1/700 Combrig Variag and Koreets
Part 1: In the box Review
Reviewed by Norm Koger
Koreets Variag
A Bit of History

The morning of February 8th, 1904 found two Russian warships at anchor in the harbor at Chemulpo (Inchon), Korea. Russia and Japan had been rattling sabers for quite some time, but the region was still at peace. Variag, a protected cruiser, was present at the neutral harbor of Chemulpo to prevent the Japanese from landing troops without opposition.  Koreets, a gunboat, was acting as a dispatch courier between Korea and the Russian regional headquarters at Port Arthur, on Chinaís Liaotung peninsula. Koreets put to sea on the afternoon of the 8th, en route to Port Arthur. Just outside the harbor, she spotted a Japanese invasion force bound for Chemulpo. Accompanying the Japanese troop transports was a strong squadron of six cruisers and a number of torpedo boats. A few shots were fired with no damage to either side, and Koreets reversed course to return to the safety of the harbor. The Japanese force entered right behind. Under the protection of the cruiser squadron, troops began landing. By nightfall, 3000 Japanese soldiers were ashore in Chemulpo, ready for the march inland to Seoul. That same night, the a surprise torpedo attack by Japanese destroyers severely damaged the main Russian fleet at Port Arthur. 

By morning of February 9th, the Japanese force had completed its primary mission and had left the harbor. An ultimatum was delivered to the Russian ships: Depart by 4 P.M. or be attacked in harbor. Variag and Koreets were prepared for battle. With Variag in the lead and shipís bands playing the Russian national anthem, the small force sailed to meet the vastly stronger Japanese squadron awaiting them. Variag and Koreets put up a brave fight, but the issue was never in doubt. After little more than an hour, the badly battered Russian ships retreated back into the harbor. Surviving crew members were evacuated to neutral vessels and both ships were scuttled.

On February 10th, 1904, Japan declared war on Russia.

The Models

Like all Combrig kits, these are packaged in strange, tiny paper boxes which are not at all encouraging at first glance. But the box doesnít really count, does it? Itís whatís inside that matters, and thatís very nice indeed. Variag and Koreets are recent releases, and it is easy to see that Combrig has come a long way since their earlier kits. Both of these models are as finely rendered and well cast as any other resin kit on the market. 

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There are a few oddities, though not the kind of things likely to cause problems for the modeler attracted to these sorts of things. What instructions there are, are of course in Russian. You wonít be building either of these kits without good web search skills or a well stocked library of Russian naval references. The standard Combrig practice of casting wall like structures in place of rails is continued in these kits. Like the oddly out of place raised deck markings you see on otherwise very nice Pit-Road  kits, these will have to go. And many of the fine detail pieces that other manufactures would render in photo-etched brass are included here as resin castings. Thatís actually a good thing, as the resin castings benefit from a full three dimensional appearance. But as difficult as it can be to handle tiny brass parts, at 2 mm or less in size some of these resin parts are quite fragile. The (correct) raised wall around the edge of Koreetsí hull is paper thin. It looks great, but Iím almost afraid to handle it.
Koreets

Including the bowsprit, Koreets should build out to about 10 cm length. The double sided instruction sheet includes a very good exploded parts diagram showing exactly where everything belongs. A painting guide is included, in Russian of course. And a line drawing is sharp enough to be a good guide for rigging.

All parts are cast in high quality resin with very few flaws. This includes things like boat supports, davits, and masts Ė even steering wheels. Yep, thatís right: 1/700 resin steering wheels. They are very, very, very small. I wonder at the usability of the boat supports. They are modeled on the same scale as photo-etched parts and embedded in a thin casting plug. The davits are basically cast resin catís whiskers and the masts, yards, etc. suffer from the typical warps it seems we always see in resin mast components. All are probably best used as templates for brass wire replacements. The incorrect wall structures along the edges of the superstructure components will be very difficult to remove, so those are probably best considered as templates for scratchbuilt parts as well.
 
Variag

At 18 cm length, Variag is almost twice the length of Koreets. The instruction sheet included with my kit was a simple but adequate exploded parts diagram with no text. It looks like an interim document, and I wouldnít be at all surprised to find that it had been replaced by a standard Combrig instruction sheet in the near future. As with Koreets, some superstructure components are easier to cobble up from scratch than to relieve of the incorrect solid walls along the edges. Unlike Koreets, the boat davits are fairly detailed and substantial enough (though still quite fragile) to use.

Conclusions:

Itís nice to know that models of these and other Russo-Japanese war ships are available. For something this obscure, it wouldnít be surprising to have to put up with crude kits that require a great deal of effort to turn into descent models. Some of the earlier Combrig kits are indeed lacking in detail and rather rough around the edges. But I canít find anything to make a serious complaint about with Variag (Combrig #70133) and Koreets (Combrig #70138). If you are interested in the period, these kits are highly recommended.

Reviewer's note on differences in transliteration of ships' names: k, o, and r (looks like a Latin p) are direct equivalents. The critter that looks like a square bottom u with a tail makes a "ts" sound as in "Tsar". You can pretty much ignore the "hard" character on the end that looks like a lower case "b" with an overbite. The "e" used in Koreets is the "soft" form, pronounced "ye" as in "yes". For reasons that escape me, this letter is very commonly mistransliterated as the hard form - the English "short e" as in "Ed". Two soft "e" in a row are pronounced as (short)e + ye. [So it would probably be even more correct to transliterate the name as "Koreyets."] The person who did the transliteration as "Koreets" for the boxtop may not have been aware that the standard English pronunciation of "ee" is a "long e" as in "week." Cyrillic is refreshingly lacking in silent letter silliness. But nine out of ten English speakers are going to pronounce that "ee" the same way a Russian would pronounce the letter that looks to us like a "backwards N."  With Varyag vs. Variag it's more a matter of personal preference. The Cyrillic "B" is pronounced as a Latin "V". Strange font aside in this particular case, the Cyrillic "A" usually looks just like ours and is pronounced like the "a" in "yacht". The character that looks to Latin alphabet users like a "backwards R" is typically transliterated as "ya". From what I know of Russian pronunciation, I suspect a typical English language speaker is more likely to come closer to the correct pronunciation of the whole word from reading Varyag rather than from Variag
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To be followed by a buildup article.



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