For many the Khazars require some introduction. They were one of many Turkic Steppe peoples who moved from east to west and played such an important role in the history and development of Eastern Europe. The dates on this set of 7th to 10th centuries describe the whole of the period when the Khazars were powerful, creating an empire that was much longer-lasting than any other Steppe state in Europe. At its height the empire covered much of the North Caucasus, and during their dominance the Khazars were often allied to Byzantium and fought Sassanians, Arabs and Rus before finally being conquered by the Kievan Rus between 965 and 969.
Although by now only semi-nomadic, these Steppe people were still overwhelmingly known for their cavalry, although it was their heavy cavalry which achieved the greatest fame. The heart of their armies was the professional soldier forming the guard of the khagan and other chieftains, and in times of need numbers were greatly swollen with mercenaries from Muslim and Slav sources amongst others. The heavy cavalry was mainly well armoured, wearing mail or lamellar and a spherical or conical helmet. Two of the mounted figures in this set are wearing such armour, while the rest are more lightly attired in what looks like authentic costume.
While Khazar armies may have been overwhelmingly cavalry there was still a need for warriors on foot, so half the figures in this set are dedicated to such men. Again the warriors are wearing metal armour or other appropriate soft clothing much like their mounted comrades, and again while the styles are very diverse they all look authentic. Some of the armoured foot soldiers are wearing splint-armour greaves, which is another recognised feature of these men.
The principal weapons were the bow and, for the cavalry, the lance, but in this set we find a fairly even spread of weapons including other known Khazar favourites like the sabre, axe, battle knife and (particularly highly regarded) a flail with added weights. All of these are quite accurate, but the desire to include all of them in this set has meant the relative frequency of each has been lost, and you could argue that there should have been a much higher proportion of bows even if that meant fewer or even none of some of the less common weapons.
Naturally horses and horsemanship were of enormous importance to such people, and the horses in this set display a variety of equipment which also looks suitable, with some having more or less decorative elements but all having the high pommels on the saddles (although most of the mounted men also have stirrups, thought to be introduced by the Avars). One horse also has some form of armour across the chest, which again is correct, and while not particularly convincing the poses are at least better than many seen in figure sets.
If the horses are not always in the best poses then the men are better, with a good amount of vitality and energy. Nothing here requires assembly (apart from man with horse of course), so there is a small element of flatness, but generally the poses are very good. Several of the men carry accurate small round shields, but as so often these are not being used to actively protect the man, which is a very common feature. The mounted man with lance is holding it in a rather unaggressive way, when having it facing forward would have been preferable (although would have required a separate weapon and ring hand). Still the poses are reasonable.
The sculpting of the men is very fine, with detail such as the texture of the armour and the design on the helmets being especially well done. Faces too are very realistic, and where visible the long plaited hair is excellent and good to see. We were less taken with the horses, although even there some detail is very good. The fit of the men on the horses is sometimes perfect and sometimes not good, although with some experimentation there might be an ideal horse for each warrior. Flash is very variable, with some figures being completely free of it and others having some rather obvious big tongues of it, particularly on the horses. As a result this is a product that has been very well sculpted but not always with a well engineered mould.
Although the Khazars and their subject peoples were not wildly different from other Steppe peoples of the era, this set is a fair reflection of what such warriors would have looked like during their hey day. Fitting in very naturally with several other sets from Orion depicting this region and era, this set has plenty to delight the enthusiast, and while you don’t get a lot of mounted poses, and the mould is not always quite what it might be, this is still a worthwhile collection of figures.