Shashka - cavalry sword In appearance the shashka was midway between a full saber and a straight sword. It had a slightly curved blade with double edges and could be effective for both slashing and thrusting. The blade was either hollowed or fullered.

It originated among the mountain peoples of Caucasus and then used by most of the Russian and Ukrainian Cossacks. So There are two styles of shahska: Caucasian shashka and Cossack shashka. It was a typically adyghean (Circassian) form of saber, longer than the cossack type. It gradually replaced the saber in all cavalry units except hussars during the 19th century. Russian troops, having encountered it during their conquest of the Caucasus, preferred it to their issue sabers. It was adopted first by the Russian Caucasian Corps in the 1830's. In the 19th century it was imported from Germany. In 1882, when the cavalry was reorganized, the regular dragoons were armed with the shashka. Cossacks had received this type of sword earlier. Several forms of shashka were carried by Soviet cavalry into the Second World War.

Shashka is a special kind of saber and it is a very sharp type of single edged, single handed and guardless sword. There was no guard, but a large, curved pommel. The hilt was frequently highly decorated. It was carried in a wooden scabbard that enclosed part of the hilt. It was worn with the cutting edge to the rear, opposite to the saber. The construction of a shashka fits its primary combat technique: the strike is applied by the part of the blade close to the handle, and then the shashka is pulled to increase the cutting action. This accounts for the following features.

  • The absence of the guard: the closer the strike to the handle, the more initial force is applied by the balance of the blade and the longer pulling is possible. Actually, the absence of the guard is inherited from the original Caucasian construction, in which the shashka is nearly completely hidden in the scabbard, together with the handle.
  • The handle is slightly curved down, thus providing an additional leverage for pulling the shashka and for an additional force by wrist action.

The handle of the sabre was crafted so as to have a built in pommel and possibly a small guard, which usually extended unto only one side of the hilt. Like most medieval and then imperial Russian weaponry of the time, often the shashka and its scabbard were very orientally decorated, with gold and silver engravings, embedded gems and stones placed into, and figures carved out of or into, the handles. The blade of the sabre was generally double or triple-fullered, and due to its greater width than that of the European sabre, and its unique styles of tempering, it was much stronger too, able to deal damage unto light body armor.

The Shashka has the feel of a European (or Mongolian) saber and was notable for its sharpness. It is said that a Circassian (so as a Cossack) would know when his shashka was sharp enough if it cut in half a light piece of thread gently falling down unto the edge of the blade. There has been film footage of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) using a Circassian saber in an overhead twirling motion to horizontally cut pieces from a wooden pole.

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