After years of repression under Imperial Russian rule the peoples of Central Asia gradually turned from resentment to open revolt. Although sometimes dated from mid 1916 in fact this movement developed over time, but by 1917 there was open warfare. This was the Basmachi Revolt, although as so often it is viewed differently depending on your political view. The Russians tried to dismiss it as trouble with lawless peasants - 'Basmachi' is a deliberately derogative term implying simply bandits - while the inhabitants call it the Turkestan National Liberation Movement.
The 'Basmachi' fought mainly in tribal units, coming together when the need arose, but on occasion armies of many thousands were also assembled. In general they operated in their ordinary clothes with whatever items of military worth they could obtain, although efforts at organisation and uniform were made, particularly with the arrival of Enver Pasha, hero of Gallipoli, to the cause. Most of the men in this set are dressed in typical costume for the region, with a long kaftan or coat, girdle and boots. Some of the coats are gently engraved to suggest the striped pattern that was popular with these people. Many also wear the large fur hat favoured by the Turcoman tribes, while the rest have an assortment of turbans and other head coverings which reflect the very diverse cultural elements that made up the movement.
The usual weapons for these men were a sword and a rifle, both of which would have been of various models and frequently quite old. Most of these figures are so armed, but there are also a couple with pistols and one with a rope. The pistols are perfectly OK, but while the rope would have been common enough in this society we wonder at its utility in an age of quick-firing rifles and machine guns. Still while the weapons are hard to identify specifically they all seem reasonable, as is the overall mix.
It would be wrong to think that all the rebels were mounted, but naturally cavalry was in important element in this huge area. The six horse poses in this set are about average in terms of sculpting although we were not happy with several of the poses, which look unnatural. The saddlery all looks reasonable, but all the poses seem to be at the charge, so if you want your men to be doing anything other than travelling at top speed then you are out of luck.
The poses of the men are better than the horses, with quite a variety on show. They are quite nicely animated and all appear to be in the thick of battle, but the variety of weapons also helps to make for a wide range of pretty good poses. The last figure on the bottom row, which is perhaps a good candidate for an officer (perhaps Turkish with his military tunic, although many officers looked little different from their men) is much the most sedate of them all, doing no more than gesturing, but we thought all the poses were good.
Sculpting is a bit variable here. The detail is mainly very good, with the expressive faces being a particular highlight, but in some places the detail is less impressive and occasionally all but disappears. There is a relatively moderate level of flash although this will still take some time to trim off, and there is rather more excess plastic in a few places than we like to see. The fit between man and horse is quite variable too, while the bottoms of the horse bases need to be sanded flat to ensure the animal stays upright.
Initially the revolt was very successful, but as the Bolsheviks won the Civil War they also reconquered land they had lost to the rebels and by the mid 1920s the revolt was effectively crushed, although not finally extinguished until 1934. While of no more than average quality these figures make a good job of representing these little-known warriors, the descendants of whom have only finally realised their independence in the past few years.
As a footnote we are told these figures are a very faithful recreation of characters in a very popular Soviet film entitled 'White Sun of the Desert', which was made in 1969.