The Cossacks were surely the most famous element of the forces fighting for the Tsar in 1854. Most were mounted, and they were employed as light cavalry, scouting, raiding and manning outposts. Whilst undoubtedly brave and skilled fighters, admiration for them was tempered by a well-earned reputation for plundering and running amok. They also had a tendency to retire when hard pressed, preferring to live to fight another day rather than die at their post - a feature which meant many Russians had a low opinion of them. Nonetheless they were cavalry to be feared, and many were employed in the Crimean War.
The Terek Cossacks were from the North Caucasus frontier, and were part of the Army of the Caucasus. Although they seem to have had some latitude in what they wore, the majority probably looked like these figures, with the long Cherkeska coat having the distinctive decorative cartridge compartments on each breast. Most also wear the typical cap with the wide fur band round the crown, while the rest have a larger fur cap. One officer has chosen to wear a standard Russian army officer's peaked cap, but his dress is otherwise traditional.
The all-different poses are a fair mixture, with the man holding the rope standing out as different from the norm. While Cossacks were undoubtedly skilled with the rope, we find it hard to imagine that it was much employed in a modern mid-nineteenth century war. Still it helps to give a flavour of these men. Most are brandishing swords, and a few have firearms. The man holding both a sword and a knife looks fearsome but we did not think that this is a likely pose. The trumpeter would have had his instrument on a cord round his neck, and if already engaged in a charge he is unlikely to still be holding his trumpet as shown here. Finally, we could find no evidence of these Cossacks carrying a normal standard such as this into battle. However they did sometimes carry their traditional horse-tail standard. In any case, this flag is quite flat, showing no sign of movement, and while this makes it easy to paint, it looks completely unrealistic for any situation, let alone a full charge.
These figures have no flash and are very cleanly cast. The riders fit on the horses well, although gluing would still be recommended. The detail is well done, with textures such as the fur being particularly good. The style of sculpting is quite typical of this manufacturer, with the figures being a little stocky and thick, but perfectly usable. We felt that the horses looked too much like regular European stock rather than the smaller sturdy Cossack ponies that these men would have ridden, and the neat regulation valises on each animal is just not in keeping with the motley appearance these troops presented.
Although these figures do not represent all the Cossacks that fought in the Crimea, it would seem that other Strelets sets will fill the gaps. In the meantime this is a good start for the various Russian cavalry units that participated in the war, and it could also provide a basis for Cossack troops from other periods.