Friday, October 30, 2015

War Junkie

A couple of days ago I wrapped up a book I had been reading for two weeks, War Junkie: One Man's Addiction to the Worst Places on Earth, by Jonathan Steele. The book started out great, but then kind of dragged so it took me a while; 540 pages too!

The book is a first hand account of a news cameraman's job reporting on the War in Abkhazia, the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, the Georgian Civil War, the genocide in Rwanda and the siege of Sarajevo. In between his work he struggles with depression, drug abuse and missing the excitement of his job. Steele describes all of his faults, especially his failed marriage. I, of course, was most interested in his work involving post-Soviet conflicts. These stories were great. His telling of the fall of Sukhumi and the crisis in Moscow were thrilling. His graphic description of the situation in Rwanda was tough to read and was somewhat repetitive. Somehow Steele recovers from a dramatic psychological collapse at an airport and continues to film other conflicts. Sadly, the book does not describe his work in Chechnya. Oh well on to the next read.

Jonathan Steele

Monday, October 26, 2015


This weekend I put the finishing touches on a small set of bareheaded civilians from RH Models. Rolf makes a few variants of these that are more appropriate for Chechens (bald and bearded; fur and wool hats), but I went with these first. In my mind they represent politicians from the Caucasus region in the early 1990's, but I suppose they could have many uses. Here's a picture of them and a pic that inspired me.


January 6th, 1992: Opposition fighter leads prisoners, Tbilisi, Georgia

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Oh Yeah

Happiness is a new batch of miniatures arriving in the mail. Last night a package from RH Models arrived! Now I have 10x the miniatures I need! ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Forage and Prayer Caps

It took me a little longer than I planned (when does it not?) to complete my most recent batch of minis, but today I wrapped up my work on them and took some pictures. To add even more variety to my Chechen forces and expand my coverage of both conflicts I painted up some figures with forage caps, a few with colorful prayer caps and beards and one figure for my D30 crew. Here's the figures and the pictures that inspired them. Next up is a batch of figs representing Georgian government officials, few early war Chechens with AKs and two guys with shotguns (useful for a bunch of conflicts). After that I'm really hoping to work on my winter camouflage (i.e. white smocks) Chechens. It's getting cold here in New England and I'm in the mood to paint appropriately!

RH Models MULT55; MULT52

RH Models MULT50

RH Models makes some great bald and bearded guys one or two of them have prayer caps. I haven't found too many pictures of Chechen fighters with bald heads (no caps anyway), so I used some green stuff to make some more caps. I'm really pleased with how they turned out. My modification dreams are much bigger than my sculpting skills, so I'm starting with the easy stuff first! I really like the chance this gave me to use some new, brighter colors.





I was inspired by these pictures I found.

October 19th, 1999 Chechens checking out machine gun in Grozny

Chechens sitting in front of Grozny ruins (August 26th, 1996)

Chechen fighter in woods October 1st, 1999

Russians meeting with Chechens in Grozny September 1st, 1996

1996, August 31st: Chechen fighters near Russian AFV in Grozny

Chechen leadership planning somewhere in central Chechnya (December 12th, 1999)

Chechen commander Lechi Dudayev in Grozny (October 31st, 1999)

1999-10-21: Chechens sitting on top of APC in Grozny

August 22nd, 1995: Chechen fighter talking to civilian, Kurchaly

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free Fall

A few weeks back I was very excited to find another firsthand from the Chechen Wars. Memoirs from actual fighters are my favorite types of books to read these days (I've read many Eastern Front WWII memoirs and some from a few other wars). So far for the Chechen Wars I have only turned up three including this one. I don't know of any others written in or translated into English. Some Amazon reviewers were skeptical of the veracity of this latest find, but I took a chance on it anyway.

The book I just read is titled Free Fall: A Sniper's Story by Nicolai Lilin (it is also titled Free Fall: A Sniper's Story from Chechnya and that's how I found it). Nicolai Lilin was born in Moldova (now Transnistria) in 1980 and was drafted into the Russian armed services around the time of Second Chechen War. He served with their special forces, the saboteurs, as a sniper. His book briefly describes his training, but primarily concerns the brutal missions he and his small group participated in. The missions are richly described with an almost cinematic flair. In the introduction Nicolai states that in order to protect the privacy of his fellow soldiers he purposely changed names and omitted references to dates and places. I found this last part particularly annoying. At this point I considered myself well versed in the Chechen Wars so I didn't have trouble following along, but I definitely wish I knew these facts rather than just guessed them. The book was originally written in Italian (at some point Nicolai moved to Italy after his service, he now has a rather large Italian media presence) and then translated into English. Perhaps some of the possible inaccuracies stem from that translation; I'm not sure (there's several mentions of American equipment being supplied to Chechen fighters; the numbers of Chechen fighters mentioned in fights seems extremely large). The war is described in a very Russian fashion, the rebel fighters are composed of many Arabs and paid foreign snipers, for example (Chechen accounts downplay the first and deny the latter). Despite my complaints the book is definitely a quick, thrilling read. I'm super jazzed to paint up a squad of Russian special forces now. What's better than a book getting me excited to paint more and my painting inspiring my reading!?

Update: I continued to search for information about the book and came up with this article from the Independent. Seems the book is almost entirely made up and has since been re-titled Sniper: A Novel ... oh well. I guess there remains just two true soldier memoirs out there.

Nicolai Lilin