Stabbing Long-Shafted Pole Weapons of the Crimean Tatars and Nogais in 1440s – 1650s. (According to the Written Sources)
Authors: Leonid A. Bobrov, Amet-han A. Sheykhumerov, Alexey V. Salnikov
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The article analyzes the materials of european, russian, ottoman and crimean-tatar written sources of 15th – mid-17th centuries containing information about spears and javelins of crimean tatars and nogai. In the texts written in Latin language this weapon is referred as "hasta", in English – as "lance" or "horseman's staff", in Italian – as "lanza", in Russian – as "kopye" i.e. spear, etc. The term "kopie" is usually used in the works of Polish authors of 16 – first half of 17 centuries as well, as later the Kalmyk term "dzid" is.
It is known that the Crimean Tatars used various types of stabbing long-shafted pole weapons for close and distant combat. There are no descriptions of Tatar spears in the most part of written sources. Only Giles Fletcher draws the attention of readers to the similarity of Tatar spears (horseman’s staff) with the bear spear "with which they hunt bears". Thus, some Tatar spears could have a wide-bladed spearheads. Important changes in the warfare of the East European nomads occurred in 15-16 centuries due to various reasons – military and political as well as economic ones. Comparing to the warfare of the Golden Horde of 14th century, the importance of mounted armored spearmen significantly decreased in the warfare of the Crimean Khanate of 16th century. So many contemporary authors did not consider it necessary to include spears in the list of the main weapons of Crimean Tatars (Paolo Giovio, Marcin Bielski, Andrzej Taranowski etc.), and some of them even directly denied that Turkic nomads of the region possessed the spears (Siegmund Freiherr von Herberstein, Michalon Lituanus, Blaise de Vigenère). Although spears were still in use by Tatars throughout the whole period mentioned, they were not used widely (in some periods one might say even insignificantly). In general, the stabbing long-shafted pole weapons were significantly inferior in popularity to bows, sabers and, possibly, crushing weapons (maces, clubs, basalyk, «maslak» etc.).
The most part of spearmen in the troops of the Crimean Khanate of 16th century consisted of wealthy Tatar warriors and some militiamen. There is no information regarding the special detachments of spearmen in the Crimean-Tatar troops. Even now there is no reason to consider not numerous spearmen to be the significant factor of the hit-and-run tactics of the Crimean-Tatar cavalry of 16th century which used bows and sabers. Spears became more important in Tatar armies in the first half of 17th century by some degree but they still were not spread widely so they were not noted by many contemporaries again. Tatar-Nogai spearmen attracted some attention of contemporaries in the Battles of Berestechko (1651) and Warsaw (1656), but in the battle of Konotop (1659) they were practically invisible.
Important changes in the weaponry of the Crimean Khanate started in the early 1660s. Judging from the materials of written sources, Tatars started to adopt spears en masse as the result of centralized state policy as it was necessary to withstand the Kalmyk (Oirat) cavalry, whose warriors used stabbing long-shafted pole weapons widely.