Russia's humiliating defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 proved to be the spur to many much-needed reforms of the military, and by 1914 the Tsar's army was in surprisingly good condition, with many intelligent reforms underway. Difficulties of supply for the enormous mobilised army were to prove a considerable challenge in the early months, but compared to many other armies that of Russia found relatively little need for change during the war.
'Summer uniform' was basically the standard uniform worn in all but the colder conditions. The distinctive gymnastiorka shirt/tunic is worn by all, as are the breeches held tight at the knee. Some wear boots, but supply difficulties meant short boots and puttees were later authorised, and the majority of these figures are dressed this way. The ordinary peaked cap is properly done here, but for some strange reason seven of the poses are wearing the Adrian-type helmet which first begun service in 1916. We say strange because this helmet was not very widely adopted, and seems to have been mainly worn by certain elite units and grenadier assault companies, so while a small number of such helmets would have been reasonable it has been much overrepresented here.
The men's kit is also reasonable as far as it goes. They have their shinel greatcoat rolled across their chest in the traditional manner, and their haversack on their left hip (only guards units had it on their back). The basic belts and ammunition pouches are correct, but we were surprised to find no evidence of mess tin or water bottle, and no one has an entrenching tool. Since the proliferation of helmets makes these later war figures we would have expected at least some to have one of several types of gas mask too, but no. Finally three of the poses have no bayonet attached despite the fact that this was always fitted when at the front - no bayonet carrier was even carried, so these men must simply have lost theirs, which is not a great design decision in our view.
The officer is quite interesting for several reasons. At the start of the war most officers wore the kittel tunic, although some did wear a doubtless better quality version of the ordinary soldier’s gymnastiorka. As the war progressed many officers found it prudent to be less conspicuous, so the gymnastiorka became more common apparel (often, as here, with breast pockets), and that is how this figure is dressed. However his reasonable attempts not to draw attention to himself are rather wasted as he has both brought his sword into battle and is engaged in waving it in the air, which seems less than likely by this stage in the war, although clearly not impossible. However his belts and kit are properly done.
The poses are a fairly standard selection and are reasonable (apart from the flamboyant officer that is) if at times a little ungainly. The only figure of particular interest is the one next to the officer, who is using what looks like a Lewis Gun - a weapon that was imported by Russia in large numbers and is perfectly suitable for this set as a result.
These figures are in the usual Strelets style, but are amongst the better ones to come from this manufacturer. However detail is still a bit chunky and the proportions of items such as the Lewis Gun are not ideal, while this weapon also has its bipod twisted at an unrealistic angle for the convenience of the mould. Also there are occasional problems with missing items such as some cap peaks, which appear on one side of the face but not on the other. Flash is minimal and the poses have been done in such a way as to avoid excess plastic, although the prone man firing has his cap bent at a strange angle, yet still has almost no face.
The box art shows the uniquely Russian helmet developed during the Great War, but this is not on any of the figures, which is just as well as it remained a rare item. However the large numbers of Adrian helmets make most of this set suitable only from 1916 onwards, and the Lewis gun only appears in late 1917. The lack of some basic items of equipment is a shame, and this combined with the numbers of helmets cost the set a couple of accuracy points. The basic choice of poses is OK although the officer pose is too showy for this subject in our view. 12 poses in a box is often seen as the minimum acceptable level for basic infantry subjects, but the less than elegant Strelets style plus some problems with poor detail cost the set several sculpting marks, although little flash results in a good mould mark.