The 17th century saw the high point of the Ottoman Empire, with centuries of conquest giving way to a more defensive strategy after defeat beneath the walls of Vienna in 1683. Earlier wars with Poland, Persia, Venice, Hungary and others had shown the Ottoman Army was still formidable, and the elite of that army, at least in their own eyes, was the Turkish Cavalry. In very traditional costume that changed little over several centuries they presented a spectacular sight as they fought within the empire and beyond, making them a very colourful and exotic subject for this set from Zvezda.
Seven poses for a cavalry set is not particularly generous, and this is made less so when the speciality poses are removed. Not that we are complaining about those, for this set contains an excellent agha (commander), a very nice standard-bearer and a drummer. However this leaves just four ordinary 'trooper' poses, which is not a lot. The two with lances are labelled as Sipahi (the one with couched lance is actually a 'dellis' rather than a sipahi), which were the most important element in the Turkish cavalry, while the other two are labelled as Hulkhi. While not numerous the poses are very nicely done, with some having separate arms to achieve the desired effect, and do it very well. The commander is gesturing across his body with his mace in a stand-out pose, but all of them are pretty good, although we must make special mention of the drummer, who has suffered at the hands of the designer as he holds his drumstick up in his right hand, yet has the drum mounted on the left side of the horse. On the box illustration the drum has been diplomatically omitted, but it is clear the drum should be on the right. However since the drum is separate it could be glued to the correct side of the horse with some little effort making good.
While this is far from depicting all elements of Turkish cavalry these are a very good representation of the lighter cavalry of the day. Only one man has any visible armour, so these are mostly less suitable for the heavy cavalry, but as light cavalry they are splendidly turned out in typical fashion. Without any uniform as such these are all authentic, and their weaponry is equally good, although for the later 17th century we would have expected to see some pistols, or at least the holsters on the horses.
As usual Zvezda do not let us down with the sculpting, which is great. They have once again given the men irritating pegs to fit the horses, but fit them well enough with the pegs removed. However detail is excellent and very crisp, although we had more trouble than usual fitting the arms onto the bodies. The officer is particularly unusual in that he has an optional separate cloak. In our picture he is shown wearing it, but this is a separate piece and he is sculpted well enough to not need it if not required. This is something of a first, and a nice idea, although a little fiddly to put on. The sword scabbards stick out in a rather unnatural way on some figures - a problem seen in other sets and presumably done to aid the mould. We have already mentioned the separate drum, which plugs into a hole on the (wrong) side of the horse’s neck, but probably the biggest problem with this set is the men are rather too tall for the subject, with a scale average height of almost 1.9 metres being excessive.
Turkish cavalry was highly regarded in Europe, and Zvezda have produced a very attractive set of figures as is their habit. If you can live with the large size then these figures are very rewarding, but that is a big 'if' for many people.