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HaT

Set 8099

Russian Militia

Click for larger image
All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2005
Contents 100 figures
Poses 17 poses
Material Plastic (Fairly Soft)
Colours Grey
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

In 1806 things were looking bad for Russia. Heavily defeated the previous year, Napoleon had crushed Prussia at Jena and there seemed a very real threat of a French invasion. Despite a natural reluctance to arm the serfs, the Tsar decreed 'the forming of general home guards or militias', and many battalions were organised. Within a year the treaty of Tilsit had been signed and the threat removed, so all were disbanded. However in 1812 the threat was back, and in July the militia, or opolchenie, were once more created. Many thought this would be a path out of serfdom, and the response was enthusiastic. Units were organised on various lines, and the units from each province were grouped into regions or okrug to perform various duties.

With so many different bodies being formed locally, the result was always likely to be a very mixed bag. Many wore their ordinary clothes with just a cross and insignia badge, while those under wealthier colonels adopted one of a wide variety of uniforms. In this set HaT have delivered a cross section of many of these provincial units rather than a selection of figures from one, and the full description of these men as shown in our pictures is as follows:

Row 1

  1. Petersburg Officer
  2. Petersburg Militiaman
  3. Petersburg Militiaman
  4. Petersburg Militiaman
Row 2
  1. Moscow Militia, Ordinary Company
  2. Moscow Militia, Merchant's Regiment, Jager
  3. Moscow Militia, Merchant's Regiment, Jager
  4. Pense Militiaman
Row 3
  1. Ryazan Musketeer
  2. Ryazan Musketeer
  3. Tula Musketeer
  4. Tver Musketeer
Row 4
  1. Novgorod Cossack
  2. Novgorod Cossack
  3. Kaluga Cossack
  4. Smolensk Cossack
  5. Vladimir Cossack

The Moscow Opolchenie were much the most numerous outside of the Ukraine, but the St. Petersburg contingent was also large. It can be seen that some provinces have only one figure to represent them, and some have none at all. However it is clear that uniformity was rare indeed in these units, and considerable licence can be given in mixing men of different uniform and calling them one regiment.

As with clothing, so weapons were in short supply. The lucky ones got muskets, but many were armed with pikes or a strange device that was a pike with a musket butt at one end. In place of swords hatchets were widely carried.

These figures certainly match the very cosmopolitan description we have of these men. The uniforms of each contingent are correctly represented, although as we have said this was far from rigidly adhered to. Many wear knee-length kaftans and baggy trousers, and headgear includes caps, felt hats and a peakless czapka. The men are all heavily bearded and do capture something of the rough and ready nature of these troops. Weapons too are accurately done, with muskets and various pikes on show, plus one man wielding an axe. The officer would have come from the regular army, and be dressed accordingly, so the very nice officer model in this set is also very useful for many other units, and indeed other periods.

Having pointed out that this set represents many different units, the choice of poses becomes fairly unimportant. As it is there is a reasonable but fairly sedate selection, and if for whatever reason they were all placed together then the impression would be largely of a firing line. In fact the opolchenie were generally used for secondary tasks like logistics, guarding prisoners etc., but some certainly did find themselves in the thick of battle, and when there about the only tactic they knew was a full charge, so it would have been nice to have seen some figures thus posed.

The figures are very nicely proportioned, but despite having relatively simple uniforms we thought they lacked a certain finesse - many of the straps in particular seem too thick, and on some figures there are straps missing, such as those for the pack. However this is not a serious problem, and they are at least flash-free, although many have two spurs to the sprue which tend to join the figure around the shoulder, making it difficult to carve away without damaging the detail. They are produced in the new soft plastic that takes both glue and paint so well, so any bent weapons are easily straightened.

With so many of these unusual troops participating in such battles as Borodino this set delivers an important part of the Imperial Russian army that faced Napoleon between 1812 and 1814. The many different styles of uniform should provide converters with much new material, and although the variety of units suggests wargamers will gain more from this set than those building dioramas, there is enough here to please most. The recent surge in sets depicting the Tsar's army continues with this pleasing product.

Oh, and by the way, those that were hoping to gain their freedom from serfdom by joining the opolchenie received instead the thanks of the Tsar and the phrase '...and our faithful people will get their recompense from God...'!


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 1
Sculpting 8
Mould 9

Further Reading
Books
"Borodino: The Moskova" - Histoire & Collections - Francois-Guy Hourtoulle - 9782908182965
"Brazen Cross of Courage" - Partizan (Special Edition Series No.5) - Stephen Summerfield - 9781858185552
"Napoleonic Uniforms Vol.4" - Emperor's Press - John R Elting - 9781883476205
"The Napoleonic Source Book" - Guild - Philip Haythornthwaite - 9780853689690
"The Russian Army of the Napoleonic Wars (1) Infantry 1799-1814" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.185) - Philip Haythornthwaite - 9780850457377
"Uniforms of the Imperial Russian Army" - Blandford (Colour Series) - Boris Mollo - 9780713709209
"Uniforms of the Retreat from Moscow" - Blandford (Colour Series) - Philip Haythornthwaite - 9780713707885

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