The major event of the 17th century as far as the Zaporozhian Cossacks of the Ukraine were concerned was the savage uprising against the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which began in 1647/8. Such uprisings were not uncommon, but this one achieved considerable early success and independence was apparently won in 1654, although in reality domination of these Cossacks transferred to the Muscovite Tsar, who turned out to be a worse master than the Poles. Traditionally the Cossacks are seen as cavalry, but cavalry alone cannot win wars, and at this time the majority fought on foot, hence the need for this set.
Many Cossacks would have fought for the Poles in the years before the rebellion and may still have worn some items from those days, and clothing and equipment was cheerfully plundered after a victory, but all the figures in this set seem to be dressed in traditional costume, all of which is authentic. Two of the men are bareheaded, revealing their characteristic herring cut – a shaved head with a single long lock of hair from the top, and almost all the men have the long moustache (or at least as long as possible given the manufacturing process).
We are not keen on sets that combine different groups – here infantry and artillery, but at least in this set there are quite a few poses. The musket was the weapon of choice for Cossacks, but many had to make do with the more traditional sabre or pike and so it is in this set. The swordsmen are very lively and nicely animated, and the other poses are OK, but given the variety of weapons we would have preferred to see more of each. The artillerymen are fine if equally thin on the ground, and matters are not helped by the inclusion of a number of non-combatants. The priest is a fine figure and would have certainly appeared on many a battlefield, but no one is going to need large quantities of him. More problematic yet are the dancing figures on the bottom row. Both are very nice and again well animated, and the Cossacks certainly had a reputation for liking a good party, but do we really need as many dancers as musketeers?
The artillery piece is of fairly standard design for the time. From the size of both barrel and carriage we would guess it is quite light, perhaps a six-pounder, which is a good choice. The gun has been well done, and as well as the accessories pictured the set includes a small pile of cannonballs and some wedges to change the elevation of the gun.
The sculpting is very good, with both texture and folds in the clothing being very well done. Facial expressions are also well done and for the most part there is no flash, although in a handful of places flash is a problem. The gun fits together well although the wheels are fairly loose and will require gluing to stay together.
This is the latest in a series of sets from Orion depicting the turbulent history of the Ukraine during the 17th century, and for the most part it is a very good product. In an ideal world we would wish to see separate sets of infantry and artillery, but more realistically we would have passed on the dancers and the priest in favour of more action poses, although these certainly add to the Cossack flavour of the set.