The Soviet Army of World War II included over 800,000 women. Initially, they were used in administrative and support roles, but by mid-war they had assumed roles as snipers, combat pilots, and tankers. 89 of them would receive the highest military honor, the Hero of the Soviet Union. This kit depicts women during the early stage of the war and provides all the fixings for a mini-diorama.
Included are four figures: an angry male NCO, a standing female NCO, a seated female, and a female standing and holding a samovar. There are a pile of useful extras: a table, a bench, two poles holding a wash line of women’s lingerie, a portable record player, and the samovar.
A samovar is a type of urn used in Russia to heat water for tea. The coals are placed inside a pipe that heats water in the surrounding bowl. Samovars can be made of bronze, brass, copper, silver, or gold, and are very ornate.
The box contains a sprue of 63 mostly flash-free parts and a simple instruction sheet with color callouts for Model Master paint. Some of the parts are very delicate (more about those later). The figures are well detailed and go together nicely (no need of any filler putty here), and just require a bit of sanding to remove seam lines. The male figure has a map case hanging from a strap, and a partial strap must be added to his back, which can be done by using paper or thin plastic card. When assembling the samovar girl, I built the samovar first with the handles out, and this helped me align her hands so the urn fit properly.
The instructions show parts 9 and 10 incorrectly, they are actually braces for the bench. As I mentioned, there are some very fine parts, and they are difficult to remove from the sprue – the base for the samovar, for example. Be careful you don’t break any of the tiny feet. Part 25 is the faucet handle for the samovar, and is very delicate. A sprue cutter will not fit in here, and so I tried using a sharp XActo. The part shattered, and was so small it could not be repaired. I replaced it with an odd piece from the spare box. Also, part 29, the crank handle for the Victrola, broke when I tried to remove it. Rather than try to glue the very thin part, I used a piece of wire bent to shape. Perhaps a fine saw might remove these parts easier, but I noticed the photos of the built up kit on the ICM website do not show these pieces on the models.
Like most modelers, I use the box the kit came in to hold the sub-assemblies and parts. Note, however, that this box is made like a pizza box – with slots and tabs, and there are holes in the bottom. One of the little bras for the wash line disappeared through one of these holes, and even though a massive search was conducted in my modeling room, the little bra was gone for good. So, if you’re keeping track, that’s three parts lost or broken out of 63 – a new record for me.
Now, on to the painting. First I give the parts a shot of Testors White Primer. Then a quick check for any seams I may have missed, and they are ready for paint. The skin tones are first – I used Testors Light Tan mixed with white for the base flesh color on the women. Since the male NCO is angry, I will make his skin tone a bit darker.
They all wear the pull-over blouse called the gymnastiorka; the sergeant wears trousers and the women all have on the issue skirt. These, along with the caps, were all a khaki drab color the Soviets called zashchitniy tsvet. If you painted all the uniforms the same color, you would be correct, but I like to mix things up a little. If you look at photos from the period, there’s always one guy in the group with a darker uniform. The uniforms could be made of wool or cotton, and exposure to the sun or washings would lighten them. So you can mix a little tan or white in your base color, or even olive green to darken them. Women’s skirts before the war were dark blue, and it was common to see this color worn by women during the war, so I painted the female NCO’s skirt this color.
For insignia, all the figures have a star on their caps; the male NCO’s would be red enamel on brass. You could paint the females’ stars this color, but the star worn on the pilotka cap during this period was also often found in an olive green subdued color. They could also be red or olive cloth as well. Rank for the male and female NCO’s would consist of a small collar patch in the khaki drab color, with small light olive triangles – four for the male, one for the female. These are so small that they hardly show up when painted on the figures. The two NCO’s also have awards; both have the Order of the Red Star, an attractive star-shaped badge with a silver colored center and red enamel star. The male also has two medals on his left chest. The cover art shows these as red ribbons, but looking through a list of Soviet medals, I can’t find anything similar. I gave him the Medal for Courage, a silver-colored medal with silver-gray ribbon edged blue, and Medal for Battle Merit, a silver medal with gray ribbon edged in yellow. You can hardly see the small awards, but I wanted to make sure the awards were issued before 1942 to fit within the time frame.
The table and bench were painted gray and drybrushed with tan and white to look like weathered wood. The seated woman is writing letters, and a paper tablet with triangular shaped objects is included to go with her. I learned that envelopes were in short supply during the war, and letters were simply folded up in triangles and mailed that way. I painted the samovar dark brown, then drybrushed gold paint on it for an antique brass look.
Next, I tried to solve how to hang the underwear on the clothes line. Looking at a photo of a built up kit, it appeared like someone had drilled a small hole through the clothes pins and run fine wire through these. However, even my finest drill was too large. So I used a razor saw to cut a groove in the clothes pin on the back. Thread or wire can be glued in the groove and touched up later. Just be careful cutting the grooves, you don’t want to go too deep. For the poles, I painted them Testors Light Brown, then washed them with dirty thinner – yes, I use dirty thinner as a color – then a random drybrushing with light tan. They came out pretty good. After painting, the underwear was glued to a piece of tan colored thread, which was then tied to the poles. Keep the rope taut, so that the clothes “hang” correctly.
Overall, a fun diorama set – the male NCO is angry over the display of female underwear, and takes it out on the female NCO. She just stands there with a smirk on her face, like “What’s the worst you can do to me – send me to the Russian front?” The samovar girl gets a chuckle out of the whole thing while the bored letter writer tries to concentrate on her paper. Good poses, good facial detail, and the accessories will find their way into lots of dioramas. Thanks to Squadron and IPMS/USA for the review kit.