During the early 19th century Russia could call on almost inexhaustible numbers of men to fill her ranks, and with a length of service of 25 years, she had a resource no other country could hope to match. Such men fought Napoleon of course, but also at this time conducted wars of imperialism against the Ottoman Empire, Persia and Sweden. Thanks to the many reforms after the assassination of Tsar Paul in March 1801, Russian armies soon had a modern and practical uniform, including a greatcoat that was well-liked thanks to being very thick and warm. However according to one French officer, this heavy coat made the wearer slower and less effective in battle.
This is one of many sets Strelets have made where there is basically just a single pose realised with numerous minor variances to make a realistic block of men. Most here are at attention with musket held against the left shoulder, so are perfect for formed troops either on parade or perhaps awaiting further orders at the start of a battle. While there is some variation in the position of arms, most of the differences are in the clothing, but there are also two NCOs with musket held against the right shoulder, and the four command figures pictured in our second row. The drummer is beating his drum, and a very good pose given the limitations of the moulding process, while the flag-bearer is also at attention, holding his limp flag close to his right cheek. The first officer is standing in a relaxed pose, and the second senior officer is perhaps walking forward. This last figure is particularly convincing as he has a considerable stoop, suggesting his advanced years, which would be perfectly possible in such a man.
Dating is often a concern with figure sets, but here we can cut straight to the chase and say the dates for this set are the same as for the others in the Strelets range, so from 1811 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This is because the long thin plume of these men only dates from this year, as does the round fatigue cap some of these figures are wearing. All other aspects of the uniform are correct for this period, so the greatcoat is the correct single-breasted style and the shakos are a mix of the 1807 and 1812 models (many 1807 examples would have still been in use well into this period). Most of the shakos are uncovered, and display the ornaments and cords which seem to have been worn even in combat. These include the front badge, which is of the three-flame grenade, marking these men as grenadiers. The senior officer wears the now old-fashioned bicorn, and has epaulettes on his shorter frock coat, plus a sash round the waist to further indicate his rank, and a gorget at the throat for the same reason.
Each man has the usual cartridge pouch, again with the three-flame grenade badge marking him out as a grenadier, plus a haversack, sabre scabbard, pack and attached water flask. All these items are correctly held by appropriate straps and belts, and are properly done for the period. Muskets have little detail because they do not face the mould, but look authentic, and we were pleased to see bayonets fixed in all cases.
Like the rest of the sets in this series, the sculpting here is very good indeed. Faces are superb and proportions excellent, with a realistically slim look to both man and equipment. The detail is at times a bit ‘soft’, so not as sharp as some, but that is probably down to the making of the mould, which is also the reason that there is a fair amount of flash on virtually all seams here; though somewhat irregular, this spoils the look of these figures if not removed. One of the figures (third man in the top row) leans forward alarmingly, and while he still stands, he gives the impression of being about to pass out and topple forward. It is unlikely that this was the intention, but it still makes for a less than ideal figure.
The drummer holds a nice drum, and the flag, although limp, looks exactly the right size (two arshins or 142 cm square), although the stave is a bit shorter than it should be. Still this is a very attractive set of figures with no accuracy concerns and excellent sculpting. A cleaner mould would have been nice, but otherwise this delivers exactly what it promises, immediately making it an essential for many a Napoleonic Russian table-top army not yet in action.