Collection of Handicraft Weapons of Balkans
Cold and fire weapons of Oriental origin, was being made in many gunsmith and other weapon workshops across Balkans from 15th until 19th century. However, our collection mostly includes items made in period from 17th until 19th century, while some of them came as war trophies from the East. Every item is unique and beside historical, it also has artistic value. Period of production of these weapons was the period of “Ottoman Slavery”. Cultural heritage of that period are these weapons, which attract the attention with their attractiveness, pushing into the background their basic purpose.
Cold weapons such as swords and yataghans were introduced to Balkan nations upon first arrival of Ottomans. As a necessity for their armies, first workshops have been founded in towns and military camps. First travellers have been writing about these workshops. These data confirm signs engraved on blades that in 1477 Sarajevo had sword making workshops. According to these authors also, yataghans made in Foča were more famous than those made in Istanbul. Yataghans and Khanjars were weapons of Janissaries. Yataghan was their sidearm and khanjar was often hidden in boots. Quality of yataghan was checked in very interesting manner: it would be very good if it could cut a wet silk scarf dropped on blade. Most expensive and quality were ones whose hilt and scabbard were made of silver with lot of decorations; that kind of weapons were carried only on holidays.
Collection also includes several types of oriental knives. In mentioned workshops, two types of knives have been made. First was single-edged straight blade and other was curved “khanjar”. Khanjar is oriental cold weapon, smaller than yataghan with curved, double-edged blade and hilt in shape of letter T. It was widely used by janissary units. In epic poems, khanjars are compared with maid’s eyebrows. On one khanjar from our collection, there are words from a poem of a poet Hasan Masali inscribed: “Believe that divine crescent in the light of the daybreak is your khanjar”. There was also a third type of knife in Balkans, Khinjal, a weapon brought by Caucasian Cherkes in the middle of 19th century.
Sword was a weapon of cavalry. Oriental swords made in Balkan workshops are different on the basis of shape of blades and hilts. By shape of blade, there are two types: first, “Khlch” type with slightly curved, double-edged blade and expansion called “Yalman” on bottom of it; another was Persian “Shamshir” with curved, tapered blade known as “Lion’s tale”. As for the shape of the hilt, there are also two types of swords: First had a hilt in shape of bird’s head and grip with interrupted lines in shape of fish bones; second was with hilt in shape of bulb. Workshop centres were in Sarajevo, Foča, Konjice, Skoplje and towns in Bay of Kotor.
As for the fire weapons, Osmanlis accepted weapons with flintlock system since it was introduced in 17th century. First flintlock rifles used and produced by Osmanlis were “Shishanas”. It was an army rifle with longest service in Janissary units (from Persian word Sheh – Six; hexagonal shape of butt). Along with this there was also a specific type of flintlock rifle known as “Tanchica” or “Arnautka”. Name Tanchica (eng. Thin) comes from the long thin shape of rifle while the other name Arnautka (eng. Albanian) suggest on origin of rifle. Craftsmen, most often goldsmiths and silversmiths were competing in decorating of every part of weapon, applying every single known technique: filigree, granulation, engraving, inlaying and others. Used motifs were reflections of period, culture, customs, and religion of craftsmen. Applying expensive and complicate technique of inlaying with silver and gold on blades and barrels, craftsmen were leaving data about themselves, date of production and customer.
In every uprising, Serbs have managed to arm themselves with this kind of weapons. We have several pieces of weapons that belonged to famous persons from Serbian history of 19th century. There are weapons of Ilija Birčanin, Hajduk Veljko Petrović, Milosav Resavac, Tanasko Rajić, Ilija Garašanin, Jakov Nenadović, Stevan Petrović Knićanin and others.
This collection also includes pieces manufactured in Caucasia, which came to Balkans through Mongols in the middle of 19th century, and some of them came as family heritage of Russian emigrants who came in Serbia after Revolution.
Curator of the Collection - Anđelija Radović