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RedBox

Set 72086

Russian War Monks

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2015
Contents 40 figures
Poses 10 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

The 16th and 17th centuries saw the growth of the principality of Moscow, conquering its neighbours and eventually becoming the state of Russia, and along with that growth came the growth of the Russian Orthodox Church. The church saw it as its duty to convert unbelievers to its faith, as religious organisations so often do, and right from the start monasticism was a vital element in Russian Orthodoxy, with the monks colonising and cultivating remote and inhospitable regions. For their own defence such monasteries were often strongpoints, fortified and capable of resisting attack, and so these were also instruments in the expansion of Muscovy. The monks themselves were not permitted to bear arms – there was no tradition of warrior military orders like those in the West or Japan – but if attacked then if necessary the monks might take up arms to defend their monastery. It is not surprising that this happened on several occasions, so while the figures in this set represent no regular military unit, they show monks as they must have appeared on several occasions during those turbulent years.

The poses in this set are an interesting lot, and seem to have been inspired by two sources. The first is a painting by the Russian artist Sergey Miloradovich (1851-1943) of the defence of the Holy Trinity and St Sergius Monastery between 1608 and 1610. This monastery was attacked by an army from Poland-Lithuania and successfully defended by soldiers, peasants and monks, and many of these poses can be found in that painting. The second source may be a painting by Mikhail Petrovich Klodt (1835-1914) of the same event, where we can find monks armed with muskets. The first four pictured poses are of men holding firearms, which is reasonable as many monks were proficient in the use of muskets before entering the Order. Others have weapons that would have been whatever came to hand at the time, so we find someone with an axe and another with a Russian axe called a bardiche. The next man has a large ladle which from the painting seems to be filled with boiling water, hot coals or something else with which to deter anyone coming up against the walls. Beside him is someone about to throw down something heavy on the heads of the attackers, and to his left is a man throwing a bucket of something – perhaps water to quench a fire or some unpleasant substance, again on the heads of attackers at the walls. The last figure is also taken from the Miloradovich painting and is of a man hauling on a rope. In the painting he and others are pulling a small gun up a flight of steps, but having this single pose, apparently pulling a rope out of the ground, seems like an odd choice as it makes no sense by itself and is extremely specific. Although we are not convinced of the wisdom of the last pose, all the rest make good sense and some interesting figures.

The clothing of these monks is the simple cassock, hardly a suitable costume to fight in, but what any monk of the day would have worn. One has managed to find a sort of padded tunic which he wears outside his robe – this is illustrated in one of the paintings and does not seem unreasonable. The man with the ladle also wears an apron – again a sensible garment given what he is doing. Some of the men have procured helmets or caps, all typical of the time and place, but several wear the hood that was their normal wear and appears in many illustrations of monks of the time. Since the Orthodox Church sets great store by tradition and is resistant to change, this clothing is likely to be applicable for a long period. The muskets are suitable for much of the period, though by the later 17th century they would not be the matchlocks shown here (though monasteries were hardly likely to be at the forefront of modern weaponry).

The sculpting is very good. About the biggest feature here – the way the robes hang and move – is very well done, and while these are not figures that require intricate detail, such things as the faces and the beards are also well done. Although every figure is complete and needs no assembly the figures give no impression of being flat, but instead look good and natural. The quality of the mould is not so good however, because there is quite a lot of flash in places here.

While this is not a well-known subject it is certainly an interesting one, and the set adds to the coverage of post-medieval Muscovy, with perhaps particular emphasis on the Time of Troubles. Since these are men without any form of military drill, and indeed will sometimes simply have to defend themselves with whatever they can find quickly, the poses are particularly refreshing, though on the whole you would only expect to find such men on the walls or within a monastery building. In conjunction with the sister artillery set, these are unusual sets that we very much liked, though RedBox need to pay much more attention to the removal of flash if they are to please their customers.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 9
Mould 5

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