The siege of Pskov took place between 1581 and 1582, and was part of the Livonian War of 1558-83. The war was largely one of acquiring territory after Livonia was dissolved in 1561, various parts of it being taken by several countries. Muscovy, generally referred to as Russia by this date, wished to take some of that land for itself, as it wished to have a sea port that would improve access to Europe. An army made up mainly of Lithuanian and Polish troops surrounded Russian-held Pskov, but could not take it. In the end a negotiated settlement saw Russia renounce its claims on Livonia, and the besieging army went home. Not surprisingly, there were no Russian noble cavalry amongst the garrison of Pskov, so they took no part in the siege (and there was no attempt at relief). So the mention here must merely be a device to say that these figures are for the later part of the century, as opposed to the earlier dating of the other sets in this mini-range from RedBox.
By the time of the siege of Pskov Muscovy/Russia had been free of the Mongol yoke for a century, but her society, traditions and warriors were still very much in the eastern, Steppe mould, and the bow-armed cavalry was still the most important element. Some things had changed in that century however, such as the abandonment of the carrying of shields, and the reduction in the amount of armour being worn, but there were still those conservative nobles who looked little different from their fathers or grandfathers. Several of the figures in this set still wear a mail hauberk, and also a mail aventail from a helmet. One man still wears the tall Turkic type of helmet, but this was old-fashioned by this time, and most wear more understated, round helmets, or no helmet at all. The traditional kaftan is of course still universal, and a couple of these men wear caps of typical design, so everything about the costume of these mounted warriors is accurately done.
The bow was still dominant, and every pose here carries one. However in this set (one of two concerning Pskov), all the weapons in use are swords or axes. These had changed little over the decades, and are still very relevant here. Several are holding their weapon directly across the top of their head, which is easy to mould but far from natural, so gets our thumbs down. However the middle pose in the top row, who seems to hold his sword out to the side, is actually pointing it forward to a degree, so is much more believable as a stance. The man reaching with his sword to his right is a reasonable pose, but as we shall see does not match the action of the horses in this set. For poses such as this we would require horses moving relatively slowly, or even stopped, in order to allow individual combat. Some of these poses could almost be imagined as being involved in such combat, but not on the horses provided. So generally the poses are a bit disappointing and in some cases too flat for our liking.
The six horse poses in this set are exactly the same as in the other five products in this mini-series from RedBox, so our comments on these are identical for all. The poses are all moving rapidly, but some of the poses are far less natural than we would have liked. We also felt that the general anatomy of the horses was not quite as good as for the riders. Noble cavalry at this time most commonly rode Noghai ponies, so the relatively small size of these animals is about right. The saddlery is much simplified though. The Mongol-style saddles, that all should have, seem to be replaced with a simple couple of cloths, lacking all the usual items like the pommel and cantle, although the decoration on parts of the harness seems reasonable.
If you have read our reviews of the other sets in this series on the Muscovity noble cavalry then you will already know about the standard of sculpting here, as they are all very consistent. Detail is plentiful and really well done. Faces have plenty of character and clothing looks natural, while the texture of the mail armour is also well done. The weapons are exactly as thin as they should be, and the sculptor has managed some very decent decorative elements on the bow cases too. Better yet the figures have no flash at all, nor any unwanted plastic thanks to the flat poses, and they sit on the horses easily enough. However this is more of a perch as the legs are well apart, so some form of gluing is required. The horses have a fair amount of flash – not disastrous amounts, but a lot compared to the lovely riders.
As with the companion sets, the legs of these men should be tucked under them, not straight as here. Some of the poses may be rather flat, and the lack of variety in the horse poses means all you can do with them is fashion a charge anyway. We shudder to think what accidents might happen when you put the first figure in the top row on a charging horse, particularly as he is not looking where he is travelling. The horses themselves are not the best either, but the sculpting of the riders is beautiful, and there are no accuracy problems with the men, so by any standards this is a worthy set, and while it may not be relevant to the siege of Pskov, it will certainly have a presence in many other actions of the period.