Right from the start of what was to be called the Cold War, Soviet forces were trained to fight a conventional war against large, well-equipped opponents, since the most likely enemies were assumed to be either NATO or the Chinese. In reality however the troops had only been used for suppressing popular rebellions in Eastern Europe, and were almost entirely unprepared for the conflict they were to conduct in Afghanistan, facing a well-motivated guerrilla force with religious fervour, excellent knowledge of the terrain and the support of most of the population. Against such foes the Spetsnaz proved to be the Soviet Union's most effective troops because they could adapt to the changing conditions, respond quickly and take the fight to the Afghans in a way the regular infantry found very difficult. Although the Spetsnaz were something of a state secret at the time, the Afghan War of 1979 to 1989 has been described as the 'coming of age' of these elite forces, although in the end there were not nearly enough of them to make a real difference and rescue their country from defeat.
The Spetsnaz were elite troops by virtue of being better trained, which made them more versatile, but they were not specialists in the sense that Navy Seals or the SAS were. Their clothing and weaponry was largely the same as the rest of the Soviet Army, although they often had first access to new kit along with other privileges. With no identifying insignia during this period, there is nothing visually to positively identify a Spetsnaz, but photos show both these and ordinary infantry wearing a wide variety of clothing, not least to cope with the wide range of conditions Afghanistan can offer. Most of these figures wear overalls or camouflage clothing of one sort or another, generally comfortable and with useful pockets. A few have been clearly sculpted with the stripy vest indicating their roots in airborne training, a distinction proudly worn. Partly hidden under the equipment as it is, all this clothing looks fine on these figures. A few of the poses wear ordinary breeches and tunics of the normal infantry, which is also perfectly accurate. These men wear long boots, but the majority here wear short boots, or even possibly soft shoes such as training shoes, since they sometimes gave better grip and were certainly worn on occasion. A few have helmets (hard to be sure which model they are), but again the majority have gone for comfort, and wear either the 'panamka' bush hat, the later peaked field cap or in one case just his hood. The sniper in the top row has gone for a knitted cap, which makes sense, so basically all the clothing here is authentic and fairly typical.
As we have said, weaponry was not particularly exotic compared to their Western counterparts, and as you would expect most of these men are carrying either an AK-74 or the AKS-74 - in many cases the stock is hidden, so their weapon could be either. The sniper in the top row gave as a lot of problems, because we could not identify his weapon at all. By rights it should be the Dragunov Sniper Rifle, which was the normal sniper weapon of the time, and after staring at the model for a very long time we have decided that perhaps this is what it is supposed to be, though the detail is very poor and the resemblance is also far from clear. Detail is also a problem for the figure in the bottom row holding a light machine gun, but this is probably supposed to be a PKM, which is a good choice. All the men wear appropriate and realistic ammunition pouches for their weapon, and there is a good variety of packs and other kit, which give these figures a very genuine sense of being unfussy but determined and professional soldiers, which is just as it should be. There will be those that will ask why the relatively good number of poses do not include anyone carrying any heavier weapons, or even just grenade or rocket launchers, which is a fair point as such weapons could be vital to a mission, so while all the weapons here are suitable for the subject, a wider range might have been an improvement.
The poses are a mixed bag but generally very useable. There is a good deal of moving quickly with weapons at the ready, or kneeling ready to fire, so most of these work well in a battle scenario. Some may be on patrol and not in contact with the enemy, or defending one of the many strong points, so everyone is easy to place in a real situation. The radio-operator in the second row is quite odd though, holding up his headphones while pointing to something resting on his left leg, and the last figure in the third row is not one of our favourites, but nothing too terrible, and 13 different poses is quite respectable too.
We have already noted the detail missing on some of the weapons, and while overall the sculpting is pretty good, it can be quite variable, so for example in contrast to the sniper rifle, some of the AK-74s are very nicely detailed, such that you can see that some of the men have taped two magazines together to allow for quick reloading in an emergency (a common practice). All the rifles are a little bigger than they should be - only by a millimetre or two, but that can be noticeable on figures this scale. The faces are not at all attractive - some are downright ghoulish. Sadly the production of the moulds has let this set down quite badly. As you can see, there is a good deal of flash in many places, and this will be particularly difficult to remove round finer parts such as weapons. In addition there is a significant mismatch between the moulds, at least on our example, so some of the figures that are side on to the mould have their faces at two different levels, for which there is not much that can be done to rectify.
This is a set that scores well for historical accuracy, though one or two heavier weapons could have been included in our view. The poses are all acceptable and the sculpting fairly good, though this is countered by the quite poor way in which the mould has been produced. In terms of actual appearance in battle in Afghanistan this set is hugely better than the Esci set of Spetsnaz, and it is also far superior in terms of interesting and useful poses, but the gap between the two sets for those qualities is reversed when it comes to the standard of production, for the Esci figures are crisp, clean and beautifully detailed and these are not.