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Table of Contents

These are the principal terms for which information has been gathered. Click on a term to proceed to the discussion and illustrations. Here are two diagrams of complete armor 1, armor 2 and two worn on manekins (warrior) (warrior 2). In the 17th century the 'new (select) soldier' infantry were outfited with western style arms and armor as shown here.

Alebarda- later term for halberd

Arbalet - western style arbalest or crossbow - See samostrel.

Baidana - hauberk, mail with larger rings

Bakhterets - scale or plate armor

Barmitsa - neckprotection of mail or small plates

Berdysh- special pole ax

Bronya - generic term for armor

Bulava- kind of mace

Buturlik - type of leg protection

Chaldar bard - horse armor

Chekan- small military hammer - pick

Dospekhi -generic term for body armor

Dzhid- javelin case

Esponton - late term for spontoon - see pole arms

Karabin - the carbine

Kaska kirasirskaya - later term for curassier helmet

Kibit - bow handle - see Saadak

Kinzhal - Turkish knife

Kirasa - western style curiass for cavalryman

Kisten - a flail

Klevets- military hammer

Kolchan - quiver

Kol'chuga -hauberk of smaller rings

Kolontar - armor vest of small plates

Kolpak - helmet with conical base and long pointed top

Kolushchyeye oruzhiye - thrusting weapons

Konchar- thin, straight sword

Konskii ubor - horse furniture

Kop'ya - spear

Kost - quiver

Kuyak - armor vest like a Jack or simple Brigandine except the steel plates are usually on the outside.

Lati kopeishchika - western style half-armor for pikeman

Litchina- moveable face mask on helmet

Luchnik - archer

Luk - Bow

Metatel'noye Oruzhie - shooting weapons

Misyurka - skull cap with mail veil, a type of reenforced coif

Myech - sword

Nagavits- chausse, mail stockings

Nakolyenik - Nakol'yenniki armor piece for knee protection -

Naluch-bow case

Napleshnik type of Misyurka.

Naruch vambrance, fore arm protection

Nosh - knife

Palash - heavy sword

Palitsa - iron cudgel with spikes

Pantsir' - hauberk of mail or small scales

Pernach - multivaned mace

Pika - later term for pike or lance

Pishchal - heavy firearm

Podzor - clothing work under armor to protect body.

Pokrovets - saddle blanket

Ponozhi greaves -varieties of calf protection

Prilbits - a style of Misyurka orbarmitsa

Protizan - late term for partizan - see pole arms

Ratnik -warrior

Rinda - tsar ceremonial bodyguard

Rogatina - boar spear

Ruchnitsa early pistol

Rukavits gauntlet - leather or mail mitten

Ru'yashchyeye oruzhiey - chopping weapons

Saadak - archery equipment

Sabel - saber

Samopal - early firearm

Samostrel - crossbow

Sekir - military topor

Shapka bumazhnaya - reinforced paper mache cap

Shapka medyanaya - copper - bronze cap

Shapka zhel'eznaya - iron cap

Shashka - sword with curved blade like a saber.

Shchit -shield

Shestoper - kind of mace

Shishak - conical helmet with knob at top

Shishak kopeishchika - western style pikeman casque - see Lati.

Shlyem - generic helmet

Shpaga - modern sword

Sovna - spear or pike

Strela - arrow

Streltsi - special troop units

Styag - banner

Sulitsa- javelin

Tarch - special combined shield

Tessak - infantry sword

Tokhta - bow case cover

Topor- Ambassador axe - carried by Rindi

Tyegilyai - paddedgambeson

Udarnoye orushiye - striking weapons

Yalovetsa - small pennant on helmet

Yerikhonka - kind of conical pointed helmet

Yushman - armor of combined mail and plates

Zarukava- lower arm (forearm) protection

Zertsalo -armor vest with center plate


Baidana — hauberk — 12 - 15th Century. Return to Top

ABaidana is shown on the left. The term comes from the Arab word, "badan" - a short, ringed armor. The baidana is a form of armor made of metal rings. It differs from the kol'chuga itself only in the size and form of the rings. The baidana's rings look like washers rather than wire and are large and flat-forged or stamped from sheet metal. Here is an example ofrings. Notice the writing stamped into the rings. They were fixed either one upon the other, or on a nail or spike. As a result, the joint was fairly stable. These baidana were frequently split in front at the neck to allow them to be put on over the head. This opening was held closed by several clasps. The longer versions were split at the hem to enable the wearer to sit on his horse. The baidana was long, to the knees or below with long sleeves, or if it was shorter then was known as a half-baidana. The most famous existing baidana is the one that belonged to Boris Gudonov. It is in the Kremlin armory. On many of the rings of this armor is stamped the moto: "God is with us". A Baidana weighed up to 6 kg and might contain 10,000 rings. The baidana showed itself to be an effective defense against slashing saber blows, but did not suffice against thrusting weapons and fire because of the large diameter of the rings.
Besermen baidana as this type of armor is called in the Zadonschina, existed in Russia from 1200. In some cases, it was accompanied by other types of defensive armor. Return to Top


One type of Bakhterets is shown on the right. This was a type of pantsir orkol'chuga — mixed scale or plate (lame) armor— 16th century. Another style of bakhterets is shown on the left in this illustration. Such armor was called "bakhterets" or "bekhterets" (from the Mongol word "bekter" which denotes a type of armor). "Bakhterets" were assembled of narrow oblong horizontal and slightly curved iron plates, (lame) arranged in vertical rows. It could contain 1500 narrow lames in 12 to 21 rows. Here is a detail from a photo of a bakhterets in a Russian museum. Note the decoration on the iron plates. The long sides of the lame overlapped. The short lateral sides of these plates were fastened together with rings. This provided exceptional flexibility with tripple strength armor protection. It could be worn over a kol'chuga. The assembled sections of this kind of armor were clasped or fastened at the wearer's left side and shoulders by metal-tipped straps. A shirt and sometimes sleeves and a collar were attached to the "bakhterets." In this case the combination looks like a kol'chuga with chest section replaced by plates instead of rings. The average weight of such armor was 10-12 kg, and its length was about 66 cm. Examples in the state armory are elaborately embossed in filagre of silver and gold designs. Here is an example of a reproduction of scale armor used in reenactments. Return toTop


A barmitsa is shown here. This one is made of linked plates. Another version was a mail net of small iron rings, the barmitsa, that protected the neck and shoulders of the warrior. It was attached beneath and to the sides of early helmets from the 10th century on. The misurka was a skull cap with a similar woven mesh atached to the lower edge. This kind of barmitsa resembled a tightly woven fish net or a Moslem woman's veil. It could be made in one continuous net or assembled out of pieces. This type served the same purpose as the western aventail. Sometimes a neck and shoulder protection for the wearer's front was made of small metal plates. This was called a zarukovya. It somewhat resembled a large gorget or See misyurka. Return toTop


The berdysh is shown in this illustration. A peculiarly Russian long, broad axe was called berdysh. Its blade, zhelezko, was long and curved. It sat on a long handle, which had an iron binding or vtok on the lower end. The full berdysh had a 60 - 80 cm blade. The weapon doubled as the rest for a firearm.Berdyshi were used only by footsoldiers. But a shorter version was carried by mounted streltzi by means of a shoulder strap through two rings.. In the 16th century berdyshi were in wide use in the militia forces as well as the streltzi. See illustration of this kind of unit.


The mace. See bulava shown on the bottom row in this illustration. These were especially carried as a mark of the rank of high officers. Return toTop


Types of buturlik are seen here, and here. This was a kind of ponozhi, protection for the calf or shins. There were three kinds of such shin and calf protection armor. This was also called a burulik. The word is of Turkic origin and the armor was used by Mongols and Tatars. One type was made of three long pieces connected with metal rings so that the assembly protected the whole leg from ankle to knee. The second was composed of one, wide plate in front and two narrow plates to each side. The third was made of only one piece and protected the outside, exposed side of the calf. It was held in place by leather straps around the leg. In Western Europe such armor was known from ancient times under the term, greaves.

Chaldarhorse armor,was similar in purpose to barding used in western Europe. The front part that protected the horse's forehead and face was called a chamfron or shaffron in the west. (See Konskii ubor) horse furniture.

Saddles, bridles and "chadari" (horse cloths composed of metallic plates, sewn on to fabric, which covered the croup, sides, and chest of a horse and served as protection) were luxuriously decorated with gold, enamels, and jewels. Both parade and combat saddles were of original designs. They rested on the horse's back only by the saddle's supports; the pommel was tall, usually inclined forward. The rear arch was lower, sloping so as not to hinder the rider when turning around. Horse cloths corresponded to armor in terms of quality relative to the wealth of the horsemen. Wealthy nobles would enrich the horses' shabraks and artchaki (saddle base) with decorations of pearls and jewels. The harnesses were covered with luxurious fittings, the saddles were made of golden brocade, bridles were adorned with gold and silk fringe.
Russian stirrups were mostly of two kinds: one with a narrow hoop and round base, the other kind a narrow curved band which was thinner toward the top. The design of Russian tack ideally met the demands of wars with the nomads — the principle enemies of the Muscovite state. Return toTop

Chekan a form of military hammer and pick combined.

The military hammer, which varied in appearance and sharpness on the side of the butt, was called the chekan or klevets. The chekan was attached at the end of the handle. There were chekani with a concealed dagger that could be unscrewed. The chekan served not only as a weapon, but also it was distinctive and suitable as a military symbol.

Dospekhi - the generic term for personal body armor made of plates and/or scales.

In ancient Russia personal armor was called bronya. Ancient armor was made from square or rectangular metal plates with openings along the edges. Leather straps were passed through these openings, with which the plates were tightly fastened to one another. From the 11th century other designs of armor appeared — scale armor. The plates of this armor were fastened with a fabric or leather straps on one side and secured in the center. The greater part of scale armor found by archeologists in Novgorod, Smolensk and other places, dates to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Armor, made of scales (plates), in contrast to the "kol'chuga" (that is made of metal rings) was called "doshchatimi" in so far as its plates were reminiscent of embossed planks. In the course of the 14th century the term "bronya" as in "broni doshchati" gradually was changed into the word "dospekh". In the 15th century a new term was used to designate plate armor, "pantsir", taken from the Greek language. All details of pantsiri were made by craftsmen — blacksmiths. Archeologists, working in ancient Russian towns, have found parts of dospekhi and blacksmith tools such as ancient anvils, hammers, pounding instruments of the smithy, and pliers that the blacksmith held to turn the object on the anvil. The tools were used to create dospekhi.
The pantsir introduced at the start of the 14th century in Russia combined several types of armor. The armor might be made of scales on the lower front part and plates or rings, on the chest and back. The warrior's chest was half protected by large tongue-shaped plates that were worn over the dospekh. Later, in the 16th century, these received the name "zertsala" (mirror), since their smooth metal plates were specially polished to a high shine, and sometimes covered with gold, silver and engravings. Fine dospekh were extremely expensive, beyond the means of private warriors. They might be worn on the battle field only by princes, voevode, and first rank boyars. Return toTop


The dzhid was a case for carrying javelins. It was worn on the left side by mounted warriors.


At the end of the 16th Century and beginning of 17th the Muscovites began using karabini and pistoli or pistoleti. See illustration. These were followed in the 17th century with the introduction of mushkyeti and fitil'ni ruchnitsi. The mushkyeti were longer in barrel, and heavier that futil'ni. And they were used with a rest to hold up the heavy barrel. See the illustrations of streltzi for use of the berdish as this rest. Return toTop


The central part of a bow.


A Tatar and Caucasian knife with curved blade. See the weapons on the right in this illustration.


Kisteni (military flails) were made of various metal weights attached to a handle by a long chain or leather thong up to 50 cm long. Their use in battle was difficult, requiring skill, but their occurance in many archeological finds attests to their wide use. Return toTop


A military hammer - pick


The quiver, case for holding the arrows, was called a kolchan or tul (quiver) and was worn on the right side. The kolchan was often made of Morocco leather, decorated with embroidery, jewels, velvet, or brocade. See luchnik carrying a kolchan. Return toTop

Kol'chuga and Plastinchataya Bronya 10-11 century - coat of mail (hauberk) and plate armor.

The kolchuga is shown here on the right. There were two basic types of ancient bronya=armor for protecting the warrior's body. One was a type of knee-length shirt made of metal rings known as a kol'chuga and the other was made of plates called bronya. Later these were called pantsir.

Plastinchataya bronaya, armor of layered small plates, was in use among ancient Russian warriors. It was made of small metal plates (scales) overlapping and connected to each other. Several of the reenactor shown in the illustrations below are wearing this type of armor.

Kol'chataya bronaya - consisted of iron rings, that were riveted and attached to one another.

The Kol'chuga - kolchataya bronya - was made from iron rings. First the armorers made wire with the use of stretching devices. This was made into a ring by wrapping it into a long spiral around a round pin or mandrel. About 600 meters of iron wire spiral went into one kol'chuga. These spirals were scored along one side and cut. Then round, open rings of uniform diameter came out. Half of these were welded shut. After that, the remaining rings were flattened at their ends. The open rings and had holes punched near their ends for rivets or rods, which in turn had to be specially prepared. After preparing the rings the masters were able to assemble the kol'chuga. Each separate (open) ring was joined with four welded, closed rings and then riveted shut. The rivet had a diameter about 0.75 mm and it was necessary to rivet it to the other end of the ring, which was already intertwined in the mail. This operation demanded great precision and skill. In this fashion each ring (kol'tso) was joined with four neighbors, a closed ring was connected with four open rings and an open ring connected with four closed rings. Sometimes in the kol'chuga they interlaced a row of copper rings. This created its stylish look. The weight of one kol'chuga averaged about 6.5 kg. After assembly they brushed the kol'chuga and polished it to a shine. Return toTop

At the end of the 12th century, the appearance of hauberks changed. Hauberks, (kol'chugi) had been made with long sleeves, knee-length, with mail stockings nagavitsi. Now mail hauberks began to be made not from round, but from flattened rings (like washers). Such rings were made of round iron wire, but then they were flattened with the help of a special iron stamp. The rings, from which this type of hauberk was made, were of two types: one which was riveted, and also one which was stamped from a sheet of iron and punctured into the form of a small washer, with elliptical rivets. In all, a hauberk had about 25,000 rings. The hauberk of the 13th century consisted of flat rings of differing diameters. The larger, main rings were arranged in the shape of a rectangle on the back and chest. Larger, secondary rings covered the shoulders, sides, arms, and the hem of the hauberk. The right - underside of the hauberk was woven from thick, heavy rings. That is because it was the vulnerable side for a warrior, when he raised his sword arm. When the hauberk was put on and fastened, it covered the left underside that was interlaced from larger, thin rings. The collar was square, thinned out, with shallow cuts. From their outward appearance, such hauberks resembled a shirt with long sleeves and a square collar. The neck and upper part of the warrior's chest was covered with a special mail neck piece (or veil) — the barmitsa - that was attached to the helmet.

In the 16th cent despite the rapid development of firearms, protective armor remained. Russian warriors still wore bakhterets, kolontar, zertsalo, and even kol'chuga.

Some Russian armor of the 16th century has its own interesting history. There is a kol'chuga (in the Moscow kremlin armory) with a small copper plate, on which is stamped the following inscription: "Belongs to prince Peter Ivanovich Shuyski." Boyar and voievode Peter Ivanovich Shuyski was killed in 1564 during the Livonian War. That very kol'chuga is believed to have been granted to Yermak (the conqueror of Siberia) by Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Perhaps it was because of that kol'chuga that Yermak drowned in the river Irtish in the summer of 1584, when his detachement was defeated by the troops of the Tatar Kutchum-Khan. In 1646 that kol'chuga, which outlived both of its two owners, was discovered in one of the Siberian towns and returned to the tsar's arsenal. Return toTop

In the 16th century a considerable part of Russian armor was still manufactured in Moscow, where, in accordance with government laws, many armorers were moved. Herbertstein wrote that a number of houses of blacksmiths and other artisans "who worked with fire" stretched along the outskirts of Moscow. Blacksmiths' works and the manufacture of arms were concentrated at that time in the area of Kuznetsky Most (bridge), contemporary Bronniy Street, and Staraya Kuznetskaya Sloboda in the region of Kotelniki, where, during recent excavations, builders found a tombstone which belonged to a certain "Grigory Dmitrievich" — "son of an armorer". Because of that discovery, it became known that in approximately the second half of the 16th century, hauberk (kol'chuga) production was separate from armor production as a whole. Some armorers began to specialize in the manufacture of mail exclusively. The Russian army finally refrained from using that type of armor only at the close of the 17th century, not long before the time of Peter I. Return toTop

Kalantar' - plate armor — 14th century.

The kalantar' (as shown on the right), was used at Kulikovo in the 1380's. The armor was made in two halves, front and rear, like a vest without sleeves, which were clasped together on the warrior's shoulders and sides. Each half, from the neck to the waist, consisted of a number of metallic plates arranged horizontally and fastened together by a ringed mesh (kolchuga). These plates were larger than the ones used in making the bakhterets. The so called "skirt", which was mail ending at the knees, was attached at the waist. The kolontar's rear plates were thinner and smaller than the front ones. When the kalantar' was used as part of ceremonial armor, and was decorated with gold inlay, deep decorative patterns and engravings, its price rose to almost 1000 roubles - an astronomical amount for the 17th century. A Russian armor of the kalantar' type was highly regarded by the royalty of the time including neighbors of the Muscovite state.


A helmet consisting of a lower part, beneto, made of a cylindrical ring 2 or 3 inches wide and a smooth conical upper part, the nabereshye. It looks like a funnel sitting on a tin can. Return toTop

Kolushchyeye oruzhiye - thrusting weapons.

Thrusting weapons, spears and pikes, were a very significant part of the armament of the ancient Russian warriors. Spears and pikes often decided the success of a battle, as in the battle of 1378 on the Zha River in Ryazan territory, in which Muscovite cavalry polki simultaneously, with a spear thrust from three sides, toppled the Tatar army and routed them. The tips of the spears were well suited for piercing armor. For this, they were made narrow, massive, and long, usually tetrahedral. The tips, diamond shaped, wavy like a laurel leaf, or long and wedge shaped could be used against an enemy who was not protected by armor. The two-meter spears with such tips inflicted dangerous laceration wounds and brought the speedy death of the opponent or his horse.

Pikes had a blade from 5 to 6.5 cm wide and a length of the wedge-shaped tip up to 60 cm. So that it was easier for the warrior to hold and balance the weapon, 2 or 3 metal knots were fixed into the staff of the pike.

Among the variety of pikes was the "sovna", which had a curved blade with one edge slightly bent and attached at the end of a long pole.
Metal spears (javelins) with light and thin staves up to 1.5 meters long were called "sulitsi". There are recorded cases when a sulitsa was not made of metal alone. The sulitsa was sometimes called a jeridan. Three or more sulitsi were inserted in a small quiver called a dzhid with separate compartments. The dzhid was carried on a belt on the left side. Return toTop


See the middle weapon in this Illustration. Also called a koncher or konchal, it was a long, straight sword with a very sharp point and fashioned with three or four sides called golomen yarni in a kind of diamond, (rhomboid) shape. It was similar to the western rapier. It was effective for a thrusting penetration of mail. It was a later development from the ancient mech. It is mentioned in literature first at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380, but no doubt was developed earlier. It was more widely used in th 17th century, until replaced by Peter I with the shpaga.

Konskii Ubor

Horse furniture - tack - for illustration of a variety of items please go to Misc. Here we have two illustrations of horses completely outfitted in Russian style. See horse 1 and horse 2.


The basic spear with a point made of damask steel. Return toTop



Samples of the kuyak are shown here and here. Armor made of metal plates (usually round, but possibly rectangular) not connected to each other by rings as a kalantar, but fixed, each separately, to the leather or cloth base, was called a "kuyak". The 'kuyak' was therefor different from the much earlier type of armor in which the individual metal plates were attached to each other by thongs or rivets. Kuyaki were manufactured with or without sleeves. They could have flaps, like a caftan. The kuyak was frequently worn over the kol'chuga. Kuyaki could be strengthened on the breast and back by large armor plates "shields". This type of armor existed in Russia from the 13th to the 17th century and had close analogs in the West called a brigantine, but the brigantine had the metal plates inside (under) the leather coat. The termkuyak itself, from Turkic term, appeared only in the 16th century. It was frequently lined along the edges at armpit, neck and waist with fur lining to preserve body heat. The Chinese had a similar type of armor. Return toTop

Lati Kopieshchika

During the "Time of Troubles" western style military units entered Russia in the attacking Polish and Swedish armies, and some were hired as mercenaries. During the subsequent reigns of Michael and especially Alexei, more mercenaries were hired. Then Russians were organized and outfitted to form "new soldier" or 'select' units as western style pikemen and arquebusiers. See this illustration for a layout of the complete equipment of soldiers in such units. And this illustration shows a 'new soldier' regiment pikeman.


A metal face mask, generally moveable, usually given a grotesque design. It was attached to the helmet with a hinge. Smaller forms looking like masquerade ball masks were called half-mask. Several varieties are shown in the illustrations section. See these Varangians for an especially fine example. Return toTop

Luchnikarcher — 13th century.

The ancient Slavs fought mainly on foot at the dawn of their history. The ancient Russian state, in the war with Byzantium, did not yet have cavalry. The feudalization of society and the military brought the appearance of cavalry at the end of the 10th century. The rise of the use of cavalry was promoted by the constant war with the steppe peoples — Pechenegs, Turks, and Polovetsians.
Around the 12th century, Russian cavalry took shape as a significant power, stopping and repulsing the onslaught of the nomads at the borders of the Kievan state. Cavalry armies consisted of heavily armed horsemen — kopejshchiki or lancers — and light cavalry — archers. The kopejshchiki (lancers) were a force specially created for attacks and decisive first strikes. The battering ram action of a strike by the kopejshchiki before the enemy attack, not infrequently predetermined the outcome of the battle. The archers' purpose was different. They executed "intelligence raids" reconnoitered the strength of the enemy, lured them with feints, and served a guards. The main weapon of the archers was the bow and arrow, they also carried an elongated axe, slingshot, mace, shield, or metal armor of varying types, which could be scale armor, the prototype of the later bakhterets. The composition of the archers was primairly young, that is younger than the regulation for members of the military.

The warrior's head was covered with a helmet and the poorer warriors had simply an iron cap, made from sheet iron, or forged iron. Return toTop

Luk - bow, see illustration.

Metatel'noye oruzhiye - shooting weapons.

The entire set of equipment of an archer was called saadak or sagadak. The bow was stored in a case called a naluch, or naluchie and carried on the left side. Arrows for the bow could be made of reed, cane, birch, apple wood, or cypress. The case for holding the arrows was called a kolchan or tul (quiver) and was worn on the right side. The naluch and kolchan were often made of Morocco leather, decorated with embroidery, jewels, velvet, or brocade.

Bows and arrows were used since ancient times, both as a hunting weapon and a combat weapon. Bows were made of wood (juniper, birch, and others) and horn. Already by the 10th century, bows in Russia were of complex design. The middle part of the bow was called the "handle", the whole wooden piece the kibit. The long, curved elastic half of the bow was called the "horns" or "shoulders". The horn was composed of two wooden plates, well processed, fitted, and glued together. Their flat sides were covered with birch bark. Sinews were glued on the back of the bow and fixed near the handle, and at the ends. Sometines, to strengthen the elasticity of the bow, horn or bone plates were used instead of birch bark. Joints between the separate pieces of the bow were wound with sinews, which were then coated with glue. Finally, strips of birch bark were put over these spots, (the joints). In the process of the bows' manufacture, very durable fish glue was used. Near the ends of the horns, there were upward and downward slots. The bowsting passed through the downward slots. The total length of the bow could comprise two or more meters.
Among other types of dart-firing weapons, arbalests or crossbows are worth mentioning. The crossbow was inferior to the bow in terms of rate of fire, but excellent in terms of destructive power of the arrow and close grouping of shots. The bolt of a crossbow, launched from 200 meters could throw the rider from his horse and easily pierced an iron hauberk. Return toTop


TheMisyurka was an iron skull cap, with an attached barmitsa and ear flaps. The term, shapka misurski, is also encountered. The term originates from the Arabian word "misr" ormisraim, which means Egypt. Perhaps it could be said that this was the most unpretentious helmet —protecting only the crown of the warrior's head. In this it is different from the kolpak or shishak. In Russia, misyurka is mentioned from the 14th century. There were two styles, one called anapleshnik shown here, covered the sides and neck. And the other, a prilbits shown here, was a veil over the face. The locally manufactured misyurka was a typical head protection worn by Caucasian mountain peoples into the late 18th century. These may be seen in museums in Moscow today. In Western Europe a somewhat similar head covering of mail, but without the iron skull cap, was called a coif. Return toTop

Myechi — swords

A single myech and a variety of sabers are shown here. Among the thrusting and slashing weapons, swords, knives, and sabers were in general use all over Russia. The standard weapon of the 10th century was the myech, a long, one or two-edged, straight sword. The sword consisted of a klunok, blade (wide, double-edged metallic band) and kridge ( a handle—the three parts of which were called na baldashnik, pommel, of which one form was the yabloko-apple; a small sphere at the end, the chyeryen -the grip itself; and the kryestovina, guard, of which one form was the ognivo — the transverse narrow plate at the opposite end, adjacent to the blade). Each flat side of the blade was called golomeny or golomnya and the sharp edges were called lezviya. Golomeni had either one wide groove, or several narrow ones. Blades were made of steel or iron.
The sword was carried in the scabbard, bound with leather or velvet. The scabbard was made of iron and decorated with gold or silver inlay. The sword was hung on the belt by means of two rings situated on the mouth of the scabbard. The knives used by Russian warriors were of several kinds. Short, double-bladed knives, fixed by a hook to the belt, were called poyasnie. Knives, slightly longer with one blade, curved to the end, were called podsaydashiye. These knives hung on the left side of the belt. The knives with curved blades (such blades were called slyak which were carried in the top of a boot, were called zacapozhnye. In the southern areas of ancient Russia, sabers came into use on a large scale from the 10th century. In the Novgorod region, the saber became popular later — approximately from the 13th century. The saber consisted of blade and handle kridge. The sharp side of the saber had a blade and a tilye — rear part. The handle was composed of the ognivo, the chyeryen, and the knot with a hole, for the temlyak (a type of cord).
The sword changed shape over the centuries as it was developed on the basis of experience to meet new requirements. The older mech of the 9th - 10th century had a flat, wide blade with edges parallel almost to the rather blunt end. It was exclusively a striking weapon. In Russia by the 12th to 13th centuries of all types of swords known then in Western Europe were in use. The basic types were the so-called Carolingian swords - the longer (the length of the sword was 80-90 cm, width of the blade was 5-6 cm). The Roman type appears a little later, with disk like grip. Until approximately in the 13th century the sword was still used mostly as a striking weapon. In the second half of the 13th century the thrusting sword also appeared. This had a more tapered blade with sharper point. In the 13th century the blades of swords increased in size and the sword belt was strengthened, which increased the striking power of this dangerous weapon. In the 14th century the huge sword with length up to 120-140 cm was widespread. By the 16th and 17th centuries entirely new forms of sword were developed and the mech had only a symbolic use. Return toTop


Mail stockings or hose, called chausse in western Europe.


A type of plate armor covering the shoulder, see illustration.. It resembled the western pauldron. Return toTop


The bow was stored in a case called a naluch, or naluchie and carried on the left side. Thenaluch was often made of Morocco leather, decorated with embroidery, jewels, velvet, or brocade. See this illustration.


A style of barmitsa. See illustration. This consisted of only one veil which covered the ears and was fastened to the lower edge of the skull cap or it also could be attached to the ring of the helmet. Return toTop

Naruch - western vambrace

See illustration. Here is another naruch. It resembled the Persian bazuband more than the western vambrace. In Poland it was called a karwasz. This was worn to protect the forearm, especially by warriors whose kol'chuga did not have sleeves. Naruchi consisted of a convex main plate to cover the outer side of the arm, with the elbow end frequently rounded. This was fastened to chrevtsi (rectangular plates) bound at the wrist and fixed to the arm by means of small straps. The main plate in some naruchi extended well past the elbow ending in a semi-circular fashion. Often the naruch was attached directly to the rukavitsa, mail or scale gauntlet. Wealthy warriors might have highly decorated naruchi. Return toTop


A knife. See illustration for examples of the various types listed here with their scabbards. There were several variations called poyasni, podsaidashni, zasapozhni. Some had blades with very pronounced curvature. The poyasni were short with both edges sharp. Poyasni were worn fastened to the boot, podsaidashni at the belt on the left side near the bow case. In western Europe one similar knife was called a poinard.


A very long, straight sword with a wide blade. Early types were two-edged, but later a single-edged form was employed. There was a channel down the length of the blade. It differed from the mech also in that the grip was curved and had no pommel. But it has a closed guard. See the bottom weapon in this illustration. It was a later development from the mech in the 16th and later centuries. Often in the 16th century it was carried in a scabard attached to the left side of the saddle instead of to the warrior himself. The weapon is called pallasch in German, palasz in Polish and pallos in Hungarian, but comes from the Turkish, pala. Peter I armed his new dragoon regiments with this type of sword. To obtain sufficient quantities he imported them as well as manufactured them in Russia. In the 18th and 19th century it was the heavy cavalryman's sword. The dragoon palash had a curved handguard. The officer model had a basket hilt. There was also a shorter, naval version. During the reign of Empress Elizabeth, the curiassier palash reached a length of 96 cm. with a 84.5 cm. blade that was 4.5 cm. wide. The palash was still in use during the Crimean War. A derivation of the palash remained in use in the Russian navy. Return toTop


A large cudgel with iron spikes. It was also called an oslop. This primitive weapon is seen in illustrations of peasants fighting the French during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812.

Pantsir' cheshuichatii 11th Century.

One style of pantsir' is shown here on the left. By the 11th and 12th centuries, heavily armored horsemen comprised the basis of the cavalry forces. Their defensive armor was already well known from the 11th century — scale armor, (cheshuychatypantsir). The pantsir together with a shield, could sufficiently and reliably protect the cavalryman both during the battering charge that usually began a cavalry battle and during the hand-to-hand combat that followed the mounted thrust.
Scale armor was made of steel plates that were fastened to a leather or cloth base on one side only. At the joint, the plates overlapped one another and in the center, each of them was riveted to the foundation. Such pantsiri reached the knee. The hem and sleeves, if lain out flat, were sometimes longer than the whole pantsir. The representation of the similar "plate armor" can be seen on the miniatures and ikons of the 12th to 14th centuries and also on the frescoes of the Uspenski Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, and on the carved wooden throne of Ivan the Terrible that is kept in the cathedral. Compared to the plate hauberk, the scale hauberk was flexible, as the bulging scales, attached to the foundation only on one side, afforded the warrior dressed in such a pantsir greater mobility, which was especially important for a cavalryman.

Pantsir' plastinchatii — Plate armor 13th century.

That is armor made of metal plates. The plates of such armor could vary greatly, square, half-circular, wide-rectangular, or narrow-oblong, with a thickness from .5 to 2 mm. On the plates were several small holes, through which the plates were fastened with thread or straps to a leather or cloth foundation. On the older pantsiri there was no foundation. The plates connected only with one another, and the pantsir was put on over a thick quilted coat or a kol'chuga. All the plates were independent and overlapping, one over the other, which reinforced the sewn character of the armor. Pantsiri of this system — "belt fastened" — existed in Russia until the end of the 15th century. Return toTop

Pishchal - early firearm, also called ruchnitsa. For samples held in the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg go here. And for another sample of even earlier firearms go here. And for early flintlocks.

Podzor Clothing worn under armor to protect the body. This is readily apparent in the illustrations of warriors shown in Part IV. Return toTop

Pokrovits - horse blanket. Wealthy individuals had very expensive blankets made with elaborate decorations. Some look like Persian rugs. See also the blankets under the saddles in the other illustrations.


Leg protection, greaves. See buturlik for description and illustrations. Return toTop


A style of the barmitsa worn with a misyurka. See illustration. Or, if this mail was attached directly to the helmet instead of to a skull cap, then it was a type of barmitsa. This one covered the front of the face like a Moslem woman's veil. It had narrow slits for the eyes. The lower part was called a bentsa and the upper part the cherepa. Return toTop

Ratnik — warrior.

At the beginning of the 12th century, defensive battles versus the nomadic tribes became the chief concern of Russian warriors. A ratnik. For this reason armor did not become so heavy and immobile as that characteristic of Western Europe. Battles with nomadic horsemen required quick maneuvers and mobility of the Russian forces. Horses played an important role on the field of battle. However, often the infantry advanced before the cavalry, beginning the battle. During the 12th century, mixed infantry and cavalry battles, that took place at the walls and battlements of the cities, were typical. Infantrymen — peshtsi — were used for the defense of the city walls and gates, to cover the rear of the cavalry, for the construction of necessary transportation and engineering works, for reconnaissance, and retaliatory missions. A horseman who was well protected by a pantsir could even hold in his hands a striking weapon. For the cavalrymen, the most important weapons were the mace and the bludgeon, that allowed quick dashing strikes that would stun the enemy, and swift shifting of the battle to another place in the fight. One or two spears, a saber or sword, a crossbow or bow with arrows, a bludgeon, a mace, and a battle axe were all included in the warrior's equipment.
The infantry was armed with various types of weapons — throwing weapons, slashing weapons, and striking weapons. Their clothing and armament was, on the whole, simpler than that of the regular armed forces, since the detachments of infantrymen in their masses, were made up of commoners, artisans, and not professional soldiers. The infantry's main weaponry on the march were the axe, a heavy lance, and a sulitsa, a cudgel and a pike. The armor on an infantryman was more often mail, but that was the extent of it. Infantry of the 12th century used both round and almond-shaped shields. Return toTop

Rinda - bodyguard of Tsars in 16th -17th centuries.

In the 16-17th centuries the great prince and tsar kept armed bodyguards, (rindi), who accompanied them on campaigns and trips. During the time of solemn court ceremonials the rindi stood motionless on either side of the throne in parade uniform. The term itself came from a more ancient time. Prince Dmitri, during the Kulikovo Battle "ordered his rindi to hold a great black banner over the head of Mikhail Andryeyevich Brenk "(Nikon chronicle). When rindi performed their service at court, their armament consisted of large posolcki topor ambassadors' axes. (an indispensable object of the audiences that the Moscow ruler gave foreign ambassadors: from this came the name topor. The topor was made from ordinary and damask steel decorated with silver and gold appliques. The handle of the topor was covered with jewels. However, sometimes gilded copper was suitable. Go to Ambassador here.


A boar spear. Several are shown in the upper part of this illustration. It had a wider blade than ordinary spears (kopya). The butt end would have an apple shaped knob to improve the balance. Some were richly decorated with goldand silver. These were mentioned as early at 13th century chronicles. Return toTop


Was also called "ruchnayha pishchal'. See illustration. It had an iron barrel, that was strapped to a carved wooden stick, which also served as the handle. Early models had the barrel extended forward, mostly without support. Later models had the barrel nestled into a channel cut in the wood. As time went on skilled armorers would decorate these weapons with metal plates on the sides of the wooden handle. These could be quite elaborate, with filagree and nielo work designs. The term, pistol, also came to be used. When the firearm was combined with a small axe, it was called a pistol' c toporkam or ruchnitsi c torporkami. See toporkam . Return toTop


Were gauntlets or mittens to protect the hand. See illustration and another shown here. They were made of leather or quilted padding, with a metal fishnet or series of flexible plates on the upperside. As can be seen here, the upper side could be elaborately decorated.

Ru'yashchyeye oruzhiey — chopping weapons.

The axe was very widespread among the chopping weapons in Old Russian armies. It was used both by rulers and their bodyguards. and by members of the people's militia, both foot soldiers and cavalrymen. However, there was one distinction: foot soldiers more often used large axes, cavalrymen "little axes", that is, short axes. Both these and other axes were placed on wooden handles with metal ends. The back, flat part of the axe, was called the butt; the blade, the pick. The blades of these axes were trapezodial in shape. The axes themselves were divided into the poleaxe/hammer and the axe/mace categories.
A peculiarly Russian long, broad axe was called berdysh. See illustrations of streltsi here and in the general illustrations section. Return toTop

Halberds shown here, appeared at the beginning of the 17th century in the Russian army (originally in the time around False Dmitri). These were altered axes with a distinct shape ending in a lance and often adorned with gilt or plating. The blade was stuck on a long staff (or axe handle). Other western style weapons, such as the partizan and espontoon, made their appearance at the same time.

The hammer, which varied in appearance and sharpness on the side of the butt, was called the chekan or klevets. The chekan was attached at the end of the handle. There were chekani with a concealed dagger that could be unscrewed. The chekan served not only as a weapon, but also it was distinctive and suitable as a military symbol. Go to oruzhiey.


The entire set of equipment of an archer - bow, bow case, quiver, and arrows - was called saadak or sagadak. Return toTop


A saber. This type of sword was introduced from the Middle East and Asia. The oldest forms are found in burial kurgans on the steppes, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries. There were many varieties and styles. The streltsi carried a Turkish style saber. In the 1600's it became so widespread that even town garrisons and gate guards carried sabers. When Peter I armed his dragoons with the palash, the saber remained in use only by irregular cavalry such as the Don and Little Russian Cossacks and the single hussar unit formed in 1723 from Serbians. Later, as light cavalry in the form of hussars and lancers again increased in number, the saber returned to favor. Still later, in the 19th century the saber was gradually replaced by the shashka. Only hussars among the cavalry retained the saber. There were more changes in the 19th century in weight, length, and curvature. Russian artillerymen carried sabers well into the 19th century. Another form was the polusablye or half-saber. This was in vogue during the reign of Elizabeth and Catherine II in the second half of the 18th century. See also Sabers for more types.


Term for early firearms. See illustration.

Samostrel — crossbow — 14th century.

See illustration. Radziwil's Chronicle (dated 1159) was the first one which mentioned the crossbow's use in Russia. This weapon, while considerably inferior to the bow with respect to rate of fire (archers launched approximately 10 arrows per minute, the arbaletnik only one or two), exceeded it with respect to destructive power of the arrow and close grouping of shots. The bolt managed to pierce heavy armor at considerable distance. The crossbow consisted of a wooden stock, which usually ended in a butt. There was a longitudinal groove along the stock, and the short arrow, "bolt", was inserted into it. On the opposite end of the stock, a short, and extremely powerful bow was attached. It was made of steel, wood, or horn. To charge the crossbow, the crossbowman set his leg against a stirrup and drew the bow-string back, fastening it with a hook, called a "nut". When shooting, a bent lever slid out of the hollow of the nut. The latter turning around, released the bow string and the bolt coupled with it. The string of the early models of crossbows was drawn back by hand. From the second half of the 12th century the waist hook came into use. By means of that device, the crossbowman, straightening his body, pulled the string up to the nut. In the 13th century, crossbows were charged by means of a brace. It is worth mentioning that the most ancient European waist-hook was found during the excavation of Iziaslavl (in the Volyina area). Go to crossbow. Return toTop


A combat form of the topor. It had a wooden handle and the hammer head was shaped like a half moon. On the other side was a hook which infantry could use to pull riders off horses.


One variety of protective headgear was called the shapka bumazhnaya,,, "paper cap" see illustration. It was manufactured of cotton and silk fabrics covering a interior wadding of cloth or paper and sometimes was strengthened by a mail net fastened inside. It was frequently strengthened with the attachment of an iron nose guard and ear and neck guards. It was used on a large scale in the 16th century, especially by poorer warriors. Another helmet was the shapka medlenaya, a copper cap, see illustration, which is frequently shown with elaborate decorations. The man on the left is wearing a kolantar and the man on the right has on a kuyak. And the third was the shapka zhel'eznaya, a very simple, cheap, iron cap. They are wearing the padded cloth tel'yagi. One of them looks almost like a helmet from World War One. All these were relatively simple and generally worn by lower ranks or foot soldiers. All military headgear had a leather skullcap inside to protect the wearer from chafing. Return toTop

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. There was no guard, but a large, curved pommel. The hilt was frequently highly decorated. It was carried in a wooden scabard that enclosed part of the hilt. It was worn with the cutting edge to the rear, opposite to the saber. It was a typically Caucasian (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, prefered 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.

Shchiti — shields.

Until the appearance of helmets and kol'chuga ( mail), the ancient Slavs protected themselves with anything that would serve as a shield. The ancient Russian shield (8th to 11th centuries), which was round and reached one quarter of the height of a man, was suitable for defense against blows. In profile, such a shield was oval, or funnel shaped, which reinforced its protective properties. Before this, shields were wooden, flat, consisting of several close-fitting layers of planks. A circular hole was cut in the center, which was closed from the outside with an embossed metal plate, an umbon. On the opposite side of the shield a slat was fastened so that the shield could be carried on the arm. In the 10th century the shield was light, and suitable for both foot and horsemen. The round shield is considered to be the earliest. From the second half of the 10th century, long oval shields were used, and from the 11th century, the almond shaped general European shields came into use.
Almond-shaped shields, which defended horsemen from the chin to the knees, replaced circular ones in the 12th century. As a measure of the improvement of the helmet, the top of the shield was flattened. In the second quarter of the 13th century the triangular shield with a curve — that is a "gabled" shield appeared, which was held close to the body. Then there were curved trapezoidal shields. From the end of the 13th century shields of complex shapes, that protected the chest of the cavalryman from a spear thrust, entered regular use. In the 14th century the evolution of defensive armament lead to the development of the shield with a chute on the front, which served as a compartment for the hands and facilitated maneuvering the shield in battle. In Western Europe such shields, that attained a length of 130 cm were called pavise.

It is known that shields of differing shapes existed together over a long period of time. For example, trapezoidal shields were in use along with round shields, etc. Shields were made of iron, wood, reeds, or skins. The most widespread were wooden shields. The shield's rim was called the crown and the space between crown and cap was called the kajmoj. The rear side of the shield had a lining, and the shield was held on the hand with bindings — stolbtsi. Inside the shield was the venets. The coloring of the shield could be completely variable, but the obvious preference for red extends over the whole existance of Russian armor. The Tatars brought round shields with them, which influenced Russian armament from the later 13th century. Some Tatar or Persian style shields had very elaborate fluting and other decoration. Four illustrations are shown at one, two, three and four. These were in style until the later 17th century. Return toshield.


A mace with a head having six equally spaced vertical vanes. See illustration. Return toTop


In the 14th century we see for the first time, in original written sources, records of headgear called shishak (a conical helmet with a knob on top). Here is an illustration of a shishak. A somewhat different style of shishak is seen in this illustration. In this the helmet has also a prilibitz and the warrior is wearing a bakhterets. According to the opinions of archeologists, this kind of protective head gear spread all over Russia during the 12th- 14th centuries. It was introduced from Turkey, but may have had already a Hellenistic origin. The western term is zischagge. It differed from the shelom and the kolpak by having a very long pointed top (shish), which ended in a sharp point. In some the transitional section between the cylindrical lower ring and the narrow spike was hemispherical and ribbed or fluted. In others this section was more conical in form. A barmitsa (veil of mail) was frequently attached to the lower edge. Return toTop

Shlyemi — helmets.

The helmet, Shlem of which two types are illustrated here and here. was the metal head covering of a warrior used in Russia from ancient times. In the 9th and 10th centuries helmets were made of several (two to four) metal plates, connected together by rivets. After assembly, the helmet was embossed with silver, gold, and iron coverings with ornaments, engravings, and art work. There were also helmets made of one piece of metal. One typical Russian form was a smoothly curved, upward drawn helmet with a metal spike on top. Western European style helmets were not widely known in Russia. The Russian styles were more similar to those widely distributed throughout Asia Minor. Two helmets from the famous Chernigov burial mound "Black Grave" are among four remaining pieces of military headgear of this type from the 10th century. Return togeneric.

The necessity of reinforcement of the features of the helmet brought about the appearance of the hard sided, cupola-shaped helmets with a nose covering, or a half mask that came down from the brow to the nose. From the 12th century helmets were supplied with "noses", nose protective pieces, and masks (or half-masks) — special plates with holes for the eyes. The "nose" was an iron band that passed through a hole, made in the peak of the helmet. The "nose" was raised and lowered by means of shyurupts (a type of screw). The mask or litchina was usually immobile, but sometimes it was attached by hinges, and could be raised. The warrior's neck was protected by a netting (called barmitsa), made of the same kind of rings as the kol'chuga. It was attached to the helmet in the rear and at the sides. Simpler helmets — without any additional protective parts for the face — were fastened around the base to a hoop, which could be ornamented. The hoop had several holes for the barmitsa. Here is an example of an early style Russian helmet created for reenactors today. Illustration.

In the 11th- 13th centuries helmets took new shapes. The shelm was replaced by the misyurka and yerikonka. Later still the shishak and kolpak became common. Some times a warrior's head covering had a high, bell-shaped crown and long point. In Russia helmets of cupola shape and spherical form were predominant. Often the elongated top of the helmet ended with a bushing that was sometimes furnished with a flag, a yalovtsa. Wealthy warriors had helmets that were finished with silver and gold and sometimes were entirely gilt. Return toTop

Shlem with semi-visor (half mask) andBarmitsa mail 12-13 cent.

In Russia at the end of the 12th and into the 13th centuries in connection with general European tendencies toward strengthening defensive armor, helmets began to have visors - that is zabralom - protecting the warrior's face from striking as well as from shooting blows. The visor was supplied with slits for the eyes and nose openings, and covered the face either halfway (half visor) or completely. The helmet with visor were put on over the soft head cap and was worn with barmitsi, the ringed netting part covering as a rule all the face, neck and shoulders of the warrior. The visor (lichina) with veil, besides its direct purpose - to protect the warrior's face - was supposed to have the appearance to frighten the enemy. For this they were often made in the form of hideous masks.

Shpaga later term for a heavy sword. It had the four sides (rhomboid shape) of the konchar. This was the basic type of sword used in the 17th century by the 'new style' regiments, both infantry and cavalry, formed on the western model. Peter I in 1708 armed all his infantry with the shpaga. Then in 1741 infantry privates were armed with the tesak and the straight bladed shpaga remained only with officers and guards regiment musketeers. Gradually it became only a parade weapon. But in the 19th century it was in fashion for civilians and as a sword of honor.


Among the variety of pikes was the "sovna", which had a curved blade with one sharp edge slightly bent at the end of a long pole. The bottom spear in this illustration is a sovna. Return toTop

Strela - arrow

The parts of the arrow included: pyer'ye - feathers, ushko - notch, Dyeryevo - shaft, and kop'yetso - point. See the illustrations of the archer and of the complete saadak.

Styag — banner.

The significance of the banner in ancient Russian armies is enormous. Before a battle the army drew up in battle formation around the banner; when the battle broke up into a number of hand-to-hand skirmishes, the banner served the warriors as an orientation point, the place to gather together (regroup) and the indicator of the battle's progress, at the same time. When the enemy "reached and hewed down the banner", defeat was immanent. This was followed by the retreat of the army. That is why during the inter-princely wars, the rivals did their best to take possession of the princes' banner — the battle's result was determined by the fate of the banner; the most violent fighting took place around the banner. Originally, the banner was decorated with a prince's emblem. By the end of the 14th century, the image of Jesus Christ was placed on the banner. "And the sovereign compelled to unfurl the Christian- -. That is the banner, carrying the image of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Nikon's Chronicle of the Battle of Kulikovo).

Actually at that time, the term Znamya came into use. Both terms styag and znamya existed so to say, side-by-side until the 17th century. In the 17th century, the word styag was no longer in use. In the 16th century every polk had its "big banner". Every century (100 man unit) into which the polk was divided, had its "smaller banner".

The banners were granted by the sovereign to the Don and Zaporozhian armies, to the voyevodes for marches and service, and sent to the Circassian prince at Astrakhan. The banners differed from one another in value, symbolizing the level of respectability of the bearer. Here is an example of a banner from the 15th century. See Ivan banner for the famous banner of Ivan IV from 1560. Return toTop


Metal spears (javelins) with light and thin staves up to 1.5 meters long were called sulitsi. There are recorded cases when a sulitsa was not made of metal alone. The sulitsa was sometimes called a jeridan. Return toTop


The shield lost its combat usefulness and became merely a ceremonial object by the 16th century. This applies also to the shield, whose upper part consisted of a metallic sleeve with a blade; The warrior put his arm into this sleeve. Such a shield, with a blade, was called a tarch (from the Arabian word "turs", meaning shield) and was designed to be used during the defense of fortresses, though it was rarely seen in practice. See illustration. Also see Part III for another illustration of a tarch in use or look here.


A later form of mech, see the top weapon in this illustration, which differed in being single-edged instead of double-edged. Leonid Tarassuk writes that this sword was introduced from the Czechs. This weapon was supplied to infantry as their standard hanger in 1741, replacing the shpaga. In 1817 the sappers and pioneers were armed with a form of tessak. In the 19th century the tessak was standard for infantry until 1880, when it was taken from sappers and infantry, remaining only with the life guard sapper battalion. Return toTop


Cloth covering for bow case and quiver. They are shown here.


Military axe, or toporok, generally a ceremonial weapon. The ceremonial (ambasador's) topor was made from ordinary and damask steel decorated with silver and gold appliques. The handle of the topor was covered with jewels. However, sometimes gilded copper was suitable. SeeRinda. But combat types of toporki axe carried by cavalry were similar to axes used by common workers. Return toTop


The most popular of the musical instruments which accompanied troops during the campaigns was the trumpet. At first, the trumpets were straight, without bends, like a pastoral horn. Later, they were made of three bends, arranged at equal distance from one another, joined together by transverse cross pieces. Sometimes the trumpets were decorated with quadrangular "curtains" made of taffetta or brocade, with silk or silver plated fringe and tassles. During marches the trumpets were hidden in slip covers nagalishja. In the Russian epic "The Lay of Igor's Campaign", an ancient author described Russian warriors as "borne by the sound of trumpets - people who became joined with their helmets." Return toTop

Tyegilyai — quilted coat — 16th Century.

In the inventory of Ivan the Terrible's property, a teghily with gold and Venetian velvet, and several elaborate buttons and buttonholes is mentioned. The teghily was a kind of kaftan with short sleeves and a high collar. It resembled the western gambeson. Due to its protective characteristics this garmet was used by poor warriors instead of armor. The teghily was made of wadding or hemp and quilted through. In this case teghily were made of thick cotton fabric with metallic rings or plates sewn on the breast. Sometimes parts of animals were used, by being boiled and painted into a mesh of animal tissue. This was cooled and dried hard. The "paper cap" could be considered to be an addition to the teghily. This head gear was made in a similar way of wadding of cloth - silk or cotton fabrics, and was sometimes reinforced by the mail net worn under the lining. Sometimes, such caps were provided with a nose protector. Go togambeson. Return toTop

Udarnoye orushiye — striking weapons.

Striking weapons are weapons used for hand to hand combat. Their use was widespread in Russia. Bulavi, palitsi, and shestoperi (three types of mace) were warrior's weapons. Kisteni (flails) were made of various metal weights attached to a handle by a long chain or leather thong up to 50 cm long. Their use in battle was difficult, requiring skill, but their occurance in many archeological finds attests to their wide use. The bulava was made of a short staff on the end of which was a massive multi-faceted head. The head of the shestoper consisted of six metal plates coming out of the ball, from which came the name. The shestoper was used mostly in the XV- XVII centuries. It could signify a mark of power of the military leader, remaining at the same time a vicious weapon. The bulava and shestoper were different from the palitsa. It was more like a massive cudgel, usually made of iron, covered with spikes made of big iron nails. The palitsa possibly was the most ancient weapon known to man.


A small flag attached at the top of the elongated conical point of some helmets. Most frequently these were worn on the shishak. See that entry for illustrations. Return toTop


The Yerikhonka or shapka yerikhonka appeared in the 14- 17th centuries. It was a tall, (but not as tall as a shishak) Mongolian-appearing helmet with a cylindrical venetz (lower edge of the crown) and very high conical naversheniye (upper edge of the crown), with repye (metallic decoration often of copper). The ear flaps, peak, and rear section were attached to the venetz of the yerikhonka. The "nose" with shyurupt passed through the peak on a kind of slide with set screw to lock it in place. Usually only rich and noble warriors wore such helmets, and decorated them with gold, silver, and jewels. All the protective head gear mentioned was worn over a cap or a thick cloth lining to protect the head. Return toTop

Yushman — 16th Century.

Still another type of armor combining rings and scales or plates was called a yushman . The first literary mention is from 1548, but it was surely developed earlier. Here is a gorgeous yushman in the collection of the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg. Note also the berdish, chekan, bulava and rogatina in the display case. The yushman or Yumshan, (from the Persian word "dyawshan", was a mail shirt with a number of horizontal plates, interlaced with its front and back parts. It differed from the kolantar in having smaller plates. The yushman weighed 12-15 kgs. It was assembled of around 100 plates, fixed one upon the other with small gaps. The yushman could be worn over the kol'chuga. It had a longitudinal section from the neck to the skirt, was put on by the sleeves, like a kaftan, and clasped by means of a kjurka (a buckle) and loops. The yushman's scales (plates) sometimes were covered with gold or silver. Such armor was very expensive. The arms of warriors who wore a yushman, or other types of such armor, were protected from the shoulder to the wrist by narutchi (vambrance). Return toTop


These were metal plates covering the upper arms. The western term, vambrace, was used for both upper and lower arm protective armor. The upper arm part was called a cannon or rerebrace. The section covering the elbow as called a cowter. A zarukava is shown here. They were fastened with leather straps. Sometimes they had animal pelts attached for lining. The lower parts were called zaruast'ye and the upper part was known as chashkii.

Zertsalo - plate armor — 17th Century.

To strengthen the mail coat (kol'chuga or pantsir ), Russian warriors of the 16th - 17th centuries wore additional, partial armor (dospekh), put on over the main armor. It consisted usually of four plates, front, back, and sides. The plates, which very seldom weighed more than two kg, were fastened together and put on the shoulders and sides by means of straps with clasps (such straps were called naplechniki or naramniki. The Zertstalo, shown here and here, was ground and polished to a mirror like shine (from which comes the name of the armor), often gilded, engraved, and chased, had practically only decorative significance by the 17th century. The style originated in Nepal or Persia, where it was called char-aina ("four mirrors") and was widely used also from India to Turkey. The Russian style was developed from that used in Turkey.
A splendid impression is given by the sight of the precious armament, which could have only belonged to Tsars and voivodes. Ceremonial armor was decorated with silver, gold, jewels, and was distinguished by filigree engravings. By the end of the century the Zertsalo had completely lost its significance, together with other types of protective armor. In the exhibit of the Kremlin armory, there are well preserved, completezertsalo with helmet, naruchi (arm guards) and ponozhi (greaves). Here are two more examples of elaborate zertsalo.

Among decorative armor of the 17th century was the zertsalo made by the armorers of the Oruzheyniy (Armaments) Prikaz, Dmitri Konovalov, Nikita Davidov, Grigori Vyatkin. The zertsalo made by Konovalov in 1616 for Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich was valued in the 17th century at 1500 rubles, (at that time the cost of a trooper's pantsir varied from 5 to 10 rubles). Return toTop

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