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Old 27th August 2022, 02:31 AM   #1
Pitt1999
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Default What is the shortest blade you all have encountered on a shashka?

I'm sure some of my recent threads have revealed my mild fixation on swords with shorter than normal or cut-down blades. I love them but I have a real devil of a time finding them sometimes. A shashka with a short little blade is something that has been a long time want and was almost (sort of) fulfilled when a year or two ago there was a seller on ebay selling what appeared to be a two fullered bedouin sabre with what looked like a 16 inch blade which was clearly reduced from it's original length due to the fullers continuing all the way to the tip. I have a picture that came from another thread that appears to depict a shorter than average blade on a shashka hilt (#650). Is there a proper name for this type of weapon? Do any exist? I've never seen anything of this description talked about before on the forum. I don't want to seem like a collector of photographs, but sometimes just seeing an obscure sword/dagger/knife in a picture gives me hope that someday I might encounter one in the wild. Like always I would love to see some examples if anyone has something like what I've described.
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Old 28th August 2022, 11:03 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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While these shorter swords with cleft pommel and similar hilt profile top the shashka are tempting to include in that classification, I dont believe they actually do. In the many discussions years ago pertaining to the unusual recurved blade swords with horned pommel known as Black Sea yataghans (Laz bichagi), there were examples of these type blades with hilts very similar to these.
The Laz bichagi was determined to be more of a Transcaucasian weapon, from Trebizon regions and in which the use of these arms extended in degree into Caucasian areas.
In a very obscure article written by a Hungarian traveler, "A Magyar Faji Vandor Pa'sa", (J.Vichy, Budapest, 1897) there are a number of swords with these kinds of hilts and varying kinds of blades, all which are of course notably shorter than regularly encountered shashka blades. It seems that some were with quillons and some not. I cannot be certain but that blade form seems somewhat familiar as well.

I hope I can find the article to get some pics, it was a key reference in the 1941 paper by Triikman & Jacobsen in Denmark, "Origins of the Shashka". ..equally obscure.

The quillons on my example are unusual, and the decoration on the blade seems to correspond to similar on Caucasian blades in degree if I recall from images in references.

While Buttin (1933, plate XX, the source of your image) describes this as a short saber of shashka form (the 18th c estimate seems a bit early) he notes that this seems a perfect 'mountaineer' weapon but as it does not respond well to kindjhal designation must move toward the shashka, the hilt form case in point.

Keep in mind that there were apparently shashka made smaller for young boys, as often the case in many sword forms, but this is obviously not the case with these, only to respond to the question, shortest shashka blade.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 28th August 2022 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 30th August 2022, 12:04 AM   #3
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((I lost my original draft of this reply, so in my attempt to recreate it my apologies if some bits sound odd here or there.))

Ooo I've been waiting to share this item from my collection (see attached images)!

While I otherwise agree with Jim's stance that these don't really count as a kind of shashka, I happen to have a short sword that's somewhat similar to his!

It too has a short, stubby, almost bayonet-like guard, with a horn grip that has shashka-esque ears on it. After that the similarities end, but perhaps the following information will be of interest to some.

Whilst in general this sword has good fuller work and engraving, what's most noteworthy about it is that it's not alone! So far, I've found three examples total (including mine) that all have the same style of handle and blade decoration. What's noteworthy about this is, as it pertains to the thread, this would seem to indicate that this style of sword was made for a time by a dedicated group of artisans, and not just a single smith that happened to throw a (short) blade together with a random shaksha-esque handle.

While one of the other examples is near identical to mine, and coincidentally was sold at the same auction house that I got mine from, the third example is much more weathered. It, distinctly, is lacking the laz-style leatherwork of its cousins, and also seems to have a makers mark! The markings inside would appear to (maybe??) be some kind of islamic script, but it's rather hard to tell because of how rusted it is.

Though overall I'm aware that swords of this style are probably grouped more with other Laz/surmene/trabizond products, it seemed like this thread was a good place to share them, as they indeed all have short blades and (probably?) shashka inspired handles.

Attached are a few images of each example
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Old 30th August 2022, 12:36 AM   #4
Jim McDougall
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ooooh!! is right! what beautiful examples! This is an area of collecting pretty esoteric, and as noted, these do seem to be 'Transcaucasian', that is in Armenian regions and into Trebizond, Erzerum (which as I recall were locations these were collected apparently back in the mid to latter 1800s according to museums I contacted).
NOTE: the scabbard on my example of what we now term Laz Bicagi, but in days of earlier research many years back we called them 'Black Sea Yataghan' during all the 'discussion'.

It seems that Professor Seifert, in his "Schwert Degen Sabel" (1962) had termed these 'Kurdish-Armenian yataghans' and had alluded to the similarity of the flyssa needle point as found on so many examples (as mine). As I had indicated I had seen these in a then obscure article from Denmark "Origins of the Shashka" by Triikman and Jacobsen (1941).
In discussions with Professor Seifert I asked where he had obtained that classification, to which he replied, from my mentor, Mr. Holger Jacobsen!
He told me he had one of these at one time and it had 'strange' writing.
While of course uncertain, this many have been Georgian, which I believe has been seen on some examples. A guy I was communicating with at this time in Tblisi told be that while these were not Georgian weapons, they were well known there.

I am trying to find the pages of the Zichy (1897) article....this research is well over 20 years ago, so trying to find this stuff is like Tut's tomb!

Pages from Seifert.
Note the scabbard shape on my examples. detail from the blade.
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Old 30th August 2022, 03:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nihl View Post
((I lost my original draft of this reply, so in my attempt to recreate it my apologies if some bits sound odd here or there.))

Ooo I've been waiting to share this item from my collection (see attached images)!

While I otherwise agree with Jim's stance that these don't really count as a kind of shashka, I happen to have a short sword that's somewhat similar to his!

It too has a short, stubby, almost bayonet-like guard, with a horn grip that has shashka-esque ears on it. After that the similarities end, but perhaps the following information will be of interest to some.

Whilst in general this sword has good fuller work and engraving, what's most noteworthy about it is that it's not alone! So far, I've found three examples total (including mine) that all have the same style of handle and blade decoration. What's noteworthy about this is, as it pertains to the thread, this would seem to indicate that this style of sword was made for a time by a dedicated group of artisans, and not just a single smith that happened to throw a (short) blade together with a random shaksha-esque handle.

While one of the other examples is near identical to mine, and coincidentally was sold at the same auction house that I got mine from, the third example is much more weathered. It, distinctly, is lacking the laz-style leatherwork of its cousins, and also seems to have a makers mark! The markings inside would appear to (maybe??) be some kind of islamic script, but it's rather hard to tell because of how rusted it is.

Though overall I'm aware that swords of this style are probably grouped more with other Laz/surmene/trabizond products, it seemed like this thread was a good place to share them, as they indeed all have short blades and (probably?) shashka inspired handles.

Attached are a few images of each example
I have seen a sword exactly like one of these for sale before! I forgot if it was on eBay or not, a combination of not recognizing what it was and a lack of funds contributed to me not jumping on it while it was there. The weapons of this region are so beautiful, they look like weapons you would see in fantasy artwork. I have a couple of knives from the Surmene area, I wish I had more. I wish I had one of these short swords to ogle at. There was a laz bichaq on eBay recently that I was bidding on, I thought I had it in the bag so I took my eyes off the auction only to wake up the next morning to see that I actually lost. Some things aren't meant to be I guess.
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Old 30th August 2022, 04:02 AM   #6
Jim McDougall
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Default Kardok, Transcaucasian yataghan Laz bicagi etc

Well, I found it!
It is the 1897 reference from Budapest (Vichy) who refers to these as 'Transcaucasian' but uses the Hungarian term for sword 'kardok'.
If you note, the pommels are similar to the Laz Bicagi I posted, as well as the straight blade example I posted (seen in Vichy far right).

It is important to note here that 'cleft pommel' does not classify a sword as a 'shashka', which is a dialectic term for sword (as often the case) which was apparently tranliterated to Russian when they adopted these forms from the Caucusus. The Russian word (I am uncertain of pronunciation) sounds like 'checker'.

These weapons have as seen, a cleft pommel, which in ethnographic forms sometimes have various elements elaborated, often as seen into exaggerated versions. The range from subtle cleft is seen to grow into the splayed pommel, and with the Lax bicagi, more of 'horns' in shape.

As these share hilt, pommel and blade shapes in variation we can presume they are from the Trebizon, Erzerum, Black Sea regions (the examples in museums I reached were collected from 1850s to 1870s)

As seen in the research over years, there have been a number of unusual perceptions of what these are and where from. One catalog arms dealer of the 80s even described these as 'Cossack yataghans' !

I'm glad to have the opportunity to go through these old notes etc. and collectively reiterate the details on these, and the search which became quite an adventure of many years.

the bottom example appears Caucasian due to hilt work and I believe was a large dagger, not in this group, but added for the 'shashka' similarity.
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Old 30th August 2022, 11:12 PM   #7
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I feel as though the reason for these atypical *cough* Didi Xami *cough* mountings and blade variations is probably due to the fact they were considered to be a significant item of cultural expression/identity for the region. Similar to the many ethnic groups of the Caucasus identifying with the kindjal/qaddara as being their "national weapon", so too for transcaucasian people it seems that the didi xami was "their" weapon.

I say this, in case it isn't clear, because due to the various waves of turkish-fueled ethnic cleansing and assimilation, most people from this region seem to have forgotten about these weapons in the modern day, at least to the point where there is no longer any communication with the west in regards to their existence. I am of the opinion that these idiosyncratic yatagans come from the last attempts of these people to still make their "national weapon", recycling old bayonet and saber blades into crudely contorted vestiges of their formerly graceful sword type. The same notion goes for molding horns into forms that vaguely resemble the handles of traditional didi xami, but are missing the refined elegance that the old artisans were capable of when they were still permitted to craft the originals.

In other news, similar again to one of the examples Jim shared, I found on my computer another image of one of these neat little swords, though this one is much less decorated than the others.

PS - my term for these guys is "surmene qaddara", as I feel they match the surmene "style" the best, and in form most closely resemble the wide, single edged blade of the qaddara.
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Old 30th August 2022, 11:42 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
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Thats another great example Nihl, and thanks for the link to the discussion with your analysis of the proper local terms for these. That is great information.
As you note, it seems by the latter 19th century, according to Triikman & Jacobsen (1941) these forms seem to have become largely set aside and apart from an occasional presence at some ceremonial event they became sort of like old WWII bayonets back in the 60s. We used to buy these for about 50 cents and they were used as handy garden tools etc. and just lying about in peoples garages.

It is amazing to see all this research which was simply stalled for so many years now being brought forward with such remarkable detail. Thank you!
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Old 31st August 2022, 10:34 PM   #9
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I will just leave this one here in the hope that it is relevant. Apologies for the poor quality pics, quick and dirty from my phone.
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