The Khanate of Kazan was one of the Tartar states that emerged from the disintegration of the Golden Horde during the 15th century, and since gaining self-rule had fought many wars, big and small, with the other states to emerge in the same way. Most dangerous of all of these was Muscovy, which besieged the city on numerous occasions and constantly tried to gain influence and a friendly ruler on the throne. This long antagonism finally came to a head with the siege of Kazan by a Muscovite army in 1552, which led to the final conquest of the city and the slaughtering of much of the population. Although a guerrilla resistance continued for several more years, the siege itself lasted about 6 weeks, and was dominated by the usual elements in most sieges – artillery and mining. Cavalry never have much of a role at a siege, so the mention of this on the box here seems strange, but it is presumably merely a device to date the figures to about the middle of the century, and no more.
As a very important part of the army of Muscovy, the noble cavalry no doubt attended the siege, and they must have been a splendid sight. The appearance would not have been very different to that earlier in the century, except that the use of armour, and particularly mail, was gradually declining by now, so we see that while there is still mail to be seen on these figures, some have instead a brigantine or simple quilted fabric that might or might not have hidden metal plates to strengthen it. Those of these figures that wear mail still have it in the traditional Turko-Mongol style, but the figures with the more modern fabric covering also look good for the period. One man here has gone so far as to distain the wearing of a helmet, instead wearing a cap of classic design, but the helmets of the others are again traditional, particularly the tall spike of the Turko-Persian model worn here by three figures. Those with helmets also have a mail aventail, and some also have the vambrace to protect the lower arm.
The Mongol tradition of bow-armed cavalry was still strong at this time, and all the poses that wear mail armour also have a bow by their side. Two are using it, while the other two carry a lance instead. All have their sword and knife, and often an axe as a further sidearm too. The two with padded armour have the ubiquitous knife as well as an axe, but no sword. One man has a lance lower as if at the charge, and the other carries a sovnya, a polearm with a knife-like blade attached, and another traditional weapon. Finally the shield had largely gone out of use by this date, so it is good to see none in this set.
The poses are much like those in the other sets of noble cavalry released by RedBox at the same time as this, which is to say very straight-backed and with little energy or movement. The bowmen are OK (although one is not looking where his drawn bow is pointing), but both the men with lowered lance are pointing it well to the right of them rather than straight ahead, particularly the man in our second row. This is to allow the man and weapon to be sculpted as a single piece, but it makes for a less convincing pose.
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.
Such men demand a lot of intricate detail, and with these figures they get it. The fine sculpting is very impressive, with a very good effort made on the texture of the mail as well as the fabrics, and good results have also been obtained in rendering the quiver full of arrows. Hands are nicely done, as are the faces, particularly for the man wearing just a cap, so a great effort all round. We were also pleased by how clean all the seams were. Apart from the last figure in the top row, where the arm coverings seem to have gone a bit haywire, these are very neatly done with no flash in most places. The men sit on the horses well enough, but do no more than balance, so will need to be stuck in place. The horses are not such great sculpting in our view, including a fair amount more flash in places.
Like all the figures in this mini range, the men are modelled with very straight, wide legs, when the bowmen amongst them would have a jockey-style stance with legs tucked up on short stirrups to allow rising in the saddle (a hard thing to do when making such figures). That apart we liked these figures and thought they were entirely accurate. The poses may not be the most exciting, and the horses force you to depict a charge and nothing else, so there are limitations. The limited weapon range is explained away by this being just one of several sets, so that is fine, and as part of the depiction of mid-century Muscovite noble cavalry we thought this set had much to offer.