In 1917 Russia was a country in chaos. The Tsar had been removed in the February Revolution, and the Bolsheviks had seized power in October. The war effort against the Central Powers was rapidly falling apart as troops deserted in large numbers, yet new enemies were appearing all over the place as risings against the new government developed into full blown military campaigns by what became the Whites, aided from outside. The new Russian Army that had to meet these threats was based partly on the old Red Guards, but inevitably had to rely on large parts of the former Tsarist army for skills and experience. From such a difficult birth the Red Army fought the civil wars of the following few years, gradually developing into an effective and ultimately victorious force.
In the early difficult days such things as uniform were a luxury the state could neither afford nor organise properly. Many new recruits fought in their own civilian clothes, and naturally existing uniforms were still worn (but without the Tsarist shoulder boards of course) along with all manner of other items acquired by various means. However a new uniform was devised, and started to appear mainly during 1919, before finally becoming the norm by 1920. New regulations appeared in 1922, but as with the previous uniform these only gradually changed the look of the men.
The figures in this set display a good deal of uniformity, so are clearly better suited to the period when uniform became firmly established rather than the early months of the Civil War. Some of the men wear the traditional gymnastiorka shirt while others wear a shirt that fully opens at the front, and some of these bear a hallmark of the Russian Army at this time, the razgovory. These were coloured tabs across the chest, something like exaggerated buttonhole lace, which were perhaps the most distinctive part of the new uniform. As we have said, supply was slow and patchy, so it is good to see that some figures do not have these, which adds variety. Most of the men have breeches and puttees, which is fine, but the officer and one other man have long boots, which again was quite common, particularly for officers. In summer the Russian soldier wore his usual soft peaked cap, but it was normal to see men wearing their winter cap too, which was pointed at the crown and had flaps to protect the ears. This was what soon became known as the budenovka, and as we have said, while it was a winter item its presence in a 'summer' set is perfectly reasonable, although naturally all the ear flaps are up here.
There can be no complaints about the poses in this set. A good number are firing, but there are some nice advancing examples too. We particularly liked the prone figure in the bottom row reaching for a new round, but all of them are useful.
While these figures have the usual somewhat rough quality of most Strelets figures they have all the detail such relatively simple figures require, although as usual some items are rather too large. There is no flash or extra plastic, although this has sometimes been achieved by choosing a flatter pose.
These are not great looking figures but they do the job and along with the sets listed below paint a very acceptable picture of the troops of the fledgling Red Army as it battled to establish the revolution and the new Government.