The two conflicts in Chechnya (1994-96 and 1999-2009) have been labelled as both wars of liberation and anti-terrorist operations, depending on the viewpoint of the commentator. Because they were fought solely in what is recognised internationally as Russia, they did not receive the same world-wide attention that other recent conflicts have received. Nonetheless Chechnya was one of the more significant trouble spots of the last decade of the last century, and Orion have produced a set of Chechen rebels and this collection of Russian forces personnel to represent it.
As with all Orion sets there is an excellent range of poses - no less than 23 in this case (plus a dog). This naturally allows for considerable variety, and can include specialist troops not usually deemed worth including in other sets. Along with a good number of standard infantrymen the set includes a couple of tank crew, both in the second row. One of these is holding out a cup while the other is pouring the contents of a bottle into it, so clearly this is a relaxed moment, but it is a nice little scene. Also in the set are poses labelled as Spetsnaz, who were the elite special forces of Russia, but they wore no distinctive uniform or insignia, so they appear no different from the rest of the figures here. The poses chosen are fine if at times a little awkward, and include two seated figures, a soldier brandishing a knife, one covering his ears, a prisoner and a man urinating. Though this last is a common enough activity, we were not sure why it was felt necessary to include such a figure. At the start of our last row is a crawling figure who is looking directly at the ground, so not a particularly good pose in our view.
Uniform is very mixed, which is a fair reflection of the far from standard appearance of Russia's forces. The predominant uniform here is, quite rightly, the afganka, which was the current model in the 1990s. This has been well done here, with the cargo pockets on both legs and pockets on each sleeve too. As you might expect, however, much of the uniform is obscured by equipment worn on the body, particularly the load-carrying vests several wear, and the body armour found on others, which looks like the standard 6B5 used at the time. Several wear helmets of course, which should be the SSh-68, but while some of these could easily pass for that, some are very different. These latter have a much more encompassing, motorbike-style shape, and look to be the Sfera helmet, worn by troops of the Interior Ministry. There are also many other head-coverings here, soft hats, knitted caps, berets, bandanas and, of course, the classic tanker’s padded helmet on the two figures. All of these seem reasonable, and since there are so many poses, this sort of wide variety of clothing can be achieved without greatly affecting the proper overall look, particularly as several of these poses are not in action.
Equally good, and equally varied, is the array of weapons on display. Three of the poses carry the standard AK-74 rifle, two more the same but with the GP-34 grenade launcher attached under the barrel, and three have the AKS-74 shortened version with the folding stock. Two poses carry the AKS-74U carbine, and there are also two men using the SVD sniper rifle. One man carries an RPK-74 machine gun, and finally we have one pose using an RPO-A Shmel rocket-launcher. Between them this list of weapons covers all the major ones in use during the 1990s, so is a good choice for this set.
In general the figures seem not as polished as those from bigger more established manufacturers, but the detail is clear, the poses lively and anatomically the figures are well proportioned. In a few areas the sculpting gets a bit basic, but for the most part it looks quite good, and the weapons in particular are nicely done. A few of the figures are a bit unstable on their very small bases, and the crawling figure in the bottom row cannot support himself but always topples forward onto his face, so is not well thought through. However there is no hint of flash or excess plastic, and for an early set from a new manufacturer at the time this is a good effort. To date Orion are the only company to depict the Chechen Wars, but this set does well to cover so much of the Russian Federal Forces, and does so with good research and reasonable quality too.