When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the gamble was on a short and devastating campaign. Hitler intended destroying Soviet forces within four months, thus avoiding the merciless Russian winter, but the gamble failed, and the Germans found themselves in a winter for which they were completely unprepared. While many Soviet forces also suffered from poor supply, in time they recovered and the invaders found themselves fighting increasingly well clothed and well-equipped troops, including many from the Siberian front, well trained and equipped for winter warfare.
Soviet troops in winter clothing has already been covered with Revell's Siberian Riflemen, but this is a very different set. The 16 poses include troops in one of two basic types of uniform. The first is the greatcoat, which was brought into service before the war, and has been successfully reproduced here. The third figure in the top row wears a different style coat, which matches the new version introduced around 1943, but could also be that of an officer earlier in the war. The second type is the quilted jacket, the telogreika, either worn with quilted trousers or regulation service trousers, and again this has been well modelled. Some of the men seem to wear the thick pressed felt valenki boots, and many have the warm ushanka cap in preference to the M1940 helmet. Everything has been accurately done on these figures.
The men are fairly lighted kitted, with most having only ammunition pouches, a canteen and sometimes an entrenching tool. More than half carry the very popular PPSh-41 submachine gun (a little too small in this set), which is reasonable (although the last figure in row 1 should be carrying his barrel down), but there are also three heavier weapons here. The last man on the third row is using a DP light machine gun, another common weapon, but he is resting it on a wall(?) which looks fine in our picture but is no thicker than the barrel of the weapon, and so looks stupid. A more appropriate stand such as a barrel or box should have been used, and we suspect most customers will trim this nonsense away and mount it themselves. Other problems with this model include the bipod is fore-and-aft as it were, an impossible configuration which makes life easier for the sculptor but is very hard to resolve, and the barrel is much too long (23mm when it should be about 18mm).
The penultimate figure in the last row is carrying a PTRD 14.5mm anti-tank rifle, which once again is a good choice of weapon as it was widely used, although again the bipod is twisted in an impossible direction. Finally the last figure is using a mortar. Well we say a mortar, but this is nothing like any mortar used by the Soviets or anyone else. The barrel length is right for the 82mm BM43 or similar, the most common Soviet mortar of the war, but the stand is pure fantasy. The figure is not looking as he feeds a bomb into the barrel, nor is he looking at the potential target, although with the near-vertical trajectory of this bomb the blast is likely to be very close at hand! There is really nothing to redeem this figure at all - a throwback to the bad old days when Esci made similar useless mortars.
Aside from the mortar man, most of the poses are fine. We particularly liked some of the kneeling poses, but three of the figures on the second row are very similar - substituting one with a man throwing a grenade would have added a bit more variety. The first figure on the final row reminds us of the Atlantic trick of a man running but not looking where he is going. The whole pose is odd and looks unrealistic.
The general level of sculpting is excellent, with clear detail and mostly realistic poses. There is virtually no flash, although in a few areas weapons have caused some extra bits of plastic which some may want to remove.
This is a very good set, with the greatcoated men being more common during the early part of the war, and the quilted winter suits becoming more normal later on. However there is one obvious omission - no one is wearing the snow camouflage suits that were so often seen in newsreels as Soviet troops battled the invaders back to Germany. Some of the figures in the Revell set are so dressed, so perhaps Italeri did not wish to duplicate these here. In any event this Italeri effort is very good, and would have been fantastic if it were not for the odd design decisions concerning the heavier weapons we have described. Still, even discounting them there are plenty of very useful figures to be found here.