Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crying Wolf

Yesterday evening I felt fairly accomplished ... I wrapped up reading a humongous paperback, Crying Wolf: The Return of War to Chechnya by Vanora Bennett. One I hate paperbacks, I'm much more of a fan of hardback and Two, to me 560 pages is a lot ... I like books I can finish in one week, 200-300 pages. Luckily this one was worth it.

Bennet's book on Chechnya uses her experience as a reporter in Moscow and Chechnya in the 1990's to help readers understand the background of the conflict. It has very little to say about actual battles. Instead it focuses on how Russians (in Moscow, Grozny and elsewhere) and Chechens experienced the war and the Russian politics of the time period. I learned a lot reading this book as she covers the intrigue between Yeltsin and his inner circle in great (but readable!) depth. Unlike some other books her book has at least the appearance of balance as she is quite critical at times of the Chechen resistance. She is definitely not fan of Dudayev, the first Chechen president. As a bonus the first couple hundred pages contain information on the post-Soviet situation in Georgia and Ingushetia. Bennet is great at describing people and the environment in which she met them. If one wants to learn the why about the Chechen Wars and likes reading about political personalities, especially the first war, this one's for you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

More Heavy Weapons

My efforts to add heavy weapons to my Chechen forces have continued. I completed my latest batch of minis this morning. Now I'm onto building a plastic D30 artillery piece and adding green stuff skull caps to bunch of bald bearded dudes.


I don't really need more first War figures with civilian clothes and AK's with grenade launchers, but these are some of my favorite figures so I went with another pack. I really like how the knit cap came and the sneakers came out.


The guy on the left is sporting a rarely seen bicolor Soviet camouflage jacket. The left mini is suitable for the 1st War and the right is a bit more suited to the 2nd War.

An example of Soviet bicolor camouflage

RH Models EER14.5; WEA10; WEA40; EERGUN; Black Dog T72026

I don't have any images of Chechens using a ZPU-1 like the guy on the left, but it seems feasible that they would have used some of these in the 1st War. Likewise, I don't have any photos of Chechens using mortars, but I have read multiple times about them being used. I included a box of mortar shells from Black Dogs excellent set of resin ammo boxes. Getting the boxes of the sprue was a big chore - it took forever - the castings however are great. I also got their set of steel barrels.


Black Dog T72026;RH Models EERGUN;

I watched a video of Ukrainians firing D30s and realized that a firing position has lots of 122mm ammo boxes nearby (just one shell fits in a box) - so I decided to paint up a small stash. These figures will also form the majority of the crew I want for my D30. I've got one more to paint this week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Last night I finished basing my DShK on a tripod. To sex up the base I hand built a small cinder block wall and glued on some spent shells. For the shells I used a method I learned on Model Dads and used some very thin (.020 inch in diameter) brass rod cut in tiny lengths. I think it came out pretty well. I'll have to use the idea again for large guns - I've got some very small tube I'm hoping to use for spent artillery shell tubes.




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hostage Situations

Over the past week I finished reading two books about Chechen terrorist incidents. (I had more time because of the Labor Day holiday.) The first book I read was 57 Hours: A Survivor's Account of the Moscow Hostage Drama by Vesselin Nedkov and Paul Wilson and the second was Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1 by Timothy Philips.

57 Hours is a telling of Vesselin Nedkov's first hand account of the hostage event that happened in October 2002 in Moscow. Some 850 hostages were taken by ~40 Chechen terrorists during a performance of the family musical Nord-Ost at the Dubrovka Theater. Vesselin, a Hungarian, wrote this book soon after the event took place. His recollection and those of others were combined to create a relatively accurate timeline of the event. The descriptions of the atmosphere in the theater and the mindset of the hostages was first class. Relatively little background information about the terrorists themselves is contained in the book and even less coverage is given to the Russian response. Most likely this because little is known; no trial occurred; no public investigation was conducted. Perhaps a later book would provide more information, but at this point this is the only book I have found on this event.

The Tragedy of School No 1. is the first book I've read about this event. The author, Timothy Philips, is a BBC translator and was involved in the production of a documentary about the incident. For the most part the book's chapter alternate between background information and a narrative of the event. I found this back-and-forth thing annoying. Some of the background information was very interesting (I didn't know too much about the North Ossetia/Ingushetia divide), but an equal amount seemed only moderately relevant. The narration follows multiple hostage's recollections (from numerous interviews presumably) and is very good, frequently very disturbing. I'm hoping some other books that are out there contain more details about the negotiations and the storming of the building.

Russian Special Forces outside Moscow theater (October 24th, 2002)

TV grab from interview of Chechen leader Movsar Barayev inside Moscow theater (October 25th, 2002)

September 3rd, 2004: Russian special forces help evacuate hostages from School No. 1, Beslan

While searching for other books about the Beslan school incident I came across this children's book (recommended for ages 8 and up). I think I'll pass on this!

Heavy Weapons

This morning I put the finishing touches on my most recent batch of minis. These minis are my first foray into Chechens with heavy weapons and supplement the figures with AKs I have suitable for 2nd War Chechens. I am still basing a tripod mounted DShK and hope to have a picture of that up soon.

I haven't found any references, text or images, of Chechens using the AT-3 Sagger (Russian name: 9M14 Malyutka), but RH Models make three models of missile controllers as part of their Eastern European Rebels line so I went ahead anyway. It is totally feasible that some were used in the Chechen Wars; certainly someone must have used one in at least one of the Post-Soviet Wars. RH Models controllers and missiles don't feature the wire that connected the remote control to the missile so I modeled this with green stuff (mine are the size of a garden hose, in this scale). I wasn't brave enough to paint the wire bright green like some pictures I have seen, but whose checking?!


RH Models WEA2

AT3-Sagger missile at trade show.

AT3-Sagger missile and controller in CIA museum.

I also added a few miniatures with AK-47's and knit caps to this batch to beef up my 2nd War Chechen force. I tried my hand at yet another variation of urban SMK; a Woodland variant with more a reddish brown and lighter green; and my first attempt at Tiger (one variation anyway, there are several).

RH Models EER2W

RH Models EER2W

Chechen fighters in Grozny (December 2nd, 1999)

Chechens investigated downed Su-25, Goyskoye, October 5th, 1999

Lastly here are two AA gunners I painted to go with two RH Models DShK on AA tripods that I haven't painted yet.

RH Models EER2644

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Source Images

When I first started to think about painting miniatures for the Chechen Wars I did what I have always done in the past ... look for the related Osprey book(s). Unfortunately they don't make any for the Chechen Wars and I haven't found any books that are similar and comprehensive (Histoire and Collections make some outstanding books for other periods, for example). I then searched for images using Google image search. This got me started, but before long I wanted more images and found that the images I got from such searches were of inconsistent quality and attribution (what good is a picture for mini painter if you don't know the date and location that the photo was taken!).

Somehow I stumbled upon stock image sites, sites of companies whose business is selling pictures for publications. I found tons of great photos of good quality with reasonably accurate attribution. My only problem (a slight one) is that such sites hardly ever say what unit a soldier is in and all have some sort of branding embedded in the photo, but all have reasonable size preview images that one can see for free. Mostly by using seven good sites I've found lots of great photos (my collection has 2,500 images for the Chechen Wars for example).

I'm always looking for more searchable, free, stock photo sites, but haven't found a great, complete list of them online. Here are the top seven sites I've found with short descriptions and representative search results. Hopefully this list will be useful to other modern wars mini painters (the more recent the war the more images there seem to be on these sites). Perhaps someone out there knows of another site I should check out?

Alamy Stock Photos
smaller number of images; company overlay on images is a bit annoying; preview image size (640x451)
Associated Press
watermark; smaller preview image size (359x512)
Corbis Images
unobtrusive tag, preview image size (640x427)
European Press Photo Agency
watermark and tag; large preview image size (800x737)
Getty Images
unobtrusive tag; large preview image size (683x1024)
Reuters Images
watermark; large preview image size (728x485)
Visual RIAN
annoying watermark; preview image size (640x392)

Search Term (Date)
The above results are meant to show how many pictures would be found at each site by using the given term and the date range specified. Some duplicates will be returned at each site as images can be found with multiple terms. Duplicates can be found between sites, but for the most part images appear to be unique to each site. Hopefully the above results give some idea of what can be found.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ilyas Akhmadov

To assist in my wife's transition to a new job and my kids start of the school year I had a few days off. I had a bit more time to read and paint miniatures over the past four days!

Yesterday during a brief lull I finished reading The Chechen Struggle: Independence Won and Lost by Ilyas Akhmadov and Miriam Lanskoy. The book is not exactly a biography or memoir although it does cover the Chechen struggle from 1994 until 2010 according to one well placed participant. Ilyas Akhmadov held two different posts under Maskhadov, elected president in 1997, and was a long-time friend of Shamil Basayev, revered/reviled rebel commander. He served in the Soviet army and during the First Chechen War he participated in some fighting, but for the most part he was not a fighter, but an adviser to Chechen politicians, serving first as a public affairs officer at the staff headquarters of Maskhadov during the First Chechen War, advising Shamil Basayev during the inter-war period and then in the Second War he served as Foreign Minister. I found the book especially enlightening when describing the situation between the wars and the relationship between the leaders of Chechnya. His coverage of the war and specific events is spotty and brief. The death of his Shamil Basayev, for instance, isn't discussed at all (Maskhadov's death warrants its own chapter) and neither is the raid in Nazran. Ilyas mentions historic events to introduce his observations and theories about the relationships he witnessed. He doesn't attempt to chronicle the wars. Overall I'm a bit skeptical about some of his observations as no other book that I've read describes the first battle for Grozny as he does (a surprising turn of events by poorly armed, mostly inexperienced, unevenly led rebel militia) and his opinion of Basayev is generously nuanced. It's a rare look inside of the Chechen government by a moderate who actually knew some of the key participants and so despite my reservations I did enjoy the book.

Ilyas Akhmadov