When the Soviet Union allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1939 it had, at least in theory, a massive and powerful army. However years of Stalin’s Great Purge had imprisoned and executed thousands of the Red Army's most intelligent and resourceful officers, while teaching the rest that to stay alive they must keep their head down and do as little as possible. After various unopposed occupations that year the army was sent to invade little Finland, and performed miserably. Over the months of the war - known as the Winter War - the Red Army lost huge numbers of men. 85,000 is one estimate but one semi-official report put it at 126,000 and some suggest many more - all much more than the size of the entire Finnish Army. For the men themselves the experience must have been wretched, with frustration and the bitter cold sapping morale.
Nearly all of the figures in this set wear a double-breasted greatcoat that looks to be of standard design. The only real variety is in headgear, with some wearing a helmet which looks like the regulation M1936 model and some the equally correct pointed cloth cap which is commonly known as the Budionovka. Two have a third option - probably the M31 'Finnish' lambskin hat which was the precursor to the ushanka. The second figure in the top row appears to wear a sheepskin coat and is bareheaded, but as he has a pistol holster he is likely to be an officer. Webbing and kit is hard to make out, but some have the common veshchevoi meshok pack on their backs, which was basically a duffle-bag with a drawstring.
The officer carries what is likely to be a PPD-1934/38 submachine gun, which with huge irony was based largely on designs of Finnish and German weapons. Most of the rest carry rifles of some sort, and there is a man with a DP light machine gun and a M1910 Maxim on the usual wheeled Sokolov mounting. All the weapons here could pass for appropriate weapons of the time.
We are being vague about some weapons and clothing because the quality of these figures makes it hard to be otherwise. Frankly they are terrible - really ugly and extremely badly proportioned and sculpted. Detail is often missing or vague, so there is no hope of being able to identify rifles or even helmets with any degree of confidence, while clothing is often lacking in any definition and certainly does not look realistic. There is no flash at all, which is something at least, but occasionally air bubbles in the mould have caused cavities - pits - at random points on the figures, which does nothing to improve matters. Amazingly the Maxim is just one piece, so must clearly be a very flexible mould. However the model itself is perhaps not surprisingly extremely poor, and in particular has wheels that are far too small (actually substituting skis for wheels would have been a good idea too).
The poses are fairly standard and are useful, with the left-handed grenade-thrower being the only major worry. Again a flexible mould means the poses are not as flat as many sets, which is all to the good, particularly for the soldier carrying the light machine gun. One observation on the prone Maxim crewman beside the sled (which is from the Atlantic Alpini set) is that he is feeding an invisible ammunition belt into the gun from an ammunition box.
As well as the usual small selection of paper posters, which in our view add little or nothing to the set, this one includes two large resin mini-dioramas. The first shows two dead men in amongst a wreckage of broken logs and stumps, while the second has a wounded/dead man with another, up to his thighs in snow or mud, about to throw a grenade. Actually perhaps he is in the world’s smallest foxhole, because to his front there is a line of sandbags and other detritus, so why exactly he has no legs when everything else seems happy on firm ground we cannot say. Bizarrely this little scene includes a Vickers machine gun too. Both these scenes are in resin, which is hard but brittle if thin, so as can be seen both are on very thick bases. This makes them look silly next to the other figures with their normal thin bases, so again we are not fans of this kind of thing, although some are. More importantly they are robust models, which is very much not the case with the figures, which are made of the same highly breakable material that some earlier BUM/German/Poveda sets have. Not only does this make them very fragile - particularly weapons - it also makes them extremely hard to work on should anyone wish to improve or change them.
This is not a great set. Actually it isn’t even a reasonable set. It’s various problems left us very unimpressed, so while it is largely accurate it is the poor quality that is the most memorable feature.