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SHASHKA SWORD

Place of Origin: Turkey (Ottoman empire)

Date: 19th Century

Overall: 970mm (38 ¼ inches)

Blade: 815mm (32 inches)

Reference: 442

Status: Available

Full Description:

An incredible example of the kind of single-edged sabre wielded by the people of the Caucasus typically known as a shashka or shasqua.[1] Like the matching kindjal dagger (see item number 15), this magnificent saber was made in the Ottoman Empire in 1850 during the reign of Abdulmejid I (Ottoman Turkish: عبد المجيد اول, romanized: Abdülmecîd-i evvel, Turkish: I. Abdülmecid; 25 April 1823 – 25 June 1861), who was the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and reigned from 2 July 1839 – 25 June 1861 and succeeded his father Mahmud II on 2 July 1839. As we know, many Caucasian Muhajirs (settlers) lived in Ottoman Empire and served in the army of the Ottoman Sultan – some of them to become famous commanders and generals. Many of the Caucasian craftsmen worked in Ottoman workshops, including in the court of the Ottoman Sultan[2].

It should be noted that not only Caucasian sabers, but also Turkish-type sabers, made and decorated by Caucasian craftsmen, are very rare. They are of great historical and cultural value.

Such swords were used in much the same way as a Western European sabre, with highly similar cuts, thrusts, guards and parries.[3] The lavish gold decoration of this sword – applied generously throughout both the scabbard’s mounts and the blade itself – are exceptionally well preserved. Glistening vine leaves and floral patterns scroll intricately along the length of the blade, beautifully highlighting its slender shape and golden inscription reading :

Side A

Qur’an 48:1 (in part) - “Verily We have granted thee a manifest victory.”

Side B

Qur’an 61:13 (in part) - “Help from God and a speedy victory. So give the glad tidings to the believers.”

The Caucasian form of the shashka has a scabbard which encloses most of the hilt, with little more than the pommel protruding. Plainer in other examples, the pommel is pierced to receive a sword-knot, but the present piece may have served a more ceremonial purpose. Officers’ models were indeed much more heavily ornamented, and it is to be noted that officers had considerable freedom in their choice of embellishment  – even down to non-regulation blades, typically sharpened for the last third nearest the tip[4].

This wonderful sword likely belonged to a high ranking officer or Pasha in the Ottoman Imperial Army.

Provenance

Private European collection

 


[1] A Russian word originally coming from the Adyghe word Cэшхуэ, sashko, meaning ‘long knife’.

[2] Caucasian craftsmen worked not only in Russia and Central Asia (Bukhara and Samarkand), but also in the Middle East (Ottoman Empire).  This is also noted by researcher R. Alikhanov in Art of Kubachi (A., 1976. p. 53) and evidenced by the descendants of the Kubachi, Lak masters - including Daud Efendiev, a silversmith and a descendant of old masters, resident of the village of Duki, Lak district of Dagestan.  According to him, at different times the Laks and Kubachins worked in Istanbul, including in the court workshop of the Turkish Sultan. See also: Searching For Lost Relics, I. & Kh. Askhabov, 2016. p. 129.

[3] See Ruslan Urazbakhtin, ‘Shashka in Late XIX–XX C: Outline of Russian Combat Techniques’, in. Acta Periodica Duellatorum (vol. 6, issue 2), Matyas Miskolczi (ed.), 2018, pp. 146–168.

[4] See Yurij A. Miller, Caucasian Arms from the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The Art of Weaponry in Caucasus and Transcaucasia in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Devantier, Næstved [Denmark], 2000.

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