Zoran Marcov

Pistoale balcanice cu cremene din colecţia Muzeului Banatului Timișoara / Flint Balkan Pistols from the Collection of Banat Museum in Timișoara

Jan. 1, 2011

flintlock pistol
collection of the Banat Museum in Timișoara
Balkan Peninsula
kubura pećanka



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.