building a new and logical concept of what a shashka is and is not. For those of you who have been discussing these weapons for a long time this may be difficult. In support of the arguments you present, there should be pictures posted here to illustrate the point(s) you are making.

Here are the questions that you are being invited to address:

1. What defines a shashka? Answers should focus exclusively on the essential elements of a shashka as a cutting sword--blade shape and length, hilt shape and length, whether a guard may be present, etc. You decide the essential elements.

2. What are the clearly identifiable sub-types? Again, this needs to be based on the structure of the sword. You should avoid discussing where you think the sword is from, just focus on the swords themselves and how they may be similar or different in their structure. At this point you may consider decorative elements also if this helps to define specific sub-types.

3. Define the sub-types in neutral terms, such as Type A, B, C ..., based on their clearly defined structural characteristics. Avoid defining more than a small number of sub-types.

4. Having defined these name-neutral sub-types of shashka, indicate the "common names" that have been applied to each sub-type.

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Old 8th August 2016, 03:19 PM   #2
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First we need to recall the definition of the word «shashka». E.G. Astvatsaturian offers this description: «A shashka is a kind of sabre…» it has a shorter blade and there is no guard. «A grip is the most original part of a shashka and makes it different from a sabre. A solid grip covers a tang; if the grip consists of two halves, these halves cover the tang from two sides and get sealed by rivets. A grip usually has an oval cross-section… A pommel is large, slightly elongated and rounded up. There is a wedge-shaped cutout on top of the pommel - forked head. The base of the grip is extended to the width of the blade… The grip has no cross guard for protection… The grip is crafted so as to be almost entirely enclosed by a scabbard» Stone believes that a shashka – «It is the national sword of the Circassians…», and further quotes Rockstuhl: «The shashka ordinarily has a straight blade, or one very slightly curved towards the point, and the hilts without any guard whatsoever… When the arms is sheathed the hilt enters the wooden scabbard covered with leather, if desired, as far as the pommel. The latter is divided into two straight wings like a Trapizond yatagan. ...to many of the swords have fine old blades from Persia...» K. Rivkin gives the following description of a shashka: «A shashka is a light, relatively short (60-90 cm) slashing weapon of a very simple structure. … There’s no guard on a shashka, … A grip is made of a horn, expensive grips are made of walrus tusks … there are splitting forked head on the end… A shashka was usually worn on a shoulder or waist baldrick with an edge up. Such way of wearing a weapon was known a long time before shashkas appeared… in the Ottoman Empire. … A grip of the Caucasian shashka is almost fully enclosed by a scabbard».

All these authors say about the Caucasian shashka, as other shashkas they were not familiar ((K. Rivkin wrote in the book is about the Caucasian weapon).

Under the above-mentioned definition of checkers match:

1) Caucasian shashka
2) Afghan shashka
3) Bukhara shashka (and I think more correct to say - Central Asian shashka)
4) Russian shashka (Cossack)

Sorry for my bad English ...
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Old 8th August 2016, 03:23 PM   #3
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Mahratt, that is an excellent start to defining a shashka! Thank you for the prompt reply.
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Old 8th August 2016, 03:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Mahratt, that is an excellent start to defining a shashka! Thank you for the prompt reply.



Thank you for the nice words
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Old 8th August 2016, 03:29 PM   #5
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Allow me to second that Mahratt!! Nicely on point.
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Old 8th August 2016, 03:52 PM   #6
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I think no one doubts that the "Bukhara" shashka developed independently, regardless of the Caucasus.

Russian (Cossack) shashka is derived from the Caucasian shashkas (or vice versa). There are serious studies (they have not yet completed) and we do not know who came before. But it is not important. It is important that they have their own identity (in the decor, for example)

Afghan shashka is not a copy of the Russian shashkas. If someone borrows something - then items will be very similar. For example, the installation of the handle of the Caucasian and Russian shashkas - the same. Afghan shashka - individual. So we can not say that it copies a Russian shashka.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:16 PM   #7
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Gentlemen,
Enjoy shashkas from the Indonesian archipelago:
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt

Afghan shashka is not a copy of the Russian shashkas. If someone borrows something - then items will be very similar. For example, the installation of the handle of the Caucasian and Russian shashkas - the same. Afghan shashka - individual. So we can not say that it copies a Russian shashka.


OK, it is not a copy of the Caucasian Shashka, but wasn't inspired by it?!

Or did it appear absolutely independent from the Caucasian Shashka?!

How do Afghan people call it?!

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Old 8th August 2016, 04:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Gentlemen,
Enjoy shashkas from the Indonesian archipelago:


If those are Shashkas, then my Japanese Katana is also a shashka!

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Old 8th August 2016, 04:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
If those are Shashkas, then my Japanese Katana is also a shashka!



yes i agree and some kattara too up to West African mandingo swords...
Should have chronological and geographical frames
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:29 PM   #11
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Can somebody please post some photos of Afghan and Bukahara Shashkas?!
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:29 PM   #12
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That is what happens when a definition is taken out of context: the cardinal word missing in the above comment is "Caucasian". All the rest of guardless sabers from all over the world are not Shashkas by definition.

Just like there is only one true Katana: the Japanese one. We all know Indonesian and Filippine WW2 imitations, but would not dare call them true katanas: pseudo-katanas at the most.

Rivkin, Astvatsaturyan and Stone were very well familiar with other guardless sabers. They just thought about the topic bit more carefully:-)
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:29 PM   #13
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Visual comparison:
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Last edited by mahratt : 8th August 2016 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
That is what happens when a definition is taken out of context: the cardinal word missing in the above comment is "Caucasian". All the rest of guardless sabers from all over the world are not Shashkas by definition.

Just like there is only one true Katana: the Japanese one. We all know Indonesian and Filippine WW2 imitations, but would not dare call them true katanas: pseudo-katanas at the most.

Rivkin, Astvatsaturyan and Stone were very well familiar with other guardless sabers. They just thought about the topic bit more carefully:-)


Rivkin and Astvatsaturyan wrote a book about the Caucasus weapons. Stone did not know the Afghan shashkas. Yes, and "Bukhara"shashkas Stone is not written. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Try to think big. Beyond the clichés.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Gentlemen,
Enjoy shashkas from the Indonesian archipelago:

Reread again signs of checkers from my post.

Last edited by Ian : 8th August 2016 at 11:12 PM. Reason: Removal of personal invective
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
First we need to recall the definition of the word «shashka». E.G. Astvatsaturian offers this description: «A shashka is a kind of sabre…» it has a shorter blade and there is no guard. «A grip is the most original part of a shashka and makes it different from a sabre. A solid grip covers a tang; if the grip consists of two halves, these halves cover the tang from two sides and get sealed by rivets. A grip usually has an oval cross-section… A pommel is large, slightly elongated and rounded up. There is a wedge-shaped cutout on top of the pommel - forked head. The base of the grip is extended to the width of the blade… The grip has no cross guard for protection… The grip is crafted so as to be almost entirely enclosed by a scabbard» .


Well, here is a "Turkish shashka", down to a forked pommel and up-curving blade.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
g.

Try to think big. Beyond the clichés.






There is a difference between "thinking big" and "thinking mile wide and inch deep."

I try to do my best not to belong to the latter group.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:42 PM   #17
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ariel, your submissions do NOT have the "wedge-shaped cutout on top of the pommel - forked head"*. turkish ones propbably count as turkey once ruled over parts of the caucasian areas.

*-as in my pommel:
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Last edited by kronckew : 8th August 2016 at 04:58 PM.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:45 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Well, here is a "Turkish shashka", down to a forked pommel and up-curving blade.


Perfectly. If you show online now 10 such "Turkish shashkas" - it will be possible to discuss it. And so - this is an isolated object, which is called - "chimera".
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:49 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
Should have chronological and geographical frames



Exactly true!
Otherwise we may start discussing Scottish Sgian Dubh bringing Caucasian Kindjals, Moroccan Genoui and some Congo daggers as examples. The blades are straight, so what more do we need?:-)
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:54 PM   #20
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caucasus mountains range thru Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, and Iran.
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:55 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
Perfectly. If you show online now 10 such "Turkish shashkas" - it will be possible to discuss it. And so - this is an isolated object, which is called - "chimera".


Just get the catalogue of Zagreb collection by Dora Boskovic: multiple examples with straight and up-curved blades.

Anything that does not agree with the thesis of shashka being an " international weapon" is now an exception and a chimera...

This discussion becomes an uncomfortable mix of hilarious and embarrassing....
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Old 8th August 2016, 04:59 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Exactly true!
Otherwise we may start discussing Scottish Sgian Dubh bringing Caucasian Kindjals, Moroccan Genoui and some Congo daggers as examples. The blades are straight, so what more do we need?:-)

You inconsiderate. In the description of shashkas said that the shashka - a kind of saber.

Now compare Russian (army), Caucasus and Afghan shashkas.

Someone sees a copy?
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Last edited by Ian : 8th August 2016 at 11:15 PM. Reason: Removal of personal invective
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Old 8th August 2016, 05:07 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Just get the catalogue of Zagreb collection by Dora Boskovic: multiple examples with straight and up-curved blades.

Anything that does not agree with the thesis of shashka being an "international weapon" is now an exception and a chimera...

This discussion becomes an uncomfortable mix of hilarious and embarrassing....

You could not demonstrate examples? Not everyone here has a catalog of Zagreb. And they all want to see examples of which you speak. Those examples that I remember very different from what you put in the position of number 15.

Last edited by Ian : 8th August 2016 at 11:16 PM. Reason: Removal of personal invective
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Old 8th August 2016, 05:09 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
Rivkin and Astvatsaturyan wrote a book about the Caucasus weapons. Stone did not know the Afghan shashkas. Yes, and "Bukhara"shashkas Stone is not written. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Try to think big. Beyond the clichés.



Reread again signs of checkers from my post.

Jim, that's what I call - overdo to the point of absurdity.



Indeed it is but good to have some levity, these intense 'discussions' can sometimes be trying. The point is well taken though, sometimes the fact of a sabre without a guard as a key factor does not qualify it immediately as being a 'shashka'.
So then, do we turn to the notable cleft in the pommel?
As seen with the Turkish sabre with yataghan hilt, the blade is clearly a sabre, not recurved or deep bellied as with the true yataghan blade form.
The hilt does not have the same cleft character, it is more eared. But we see the point made.

It is interesting to see the number of other guardless sabres in the world, and of course obviously NOT in the shashka realm.

It seems clearly that we are off to a good start, and everyone thinking quite largely!!! as would be expected here.

I think personally that one of the biggest obstacles in weapons classification is the incessant need to categorize into arbitrary groupings, without some sort of accurate qualification. As we have seen, the term 'psuedo' fails as a prefix, where in the case of Afghan or Uzbek sabres, the term(s) of Caucasian shashka form might serve better.

Since these were in proximity or somewhat in the geographical context of areas of Caucasian influence, then that description seems reasonable.
It is well established that the Russian and via them, Caucasian influences might have filtered into these regions with their presence there.

In the cases of other guardless sabres such as katanas et al, obviously in far reaching areas without notable contact with indigenous areas or ethnicities of the shashka, that term or dominator clearly fails.
In many cases though, other prefixes noting similarities or key features similar to other swords in their proximities, such as the dhas of SE Asia, Chinese dao and others might work as required.
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Old 8th August 2016, 05:13 PM   #25
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Yikes! Just saw al these other posts which came up while I was beating the heck out of my keyboard!!!
This is gonna be a wild ride, but fascinating
You guys are amazing, and it is exciting to see this much scope and knowledge come together in such dynamics.
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Old 8th August 2016, 05:16 PM   #26
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Jim, I think, we can speak of a "groupings" when we have a lot of examples. Individual "the only ones"that emerge in different countries are the exception that proves the rule.
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Old 8th August 2016, 05:23 PM   #27
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Gentlemen, please take a time out and read the instructions again. Any reference to sub-types and decorative features is pointless unless you can define a shashka, regardless of geographic origins.

As many of you rightly point out, there are swords from all over the world that fall into the category of curved sabers without a guard--it would define the vast majority of dha/daab/daav for example. This is a commonly encountered weapon in many different cultures. So please bring some light into what defines the shashka. Mahratt provided several prior attempts by other authors in his very first reply to this question. Do one of these capture the essence of this definition? If not, why not?
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Old 8th August 2016, 06:55 PM   #28
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Ian,
One cannot define a shashka outside of its geographic and ethnic origin. It is originally a Circassian weapon that spread into Daghestan, Chechnia and partly into Transcaucasia.
It went to the Ottoman Empire with Circassian exiles, muhadjirs, and there are well documented examples manufactured there.
Other than those two areas there were no examples of a true Caucasian pattern in other cultures, societies etc.

Attempts are made to ascribe the so-called Beduin sabre ( Negev, Sinai) to simplified version of Caucasian shashkas brought to the area my the above muhadjirs. The problem with it resides with the existence of almost exact copies of the "Beduin" examples among Croatian Kraisniks, votive swords in the Sword Mosque in Qairuan, Tunisia and Sardinian Leppas. It forces one to suspect that the above "shashka-like" examples are just simple ergonomic sabers not reflecting any ethnic heritage.

At the end of 19th century Russian government established a Cossack Brigade in Iran under the tutelage of Russian officers. The Iranian recruits were armed with Russian military sabers 1881 pattern and we still see "Russian Military Shashkas" with Persian numbering on e-bay. Those have absolutely nothing to do with Caucasian tradition.

In the 19th century Russians occupied Central Asian Khanates and had close ties with the Afghani military ( see. P. Hopkirk " The Great Game"). That , most likely, was reflected in military Afghani pseudoshashkas , that combined both local ( eg integral bolster etc) and Cossack elements inherited by them from their Caucasian foes ( suspension system, forked pommel, - both " Caucasian" but not quite).

The other Central Asian guardless sabers ( including Bukharan) were not military, but truly indigenous weapons, and as such were not modified according to foreign influences. Khanates had no regular armies and consequently no regulation weapons. Individual masters followed old traditions and had no incentive or reason to copy weapons of the occupier.


We recently encountered yet another fascinating pattern: "Indian pseudoshashka" with tunkou and D-guard but no quillons. I do not know where to place it. I may only cautiously suspect that it also has derivative features of a Khyber, but may be very wrong.


Thus, if we want to discuss Shashkas, we are obligated to limit ourselves to the Caucasian examples and their locally-produced ethnic copies ( Ottoman Muhadjirs).

We may legitimately discuss the degree of "Caucasian" influence ( through Russian cossacks) upon Afghani military examples of guardless sabers. That is why, IMHO, Lebedinski was correct in calling them "pseudoshashkas".

The rest of guardless sabers, from Ottoman yataghans to Bukharan sabers, Khybers, Parangs etc have nothing to do with Caucasian tradition and the term shashka should not be allowed to touch them:-)

There cannot be such thing as French Katana, Japanese Jambia , Congolese Sgian Dubh or Vietnamese Kattara.

Certain weapons around the world are inseparable from their ethnic roots and that is how it should be.

Last edited by ariel : 8th August 2016 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 8th August 2016, 07:10 PM   #29
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Very, very many words

By the logic of Ariel - only Persian Shamshir - real Shamshir. Shamshir in the Balkans - is psevdoshamshir))))

Shashka - this concept is not associated with a particular ethnic region.
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Old 8th August 2016, 07:12 PM   #30
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No, laddie, it is "checkers" :-)))))))))))))
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