When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Red Army was initially slow to respond as the Soviet leadership had done nothing to prepare for it, and in the early months the losses were colossal. The huge numbers in the ranks of the Red Army in 1941 counted for little against well-organised and technically more advanced enemies, as the fiasco that was the war with Finland had already shown. The considerable weaknesses in the army, so tragically exposed during these campaigns, meant it took four years of bitter fighting before Germany was defeated, and the men who bore the brunt of that fighting are depicted here, in one of the first soft plastic sets released by Esci.
This set is a departure from the standard set of poses for which Esci has become known. The inclusion of a Cossack with his mount has reduced the number of infantry poses, though those that are present are pretty well thought out. As with so many Esci World War II sets there is a single-piece mortar and operator. On this occasion the man has been given a base, so the piece stands up OK, but the mortar is still a poor compromise thanks to the limitations of the mould. The inclusion of a female radio operator is a nice feature as very many women fought in the Red Army, including in combat roles. The Cossack figure is leading his horse, and while he is interesting he is of little use by himself and in that pose.
As with most other sets of Soviet infantry, the uniform is appropriate for the whole war, with the classic infantryman's uniform of gymnastiorka shirt and M1940 helmet. The mortar operator appears to wear the popular ushanka hat while the officer wears a side cap. Most of the men wear their greatcoat or cape rolled around their body in the traditional Russian manner.
Weaponry consists of rifles and the very common PPSh sub-machine gun. The mortar is too simplified to be accurately identified, but the heavy machine gun is the well-used 1910 Maxim, which is a very nice little model. The prone figure operating it works quite well, although he only has one hand on it, and the man feeding the ammunition belt has to be placed with his face near to a wheel as the feed has to be from the right side of the gun. This is not the best pose, especially as he too only uses one hand, so something of a compromise once more. One man is throwing a stick grenade, one of many models used by the Soviets.
All uniform and equipment is well sculpted, correctly detailed and typical of the Red Army. The usual Esci attention to detail makes this a very attractive set, though some will bemoan the reduction in poses caused by the Cossack.