Monday, November 30, 2015

A Dirty War

Yesterday during a rare, quiet extended reading period I finished reading Anna Politkovskaya's A Dirty War. Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) was a Russian reporter who wrote for Novaya Gazeta, became famous for covering the 2nd Chechen War and notorious (in some circles) for exposing Putin's regime. Tragically she was gunned down outside her Moscow apartment in 2006. I'm a bit surprised it took me so long to get to her books.

A Dirty War is a collection of dispatches (articles) Politkovskaya wrote from July 1999 to January 2001. The articles concern all manner of topics related to Chechnya during this time period, but focus on the plight of the Chechen people, especially the refugee crisis, the unending corruption, the senseless violence and the despair. I particularly enjoyed reading her interviews with Russian military personnel and a pair of Chechen fighters. Her style of writing, however, took some getting used to. This book is not a good example of objective journalism. I'm not someone who kids themselves and believes that any journalism is opinion free, but some presentations sound much more slanted than others. Politkovskaya definitely has a point to make with every dispatch. Her interview questions are not the "softballs" American audiences are used to. But despite those complaints I consider the book essential reading for understanding the 2nd Chechen War. Politkovskaya was killed for writing books such as this. I can't help but thinking they deserve to be read.

Anna Politkovskaya

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Set

Happy Thanksgiving! This morning I finished a set of figure I've been having fun with. With this set I used my trusty jeweler's saw and green stuff more than ever before. I even got the chance to base with some snow! Next up is much more winter camouflage, some KLMK camouflage suits, bush hats and a 2nd chechen war Shamil Basayev miniature.

RH Models RUSG10 with head swap; RUSG9 with head swaps (GDRMIL)

RH Models RUSG15A; RUSG9

A fair number of Chechen fighters can be seen wearing Russian greatcoats in pictures of the first battle of Grozny (winter, 1994-1995). I found one example of a fighter wearing such a coat during the 2nd Chechen war (he became a good reason to swap on a pilotka side cap). RH Models makes these with helmets and fur hats. I decided to swap heads of some of the figures, remove straps from others and make some sort of blue civilian coat with another for variety. The bareheaded and helmeted guys will also make good Georgian fighters. I wasn't entirely sure of what color to use for Russian greatcoats so I painted some more gray and others more brown. I'm particularly fond of the running guys. These guys really look like they are under fire to me.

Chechens in the back of a truck, Grozny (December 13th, 1994).

Chechens fighting near presidential palace, Grozny (January, 1995).

Rebel fighters gather in Grozny, January 3rd, 1995.

Chechen fighters retreating from Grozny, Alkhan-Kala, February, 2000.

RH Models MULTBUSHAK with head swap (RUSAKBH); RUSBARSQU with head swap and extended pants

I've seen a few images with Chechen fighters wearing the Soviet bush hat, but it is infrequent. I've also seen it used a bit in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. For the sake of variety I created this figure with a head swap. In my mind this guy is an Abkhazian fighter. I can't make out the clothes in the Abkhazian below so I went with the camouflage scheme worn by the Chechen in a truck below.

The more pictures I look at of fighters involved in Post-Soviet conflicts the more cases of body armor I see being worn. Usually it is 6b3 armor or a later variety, but RH Models only has a 6b2 style available, so I decided to use two of those figures for Chechens - 6b2 is a bit anachronistic, but it is not too bad. I gave a head swap to one (the guy with a knit cap) and extended the pants of the other (so his pants looked more like baggy winter camo). I also removed the sleeve pockets of both figures. At some point I might try my hand at sculpting 6b3+ body armor, but right now that's a bit beyond my skills. The figure with white winter camo got my first snow basing. To make snow I used baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). I tried using Woodland Scenics snow, but I didn't like the look of it for the 20mm figures. Handy baking soda came out much better after four applications! :/

December 20th, 1992 - Abkhazian fighters on an APC.

Chechen fighters celebrate in front of presidential palace, Grozny (January, 1995).

January 1995 - Chechen rebels in Grozny.

Chechen fighter taking bread in Grozny suburbs, March 1st, 1995.

6b series of body armor, left to right, 6b2, 6b3, 6b4 and 6b5

RH Models WEA22; RUSSPOTV; RUS22B with head swap and extended pants

Above is my Chechen 9K111 Fagot anti-tank team (also called an AT-4). To make the prone figure I did a head swap and I extended and fattened his pant legs a bit with some green stuff. I wanted a look that was more casual than the original figure. I know they are not popular with wargamers, but personally I like prone figures. I wish there were more of them. I haven't seen any photos of Chechens using this missile system, but I have found several photos of Russians confiscating reloads for them. Based on these photos I painted the missile launching tube mustard.

Russian paratroopers confiscating a Fagot reload tube at the cement factory in Chiri-Yurt. (May 5th, 1995)
RH Models MOSCOM with hat swap (RUSAKBH)

This figure represents my first attempt at making a personality from the Chechen Wars (I've got a handful of others in mind), Shamil Basayev. One of the pictures that motivated me is below. I think this figure will work pretty well for the 1st Chechen War as well as the wars in Abkhazia and Nargono-Karabakh (he was involved in both of those too). To get the beard and the hat I did my first hat swap - I'm really pleased with the results and I'll definitely be trying more of these soon. Now I feel skilled enough to do the caps with beards I have in my head (especially forage and baseball caps for late 2nd war insurgents) as well as some backwards baseball caps.

Shamil Basayev speaking with press during Budyonnovsk hostage crisis, June 17th, 1995.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chienne de Guerre

My reading of books about the wars in Chechnya has shifted slightly to books about the people of Chechnya and their struggles. To that end I read Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya by Anne Nivat.

Chienne de Guerre, originally written in French, tells the story of French female reporter traveling through war torn Chechnya during the early part of the second war (late 1999 to late 2000). Nivat was able to remain undetected for almost a year, crossing the border with Ingushetia numerous times, by posing as a Chechen civilian. The book details her encounters with many Chechen civilians and some Russian soldiers. Nivat shows journalism at its best - she describes the most salient parts of her meetings and although she went to great (dangerous) lengths to do her reporting she doesn't dwell on her own heroics one bit. Fortuitously she is located in Alkhan-Kala when a large body of Chechen fighters passes through after their breakout from Grozny. She even walks in on Khassan Baiev (the famous Chechen surgeon and author) amputating Shamil Basayev's leg! When Nivat is eventually rounded up and kicked out of Chechnya her treatment by the Russians is surprisingly gentle. The epilogue briefly describes two return visits, one officially with Russian soldiers and the other incognito in which she interviews Aslan Maskhadov. The books is definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Inbetween working on some conversions I'm really excited about - lots of green stuff, squadron putty and head swaps - I've been working on a few supply dumps. I made one a few weeks back that I was happy with so I decided to add a few more to my collection. The boxes are from a great Black Dog set. For extras I cut out two AK's from two different RH Models (Rolf's cool piles) and added two RPG bags from a 4 pack of them Rolf sells. For one of the RPG bags I added some green stuff straps. I debated cutting off an RPG round from some of my figures for more bits, but in the end I couldn't do it - maybe some day.

Black Dog T72026; RH Models HEMAK47 & HEMAK74

Black Dog T72026; RH Models STOWrpgbag

Black Dog T72026

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


This morning I finished four casualty markers/terrain pieces I had been working on. They are RH Models CASW set (casualties with Caucasian heads). To make them fit my period of choice a bit better I swapped some heads and added some extras. All four had bare heads, one had a miscast hand so I added a helmet in his hand (out of the couple hundred RH Models figures I've bought I think that's the first miscast). The two helmets and fur hat heads are from RH Models as well. The gas tank is from Sgt's Mess. Below is a picture I used for jerry can inspiration.

RH Models CASW with head swap

RH Models CASW with head swap; Sgt's Mess GM16

January, 1992: Tbilisi

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stripes and Patterns

Here's another batch of early war Chechen fighters I painted up last week and finished basing this morning. For this second batch I decided to go with more stripes and such. I'm very pleased with the results. At some point I'll do some more lightly equipped figures with RPG's, RPK's and SVD's, but for now I'm moving on to some different things. I also put two shotgun guys in this batch ... just for fun!

RH Models EER2W

RH Models EER2W