Islamic Persian
Early Russian 1054-1246

The Early Russian army in DBA represents the later part of the Kievan Rus period in the region, which spans the time between the years 859 and 1240. Culturally there was a significant change in the Kievan Rus empire after 1054, which marks the beginning of the Early Russian army list for DBA: the death of Yaroslav the Wise. On his death he split his kingdom between his children in the hopes of collaboration and unity, which unfortunately, but not surpisingly, did not come about.

Yaroslav the Wise

The period also marks a change in the fighting styles of the Kievan Rus, or Early Russians as they are called in the DBA army list. The Rus initially waged war on foot as they were heavily influenced by the viking style of fighting. Over time the use of cavalry in Rus armies increased, largely because of the difficulty that foot troops had in dealing with the Nomad horse tribes. By the 11th century, after relations between the Scandinavians became unfriendly, the viking mercenaries disappeared and the Druzhina abandoned their viking-style fighting for mounted warfare.

Between 1054 (The death of Yaroslav) and 1147 (the first mention of the city of Moscow) the kingdom that Yaroslav had built was rife with internecine strife and was broken up into geographically defined power centres. Furthermore the Kievan Rus had to deal with the invading Cumans (aka Kipchaks) during this time as well.

The Kievan Rus battled on into the 13th century, when in 1223 the Mongols (aka Tatar, aka Golden Horde) invaded. At the Kalka river the Mongols made battle with a number of Rus principalities as well as their allied Cumans. Ultimately the battle ended in failure for the Rus, and marked the beginning of a Mongol domination of Russia that would last for over two hundred years. It was during this time, while Kiev was paying heavy tribute to the Golden Horde, that Moscow gained prominence.

The early Russians weren't idle, even under the domination of the Mongols. The Greek orthodox Christianity that Vladimir I (Vladimir Sviatoslavich) chose for his people didn't sit well with the latin-based Christians on their borders. As such, this was the excuse used by a couple of land-hungry warlords to lead invading crusades. During these crusades, Alexander Nevsky earned his name (quite literally) when he lead an army that turned back an invading force of Swedes at the Battle of Neva in 1240. Nevski again lead a successful defence against crusading Livonian Knights during the Battle of the Ice in 1242.

In summary, the early Russians were ultimately the link between the east and the west. Religiously they were barely Christian, and still retained much of their non-christian beliefs. Militarily they mixed the heavy cavalry of western Europe with the light cavarly of the eastern and steppe nomads. Finally, their style of dress and decoration was a blend of the east and the west. Overall, this is a very fun and colourful army to paint and put together, with a lot of horses!

Army Composition

The cavalry elements along with the general would be made up of the warlord's personal guard known as the Druzhina. The Druzhina were a volunteer group of standing soldiers and would make up the elite core of any early Russian army going to battle. There were two general levels of Druzhina: elder druzhina (or better, or fore), and younger druzhina. In general, this stratification likely won't effect the look of your figures, however it wouldn't hurt to have the figured accompanying the general's element adorned with more valuable armour and weapons. In either case, the Druzhina would be wearing the typical mish mash of patterned fabric colours, including bright reds, greens, yellows, and blues. Their armour and arms would reflect the fact that were were professional soldiers. Also, the Druzhina would be carrying various banners, all of which relate to christianity in some way, either with crosses or pictures of Jesus or Mary with baby Jesus.

The light horse role in early Russians armies could be made up of a number of different groups of people. Often they were made up of what are known as Svoi Pagyane, or "Our own Pagan" to roughly translate. These were typically nomadic types whose lands fell under the Russian domain. Most often, these were Pecheneg peoples who favoured horse archery and deep green, red, and blue patterned tunics. The Smerdy, or free Russian peoples could also play this role, although they would likely use throwing spear or javelin instead of bows. Finally, they could be Cuman mercenaries, which were also not uncommon during the period, or even Mongolian horse archers.

The spear elements would have likely been made up of militia levy types who were generally volunteers from the land-owning, farming or city-dwelling peasantry. They are typically referred to as the polk, which means literally 'group of troops' in Old Slavic. As is typical of the period, these militia were required to have their own wargear, and so their look would have varied greatly. The wealthier people would have had more ornate armour and shield designs, whereas those who were poorer would look the part. Of course, nobody will fault an army with well painted and ornamented spearmen!

The psiloi and horde elements in an early Russian army could be made up of a number of peoples. Most commonly they would have been either peasants of the woods or smerdy. The woodsmen were typically free peoples who made their homes in the woods, as opposed to their farming counterparts. Hunting and chopping wood for fuel and trade were important for them, and so they could easily play the role of skirmishing archers; more on the woodsmen in the auxiliary discussuon below. The smerdy were a group of free people who did not own land, but worked for land owners, typically as farm hand types. They may have skirmished with javelin, throwing spear or bow. Both the woodsmen and the smerdy would also have played the horde role well, attacking with whatever weapons they could muster.

Finally, the auxiliary elements would typically be made up of woodsmen. The woodsmen were known for their padded and colourful clothing. Although they didn't typically have the patterned fabrics of the professional soldiers, they did enjoy bright solid greens, reds and blues, as well as the typical undied wool colours ranging from off-white to near black. They also wore distinctive leather hats with fur rims and carried their axes!

One last note on knights in the Early-Russian army. Knights who fought in early Russian armies were typically mercenaries from the west, either being Polish (the 3Kn option) or German (the 6Kn option). For more information on how to represent these knights, please see articles relating to early medieval Poland and Germany.

The DBA Early Russian army list includes the following element types:

3Cv and General The Druzhina, or standing bodyguard. Typically wearing pretty heavy armour, colourful and patterned fabrics, and carrying all sorts of banners.
2Lh Svoi Pagyane (Our own Pagan) Penechegs fighting with bow and sword and wearing deep green, blue, and red patterned fabrics. Otherwise Smerdy, Cuman, or Mongol mercenaries.
4Sp Often called the polk (group of troops), were made up of land-owning peasant farmers or city dwellers. They would resemble a not so well armed and armoured version of the Druzhina, depending on their wealth.
2Ps Either woodsmen skirmishing with their bows or smerdy (un-landed peasants) with bows or javelin.
7Hd These also were either woodsmen or smerdy with various weapons.
3Ax Auxiliary were typically woodsmen, commonly using axes.
3/6Kn Knights were mercenaries from either Poland (3Kn) or Germany (6Kn).

To field this army with all options, you will need a mounted general figure and 14 armoured and mounted figures for the 3Cv elements, four skirmishing mounted troops for the 2Lh elements, 8 spear armour foot troops for the 4Sp elements, and 4 skirmishing foot troops for the psiloi elements. Finally, you will need at least one more elements of 7 figured for the 7Hd, 3 figures for the 3Ax option, and either 3 or 6 knights for the 3/6Kn option. If you go with the 3Ax option, you will need 15 mounted troops and 19 foot soldiers, if you go with the 7Hd option you will need 15 mounted and 23 foot troops, finally, if you go with the knight elements you will need either 18 or 21 mounted troops and 12 foot troop figs.


I generally find the opponents list to be quite satisfactory, with the exception of the Swedish. Apparently the early Russians officially battled a Swedish Leidang, whereas in the list of enemies only the Vikings are present.

Camps and BUAs

The ostrog, meaning palisade, is a great option for a home type of camp. Made from wood logs, this would be a wall of logs with a platform to defend it made either of more logs or piled earth. Enterprising scratch builders could get away with making a stylized gateway as well with roof shapes and designs distinct to Rus architecture. A good example of this type of camp is Roberto Bagna's Russian Ostrog camp, which gives a lot of inspiration.

Other camps that have great effect are homesteads of dark age houses, surrounded by snazzy fences holding in livestock. A great example is the Mike Johnson's Rus Camp made by Patrick Patterson. Also Richard Bradley's Rus storehouse is a good example. Very characterful opportunities!

Finally, for the away camps, there is always the option to do a standard bagage cart with a load of extra barrels. The barrels of course would be for carrying extra supplies of everyone's favourite intoxicant. Although it seems cliche, but alas it has historical merit! It was in the late 10th century Vladimir I carefully considered between a number of faiths which one he would choose for his people. Apparently he chose Christianity partly because he believed that his people could not live under a religion that prohibited hard liquor! [1]


My favourite line of miniatures for this army are the Old Glory Medieval Russians. I use these figs primarily for my Early Russians, and I like their character very much.

Essex is also a good source for figs. Some of their figs for their Medieval Russian line that represents 1300-1500 would work for this list, especially the spear and foot figs. Also, Stronghold miniatures has a line of Fuedal Russians that have been used for this army. Also, contemporary Byzintine and Asiatic horse-based figures would also work for the Russian cavalry.

Mirliton miniatures does an excellent line of Alexander Nevski era figs for this army as well! They also do a DBA army pack for this army. The Mirliton figs are nice, so be sure to check out this line before you buy anything! It is also worth noting that these figures are based on the 1938 Alexander Nevski movie referenced below! The outfits are a match to the movie, so if you aspire to paint up an armie based on the movie, these are the figs for you!

Other Resources

Online Resources:

Some good books for reference: