Russian Personalities of the Crimean War

I have been reviewing my collection of Strelets Crimean War figures of late. These are 1/72 scale and are some of the figures I painted during the years before this current WordPress incarnation of Suburban Militarism came into being. I may blog a little more about these at some point, but in the meantime I’ve been tidying up my old Strelets Crimean War page and adding more images of them.

In the process of this, I’ve rediscovered some of the unpainted figures of the Strelets Large Boxes issued on the conflict. These were basically collections grouped together by theme and which included figures available in individual boxes as well as additional special edition figures. These large sets were titled; “Into the Valley of Death“, “Heavy Brigade“, “Last Assault on Sevastopol” and “Russian General Staff and Hospital“. It’s some of the special figures from the latter that I’ve been working on.

The box cover artwork (above) is more clever than many perhaps realise. I can find no reference to it, but it appears that the artist has based the illustrations on known portraits of Russian General Staff. Foreground on the box artwork from centre-left, I can clearly identify – Admiral Nakhimov; Rear-Admiral Istomin; Lieut-Col. Totleben; and Vice-Admiral Kornilov.

Admiral Nakhimov (Strelets version right)
Admiral Kornilov (Strelets version right)

Seems to me that Nakhimov even makes a reappearance on the cover of Strelets’ Russian Naval Artillery box below?

So, here’s my painting efforts on a small group of these Strelets Russian Crimean War personalities from the “Russian General Staff and Hospital” set, (I’ve included a brief explanation of who’s who):


1. Archbishop Innocenti (Borisov)

Archbishop Innocenti. He wears religious symbols around his neck and holds a rosary in his left hand. I’ve given him a grey beard as he was nearing 60 at the time of the war.

The Holy Hierarch Innocenti or Innokenty (secular name – Ivan Alexeevitch Borisov), was the Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride, governates which included the Crimean peninsula. He was born in 1800, in Orel Province, in the town of Eltz.

In 1819, his father also being a priest, the then Ivan Borisov studied at the Kiev Theological Academy where he apparently “devoted himself to his studies with such fervour that he sometimes spent his nights immersed in his books“.


Holy Hierarch Innokenty, Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride.

During the Crimean War, the Archbishop “played an extremely active archpastoral role” providing essential spiritual succour and care for the Russian troops. A Russian Orthodox cathedral website describes his work:

“Holy Hierarch Innokenty’s greatness of soul was evident as well in his visits to wounded soldiers in field hospitals, where typhus was rampant and where one could be an eyewitness to all of the great sorrows, all of the sufferings inflicted by war. During battles, he would go about the army ranks, encouraging the heroic soldiers. Here as well the courageous father and pastor, he was also an angel and comforter to the suffering.”

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, “Holy Hierarch Innokenty of Kherson”.

It seems that the harsh and insanitary conditions of the siege, coupled with the effort required of his great exertions, eventually took its toll on him. During an allied assault on Sebastapol, the Holy Hierarch Innocenti suddenly became unwell and he died on 25th May 1857 while travelling to the port of Odessa. In 1997 he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a saint.


2. Admiral Pavel Nakhimov

Admiral Nakhimov

Admiral Pavel Nakhimov became a hero to Russian nation for leading the defence of Sevastopol with great inspiration and courage. Entering the Naval Academy in St Petersburg, outstanding gunnery performance in his first major action won him his first captaincy, achieved ironically while fighting alongside the British and French fleets that would become his foe decades later.

Destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Sinope won him great acclaim but did much to bring his former allies into conflict with the Russians in what would become known as the Crimean War.

During the siege of Sevastopol, he and Admiral Kornilov hurriedly organised a very effective defence of the port city, which was also the home to the Black Sea Fleet. Nakhimov was the effective head of Sevastopol’s naval and land forces when on the 10th July 1855, while inspecting the Russian defences along the Malakhov-Kurgan ridge, the Admiral was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper, succumbing to his injuries two days later.


3. Vice-Admiral Vladimir Alexseyevich Kornilov

Vice-Admiral Kornilov appears to be holding a brass compass or watch of some kind.

Like Nakhimov, Vladimir Kornilov was also present in the battle of Navarino, Kornilov as a midshipman. He acquired great acclaim for his ship engaging and eventually capturing an Ottoman-Egyptian steamer called the Pervaz-i Bahri in 1853 – being the first action in history between steam ships. 

Vice-Admiral Kornilov

The defence of Sevastopol was led by Admiral Pavel Nakhimov with assistance from Vice Admiral Kornilov, the duo ably assisted by C-in-C Menshikov’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Totleben.

On 5 October 1854, an artillery dual began between the allies and the Russian guns. British artillery fire found its mark in the Malakoff redoubt’s magazine, with the resulting explosion killing Kornilov,


4. General Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov

I’ve painted General Gorchakov in a naval officer’s uniform, but in reality Gorchakov was a general of artillery. The sculpted uniform looks indistinguishable from the other naval officers I’ve painted, so it may be Strelets (and myself) are mistaken. With his balding scalp and spectacles, the sculptor has certainly captured something of Gorchakov’s physical appearance.

Mikhail Gorchakov, by Jan Ksawery Kaniewski (1805-1867) – Public Domain.

Gorchakov entered the Russian artillery as a cadet in 1807. Thereafter, he took part in campaigns against Persia and France (he was present at the great Battle of Borodino, 1812). Further experience was gained in wars against Turkey and then Poland and he rose to the rank of Lt-General.

After first commanding Russian troops in the crossing of the Danube at the start of the Crimean War, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces in the Crimea, replacing the sacked Prince Menshikov. His defence of Sevastopol, and withdrawal from the southern half of the town were characterised by competence and skill.

He died in Poland in 1861 and, as with other a number of other senior Russian staff I’ve painted, was buried at Sevastopol.


5. Rear Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Istomin

Rear Admiral Istomin with telescope in hand.

Vladimir Istomin was another veteran of the Battle of Navarino, having only just graduated from Naval College. His career led him to participate in the Battle of Sinope, commanding the battleship Paris.

Rear Admiral Istomin was in charge of the defense of the renowned Malakov redoubt, setting an example of bravery and tenacity. He was killed by a cannonball on the Kamchatka redoubt on March 7, 1855.

He was later buried inside the Admiral’s Burial Vault in Sevastopol, alongside Admirals Kornilov and Nakhimov.


6. A Deacon.

I’ve also painted a few unnamed characters. The first is a what is described by Plastic Soldier Review as a Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church. From his open mouth, it appears that he might be intoning some hymn or prayer. He carries an ornately engraved book of the gospels in his left hand with a metal thurible (incense burner) in the other. A little cotton wool threads make for the wisps of incense escaping the chamber.

I must say, I love this figure, Strelets doing a great job of sculpting.

All my Crimean War Strelets figures are mounted on pennies.

7. A Lay Acolyte or Soldier parading a Religious Icon on a Banner.

Religion was hugely important to the Russian soldier, a key part of his motivation and consolation. The display of religious banners was used to inspire the troops before battle.

Strelets supply two banner carriers in this set with Plastic Soldier Review describing them as “acolytes (altar boys) carrying banners”. I chose one of them to paint but on close inspection, this ‘altar boy’ is clearly dressed as a Russian infantryman. He wears a military coat and even has the infantryman’s sword. Is this a case of a soldier filling in for the lack of church staff and acting as a lay acolyte? Perhaps this was common practice in war? Answers on a postcard – or in the comments section.

8. A Wounded Naval Officer in the Hospital

And finally, a figure from the hospital. He appeared from his coat to possibly be another naval officer, so I’ve painted him as such. He has received some medical attention with a bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. At the last moment, I added a little extra blood, head wounds being known to make a mess. Sitting on a crate, the man appears calmly resigned to waiting a long time for further treatment (well, they’re not called ‘patients’ for nothing…).

I confess I’ve really enjoyed painting these figures, so I intend to plough on with another batch soon.

10 thoughts on “Russian Personalities of the Crimean War

  1. Great work!
    question:it’s the same sculptor of ww1 british gas mask set? the hand pose style of Admiral Nakhimov remember the british official. Anyway, love this sculpt style.
    Cheers
    Tiziano

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tiziano! I would say almost certainly yes to it being the same sculptor. Well spotted about the Nakhimov pose – I know exactly the one you mean. I love this style too, I always enjoy painting the figures and finding the little eccentric details the sculptor has added. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mine too, I think. I was surprised how nice they looked when painted. Fun to do something a little different than military subjects.

      I was vaguely aware of the steamboat incident as a friend of mine, a naval history buff, wrote a monograph about it once.

      Liked by 1 person

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