13th and 14th Century Russian Arms and Armor

Offensive Equipment Descriptions and Discussion

Stabbing weapons - kolyushchyeye oruzhiye

konchar - 14th - sword.

A long, straight sword with a very sharp point that was developed from the mech. It had three or four sides called golomen yarni, arrainged in a diamond or rhomboid shape. The konchar resembled the western rapier and was effective for penetrating mail. It is mentioned at the battle of Kulikova in 1380. (Sloan)

kop'yo - spear - 13th, 14th -

Kop'yo was the basic spear, with a point made of damask steel. (Sloan) Spear tips were made narrow, massive and long, usually tetrahedral for piercing armor. Other shapes, diamond-shaped, wavy-leaf-shaped, long and wedge-shaped, could be used against un-armored foes. Spears were made two meters long and used against horses as well as their riders. (Sloan)

Spears and Javelins

Myech myech - sword - 9-17th

The myech was a long, one or two-edged, straight sword. Its blade was made of steel or iron and is called a klunok. The flat side is called golomeny or golomnya, and the sharp edges are called lezviya. Golomeni had either one wide groove or several narrow ones. The handle of the myech is called a kridge. It has three parts: the pommel, na baldashnik; the grip, chyeryen; and the guard, kryestovina. One form of pommel was the yabloka, or apple, and was a small ball. One form of guard was the ognivo, with a transverse narrow plate at the opposite end, adjacent to the blade (?). (Sloan)
The myech took various forms through the centuries as warfare evolved. In the 12th-13th centuries, all the sword types known in Western Europe were also used in Rus. Until the 13th century, it was used mainly as a striking weapon. A thrusting sword with a tapered blade and a sharper tip appeared in the second half of the 13th century. Also in the 13th century, the sword's blade increased in size and the sword belt was strengthened. In the 14th century, huge swords up to 120-140 cm (47-55 inches) in length were common. (Sloan)
The sword was carried in an iron scabbard, bound with leather or velvet and decorated with gold or silver inlay. It was hung on the belt by two rings at the mouth of the scabbard. (Sloan)

Nozhi nozh - knife - 13th, 14th - Many forms fit under the category of nozh.

Short, double-bladed knives, attached by a hook to the belt (or were they fastened to the boot?) were called poyasnie. Slightly longer knives with one edge, curved to the end were called podsaydashiye and hung on the left side of the belt near the bow case. A similar western knife was the poinard. Other knives with curved blades were called slyak (?) and if they were carried in the top of a boot, they were called zacapozhnye (?). (Sloan)

rogatina - 13th, 14th

A boar spear, it had a wider blade than ordinary spears, kop'yo. The butt end had an apple-shaped (?) knob to improve the balance. (Sloan) [Probably not actually a chopping weapon.]


kinzhal ? - dagger - date? Curved-bladed knife of Tatar and Caucasian origin. (Sloan)

sablya/sabel - saber - 10th-14th, and later

This type of sword was introduced from the Middle East and Asia and many styles developed, but it was not necessarily used by the poorer soldiers or foot soldiers. (Sloan)
Sabers had been popular in southern Rus for centuries before they becam popular around Novgorod in the 13th century. It also consisted of a blade and a handle, or kridge. The sharp side of the saber had a blade and a tilye, or rear part. The handle was made up of the ognivo, the chyeryen, and the knot with a hole for the temlyak, a cord. (Sloan)

sovna - spear or pike - see chopping weapons.

Striking weapons - udarnoye oruzhiye

Various Russian Maces bulava - 13th and later - mace - carried as a mark of the rank of high officers. It was a short staff with a massive multi-faceted head on one end.

chekan ? - date? -

A form of military hammer and pick combined. It varied in appearance and the sharpness of the butt of the weapon. There were chekani with a concealed dagger that could be unscrewed. The chekan could also serve as a military symbol. (?) Another form of military hammer was called the klevets. (Sloan) Kisteni

kisten'i -date? - flails, were made of various metal weights attached to a handle by a long chain or leather thong up to 50 cm long (19 inches). Their use required considerable skill, but they were widely used. (Sloan)

klevets ? - military hammer/pick. (Sloan)

palitsa - a large cudgel with iron spikes made from big nails, also called an oslop, was an ancient weapon.

shestoper - 13th-17th - mace with six equally-spaced vertical vanes made of six metal plates coming out of a ball. Examples are known from the 13th century, but it was used mostly in the 15th-17th centuries and, like the bulava, could be a mark of military rank. (Sloan and Nicolle 1999?)

Chopping weapons - ruyashchyeye oruzhiye

sovna - spear or pike - date? - one of a variety of pikes, it had a curved blade with one sharp edge, slightly bent and attached at the end of a long pole. (Sloan)

topor - 13th, 14th - axe -

The axe was a widespread weapon in Rus used by rulers and common infantrymen. Axes were divided into two categories: the poleaxe/hammer and the axe/mace categories. (whatever that means?) The foot soldiers tended to use large axes, while the cavalry used shorter axes. All types of axes were placed on wooden handles with metal ends. The back, flat part of the axes was the butt, the blade was the pick. The blades were trapezoidal in shape. (Sloan)
The sekir was a combat form of the topor with a wooden handle and a hammer head shaped like a half moon, opposite a hook that the infantry could use to pull riders off their horses. (Sloan)
The topor or toporok was generally a ceremonial weapon (later in period?). Combat types of toporki axes carried by cavalry were similar to axes used by common workers. (Sloan)

Launched weapons - metatel'noye oruzhiye

drota - 14th - a drotik is a javelin. I can only suppose that "drota" is a related term.

kop'yo - spear, see stabbing weapons Luk and Samostrel hook

luk and strela - bow & arrow - 13th, 14th -

Bows were made of wood (juniper, birch, etc.) and horn. The middle part of the bow was called the "handle", the kibit (?). The long, curved ends of the bow were called the "horns" or "shoulders". The horn was composed of two wooden plates, fitted and glued together with their flat sides covered with birch bark. Sinews were glued on the back of the bow and fixed near the handle and at the ends. Sometimes, 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 and strips of birch bark were put over these joints. Fish glue was the glue used. Near the ends of the horns, there were upward and downward slots, with the bowstring passing through the downward slots. The total length of the bow could be two meters or more. (Sloan)
The arrows could be made of reed, cane, birch, apple wood or cypress. The parts of the arrow were the pyer'ye - feathers, ushko - notch, dyeryevo - shaft, kor'yotso - point. (Sloan)

Saadek saadak/saadek - the full set of archery equipment, including the bow, bow case, quiver and arrows.

kolchan - quiver - worn on the right side, often made of Moroco leather, decorated with embroidery, jewels, velvet or brocade (for ceremonial occasions? date?) (Sloan)
naluch - bow case, carried on the left side, decorated to match the kolchan.
tokhta - cloth covering for bow case and quiver

samostrel - crossbow or arbalest - 12th-14th

Inferior to the bow in rate of fire, but powerful and accurate. A crossbow bolt at 200 meters could throw a rider from his horse, and pierce a hauberk. (Just as a longbow could?) (Sloan)
It consisted of a wooden stock which ended in a butt, with a longitudinal groove along the stock for inserting the short arrow, or bolt. At front end of the stock, a short powerful bow was attached made of steel, wood or horn. To charge the crossbow, the archer set his leg inside a stirrup and drew the bow-string back, fastening it with a hook, or "nut". To fire, a bent lever slid out of the hollow of the nut, which then turned around releasing the bowstring and launching the bolt. The first crossbows were drawn by hand, then in the later 12th century the waist hook was used to pull the drawstring up to the nut by straightening the body. In the 13th century, crossbows were charged using a brace. (Sloan)

Strela sulitsa ? - javelin, spear - dates? -

Russian javelins made of metal with a light and thin shaft up to 1.5 meters long. There are some cases where they weren't made entirely of metal. Another name used for the sulitsa was the jeridan. Three or more were carried in a small quiver called a dzhid that was attached to the belt on the left side. [See illustrations of spears above.]
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