Subject: murid, mourtazek warrior
Culture: Chechen, Dagesh, Circassian, Cossack
Setting: Caucasian wars, North Caucasus 1834-1864
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* King 2008 p68ff
* Porch 2000 p70
"In the Caucasus, Shamil became expert at allowing the Russians to meander through valleys, sacking town after deserted town, and then cutting them to ribbons when they attempted to return to base, as was done following the Russian victory at Akhulgo in the eastern Caucasus in 1839. Shamil's greatest triumph, however, came in 1845 as Prince Vorontsov's flying column withdrew through the Chechnian forests toward his base. The Russians were able to cover only 30 miles in one week, in the process abandoning baggage and wounded and losing 3,321 men, 186 officers, and three generals to Shamil's attacks."
* Griffin 2001 p79
"One out of every ten households in Chechnya was .... bound to supply an armed horseman, called a mourtazek, to the cause of the holy war. ... The mourtazeks were all dressed in the long robe of the Caucasus, called the cherkess, the men in yellow, their superiors all black, all topped in green turbans, the colour of Islam."
* Askhabov 2001 p168
"A black, red or white cloth Circassian coat with silver cartridges; the expensive decorated belt supporting a dagger with gold or silver mounts; a flintlock pistol or gun decorated with gold or silver slung behind the back; a splended shashqa or saber on the left flank; soft highland high-boots; a gold-embroidered bashlyk draped over the shoulders; the ever-present burka lashed behind the saddle; the prancing courser -- these are the ingredients of the poetic image of the mountaineer of the 18th-19th centuries that delights so many people....
"Chechens often used to don brown or red, the color of blood, coats before battle. It was their custom to conceal their wounds from the enemy not to give it a cause for gloating."
* Sichel 1986 p34
"Outside their tight fitting black trousers, the men wear a white shirt with long tight sleeves and a banded neckline, and have a cord around the waist of the shirt. A knee-length Cossack style coat has narrow pockets, the long sleeves completely covering the hands. These could be rolled back to reveal the shirt sleeves. Astrakhan hats are popular."
* Stone 1934 p503
"In the Caucasus the usual pistols have very light, slim barrels, miquelet locks and very large globular pommels with a ring on the butt. They were generally carried in a small holster fastened to the back of the belt and a little to the right so as to be drawn easily when needed. After firing, if in a melee, the pistol was dropped and remained hanging by the ring from a cord worn like a baldric for the purpose. Usually the pommel is of ivory or silver decorated with gilding or chern. The stocks are made of elm root or are covered with black leather. The mountings are much decorated with chern like all of the other weapons from this region. The stocks and locks are generally of native make but the barrels are frequently European, and often bear the marks of celebrated makers of the 17th and 18th centuries."
* North 1985 p16-17
"Miquelet pistols from this area have downward curving stocks terminating in substantial ball butts, sometimes of ivory but often of wood. The stocks are overlaid with silver-gilt sheet, embossed and inlaid with niello in a design involving trilobed palmettes and flowers. Sometimes bands of blued steel or nielloed silver were set into the stock and then overlaid with foliage and scrolling palmettes in relief. The effect is of considerable richness."
* Richardson 2015 p98
"Miquelet lock pistols were ... popular, and are characterised by their ball butts of walrus ivory. All the arms of the Caucasus are frequently decorated with niello, a glossy black alloy of silver, copper, sulphur and lead, usually inlaid and fused with heat into silver alloy sheet. Ramrods were carried separately from the pistols, and worn around the neck."
* Askhabov 2001 p164
"The number of gazyri (Chechen: bustam, which literally means 'measure') ranged between seven and eight on each side of the chest. While making the Circassian coat look smart, the cartridges were used as precise measures of powder for the pistol and the gun, and bullets. They were within easy reach both if you fought standing up or prone. The cartridges were made of wood or cane with caps fashioned from ivory, walrus tusk, silver, iron, or stag-horn. Not infrequently richly decorated, they went well with the trimmings of one's weapons and belt. The cartridges also protected the chest from slashing blows of cold steel."
* Askhabov 2001 p53
"'Shashqa' comes from the Circassian word sashho, or a long knife. The shashqa has a blade slightly curved toward the point and a hilt without any guard whatsoever. When the weapon is sheathed the hilt enters the scabbard as far as the pommel. It is carried, edge up, hung from a diagonal strap across the right shoulder or from a belt.
"The shashqa was growing in popularity, for having no cross guard, its slight curve, light weight and convenience in use. Snatching a cross-guard sword from the scabbard involved the risk of having the cross guard catch in the clothing or the straps. There was no such risk if one drew the shashqa while fighting either on foot or mounted." [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: If this is true, why are cross guards so common throughout history? Cf. Calizzano 1989 p93.]
* Calizzano 1989 p93
"Les tribus du Caucase et les troupes cosaques choisirent un type de sabre totalement dénué de garde: la Shashka (ou Shabshka). Cette absence est justifiée par le fait que, s'agissant d'une arme réservée à des populations habituées à combattre à cheval, les défenses de la main s'avéraient moins nécessaires que dans le cas des armes destinées à l'infanterie.
"La lame, mesurant à peu près 80 cm, suit une ligne quasiment droite, posede un tranchant un tiers (le yelman terminal) et se finit au talon, par une poignée de bois souvent recouverte d'une trame d'argent niellé et fermée; au sommet, un pommeau à deux crêtes constitue un léger bec tourné vers le tranchant."
* Stone 1934 p553
"SHASHQA, CHACHEKA. (The last name is the French transliteration of the Russian.) It is the national sword of the Circassians but has been adopted by most of the races of the Caucasus. Rockstuhl, plate CX, describes it as follows: 'The chacheka ordinarily ordinarily has a straight blade, or one very slightly curved towards the point, and a hilt without any guard whatsoever, nearly always of silver niello and sometimes gilded. When the arm 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 Trepizond yatagan. The scabbard is nearly always covered with red morocco, over which a second cover of black morocco is drawn like a stocking. The black morocco is ornamented with silver lace, and is often divided into several parts fastened to each other by loops and buttons of niello silver .... Unlike their neighbors the Turks and Persians they slash and use the point but not the drawcut.'"
* Fryer 1969 p88
"Shashqa A Caucasian sabre with broad single-edged grooved blade. The guardless hilt is of pistol-grip shape with pommel divided into two wings. The hilt and scabbard are often mounted with niello silver work."
* Richardson 2015 p98
"The distinctive sword of the region was the shasqa, a sabre with a curved, single-edged blade and a guardless hilt with an eared pommel like that of a yataghan."
* Blanch 1960 p91
"[I]n the matter of cold steel, there was no denying the Caucasians were masters of the field. They soon learned to defend themselves against the bayonet, but the Russians were not so able at warding off the slashing thrusts of the shashka. Both Russian swordsmanship and weapons were inferior to those of the mountaineers. To the Caucasians, their arms were their most valued possessions, preserved and handed down from generation to generation: some of the weapons dated from the Crusaders who had passed that way; they bore Italian or Latin inscriptions, telling of their maker and first owner. [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: If this is true, why weren't the blades shaped like Crusader swords -- straight/double-edged instead of curved/single-edged?] Some of these swords were so tempered that they were known to have cut through the barrel of a Russian musket at one stroke."
* Askhabov 2001 p55
"According to historian V.A. Potto, when Russians first appeared in the Caucasus, they became fascinated with the mountaineers' swords 'which could often cleave gun barrels and even armor to everyone's amazement.' Owners of such blades were well-known and envied by the fighters in many highlander and Cossack villages. More often than not, fierce fighting broke out for the possession of such a sword, if its owner was killed and 'the death of one man led to the death of ten others before someone gained possession of it.'"
* Askhabov 2001 p166
"Much attention was paid to men's belts. They were made of very tough, high-quality leather because one's pistol and dagger were suspended from them. Belts were decorated with silver. One can still see belts decorated with silver plates through their entire length with three or four leather ribbons also with silver plates of no longer than 20 cm dangling on both sides. These dangling ribbons used to serve some practical purposes. They were used to hang on them little boxes for spare flints, wads, lubricants, grease, and so on. When all these things became obsolete, the ribbons were kept for decorative purposes."
* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p143 (Anthony North, "Swords of Islam" p136-147)
"The area of Daghestan in the Caucasus was an important centre for the manufacture of fine arms in pre-Islamic times. The favourite weapon of the region was the short sword known as the kindjal. This had a two-edged blade with a long point and a waisted grip without a guard, and was mounted in silver decorated with niello or with ivory inlaid with gold. The blades were made by craftsmen in Amuzgi and Kharbuk, then sent for mounting and finishing to the metalworkers of Kubachi. Most surviving kindjals date from the first half of the nineteenth century, many being made for Russian clients."
* North 1985 p35
"The best known edged weapon of the Caucasus region, was a type of short sword known as a 'Kindjal'. This had a broad two-edged straight blade tapering to form a long point, set in a hilt without a guard, with a square section grip and rounded flat pommel. The design closely resembles the Roman 'gladius' and it is tempting to suggest that this was its ancestor."
* Askhabov 2001 p80
"Kindjals were universally carried in Chechnya. Their decoration and quality told much about their owners. Men were supposed to carry kindjals from the age 14 or 15 with the national dress, the Circassian coat; that motivated them to upgrade the quality of their blades, the decoration and finish of their scabbards."
* Stone 1934 p358-359
"KINDJAL. The knife universally carried in the Caucasus. It is practically the same as the Georgian qama. The usual form has a broad, double-edged blade with nearly parallel sides for the greater part of its length, and a very long, sharp point. Occasionally the blades are curved, and a few straight ones have short points. The blades are frequently paneled and marked with seals. The hilts are straight in the grip with broad pommels and an enlargement of nearly the same size and shape next the blade. The grips are often of two pieces of wood or horn riveted to the flat tang, sometimes they are of metal and cover the tang completely. The scabbards with leather and have large silver chapes and lockets, or are entirely covered with silver. All of the silver parts are almost always decorated with chern (black). The decoration of the fronts of the scabbards is very well designed and executed, but that of the backs is very crudely done. The blades vary in length from about three to eighteen inches.
"The kindjal is the inseparable companion of every man in the Caucasus, and is used for the most varied purposes." ...
* Fryer 1969 p87
"Kindjal A Caucasian knife generally with straight double-edged blade terminating in a sharp point. The blades are often fluted and bear makers' marks or inscriptions. The hilts have a semicircular or similarly shaped pommel, a narrow straight grip and are then wider where the blade adjoins. They are of horn or silver, sometimes embellished with niello work. The sheaths are leather covered, often with silver mounts or entirely of silver. Sometimes a small companion knife is found in the sheath."