During the medieval period Russia was a land of small competing states, resulting in many small wars between them. In addition invasions from both East and West had to be faced, with that of the Mongols being easily the most important. Facing such Steppe peoples inevitably meant Russian armies found the cavalry arm to be the most important, at least for part of the period, but of course the foot warrior continued to have a part to play. The very first 1/72nd scale figure set from Zvezda depicted these men and is reviewed here, and while not a bad set it fell well short of the very high quality standards of almost all the rest of that company’s output, which is perhaps why they felt it necessary to create a brand new set for the same subject. This then is their second attempt at Medieval Russian foot warriors, and with the benefit of the experience gained since the first set this is quite a different beast.
Rus states were influenced by both East and West, but particularly after the Mongol invasion it was the East that was dominant, and that is well reflected in these figures. Helmets are either conical or dome-shaped, and there is much lamellar and mail armour on display - often both on the same figure, where a lamellar cuirass covers a suit of mail. Some quilted clothing is also to be seen, but plate armour is limited to a few pieces protecting joints or limbs. All this is perfectly authentic, as are the styles chosen for the various garments. The archer wears an interesting cap which covers one eye and which we could not confirm from any of our sources, although we have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Weaponry too is very good, with a selection of spears and swords plus others. The spears are long, slender and, as separate pieces, look great. The swords are a mixture of straight and curved blades, with the former being more common in the north and the latter in the south, but both are fine and nicely done. While several carry them only one man is using a battle axe, which was a popular weapon, and another has a fairly small war hammer. Javelins such as that in the hands of one pose are correct for this time and place, and unlike many javelin poses in other sets this man is carrying a further supply of these on his back, which is great. The dramatic third figure in the top row seems to have a kind of mace, perhaps a kistien which was a metal ball on the end of a chain or leather thong attached to a handle. The archer also represents an important element of Russian armies of this time, as does the crossbowman, which is a welcome inclusion missing from the first set. Shields are a mixture of styles, as they should be, with almond-shaped and round examples as well as the pavise on the back of the crossbowman.
The poses are all excellent and mostly achieved by providing separate parts such as arms which need to be assembled. This avoids the flatness often seen on figures, particularly those with blade weapons and shields, and adds greatly to their appeal. The first and third figures in the second row are in fact the same basic figure but with different arms to create different poses.
Zvezda have long since proved their mastery of the art of sculpting figures and these merely demonstrate how much they have achieved compared to their first set. Detail is abundant and beautifully intricate everywhere, which is just as well for a subject that demands nothing less. The majority of poses require some form of assembly, and in all cases the parts fit together very well without need of glue. The resulting figures are very well animated and thoroughly believable in all respects. With no flash and no areas of unwanted plastic this set is superbly sculpted, as we have come to expect from Zvezda.
In summing up we often point out little quibbles with a set, but in this case there are none really. Most of the shields are engraved with excellent designs, when regulars will know we prefer plain so that customers can add their own, but at least such engraving adds to the highly decorative feel of this set. The same goes for the standard, which has a lion rampant engraved on it when most were usually more religious in character. However these are all personal preferences, and for many the wealth of engraving is a positive aspect, while even little touches like the arrow sticking out of one man's shield adding to the appeal. Zvezda are to be loudly applauded to taking the commercial risk of essentially replacing a sub-standard set with a better effort, and it is to be hoped that their strategy will be rewarded with commercial success, for this is a superb set that deserves all the success it gets.