Medieval Russian princes, of which there were many, had three main sources to call upon when they wished to raise troops for war. The first were by far the best as they were the professional soldiers, the personal retinue of the prince and loyal to him alone. This was the druzhina, later known as the dvor, and it is these warriors that are depicted in this set of figures from Orion. Such men would usually be mounted, as has been modelled elsewhere, but naturally they sometimes found themselves on foot as here.
As professional soldiers these men were usually well equipped by their master, although the generally conservative nature of Rus aristocracy, whether in Kiev or elsewhere, meant that such soldiers did not change as much as their western counterparts. All these men wear armour, mostly mail although a couple have scale/lamellar armour instead. The rest of their dress is typically Russian, as are the helmets, which are in several styles but all are authentic.
The weaponry too is correct, with swords and spears being the main choices. There is one archer present, while another man holds up a mace. Two figures are carrying axes, one being relatively small while the other is the rather old-fashioned two-handed type. Several other figures have axes as secondary weapons, which is quite correct as they remained a popular weapon during this period. One figure (in our third row) seems to have a kistien, which was a ball on a leather strap attached to a wooden handle. In line with their status these men carry the kite shield, which replaced the round shield earlier in the medieval period. Everything here looks authentic and properly done.
For the most part these are really beautifully crafted figures. A few of the poses are somewhat flat (such as the man with the extremely long spear in the first row), and the man with the long-handled axe is holding it in a bizarre way, but otherwise the poses are very good and particularly lively. There is no assembly required here, which inevitably means some shields are being held far from where they should be, but this is a common fault of many such sets and no worse here than anywhere else.
The sculpting is fantastic, with a great deal of effort going to make the figures as beautifully detailed as possible. This is particularly evident in the mail armour, which is extremely finely detailed everywhere and a credit to the sculptor. The faces and hair are another outstanding area, with as realistic an expression as you could possibly hope for and beautifully produced beards etc. Leaving aside some of the weaknesses in some poses then, the sculpting is very good, but sadly the same is not true of the mould, for these figures suffer quite a lot from flash in various places. Some items such as the kistien are partly swamped in it, while the staff of the banner simply merges into the sprue with no apparent end. It seems a crime to spoil such excellent sculpting with such poor mould preparation, and of course this can be resolved with a sharp blade and some patience, but it still devalues the figures to a degree.
The banner would undoubtedly be religious in nature and this one has been engraved with the upper body of someone apparently wearing a hoody as well as a halo! He/she is raising their hands, but the whole engraving is pretty crude and those with a care will probably choose to remove it and make their own instead, which is about the best thing to be done with it.
Ultimately the best figures holding blade and shield are almost always multi-part, such as those made by Zvezda, but given the limitations of the two-piece mould these are beautifully sculpted yet poorly moulded. On balance this is a good set of figures which can be rescued from many of the problems, but does not compete with the best currently on the market.