In keeping with the armies of other countries Russia's armed forces were gradually adopting a comfortable and practical uniform by the 1860s that seemed as far removed from the extravagant costume of 50 years earlier as it was possible to get. In addition the army was expanding the frontiers of the Empire south and east, and was becoming more battle-hardened in the process, which would be required if Russia was to expunge the humiliation of the outcome of the Crimean War in the 1850s. When war was declared against the Ottoman Empire yet again in 1877 (for the fifth time in that century), Russia's soldiers had the opportunity to once again show their resilience in battle.
The summer uniform of the ordinary Russian infantryman looked much like that of other armies, notably those of the American Civil War ten years earlier. This was much to the annoyance of some traditionalists in Russia, who wanted a more distinct appearance thanks to the growing Slavic nationalism of the day, and indeed some units defied regulations to retain more specifically Russian elements. Nevertheless the bulk of the infantry probably looked like these figures, who have a French-inspired appearance which had suddenly become less fashionable after France’s humbling in 1870/71. The men wear the soft kepi-style cap and a single-breasted tunic with comfortable trousers tucked into long boots. This is all correct, although as the set is labelled 'summer' we should point out that there was another uniform for particularly hot climates which included a white blouse. It is hard to be sure on many of these figures, but where it is visible they do seem to have the tunic rather than this blouse, although converting from one to the other would not be a large task.
Equipment for these men included a knapsack, haversack, canteen, waist belt with two cartridge boxes on the front and bayonet scabbard. In addition the men should have each carried one stick and one piece of a tent shelter, but these were not carried on this campaign. None of these figures have a knapsack (which was not unusual in reality), but nor do they have the ammunition pouches (where they can be seen) or bayonet scabbards. Each has what looks like a mess tin on the right hip, for which we could find no evidence, but there is no sign of any canteen. The lack of ammunition pouches is quite serious as they have only the haversack to carry any ammunition, and the lack of a bayonet scabbard is still worse as the Russian soldier was brought up to trust in his bayonet before all else. Regulations stated that the bayonet must be fixed to the rifle when in battle and on the march, making it virtually a permanent fixture, yet only three poses are complying here. Rifle battalions and skirmisher companies were the only ones who were instructed to sheath their bayonets, and even then not when in battle, so the absence of both bayonets and suitable scabbards is a particularly significant failing here. General Suvorov would have been shocked by these men.
What these men do all have is the greatcoat (they were not issued blankets) rolled and worn across the chest and over the right shoulder. This was a classic Russian trademark, and it is perfectly appropriate that these men all have this. However it does significantly hide much of the detail of the body (hence the vagueness about the tunic/blouse).
There are no officers or other specialists in this box, as is normal for Strelets mini sets, but all the poses are quite reasonable without any particularly interesting examples to highlight. However the last figure in our photographs does excite comment because he has his rifle 'off the shoulder', making us wonder how he is managing to keep it where it is. Other than that the poses are on the flat side but no more than many other sets.
Strelets have made many figures over the years and most are remarkably consistent in style and quality, which is a challenge when it comes to reviewing them as it is hard to know what to say that has not already been said. Most readers will already be well aware of the Strelets characteristics, and these figures are no different. Some chunky detail and a certain vagueness mean these are not attractive models, although there is no flash anywhere. Trying to identify smaller items such as the rifles is pretty pointless, so while these men should be carrying the Krenk rifle they could just as easily hold any of the various models in use at the time.
The missing items of kit, and particularly important kit, is a real let-down for this set, and we are amazed that a Russian manufacturer making Russian infantry should so blatantly disregard the bayonet, which was so important to all Russian soldiers of that period and many others. If you can overlook that then these figures are otherwise accurate and in useful poses, and their use as soldiers of many other European and American countries must give this set far wider appeal than simply for those with an interest in the war of 1877.