Russian-influenced steampunk is rather a fringe niche in the whole steampunk phenomenon. Russia industrialised so late compared to the rest of Europe that there’s little to draw on in the time period corresponding to the British Victorian era that forms the archetypal steampunk sociocultural milieu.
My story Wind Horse, though (see here) is set in an alternate universe with amazing ice age beasts roaming the earth and assorted other weirdness. There’s no reason why my Russia couldn’t have industrialised earlier.
In my story, I needed to have a major steam-using power to pit against the tribes of the steppe, and having abandoned the idea of using China because my Chinese nerd powers are weak, Russia seemed like the best alternative. I can write a steampunk Russia and not feel like I’m completely out of my depth, unlike, for example, anywhere in the Far East. So the Empire of Holy Orousska was born, renamed to protect the innocent. (And also because it’s an alternate Earth and I want to emphasise that fact).
It does take a little imagination to dream up authentically Russian steampunk contraptions, but top of the list ought to be some sort of mechanical sleigh.
If you’re steampunking Russia, you have the Russian winter to cope with. Rivers freeze solid, snow is everywhere, Napoleon’s Grand Army succumbs to frostbite, in extreme cases trees even explode due to freezing effects… Horse-drawn sleighs were a normal way of getting around in those climes.
A steam sleigh has problems that a wheeled steam vehicle doesn’t, though. You can provide forward momentum to a wheeled vehicle by driving the wheel, but a sleigh slides on runners like skis. If you’re going to do away with the horse, you need a way of providing an alternate source of push.
In the diesel age, this-worldly Russia developed the aerosanie, and I may build a steam one of those later. But I decided to provide both propulsion and traction with a spiked drive wheel.
Enter the Orousski Steam Troika.
Having my daughter’s Aira’s Magical Pegasus Sleigh set to draw on for inspiration and building elements, a ground-going sleigh shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. I’ve ditched the wings, toned down the girly wind-elf colour scheme into something that makes sense for steampunk Russia, and added a spiked drive wheel that’s fully steerable. Not something you want to stand in front of, but life’s apparently fairly cheap in the steampunk version of Mother Russia from my story. In Holy Orousska, steam sleigh drives you!
It would be great fun to rework this as a combat version, with a mortar or a couple of heavy machine guns or something in the back. And I could do that, but it would mean continuing with the gold runners, and that just seems wrong for a winter combat vehicle built by the people who virtually invented the idea of camouflage and who gave us the word maskirovka.
Not that you can do much to disguise the plumes of smoke and steam from the engine, but it’s the principle of the thing.