The Cossacks were much the best known of the Tsar’s cavalry during the Crimean War, and many served him during that conflict. The largest contingent was made up of the Don Host, although others were dressed similarly apart from those in the Army of the Caucasus (for which see Strelets Terek Cossacks). The Russian cavalry, including the Cossacks, did not perform well during the war, but they are still a vital part of any Crimean Russian Army, and it is good to see this element finally realised in 1/72 plastic.
While Cossacks had traditionally pleased themselves in most things, by the start of the war they largely conformed to the regulation uniform laid down for them. This was a tchekman jacket – something like a frock coat – with loose trousers and boots. On the head they wore a peakless shako with a bag over the right and a pompon on the left. In foul weather, and pretty much for the whole of the war, they usually wore an oilskin cover – often as a hat and with nothing underneath it, as shown in the box artwork. All these figures however are clearly wearing the shako with bag and a rather large and curious approximation of a pompon. We would have much preferred the more usual cover, but at least with some trimming something similar could be achieved. However as a shako this should have a large badge on the front, which is missing here. The jacket and trousers are properly done, although we could see no sign of the girdle that was normally worn. These figures have shoulder straps, which began to disappear in 1855 but would have been normal wear for most of the major actions of the war.
The Strelets penchant for overly dramatic poses tends to reach a peak with sets of Cossacks, but happily here the poses are more restrained and therefore useful. However we were disappointed that so few were armed with the lance – surely the weapon most associated with these troops. No less than half the poses have been given a musket, despite only 10 men in each sotnia (squadron, about 130 men) being issued with them. The sword poses are OK but we did not care for the man with his sword behind his neck simply because this is a very difficult stance for the human body to attain. Given their role as light cavalry the poses holding and firing muskets and pistols are OK. As is normal with cavalry sets multiple purchases will leave you with far more flag-bearers than can usefully be employed, but at least here some careful trimming of these surfeit figures can provide a further lancer pose.
The sculpting is about average for this manufacturer. Not up there with the best by any means but a fair effort. One particular feature that we noticed was that the muskets/carbines are extremely short – much too short in our view. Fortunately there is very little flash to be removed. One man has a separate weapon (third figure on top row, with lowered lance), but this fits well into the ring hand so presents no problems.
The horses are not a particularly lifelike selection, and some of the figures do not fit some of the fatter horses, so some care is needed to match rider with animal. Although many of the riders seem to be in quite relaxed poses most of the horses give the impression of being at the gallop, which is an unfortunate mismatch.
This set doesn’t really have much of a Cossack feel to it. It would have been nice to see more men carrying a lance, even if they were not using it, and more horses trotting or even standing would have been an improvement too. The problems with the headgear mar what is otherwise a fairly accurate set, although trimming and painting can disguise that, so this is certainly a quite usable set for an extremely important part of the Russian army for the Crimean war and beyond.