In the colorful and various world of games and toys, the cultural historical miniatures are treated with constant affection and popularity. In domestic usage they are called the military miniatures, though do not necessarily represent warriors. They may be merchants and craftsmen, actors and courtiers and a lot of other things. The miniatures are produced of different materials: clay and wood, paper and tin plates. But the military miniatures are keeping the royal place on the table and floor for the game. Though, in the second half of the 20th c. they were pressed by the plastic miniatures.
The military miniatures continue to be the object for collection. The panoramas and reconstructions of various historical events are made with their help. In many museums all over the world they are ranked high. I will have the possibility to talk over the matter in details. But now I will give our readers some materials on the history of the military miniatures in Russia.
In the middle of the 18th c. by the name galantery were meant toys of all kinds which had tricky mechanisms. The only dealer in goods like that in St. Petersburg was Doser, who had a Nuremberg store as early as in the time of Anna Ioannovna's reign, occupying a part of the Catholic monastery on Nevsky Prospekt, where the Nuremberg stores existed till the middle of the last century. Perhaps in that time Doser brought the guard house with a drummer and the front going out of the guard room by the bell ring. In his honeymoon Peter Fedorovich (the future Emperor Peter III - G. V.) enjoyed this toy greatly. Bozheryanov. The Nevsky Prospekt. St. Petersburg, [s.a.] Vol.I. P.117.
It is surprising, that in spite of the Empress Maria Fedorovna's strenuous efforts to protect the Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich from his keen interest in the military service, the passion for everything related to it, appeared and developed with an irresistible force. Almost immediately after he was up in the morning Nicholas Pavlovich began to play with Mikhail Pavlovich in the military games. They had a lot of the military miniatures. In winter they arranged them on the tables in rooms. In summer they used to play in garden. They built redoubts, fortresses, and attacked them. Besides the military miniatures they had a whole arsenal of other toys relative to the military life: rifles, halberds, grenadier caps, wooden horses, drums, trumpets, caissons etc. Shilder, N. K. The Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich. His Life and Reign. St. Petersburg, 1903. Vol.I. P. 19.
Nortov (Vasily Sergeyevich, a Decembrist - G. V.) being in the Page corps was noticed by the Empress Maria Fedorovna due to his abilities, and he used to be brought to the palace to her son Nicholas Pavlovich. The soldiers were the favorite game of the Grand Duke and Nortov. They used to build fortresses of wooden blocks, arrange them according the drafts, fire some little guns. Once, in one of those games, Nortov's army began to gain over the Grand Duke's army, which got into a hopeless situation. The only way to save the game was to destroy Nortov's army at one go, that was made by Nicholas Pavlovich just by whisking all Nortov's soldiers off. Both commanders were so excited by the game that they had forgotten the social division completely. After that Nortov's visits to the Palace were discontinued. Polivanov, N. P. Vasily Sergeyevich Nortov (a Decembrist) 1793-1853 // The Russian Chronicles. 1900. Book I. No.2. P. 273-274. [cited after: The Past. 1925. No.2. P.89.].
Soon the military miniatures appeared, at that time manufactured in Germany with a great skill. They were usually sold in boxes having 50 or 100 pieces each, and with accuracy represented all European armies, including the Russian Guard. Gradually elaborating the rules of the game, I and my brother brought it to such a stage that when we were 10 or 12 we played the game taking into account the tactical laws. There was a large table on which we were making a landscape of sand marking the obstacles by paint and the woods by fir-tree signs. The troops were moved from place to place in a specially established way, the cavalry had double velocity. The artillery fired the open objectives according to certain measurements, producing 25% of losses.- Ignatiev, A. A. 50 Years in service. M., 1948. P. 22.
My main entertainment (till the age of eight) was 'soldiers' of all kinds. I was in love with my soldiers just like some German 'serenissimus' - a great lover of parades. I had several hundreds of soldiers. They were made of tin, of paper, cut out by my Dad. I had a soft spot for the more expensive tin soldiers which were a kind of aristocracy among the population of my boxes. They were rounded, convex soldiers, the cavalrymen being pinned up on the little shaft which was fixed in the hole on the horse saddle. When dismounted they had very funny air, the feet planted apart as if they had wet their pants (the unpleasant feeling was familiar to me then). In the same time having curved legs they were like real riders. Those 'fat' soldiers were usually sold in boxes side by side with the other things: tents, which can be pitched, guns on wheels etc. All that was terribly interesting and I felt blissfully happy disposing toys on the table making an illusion of reality. If delicate tin bushes and trees were added, as well as magnificent little houses, which Dad used to cut out and glue together, this reality became fuller.
All those home military, being imported, were rather expensive. Aleksandr Benua. My Reminiscences. M., 1980. Book I. P. 208-209.
The military miniatures in the toys collection of the well known artist and art critic A. N. Benua are now retained in the State Hermitage Museum, and they were exhibited several times.
Children are pulling their mothers' sleeves demanding to have a look in the toy stores [in St. Petersburg] at the miniature soldiers, steam engines running along the rails. The Doynikov's store at the Gostiny Dvor in the Nevsky Prospekt was especially interesting with the large choice of soldiers. During the routine holiday walks on the islands I looked with reverence at Peter's oak fenced by a modest rail. Standing in front of the oak, I whispered to it my innerheart wishes: for example to be presented with a box of miniature soldiers... Likhachev, D. The Notes and Reflections: From the Notebooks of Various Years. Leningrad, 1989. P. 27-28, 73. The cited fragments are united by their principal character the military miniatures. It is this function that makes similar the attitude to military miniatures of the future Emperor and of the Decembrist, of the military attaché and of the artist, of the academician and of the characters of Anderson's fairy tale.
1) Military miniatures from the A. V. Suvorov Museum's collection.
2) Title page of a catalogue of the E. Heinrichson's firm manufacturing military miniatures in Nuremberg.
3) List from the catalog of E. Heinrichson's firm manufacturing tin soldiers in Nurenberg
1) Packing miniature soldiers into boxes.
2) A page from A. Benua's The Alphabet in Pictures.
3) Packing boxes.