Today we imagine a Cossack as a highly skilled horseman, serving as light cavalry for the Tsars and creating terror for any enemy infantry they might face. However in the 16th century most were actually infantry, and while many would ride to the battle, they would normally dismount to fight. Thus Cossack infantry was the norm for the first two centuries or so of their existence, yet their ferocity earned them a reputation as excellent fighters, and many served as mercenaries alongside regular troops from their various neighbours, particularly the Poland/Lithuania Commonwealth and Muscovy. In the 16th century these two states fought each other on numerous occasions, and other theatres of war also kept the Cossacks busy, but one of their most famous exploits was the expedition, from 1581, to conquer the Siberian khanate under Yermak Timofeyich in the name of Muscovy.
This third set in the trilogy of 16th century Cossacks from RedBox concentrates on the arquebus. Although the origins of the Cossacks were Tartar, and so naturally they made wide use of the bow, they adopted the new arquebus much quicker than their Tartar neighbours, giving them a significant advantage in battle. It is therefore appropriate that a whole set is devoted to this weapon, and here we find an impressive 12 poses using it. As a result, just about every activity is covered here, from all the actions of using the weapon to resting or marching, plus a couple who have drawn their swords. It would be hard to think of anything not included, and all the poses are really good. At least one man is using the ramrod, which is always a very difficult pose to do, and this one is not ideal, but still perfectly reasonable. If there was one that failed to delight then it is the last man, who holds his sword sideways and resting against the back of his cap. This is hardly a position from which to deliver a blow, so while it is a common problem in figure sets this one man is flat and unconvincing.
As with the rest of this series, and the other sets currently being made by RedBox, the sculpting here is extremely good. Smaller items like the various bits of kit these men carry are very nicely produced, and the faces with their long moustaches are first-rate. The guns too are well done, although a couple seem to be missing any detail on the reverse side, so for example triggers that are nicely done on the front side are featureless on the back. That aside the quality is very pleasing, and although there is a bit of flash to be found, this is not particularly destructive of the look of these figures.
The men all wear traditional Cossack costume, and in particular the caps with the split fur trim. Their equipment is all present and correct, including powder horn, priming flask, ball bag and other bag for tools etc., and some have bandoliers with prepared cartridges, so the standard of kit is perfect.
We have always liked the concept of delivering different types of figures in different sets so customers need only buy them in the proportions they require, which also allows for a generous 12 poses for just this one type of Cossack soldier. We have also always liked well-sculpted figures that are accurate and in believable and appropriate poses, and this set fits that description too. The slight niggles we had over one pose and the small amount of flash don’t really detract from a generally superb set, and if you knew nothing about the early history of the Cossacks then this and the other sets in this mini-series are an excellent introduction to a fascinating and generally little-known element of East European history.