By the outbreak of the Great War the Cossacks were a shadow of their former selves. By now thoroughly integrated with Russian society, their way of life had changed radically, and with the change many skills were being lost. However they remained excellent horsemen, and their sheer numbers meant they provided a large proportion of the Tsar's cavalry. Their personal loyalty to the Tsar also meant they were often used in internal police duties, but naturally when war came many served on the front line.
The Don were the largest Host on the Steppe, and provided more cavalry than any other Host. Their clothing followed the general Russian cavalry pattern, which in the case of these figures means a double-breasted greatcoat (shinel) and bashlyk hood topped off with a peaked cap. The officer figure (last man in the third row) wears a shorter coat, probably a personal item, and a good large cap. He also proudly displays an array of medals that seem to cover his breast.
The men are armed with lance, sword and rifle, all of which are reasonable done. The lance was about three metres long and had the pennant furled, as in this set, while the sword was quite distinctive, having no hand guard, which is also correctly shown here.
We thought the poses were a pretty decent selection, and include two with ring hands into which lances can be inserted. The man firing his rifle from his right shoulder would look wrong in most cavalry sets but as a Cossack he seems quite appropriate.
The horses also appear in the other Great War Russian cavalry sets from Strelets, and are a compromise in terms of saddlery and harness, but not too bad. Of more concern was the fact that they seem like fine horses rather than the smaller and more meagre-looking animals that the Cossacks traditionally rode, and which provided such excellent mounts for them. As we say, a compromise with the regular cavalry set. Some of the gaits are wrong too, but most are OK.
Sculpting is fair, but some items like the cap peaks can go a little astray sometimes and you would have to say the standard is acceptable rather than beautiful. However there is no flash to speak of, and weapons fit hands with the same tight precision that the men themselves fight their horses.
These reasonable figures have plenty of uses beside World War I. They played a major part in both the events leading up to the revolutions and the civil war that followed, but this was to be their finale as the Bolsheviks eradicated the Cossacks after their final victory.