This is not your usual set of plastic soldiers. The box artwork merely shows a famous war poster of a Soviet soldier standing astride a dead German, yet that neatly sums up what you get inside. This is a set of figures that recreate famous Soviet war posters and photographs from World War II, and what a fascinating and eclectic mix it delivers.
Starting at the top, we have two Soviet soldiers defeating a German soldier by what is presumably meant to be the heroic method of stabbing and clubbing him rather than shooting him from a distance or dropping a bomb on him. Several posters with such figures exist, and of course 'heroic' was very much the word the designers wanted to associate with the Red Army. Viewed as figures that you might want to use in an actual wargame or diorama, the uniforms and kit is reasonable and the first two are also pretty believable as poses, but the third is perhaps rather too heroic, as surely anyone with their legs that far apart would be having trouble with their eyes watering.
Something similar can be seen in the second row. Both the male soldiers here are in poses of victory, at least as imagined by the original artist. One holds his rifle up in a triumphant kind of way, which the other has managed to get hold of a flag - the Soviet Union was one of several countries that were or are very fond of waving flags. This man stands over the body of a dead German, so has evidently answered the popular call to "Comrade, kill your German". From a historical accuracy point of view, the only problem with these figures is that both are wearing capes. Officers were issued rain capes, but those had hoods and did not look like these, so these are in the tradition of Superman, which again is trying to convey the 'hero' message. In a real fight of course capes are not the most practical of garments, and the Pixar film 'The Incredibles' (2004) clearly showed why super-heroes would not wear them either, but they look cool and that is really what matters here.
Sandwiched between our two heroes is a female soldier apparently on traffic control duty. We couldn't find a poster with this sort of image, but there are plenty of photos of soldiers, both men and women, but particularly women, performing this function, including on the front cover of some magazines. The caption usually speaks of pointing the way towards the advance on Berlin, so something of a classic propaganda photo. There is nothing heroic here, simply a soldier doing her job and helping the vast military machine to run as smoothly as possible, so unlike her companions this is an entirely useful figure for a real historical model.
Row three starts with one of those iconic photos from World War II, of a soldier waving a Soviet flag from the roof of the Reichstag. Taken by Yevgeny Khaldei on 2nd May 1945, it was actually a restaging of an incident that had happened a couple of days earlier, like so many photos that are commonly believed to be of the actual event. It was seen as highly symbolic, even though the Reichstag, as a building concerned with parliamentary democracy, was completely irrelevant to both the Nazi and Soviet states. Beside the flag-waver there is another iconic image, of a woman holding something and gesturing with her left hand. 'Motherland is Calling' is one of the most famous, and widely reproduced, of all the many Soviet posters of the Second World War. In it the mother (Soviet Union) is exalting her sons to beat back the invaders, and holds the Soviet military oath in her right hand.
The mother carrying a baby is a common theme in wartime posters, often being threatened by an enemy or urging the menfolk to go off to war. The figure here could match many of those, although one in particular with a mother and child threatened by a Nazi bayonet and the slogan "Red Army Warrior, Save Us!" seems a particularly good fit.
The last row deals with final victory, and conjures up images of the victory parade in Red Square in June 1945. On his white horse, Marshal Zhukov, with chest covered in medals, takes the salute while five soldiers wearing the new 'everyday' uniform slight Nazi flags and standards. Even the pose of the horse is faithfully copied from a photograph taken at the Moscow parade. Like most of the figures here, the men holding the flags come in multiple parts, and the set includes five flags plus a Nazi standard - both were carried at the Moscow parade.
This is a Pegasus set so the sculpting is excellent as always, with amazingly fine detail and perfect proportions. You can even read the name 'Adolf Hitler' on the name box of the Nazi standard - a space of just five millimetres! Faces are nice and expressive - as they were on the originals - and the clothing flows naturally. Almost all the figures require some assembly (see sprue), but we found these parts joined together very well. The flag-bearers were a bit fiddly, but nothing too difficult. This means there is no excess plastic anywhere, although we were disappointed to find some flash in places which is not easy to remove given the very slender (and therefore fragile) elements on some of these figures (which come in quite a hard plastic). Also disappointing is the horse, which as you can see has no base, so while it does successfully stand without one it is obviously less stable than if one had been provided. Happily Zhukov fits his mount very well.
The subject of scores gave us more than the usual amount of trouble for this set. First of all, how do you gauge accuracy for a set depicting mainly propaganda posters? Certainly everything here accurately reflects posters and photographs, yet as we have said no Soviet soldier went around wearing a cape, so we have avoided that contentious issue and you can decide on accuracy from our remarks instead! The pose quality is even more difficult. For most wargames and diorama builders the poses will have very little value - who really needs a woman holding an oath at arm’s length, or a soldier holding a flag that appears to be touching the ground? In context these poses are fine, and some of the fighting soldiers certainly could be used anywhere, but again we thought the quality of the poses would be too contentious an issue. How can you possibly decide if the number of poses is good or not? How many would constitute enough, or a generous number, for such a subject? Yes, we bailed on that one too. You see where we are going with this! Quality of sculpting is superb, so we would easily have given full marks for that, and the small amount of flash would have dropped a point from the mould score, but in general this is not the sort of set for which our scoring system was designed.
So this is a very unusual set, which provides some highly original figures (if copies of images made 70 years ago can be called 'original'). Some conventional fighting poses are easily usable in the wider modelling world, but the parade figures and the women in the third row will struggle to find any wider purpose, although they make interesting figures in their own right. Apart from a bit of flash the set has been very well produced, so if nothing else it should provide something a bit different for the next painting project and make a change from the usual men-in-battle figures.