the Russian term for a type of cold-steel weapon used for thrusting and cutting or simply for thrusting. A variety of sword, the shpaga has a narrow, straight blade that is a meter or more in length. The blade may be single or double edged, or it may be of polygonal cross section. The handle, or hilt, of the shpaga may have varying kinds of knuckle bow and guard. Various types of shpaga have been made, one of which is the foil, which is shorter than an ordinary shpaga and has a cup-like guard and a blade with a polygonal cross section.
The shpaga first appeared in the 16th century, in Western Europe, and became the characteristic weapon of the nobility. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the shpaga was also a military weapon used chiefly by cavalrymen and officers. Gradually supplanted in the 18th century by the broadsword and the saber, the shpaga was retained as an honorary, dueling, or full-dress weapon.
The shpaga was first used in the Russian Army in the early 18th century. In 1741, however, the shpaga used by infantry soldiers was replaced by a small saber (polusablia). Later, the shpaga used by officers was replaced by a saber. In the 19th century, the shpaga became part of the uniform of generals and of cuirassier-regiment officers not in formation; it was also worn as part of the full-dress uniform of civilian officials. These formal uses of the shpaga were discontinued in 1917.