By the start of World War I the Cossacks had long enjoyed a fearsome reputation both in Russia and abroad, but their Russian commanders often held a much lower opinion of them and gave them more menial duties to perform. Nonetheless their sheer numbers made them an important part of Russia’s war effort. Cossacks were also used extensively to 'assist the civil authority' by breaking up strikes and demonstrations, and were mostly seen as loyal supporters of the Tsar. By 1917 this was not always so, and many supported the revolutions, while the following civil war saw Cossacks fighting on both sides.
Strelets have made a great many cavalry sets and it would be fair to say the poses in this one are a typical selection, which is by no means bad. The front rank of the Cossacks carried a lance, as represented by the first four figures in our pictures. The second row shows troops that have drawn their guard-less sword, and again they are fine although we were not enthusiastic about the final figure in this row, who is presumably leaning down to strike at a dismounted target but looks quite awkward. The second man on the bottom row is holding the famous nagaika whip, which could be used in war but is more likely to be seen in 'internal security' situations.
All the men wear the usual gymnastiorka with a peaked cap and boots, which differed little from the non-Cossack cavalry. They have leather waist belts that carried 30 rounds of ammunition, and a fabric bandolier over the left shoulder with 30 more. Over the right is the baldric that held their sabre, and they have also slung their carbines over this shoulder. All of this is quite correct.
The horses are the same as those to be found in the other Strelets Great War Russian cavalry sets, which means they do not make very convincing models of the small, shaggy but very sturdy mounts of the Cossacks. Also some of the poses are not good (or even possible).
The sculpting is of the usual Strelets standard, with reasonable detail but a fairly basic and quite chunky overall appearance. Items such as swords and firearms tend to be a bit thick and seem too short, and much the same is true of the lances. The three figures with ring hands take the separate weapons (2 lances and a sword) very well, and there is very little flash to worry about. For the most part the men fit the horses very well, although some care is needed as some matches are better than others.
There were 54 regiments of Don Cossacks in the Great War - well over 100,000 men - and they were the largest contingent of Steppe Cossacks. The only difference between the Don and other Steppe hosts was in the colour of their facings, so these figures are in fact suitable for any of them. With revolutions, the Great War and the civil war the Cossacks found themselves in turbulent times so this set has many uses. While the men are entirely accurate we would have preferred a much more realistic set of horses for this and all the Cossack sets, but otherwise this is another very usable Strelets set.