Abstract: The questions concerning the effectiveness of shashka, its origin and place in the Cossacks history are still among the disputable ones in contemporary Russian weaponology. The article is devoted to the analysis of training system of using shashkain the Cossack traditional culture at the edge of the 19thand 20thcenturies. The investigation was based on the actual pieces of the Don Cossacks edged weapons introduced to the scientific literature as well as on the field data and notes made by ethnographers working at Cossacks villages Starorechenskaja, Romanovskaja, Khomutovskaja, Kazanskaja, Jelizavetinskaja, Krivjanskaja, Starocherkasskaja,Razdorskaja,Verhne-Kundrjuchinskaja, Tsimljanskaja, Jegorlikskaja, Mechetinskaja, etc.
Analyzing the vast historical and ethnographical data the author explains and describes institutional origins of the training system of long bladed weapons usage and the features of these type arms. He presumes the beginnings of shashkausage to be connected with the Cossacks native way of life, particularly with their traditional village games based on the jousts of young warriors, spontaneous competitions with warriors’ participation and martial mourning ceremonies.
The author also traces the evolution of training system in changes caused by the shifts in the Cossacks way of life, regulation statements and military theories on combat usage of irregular cavalry. The combination of historical and ethnographical data permits to show not only existence of the Cossacks custom fencing systems but the role of military fencing in the evolution of edged weapons usage. This combined approach makes the article be of special interest.
The author also centers around the problems concerning the emergence of shahkaat the Cossacks, its usage and the role the edged weapon traditionally played in their life.
Keywords: shashka, fencing, Cossacks, Don Cossacks.