Arms and Armor of Caucasus
Yamna Publishing, 2016, 328 pages
Book Review published on: October 6, 2017
Kirill Rivkin has published an impressive, coffee-table quality book, Arms and Armor of Caucasus. The book is beautifully crafted hard cover with full-sized, 9”x12” pages containing color pictures and high-quality semigloss paper. However, more important than the quality of the book is the research and quality of the material on the pages within. Rivkin adds understanding to a time and place in history where documentation from that time is minimal and artwork is historically less accurate.
Researching this book was a long, passionate journey for Rivkin that spanned over a decade. It started with theories and culminated in historical discoveries that he did not predict. Rivkin mentions in the introduction that he refutes previous theories that he earlier supported. He is not looking for this to be a “fundamental text” but rather a stepping-stone that other researchers will use to aid in their future added dialog and research of this time and place.
Organized by three main chapters—Historical Background, Armies and Societies, and The Weapons—this sequence brings an understanding of the societies and cultures that used the weapons he later details. Rivkin provides an overarching historical review for the period between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries to provide context as he shapes the reader’s understanding. This broad aperture shows how Middle Eastern, Russian, and European cultures all affected the region. He moves from the history and culture to the specific armies, focusing on those from Georgia, Dagestan, and Chechnya. Finally, he takes a detailed look at the weapons and armor, focusing on bladed weapons but also acknowledging pistols, rifles, and armor. I think his focus on blades is due to the honor given by slaying one’s enemy with the sword, or it could simply be the inventory available. The study of all arms is important, as decorative techniques and motif is just one area of concentration used to qualify his theories. The mass production of bladed weapons made them plentiful but also difficult to study. This chapter dedicated to studying the weapons is the majority of the book. He first explains his methodology and how a traditional approach to studying art, literature, and miniature figures specifically, does not work. Rivkin acknowledges that this process is not completely accurate, and he tries to provide clarity on when he believes something is fact or theory and where his interpretations lead.
I believe Rivkin achieved his goal to add to the understanding of the Caucasus region in the sixteenth to early nineteenth centuries through detailed study of arms and armor. His book not only depicts art from the region and time period, but also catalogs it and communicates an appreciation for the region’s rich and complicated history. His work not only brings clarity to this art, he adds to it with the beautiful pictures in a masterfully bound book.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Joe Schotzko, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas