Astrakhan Cuirassiers (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #21)

The 21st regiment in my ongoing series of Napoleonic cavalry are a very fine set from the excellent Russian manufacturer, Zvezda. I’ve praised these figures in previous posts and, now that they are finished, that praise has proved entirely appropriate, I think. The sculpting is first class and the poses are good. The final result is an excellent addition to the project’s ranks.


I needed a little extra preparation to ensure that the paint stayed on the figures, but it was worth the attention as all seems to have stayed on without any problems. The riders fitted the horses without any trouble as well, which is always a bonus. Painting 16 figures, rather than 10, in one go has certainly added to the time taken to finish them, but it was worth doing and never felt onerous.



Having confirmed what I already knew about Zvezda supplying excellent figures, I am minded to tackle the remaining Napoleonic cavalry regiments in their catalogue. These include the somewhat similar looking Saxon Cuirassiers and the Russian Hussars, the latter being my next intended regiment in the project. This may have to be relegated to the back burner for now however, as my next paint job will be my RedBox 18th century British infantry figures intended for the Benno’s Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade!


In addition to the other ranks, you’ll see that I’ve painted the regiment’s trumpeter with his red plume and ornate uniform (sans cuirass); their officer and also their guidon bearer holding the black and yellow regimental flag. The sculpting on the flag appeared to show details that appear only on the flags of two other Russian cuirassier regiments; the Emperor’s and Empress’ Cuirassiers. The Astrakhan Regiment had a slightly different design which I’ve tried my best to approximate! Anyway, here’s plenty of images of the figures comprising my latest regiment in the project – the Russian Astrakhan Cuirassiers!

Biography: Borodino and the Astrakhan Cuirassiers [Russia]

The Astrakhan Cuirassier Regiment was formed in 1811. Russian Cuirassier regiments wore similar uniforms with a black cuirass and white coats, differing only in the colour of their collars, cuffs and turnbacks. For example, the Glukhov Cuirassiers  wore blue, the Novogorod wore pink, the Emperor’s cuirassiers wore red and the Empress’ sported a light blue. The Astrakhan Cuirassiers, named after the city in southern Russia on the Volga, wore a distinctive yellow. Together with the Emperor’s Life Guard and Empress’ Life Guard regiments, it comprised the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cuirassier Division of the Russian Army under Major General Nikolay Depreradovich.

Contemporary print of an Astrakhan Cuirassier

During Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers greatly distinguished themselves, most particularly in the great battle of Borodino. During the fight for the Semenovsky ravine, the French cavalry corps under La Tour-Maubourg engaged the remnants of hard-pressed Russian troops who were defending the Bagration fleches (defensive earthworks). The French cuirassier division broke into the rear of the Russian Guards regiment’s squares. To assist the guards at this critical moment, the Astrakhan Cuirassiers arrived along with other Russian cuirassier regiments.

The Astrakhan Cuirassiers (right) engage the Saxon Garde du Corps at the battle of Borodino.

Barclay de Tolly, the Russian Field Marshal, praised their bravery during this engagement, reporting later that “the great loss of men and horses killed or wounded [did not] disrupt their ranks, each interlocking each time in order.”

The bloody battle ended in the complete reverse of the French cavalry – thrown back over Semenovsky stream. However, the Astrakhan regiment had suffered very heavy losses: after the battle of Borodino, only 95 of them remained ready for duty out of a previous total of around 400.

In August 1813, the entire regiment was awarded the prestigious Order of St George with the inscription “For distinction in the defeat and expulsion of the enemy from Russian territory in 1812“.

Notable Battle: Borodino.

Astrakhan Cuirassiers

My daughter proudly presenting the next box of nappy cavalry

The next regiment in the (never-ending…) Nappy Cavalry Project will be the Astrakhan Regiment using Zvezda’s Russian Cuirassiers. They make for a pleasing challenge for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s been a while since I painted a regiment wearing a cuirass, the French carabiniers and cuirassiers being painted over a year ago, and I’ve never painted a black cuirass before. Secondly, I’m keen to tackle some of the wonderful Russian cavalry as the only previous Russian contribution to the project were my Cossacks.


I’ve considered a number of possible Russian Cuirassier regiments and opted for the Astrakhan Regiment. The difference between regiments is mostly in the colour of the trim (the Astrakhan being yellow). The rest of the uniform is principally a white coat, grey trouser and black cuirass.

Zvezda Russian Cuirassiers – Primed and ready for paint!

I admit that aside from a vague awareness of the wonderfully exotic name, I was largely ignorant of exactly where Astrakhan was in Russia. So I looked it up. Wikipedia showed me the following disambiguations:

Astrakhan hat (78th Regt.)
  • Astrakhan Oblast, a federal subject of Russia
  • Astrakhan Khanate, a Tatar feudal state in the 15th-16th centuries
  • Astrakhan, a Buyan-class corvette of the Russian Navy
  • Astrakhan, Russian name of newborn karakul sheep’s pelts, and hats and coats made from these pelts
  • “The Astrakhan”, a style of fur cap historically and currently worn by elements of the Canadian Forces and some Canadian Police
  • Mrs. Astrakhan, a character from the animated film Happy Feet

It seems that Tartar history and a luxurious fleece are it’s principal claim to fame. The old city has an “East meets West feel” according to the Lonely Planet guide, which sounds intriguing. I know that I could certainly use “The Astrakhan” hat on these chilly winter mornings.

Anyway, the 1/72 scale figures by Zvezda are of their usual very high standard. The details aren’t quite as crisp as some of their other sets, but they’re fine enough. The thing about Zvezda figures is that their figures just don’t seem to want paint to stick to them, so I brush them clean with detergent and paste some PVA glue on them as a primer before even adding any paint, all of which seems to help. I doubt that they’ll be approaching completion prior to the end of 2016, but hopefully I shall find some time over the holiday period to progress them.

Not long until Christmas now, and I’ve been completely outrageous in buying myself some new figures as an early present to myself! More on these soon…