In 1941 Soviet Russia suffered an act of naked aggression and complained loudly about it, but in the preceding two years it was Russia that was the aggressor, and as a result the Red Army (full title Workers-Peasants Red Army or RKKA) was kept very busy. The invasions and occupations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1940 had at least been bloodless, but elsewhere things were very different. In co-operation with Nazi Germany the Red Army had invaded Poland once that country was effectively defenceless and could put up little fight, while two months later it invaded Finland. In this case however it met a small but well equipped and very well motivated opponent that humiliated it by ably defending their territory for months and inflicting huge casualties. In the end might prevailed, but it was a revelation of how weak the Red Army actually was compared to its paper strength; a weakness that was dramatically exploited in 1941 when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa.
The Soviet soldier of this period was largely clothed as per the 1935 regulations, although there was still some considerable variety of actual items worn. All these figures wear the traditional gymnastiorka-style shirt with breeches and puttees over short boots, all of which are correct, although puttees were disappearing in favour of longer boots at the time. Half the figures wear the M1936 type helmet (again being replaced by the M1940 during the period) and half the pilotka cap. None have the older pointed cap usually known as the budionovka, which was still to be seen at this time, although other Strelets sets seem likely to fill this gap. The officer has better boots and a peaked cap, and all the figures are wearing authentic uniform.
There are several orders of kit here, and while everyone has an entrenching tool and rifle ammunition pouches, for some this is all they carry apart from a canteen. Others have the very common veshchevoi meshok pack, which was something like a duffel bag, while the rest have the M1938 canvas knapsack with the two external pockets and a greatcoat or cape/shelter folded around the outside. The soldier in the bottom row holding the machine gun has a knife on his belt, but no one has a bayonet scabbard, which is quite correct as the bayonet was always assumed to be fixed.
The usual chunky Strelets style is clear to see on these men, which means that some detail is missing such as the very distinctive design of the rifle pouches, which are just plain here. The faces are not too bad but some things tend to get a bit misshapen in places such as some of the helmets. The rifles are actually quite well done, but we thought the Degtyaryov DP Model 1928 (which it must surely be due to the top-mounted circular ammunition drum) was really quite poor and badly proportioned. There is little flash here, and no excess plastic due to some careful design to avoid this by making the offending area flatter.
In general the poses are fine, with the prone rifleman firing upwards being an unusual but perfectly reasonable example. As so often it is one of the most difficult poses – that of the man about to throw a grenade – that is the weakest of the bunch.
When in battle we would expect every man here to have a bayonet mounted, which some do not (nor even reversed as far as we can see), but otherwise these are fairly accurate models. Such men fought the Japanese, Poles, Finns and Germans during these years, so there are plenty of scenarios for such a set, but the execution still leaves plenty of room for improvement.