Sheremetyev D. (2015). Kolot’ ili rubit’. Primenenie kinzhala u narodov Kavkaza v XIX veke [For Stabbing or for Cutting? The Ways of Dagger Use by the Caucasus Peoples in the 19th century]. Istoricheskoe oruzhievedenie [Weapons History Journal], № 1, pp. 30 — 56.

Sheremetyev D.

Abstract: The article is devoted to different aspects of dagger use in the Caucasus region in the 19th century. The technique possibilities of cutting and stabbing were analyzed in depth as well as the cultural norms connected with these ways of dagger use. Indeed, contemporary ethnologists and linguists document it is cutting that must be practiced by a warrior attached to his dignity while stabbing was considered to be “too easy” to exercise. Consequently in accordance with the cultural norms and rules a warrior mustn’t have aimed to win a combat using the methods which were the easiest and strongest ones. The fight was probably imagined not just as a combination of more or less effective techniques but the way to show the supremacy of martial spirit.

The author presents a duel between initially equal warriors as a model revealing the implication of cutting and this type of strike with dagger was concluded to identify the right for exercising power. At the beginning of the one-to-one combat the status of warriors engaged in is the same while the final determination of winner and looser changes their social positions. In such a way dagger cutting affirms the highest level of masculinity in the military sense. Cutting appears to be an ideal strike for the demonstration of courage, fearlessness and bravery, disregard of wounds while stabbing because of its “extra” effectiveness as if eclipses the message of the combat and prevents to demonstrate valour to the full. It was more important not to kill the opponent during the duel but to excel him or at least not to permit to be excelled. Consequently in regard the warrior who did not manage to pass the fight honestly the restrictions could be lifted – it was not necessary to overcome an unsoldierly looser and hence he could be killed.

As the article shows the context best revealing the cultural ideas for stabbing is the brush between a beast and a man who can’t be equally strong. It goes as follows: the combat between men is considered as the real duel while the struggle with a beast is represented as an encounter between initially and principally unequal opponents – beast (the one which is deserved to struggle with) is definitely stronger than man. In other words there are two ideas of struggle or of war – the one is specifically manifested in the theriomachia while the other – in the combat between the equals.

Different aspects of dagger use make actual various ideas concerning the heroic spirit. The main conclusion of the text presumes cutting to correspond better to duel between the equals while stabbing to combat with the opponents whose strength is not identical. Two types of combat are somehow different and even counterposed but in bulk these are two cultural ways of heroic spirit representation.

Keywords: a Caucasus dagger, stabbing, cutting, a hero-warrior, a combat, a duel, a brush with a beast, theriomachia.