While the Cossack is very well-known throughout the world, the concept of a registered one may not be so familiar. Essentially such Cossacks were registered by the dominant power at the time, mostly the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and this granted them land in return for their military service, as well as some other privileges such as tax exemptions. Their numbers were always carefully restricted by such authorities, and the Cossacks were constantly striving to have their numbers increased, but in the 17th century that limit could be as much as 60,000, or as little as 6,000. What it meant was such men were the professional soldiers of the Cossacks, an elite with status and usually some wealth, giving them a desirable position in society but to a degree separating them as a class from unregistered Cossacks. They were the core of most Cossack armies, and while often small in number compared to the mass of the basic Cossack fighters, they formed an important part of any Cossack force as well as Cossack society generally.
There are a good many poses in this set, intelligently split into sprues of the common figures plus a single sprue of ‘command’ figures which, as you can see in our sample, are made in a different colour plastic. All the basic troops are at least holding if not actually using a musket, and so we find the usual firing and reloading poses as well as others advancing or simply on the march. A couple at the end of our pictures have drawn a sidearm and are moving rapidly, but the rest are either standing or walking normally, which makes sense for a collection of musketeers. Given the likely actions of such men on the battlefield, this is a very respectable range of poses, all of which are appropriate and useful.
The four command poses are also fairly static, so unexciting but perfectly suited to the subject. The first man holds a trumpet, resting it on his leg, while the second, equally passive, is the drummer, though he currently holds his sticks to the side rather than beating his drum. The third continues the relaxed theme, holding some flag casually over his shoulder and with a hand on his hip. His staff is about 40 mm (2.9 metres) in length with a ball finial, and there is a large flag attached to this. Cossack standards came in many shapes and sizes at this period, so this is as good as any, although wargamers might have preferred something to which a paper flag could have been attached instead. All of these figures can easily be imagined standing and watching as the men are engaged in a firefight on the front line, so match the rest of the set well. Finally we have what looks very like some sort of officer, who has raised his axe in the air, perhaps as some sort of signal to his men, and like the rest is a good pose. Whether all registered Cossacks could afford and used muskets we do not know, but this set seems to cover all the poses you could want very well.
There were no uniforms at this stage, but all of these men are dressed in typical Cossack fashion. Fur-trimmed caps of various styles are worn by all, and all have the kaftan which covers all else apart from the trousers and long boots, while a handful also have a cloak. Since these men are musketeers, they all have the necessary tools of their trade, so a bag for the shot, a powder horn of some sort, and several clearly have a wheellock spanner hanging from their belt. There are a really good number and variety of purses, bags and other possessions hanging from their waist or slung over a shoulder, as well as the ubiquitous knife of course, which is very pleasing when so many figures are modelled with the minimum of equipment. Many have a sabre as a sidearm, others a long-handled axe, and some have both. The muskets they hold are of typical style for the time, with a squarish stock and fairly short barrel. In short, everything here is perfectly accurate and very typical of the subject.
You couldn’t ask for much more in terms of the quality of the sculpting here, because it is excellent in all regards. The various tools are beautifully detailed, as are the faces which, with their characteristic moustaches, have plenty of character. The figures also have quite a stocky appearance, suggesting the various layers of clothing they must be wearing, since they are clearly not in a warm environment at the moment. The only thing we would say is the two men with sidearm raised above their head are rather flat, holding it directly over their head, so the man with the sword is showing the flat of the blade to the enemy, which is not ideal. We could find virtually no flash on any figure in our sample, which is always great, but as many of the men have their sabre more or less horizontal at their rear, there is plastic between this and their voluminous coat. In fact this is more than just areas hidden from the mould, so it seems the manufacturer has deliberately extended this excess plastic, presumably to ensure the protruding sabre scabbard is not damaged during transit, but some customers will prefer to carefully trim away this extra material, which would not be the quickest of tasks. The second figure in our top row also has some plastic between firearm and man, though this is much less noticeable than the sabres.
As a start to their collection of 17th century Cossacks this set is excellent. While an elite rather than typical of the ordinary infantry, these figures portray their subject very well, and offer both complete authenticity and a very good range of poses which are likely to satisfy most appetites. Lovely sculpting is always good, and having almost no flash is a bonus, although if you want to fully expose those sabre scabbards then some of these poses will require extra work. Nevertheless, this is a great set that depicts these men in a way that has not been done before.