by: Gareth McGorman [ ]
With all the kits available portraying German soldiers in every imaginable winter uniform worn on the Eastern Front, the range of options for their Soviet counterparts is tragically limited. At some point before they started building a reputation for producing high quality figure sets Trumpeter issued this figure set which for the time being remains the only representation of Soviet soldiers wearing white winter camouflage smocks in styrene that I am aware of. This kit, as Trumpeter's other early figure kits are still fairly common place and as such are worth reviewing.
This certainly is not, especially by modern standards, a good kit. I am more interested in reviewing this from the perspective of what can potentially be done with it. This review is about making a silk purse from a sow's ear.
Here we have one figure sprue and one weapons & equipment sprue.
Detail itself is not good, but not exceptionally horrible either. Postures somehow occupy that middle ground between being dynamic and wooden. It's still nice though that all figures are posed with the idea in mind that a diorama might not always involve even ground. The rifleman lying prone and firing is clearly intended to be positioned on an embankment of some kind, and the ability to match this pose to the contours of a diorama is certainly appreciated.
The boots are, unfortunately, a little too detailed (a strange thing to complain about, but I guess that's where we're at). If Soviet troops were provided with the winter camouflage smock, they would most likely also be wearing felt overboots (called Valenki in Russian). They don't show wrinkles and folds in the same way that leather boots would and more closely resemble modern Ugg boots. They should be as grey and featureless as the icy steppes on which these soldiers fought. A couple photos of these boots being manufactured have been included for reference.
One odd and slightly annoying issue with this kit is that despite claiming to be 1:35th scale, everything is a little smaller than all my other 1:35th kits. It's not the worst thing ever, but it does mean that none of the weapons will be the same size as weapons from other manufacturers, so if you place these figures alongside some infantry from Dragon or MasterBox equipped with what comes in the box there is the possibility that they may look weird side by side. Equipping these figures with weapons from other kits should avoid that problem.
There is a bright side to this scaling issue though. Some people are short, some people are tall, and in scale modelling usually one size fits all. Not all soldiers are the same height, some even happen to be overweight, but in this particular hobby figures don't usually reflect the diversity of human dimensions. If you want to have a squad of 6 foot tall men with a 5 foot tall designated marksman or sniper, then as far as I'm concerned, Trumpeter's got you covered.
I would also recommend another consideration, which is that the Soviet Union often deployed soldiers from Central Asia and the Far East on the Eastern Front. These soldiers would have, on average, been shorter in stature than soldiers recruited in the European part of Russia or the Caucasus. There is the infamous example of the Korean soldier who was drafted by the Japanese, captured by the Soviets a Khalkin Gol, pressed into service to fight the Germans a Kharkiv, captured by the Germans and then in turn captured by the Americans at D-Day. Painting these figures in darker skin tones features might be more appropriate and could more accurately reflect the ethnic diversity of the Red Army.
The weapons and equipment are a mixed bag. On the bright side, almost all of the equipment that will not be used on these figures will likely prove to be useful on another project.
The PPSh submachine guns are not terrible, but aren't really properly scaled to 1:35 scale and are about a millimetre shorter than they should be.
Special attention needs to be given to just how awful the two Mosin Nagant rifles in this set actually are. They are shorter, and completely lack a magazine or bolt. They more closely resemble an improvised weapon, designed and constructed by a prison inmate, than an actual bolt action rifle (let alone any specific model service rifle ever used by any army of any nation). There are two of these so if you wanted to construct some kind of Gulag escape scenario, that's what they're there for. For any other purpose you will need to find an alternate source for decent looking Mosin Nagants.
I am writing this review bearing in mind that this figure set is somewhat outdated and was released at a time when Trumpeter's reputation was not up to its current standards. Having said that it still has its merits starting with the fact that it is the only figure kit in Styrene that I am aware of portraying Soviet infantry in white winter camouflage smocks. It also deserves some credit for including some extras that will prove useful elsewhere. Mugs and buckets are always a nice little item to throw in where needed, and you get two of each in this kit.
There are good kits and there are bad kits, but as far as bad kits go, this one has some value and is not completely useless. There are some good bits and pieces that can be used in dioramas and with some love and attention this could make a nice little squad of Soviet soldiers of below average height.