The articles are of archaeological, historical and museological interest and are mainly related to the region of Banat, although some deal with Romanian and universal history as well
Jan. 1, 2011
The craft of portable flint-lock firearms has been developed in the Balkan area under the influence of Ottoman
Turks. The military needs made the Ottomans to support the start up and development of the weaponry
production related crafts in the Balkan Peninsula. The armorers, who came from the East together with the
Ottoman army, were part of the janissary troops, the latter being the ones who taught the local craftsmen the secret
of manufacturing such weapons.
Most of the Balkan flint-lock pistols used an exterior spring-based arming mechanism, also referred to as
miquelet, as Spanish mechanism, or a Turkish mechanism, depending on the context it was used on most oriental
C rearms. During the same period, the western C rearms were based on an interior spring-based arming mechanism
(the spring was incorporated within the mechanism), also referred to as the French mechanism, developed and
enhanced by the French armorers around 1630. The French mechanism was used in the Balkan area especially
during the 19th century for the kubura flintlock pistols.
The consolidation of the Ottoman authority in the Balkan area led to important changes in respect to the way
of life of the autochthon Christian population. In many towns from Kosovo and Metohija, Bosnia, Herzegovina,
Montenegro, Macedonia, Northern Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, the weaponry workshop production
was significantly developed, during the 17th, 18th and especially in the 19th centuries. In the aforementioned
centers, the firearms were manufactured both for the local needs and for their trading in other provinces in
the Ottoman Empire. The weaponry workshops had been increasingly developed, especially in the peripheral
pashaliks of the Ottoman Empire (Bosnia and Herzegovina), but also in the territories where the Ottoman
authority had been weakened and the anarchy danger had been as real as possible (Northern Albania). In the
Balkan workshops, where the flintlock firearms were manufactured, both the barrels and the actual mechanisms
were initially imported from Northern Italy. In time, especially in the 19th century, the autochthon armorers
managed to manufacture the barrels (Prizren, Fojnica) and the flintlock mechanisms (Constantinople) locally,
giving thus a particularity to the firearms of the late phase of the Empire.
The pistol is a portable firearm, perfect for relatively short distance fights. The name of a pistol was closely
related to the place of manufacture and also to the materials used for its manufacture and decoration. The flintlock
pistols were characterized by downwards grips, having long bulbs ended with a metallic button. The flintlock
mechanism usually used was a Spanish mechanism also referred to as miquelet.
Traditionally, the pistol was often referred to as kubura. The flintlock kubura was characterized by a downwards
grip, with a massive metallic bulb and French type flintlock mechanism and an interior cock-spring. The kubur
term is a Turkish word, widely used in the Balkans, generally standing for a cavalry pistol. These types of firearms
are usually given the name of the manufacturing place. The widely spread kubura in the Balkanic area was the
kubura pećanka, manufactured by the famous workshop from Peć (Metohija).
Among the flintlock Balkan pistols, we should remind ledenica, considered to be the most elegant and luxurious
Balkan pistol in the 18th–19th centuries and the Albanian pistol of Elbasan, known under the name of „Rat Tail”.
Referring to these firearms, besides kubura pećanka from the Balkan Peninsula, we should mention that other
kubure were manufactured at Foča (Eastern Herzegovina) or Shkodra (Northern Albania), both types being wellknown
for their rich ornaments made of silver and precious stones.
The firearms collection from the Banat Museum in Timişoara holds three flintlock pistols and ten flintlock
kubure manufactured in the Balkan workshops. Considering the sub-grouping classification, these firearms are
classified as follows: two fiintlock pistols belonging to Elbasan type (Central Albania), a Shkodra type flintlock pistol
(Northern Albania), eight Peć flintlock kubure (Metohija) and two Foča flintlock kubure (Eastern Herzegovina).
With a view to the age determination of the 13 exponents of the Banat Museum collection, they are dated
between the mid 18th century (the Albanian pistols) and the mid 19th century (one of the flintlock pistol – namely
the Foča type).
Considering the origin of the pistols’ components and the manner in which these became part of the
aforementioned collection, things are not by far as simple as they seem to be at first sight. Most of the items that
are currently part of firearms collection the Banat Museum collection entered the institution’s inventory in the
pre-war period, being a part of the old museum’s collection (the inventory of the Museum Society of History and
Archeology – SMIA of Banat). In respect to the pre-war period, the Banat Museum of Timişoara archive keeps
both the SMIA inventory book and the old archive of the society, but the problem regarding the identification
of the components derives from the lack of clear correspondence between the old documents of the Museum
Society and the present evidences from the Banat Museum of Timişoara, which were last reconstructed during
the post-war period. Considering that most of the items that are part of the firearms collection had no pre-war
inventory number and the lack of the interwar records (at least until to this date), the identification of both the
items and donors can be made only based on descriptions in the donation documents (The Historical Archive
of the Banat Museum in Timişoara). In this case, regarding the flintlock Balkan pistols, the identification of the
donors is practically impossible within the context in which the archive documents offer important informations
connected to the donor and the historical context, but the effective descriptions of the components are most of
the time too brief.
However, after a careful analysis of the SMIA evidences, there was found that most of the Balkan origin items
derive from the Bosnian area, representing donations of former Austro-Hungarian military participants to the
fights for Bosnian pacification in 1878. Related to the Balkan pistols, considering the data provided by the first
inventory register of the Banat Museum, we can suggest the hypothesis according to which the 13 items are typical
to the Balkan workshops and especially contemporary to the yataghans and arnautka rifles, derive from Bosnia,
being war captures which have been subsequently donated the museum. Since no data is available until this date,
this will remain only a possible hypothesis.
Instead of conclusions, we should mention the fact that during the 18th–19th centuries, numerous copies after
the North–Italian pistols have been made in the Balkan Peninsula (especially Peć) or the western pistols have been
enhanced by being decorated in a Balkan manner (having added a wide silver plate on barrels, silver incrustation
on grips etc.). The Balkan area was also known for its artisan workshops which manufactured the so-called „pistols
for the poor”. All these items are also found in the Banat Museum’s collection, and they make a special group of
firearms, which will be assessed in a future study.