Friday, August 28, 2015

Camouflage, Camouflage, Camouflage

With the goal of expanding the painted minis I have suitable for 2nd War Chechens I painted ten more figures before vacation and nd the week after. Some of them would also work for the 1994-1996 war or other conflicts. There's lot variety in camouflage used by such troops so I've been trying to paint up many different examples. During the Second Chechen War VSR camouflage and woodland camouflage seem to be the most common schemes, but there's lots of others that show here in there in pictures. It takes a while, but sure is fun. After this painting a uncamouflaged force of uniform color is going to seem easy.

Next up my first attempts at Tiger camouflage and heavy weapons for the Chechens (Saggers, AA guns and an HMG).




Here's some pictures that inspired me.

Chechen fighters in Grozny December 17th, 1994

This is the only picture I've found of a Chechen fighter with a shotgun. I've come across a few pictures of Chechens with other types of hunting rifles and have found lots of pictures of civilian arms being used in Vokovar and Tbilisi (two other interests of mine). I supposed with a whole lot of green stuff and head swap Rolf's figure could look more like this character, but that is way beyond my sculpting skills right now.

Rebel commander in Grozny January 26th, 1995

Chechen fighters siting in relaxing near Noja-Lourt (October 1st, 1999)

The above image shows Chechen use of Smog camouflage (based on the successful British Disruptive Pattern, DPM). I tried my best to imitate this. Mine (figure with RPG) came out a bit brighter than I wanted, but I'm still pretty happy with it.

Chechens occupying trench in Grozny sometime in December 1999

I'm not sure what this camouflage pattern is called. It's a bit like the common Woodland camouflage, but in a different pattern. My guy wearing this pattern (with a grenade launcher) sports my first attempt at sneakers on a RH 20mm figure. I'll have to add a few more minis with those here and there as they were fairly commonly worn.

Chechen showing a dagger in Grozny: October 12th, 1999

This is another camouflage pattern for which I'm not sure of the name. It's pretty common for the 2nd War. It looks a bit like TTsKO, but the colors are totally different. My attempt (guy with ammo box and knit cap) should have came out a bit more grayer. It's definitely tough to get the right shades of colors to show up when painting 20mm miniatures. I guess I'm slowing self teaching myself color theory. Adjacent colors definitely alter the appearance of the base color.

Rebels praying: Grozny, October 11th, 1999

I once read that were many cheap Chinese made camouflage uniforms being sold between the wars. I suppose the Woodland camouflage of the guy in the back/middle with the yellow (not tan) splotches could be wearing one of these. One of my figures with an AK was painted to represent this.

Chechen firing AK somewhere in Grozny November 8th, 1999

I've seen lots of different types of winter SMK camouflage used in both wars by both sides. Some of have more blue base color; some have a more light gray base color. The over splotches vary from dark gray to black to dark brown. I tried my best to duplicate this version with my kneeling commander figure. So far this is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Khassan Baiev

A few days ago before work I finished reading The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire by Khassan Baiev with Ruth and Nicholas Daniloff. I was glad to say I successfully read two books on vacation!

This is one of the better books I've read on the Chechen Wars and probably the only one I've read so far that has broader appeal. The author really lays himself bare and lets you into his mind. With this book you get a really good sense of Khassan's motivations and failings. I especially enjoyed learning about his upbringing, what his Chechen heritage and Muslim faith meant to him and how his family interacted with each other in Chechen (not Russian) ways. Khassan was the only operating Chechen surgeon during the First Chechen War and the beginning of the Second Chechen War. He operated in the crudest conditions one can imagine; used a carpenter's saw and drill, worked by kerosene lamps, made his own salves and encouraged patients to clean their wounds with their own urine. His patients included civilians and fithers, both Chechen and Russian. Helping anyone who came to his "hospital" made him many friends and enemies. The book is full of many near escapes with death. It also includes many run ins with famous individuals including Shamil Basayev (coincidentally a schoolyard acquaintance) as it is Khassan who amputated his leg during a marathon 48 hour session of treating 300 persons injured during the Chechen escape from Grozny, including 67 amputations! Highly recommended.

If you're into podcasts this old podcast/radio show interview with Khassan covers lots of highlights of the book:

WBUR: The Connection: October 27th, 2003

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Robert Young Pelton

Yesterday my family and I got back from vacation. I didn't bother to take my whole painting kit to the beach house, but instead brought lots of books and box with all the stuff I would need to prepare as many miniatures as possible (more stuff than I thought). I read 1 2/3 books and prepped about a months work of figures (and heavy weapons) to paint.

The first book I read was The Hunter, The Hammer, and Heaven: Journeys to Three Worlds Gone Mad by Robert Young Pelton. Pelton is a danger seeking freelance reporter who's been just about everywhere that's been at war in the past few decades and is frequently seen on TV. He regularly updates a guide titled The World's Most Dangerous Places. This book, written ~2001, covers three war-torn areas in three parts: The Hunter, Sierra Leone; The Hammer, Chechnya; and Heaven; Bougainville. (You can easily guess which section I was most interested in.) Previous to reading this book I knew next to nothing about the conflict in Sierra Leone so I found his quick overview of the situation in ~1999 interesting. His travelogue concerning the country was written just after a peace accord had been reached so it wasn't that exciting. He met lots of odd ball South African mercenary characters that provide lots of interesting insights and there's lots of scary child soldier stories. Yup, the miniature painter in me couldn't help but think that'd be interesting period to paint. His coverage of Chechnya was much better. His quick overview of the wars up until December 1999 was lacking, but after that his description of his journey from Georgia thru the mountains and into Grozny at the beginning of the Second Chechen War was great, at times thrilling. I got a good sense of the war from his write-up and gained a lot admiration for his determination to get there. In particular I enjoyed reading about his meeting with Aslan Maskhadov. The third part covered his tireless efforts to meet up with a reclusive revolutionary named Francis Ona who has been fighting the Papua New Guinea government for control of the island of Bougainville. Eventually he meets the guy, but not before numerous failures and a section detailing the beginnings of the private army business (that part was dull). I'm glad I found the book (it didn't come up in my initial searches) and someday I might read more of his adventure books. I learned a lot with this one and now know what it is I've seen wrapped around almost every Chechen AK stock (and other weapons) ... rubber tourniquets!

Robert Young Pelton reporting for ABC News in Chechnya 1999/2000.

As far as miniature painters go I'm probably one of the slowest to prepare minis. I really like to take my time to needle file every mold line and fill up every hole with green putty. I usually find the work relaxing. Sometimes though after painting a big batch of minis I just want to plow into the next set. I can be a bit bummed when I have to take a few days to prep the next batch. Hopefully this will keep me set for a few weeks! I've also tried something new ... basing a bit beforehand so I don't spend as much time redoing what I've messed up painting the base. If it works out I might save myself a day.

Various RH Models miniatures ready to be painted.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Monte Melkonian

This morning I finished a biography of Monte Melkonian, My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia by Markar Melkonian, his older brother. Melkonian (1957-1993) was born and raised in California in the 1960's to parents of Armenian descent. As college student he quickly became a radical supporter of Armenian independence. After graduation (as an archaeologist) Monte traveled to Beirut. In Beirut he hooked up with defenders of an Armenian neighborhood and later became a leader in the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, a terrorist group. Monte participated in several assassinations of Turkish diplomats as well as several bombings in Europe. Eventually he was caught and imprisoned in France. In 1989 he was released and made his way to Soviet Armenia. In Armenia he became involved in the Karabakh independence movement. Despite his dogmatism and foreign birth he became a successful Lieutenant Colonel in the Armenian forces. Upon his death in 1993 and afterwards he became a national hero.

After reading Thomas de Waal's excellent general overview of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Black Garden, I was looking for a more intimate and personal account of the conflict. This book was just what I was looking for. The author is at times a bit overly apologetic of his brother's terrorism, but that aside I really enjoyed the book. Heck! Now I know a bit of what it feels like to have your estranged brother become a terrorist and than sort of redeem himself by becoming a national hero in some far off country. Highly recommended.

August, 1993 Monte "Avo" Melonian

Monday, August 10, 2015

Head Swaps

On Friday I took the day off. After a nice morning hike with the family I decided to build a light box from foam board, tissue paper, packaging tap, three cheap lights and three daylight bulbs (normal bulbs definitely gave me yellowish shots). I based my design off of two good You Tube videos I found:

Build A Light Box On The Cheap, Take Gorgeous Photos!

Photo Lightbox: Build or Buy?

It didn't take to long to construct. I got some good results the next morning with it. My ultimate goal is to have something I can take quick, good pictures of miniatures at any time of the day (I don't always have a sunny afternoon to just take pictures, etc.). I'm not there yet, but a little closer. In the future I hope to build a more permanent light box that will probably be a little smaller, definitely have the lights firmly attached, be sturdier and have a location/spot for small tripod. My photos aren't entirely consistent just yet.

My homemade light box.

A while ago I bought a small jeweler's saw for the purpose of doing some head swaps with miniatures. RH's miniatures have great variety, but sometimes I just want more. It was a bit of work, but I'm really happy with the results. I'll definitely being doing more soon.

The first swaps I did were to add some tank crew head gear to three bodies from various packs. These heads were a bugger to lop off, but the result was worth it. This hat was used occasionally by Chechen fighters during the first war and I have also seen it in use in other Post-Soviet conflicts. It's just cool looking and seems quintessentially Soviet to me so I had to have a few figures with it. I was inspired by this picture for the middle guy.

1995 - Chechen fighters; Grozny

RH Models MULTBHAK; MULTBHRPG; EER11 with head swaps from RUSTANK5

I next decided to add some more variety to my Chechen militia forces with two more head swaps. I've only seen evidence of these hats being used infrequently during the early part of the First Chechen War. I presume because the SSSH94 Steel Sphera Helmet (I call it the O helmet) was pretty new even for Russian forces and the it was a bit too cold for the peaked forage cap. I'll have to do a lot more swaps with both of these heads in the future as a whole unit or two of Russians with the O helmet is in my plans and this style of forage cap is seen a lot during the later (warmer) parts of the First Chechen War and definitely during Georgian Civil War and Armenian-Azerbaijan War. The guy on the left in the image below was inspired by this image.

1995 - Chechen fighters; Grozny

RH Models URBAK with head swaps from RUS25O; RUS22B

I've seen some pictures with Chechen fighters in balaclavas and bandanas (usually green) so I painted these up. I'll probably be do more balaclavas in the future.

August 20th, 1996 - Chechen fighter; Grozny



My forces could use some more camouflaged figthers and definitely more guys with RPGs so I painted these. To make these more compatible with the Second Chechen War I've made use of more Woodland camouflage. The guy with the blue/gray camouflage is my first attempt at painting SMK style camouflage. The kneeling guy with an AK-47 is the first dude I've painted with KLMK camouflage. I'm happy with how the painting turned out - the picture just doesn't show it well.

RH Models EER2W



Just because a break from the normal is always good I did the figures below.