As with all Russia's armed forces, the cavalry underwent dramatic changes following the revolutions of 1917. From the chaos of the first few months of the new government and the start of the civil war came a new mounted arm, and a hero in the form of Semyon Mikhailovich Budenny (1883-1973). The First Cavalry Army, led by the dashing Budenny, became the first elite cavalry of the Red Army, and won great fame for itself and its commander during the war.
This is the first set to depict the Russian Civil War, and as always the cavalry are seen as the most romantic of the participants. All the figures in this set are wearing winter uniform, a costume that became the 'classic' look of Soviet soldiers before the Great Patriotic War of 1941. In the early months uniform had been an unobtainable luxury for most, but by 1920 the uniform on these figures was fairly widespread. Their headgear is the shlem, often also called the budenovka after the legendary Budenny. It is a pointed peaked cloth helmet with flaps that could be lowered in cold weather, and it had a large cloth star on the front, as shown on these figures. This was supposed to have a smaller enamelled metal badge in its centre, but this was often missing and has not been included in this set. The men also wear the distinctive greatcoat with the three coloured tabs on the chest, again common by 1920. Despite minor changes in 1922, this is the standard look of Red Army cavalry for winter campaigns throughout the war, and it has been properly done in this set.
The poses are a good selection, with the sword being the dominant weapon (partly because firearms were not always available in sufficient numbers). There are also a couple of men using their rifles, though the man firing is aiming very high. The first figure on the top row is Budenny himself, and his most distinctive feature, his impressive moustache, is clearly evident on this model.
The sculpting is fine, with good proportions and realistic clothing. Where the flaps of the budenovka have been let down they seem to flap realistically, though we would have thought that these would usually have been fastened under the chin or kept tied up. Detail is mostly good as well, though occasionally this goes awry, for example with one or two of the tabs on the coat and with the variable depiction of pockets on the same garment. All the figures have belts and a shoulder belt, but on one this latter is only sculpted on the front of the figure. However the problem is easily fixed during painting. There is a certain amount of flash too, which is not particularly bad but is more than previous Orion sets.
We were fairly under whelmed by the four horse poses, with two being very similar and all four having their head held well down. Still it was good to see a standing horse for the rifleman to shoot from. The men fit tightly on the horses, and in some cases this is a bit too tight, causing the figure to 'spring' up out of the saddle.
Though we have picked out faults, they are all very minor, and overall this is an attractive set of figures. The flash is easily trimmed and minor problems with detail can be remedied with paint. The horses are more difficult, but then opinions on the poses will depend on personal taste anyway. This is a new and interesting subject from a company that is not afraid to expand the boundaries of the hobby.