Peresvet class battleships (1899)

Peresvet class, Russian Imperial Battleships (1893)

Peresvet, Pobeda, Oslyabya

The Peresvet class were three pre-dreadnought battleships of the Imperial Russian Navy sent to reinforce newly acquired Port Arthur: The class comprised Peresvet, Pobeda and Oslyabya,all there quite disntinctive with their tall, bulky hull, two-storey barbettes and three funnels.

In the Pacific Squadron upon completion in 1901-1903 they fought at the Battles of Port Arthur and Yellow Sea in 1904, damaged and later both sunk during the siege of Port Arthur. Their third sister ship, Oslyabya left to the Far East with the Second Pacific Squadron and sunk on arrival at the Battle of Tsushima.

But the rest of the story is quite interesting. The Japanese captured the first two, which sank in shallow waters in the port. They were repaired, overhauled to IJN standards and incorporated into the Imperial Japanese Navy as IJN Suwo and Iwami. Peresvet was sold back in 1916 as both countries were now allies… but sank after hitting German mines in the Mediterranean while en route in early 1917. IJN Suwo participated in the Battle of Tsingtao in late 1914 and was a training ship afterwards, disarmed in 1922.

Design development


The defeat of the Crimean War in 1854–55 had long standing consequences for the Russian Navy, which made General Admiral Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich realizing than rather than trying to compete with Great Britain and outbuilt the Royal Navy (or France for that matter), it was better to limit the fleet to a defensive strategy first, both for peacetime and as deterrent in wartime.

His take on the popular “guerre de course” or commerce-raiding strategy already embraces by France meant Russia was to instead attack the Empires of Britain or France. Influenced by the latter’s “jeune ecole” thoeries, it found it better to built a serie of fast, long-range armored cruisers. Already, Rossia and Rurik showed the way, and were taken very seriously by the Royal Navy, and only confirmed France in its own assumptions.

The British indeed soon responded with the Centurion class battleships “cruiser-killers” especially tailored to match them. The Russians in turned answered with three battleships to counter the Centurion class. This was the start of the Peresvet class development, fast battleships designed to support the armored cruisers. High speed and long range soon became the prime requirements, above even an heavy armament or armor, as the 2nd class battleships of the Centurion class were more lightly armed than usual with 10-in guns.

As design progressed, many changed were made, and it was followed even during construction by more, delaying her completion by a year. It was notably decided to revise their secondary armament, which went from eight 6-inch (152 mm) considered too slow-firing, completed by five 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns, faster, but making a mixed battery difficult to manage by artillery spotters, to a more uniform batteru of eleven 6-inch guns plus the usual anti-torpedo boats light guns. Only two ships were originally planned, to act with Rossia and Rurik, but a third was ordered just to keep the Baltic Works busy until they could receive a new design. This would the Oslyaba, destined for the Baltic sea fleet, which was amazingly completed before the second ship, depite having being laid down three years after. This tells volume after the design revision practices in the Russian admiralty.

Peresvet, as colorized by Irootoko Jr.
Peresvet, as colorized by Irootoko Jr. (cc)

Detailed design and construction

Brassey’s scheme, Peresviet

Hull construction and other details

The Peresvet-class ships had a 434 feet 5 inches (132.4 m) long hull, 71 feet 6 inches (21.8 m) in beam, with a 26 feet 3 inches (8.0 m) draft. They displaced 12,674 long tons (12,877 t). Due to multiple addition they soon had the same problem as many other Russian battleships of the time, being up to 1,700 long tons overweight, reaching 13,320–14,408 long tons overall.

The hull was treated by biofouling, and sheathed with wood and copper (not on Pobeda to save weight). All three had some ASW protection with a double bottom divided into 10 watertight transverse bulkheads. The machinery was separated from the side by a centerline bulkhead in the forward engine rooms, ensuring both could not be flooded at once. Complement as designed was 27 officers and 744 enlisted men.

Armour protection

Harvey armoure being cast in the USA for Perseviet

Harvey armor was used initially for the first two ships. The armored vertical surfaces used it, except for the gun turrets and barbettes, in Krupp armor. The third ship, Pobeda, had only Krupp armor all over:

-Waterline armor belt: 9 inches (229 mm) on 312 feet (95.1 m) long, 7 feet 9 inches (2.4 m) high
-Magazines: 7 inches (178 mm)

-Belt tarepered down to 5 inches (127 mm) over the machinery spaces

-Same, 4 inches (102 mm) over the magazines.

-Upper belt 36 inches (914.4 mm) high above the waterline.

-Uppper belt amidship armor strake 4 in, on 188 feet (57.3 m).

-Transverse bulkheads 7 inches (180 mm). Both ends unprotected.

-Eliminated on Pobeda to save weight but 4-in armor plates on both ends.

-Upper belt closed off by 4-in angled transverse bulkheads.

The ships were so overweight that the belt was submerged but with 14 inches (356 mm) exposed and completely submerged at full load on Peresvet and 3 inches on Oslyaba normal load.

-Gun turrets, sides 9 in (240 mm) thick, roofs 2.5 inches (64 mm)

-Supporting tubes 8 inches (203 mm).

-6 in guns Casemate faces 5-in thick, rear 2-inch (51 mm)

-Casemate ends 5-in transverse bulkheads.

-75 mm guns bulkheads 0.75 inches (19 mm).

-Forward, aft conning towers 6 inches or 9-inch sides (two later ships).

-Communications tube 3 inches from CT to armored deck.

-Central armored citadel 1.46-inch (37 mm)

-Structural steel deck plating 0.75-inch

-Slopes to the lower edge, waterline belt 2.5 inches

-Fore and aft armored deck 2.25-inch (57 mm) over 1 inch (25 mm) deck plating.

To spare weight the latter was made of mild steel but Pobeda had it in chrome-nickel steel alloy.


All three Peresvet class battleship were designed for speed, and the powerplant consisted in three vertical triple-expansion steam engines driving each a propeller shaft. In total, these three VTEs were fed by no less than 30 Belleville boilers.

This powerplant was rated total to 14,500 indicated horsepower (10,813 kW) on forced draft. As designed, these battleships were supposed to reach a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), but they slightly exceeded their specifications on trials. Top speeds achieved were between 18.3 and 18.5 knots based on 14,532 to 15,578 indicated horsepower.

For autonomy, they carried 2,060 long tons (2,090 t) of coal, so that they could reach 6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at 10 knots. Electrical power onboard rested on four steam-driven dynamos providing a total of 555 kilowatts (744 hp).


Depiction on Brassey’s naval annual

Main battery

-Four 10-inch (254 mm)/45 in two pairs, on electrically powered mounts, forward and aft at deck level.

These soon ran into many development issues, and were too weak to used a full-strength charge, cracking and overheating. They were reworked while the charge was reduced, delaying their armament.

Peresvet and Oslyabya original gun model had a +35° elevation. Thise onobeda were limited to +25°. Rate of fire was 40 seconds per shot, at least on paper. In practice this was one per minute at best. In all, 75 shells were carried per gun,

with either a 496-pound (225.2 kg) shell (2,270 ft/s, 692 m/s), or on Pobeda, 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s). At just +6° range was 8,760 yards (8,010 m)

Secondary armament

The Peresvet-class battleships were given eleven 6-inch French Canet guns, Model 1891 QF, 40 caliber. Ten were mounted in side hull casemates, including six in double ones, and some underneath the forecastle, as bow chaser. They were provided each with 220 rounds, the latter weighting 91 pounds (41.4 kg) (muzzle velocity 2,600 ft/s, 792.5 m/s). Max range was 12,602 yards (11,523 m) at +20°.

Light guns

Close-range defense rested on twenty quick-firing (QF) 75 mm (3.0 in) French Canet guns, Model 1891: Eight were mounted in embrasures in the hull, four on the main deck, four on the battery deck, four at superstructure’s forecastle deck corners.

300 rounds were carried for each gun, which had a muzzle velocity of 2,830 ft/s, with 10.8-pound (4.91 kg) shells. These guns had a range of 8,606 yards at +20°.

Twenty QF 47-millimeter (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns former the intermediate light range artillery, all in hull embrasures and superstructure, including the fighting tops (efour each). They each had a reserve of 810 rounds, all 3.2-pound (1.5 kg) shells.

At last he lowest range was covered by twelve 37 mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss guns placed between the 47 mm guns on the forecastle deck, firing 1.1-pound (0.50 kg) shells at 1,540 ft/s (470 m/s).

In 1904, the armament comprised twenty 75mm/48 Canet guns (3 in), two 64mm/17 Baranovski guns (used for landing parties), twenty 47mm/40 Hotchkiss and eight 37mm/20 Hotchkiss guns.


Thse battleships were equipped with five 15-inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes: Two above water, bow and stern, plus two surface broadside tubes and two underwater tubes. 12 torpedoes were carried in reloads. The Persevet ships were also given deck rails to carry 45 mines. They were only destined to secure their anchorage in remote areas, but they did not had anti-torpedo nets.

Fire control systems

The Persevet class battleships had Liuzhol stadiametric rangefinders, simple early systems in which the operator approached manually two vertical points when focusing on an enemy ship, using its waterline and crow’s nest to estimate its range. It was a trusted system, albeit not stabilized nor counting on heavy weather, bad visibility or speed estimation.

The gunnery officer consulted his references to calculate the range and proper elevation, deflection to hit the target, all by hand. He transmitted then his commands via a Geisler electro-mechanical fire-control transmission to either a signular gun or the whole turret. Oslyabya received the more modern Perepelkin telescopic sights but their crews lacked training to operate them when the ship was sent to the far east.

Launch of Pobeda at the Baltic Shipyard

Profile 2 views HD (Kombrig kit)

Peresvet class specifications

Dimensions 107 x 20.4 x 8.4m (351 x 67 ft x 27 ft 7 in)
Displacement 10,206 long tons (10,370 t) standard
Crew 24 +417
Propulsion 2 shafts TE engines, 12 Cyl. boilers, 9000 ihp
Speed 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) (16 knots as designed)
Range 3,050 nmi (5,650 km; 3,510 mi) at 10 knots
Armament 4 x 305 (2×2), 8 x 152, 14 x 47 mm, 12 x 37 mm, 6 TT 450 mm
Armor Waterline belt: 12–16 in (305–406 mm), Casemate: 5 in (127 mm), Turrets: 12 in (305 mm), CT: 10 in (254 mm)

General assessment of the class

Profile color of PERESVET in 1904, 1st Pacific Sqn. by Igor Nikolaevski

The Persevet class were essentially compromised battleships, large and bulky and yet weakly armed, fast, but only of three knots, which never fulfill the role they were designed for: Protecting the armoured cruisers Rurik and Gromoboi, fight the British Centurion class battleships. Instead, due to their long completion, the context changed drastically and they ended facing the Japanese Navy, testing unconventional warfare, notably by the surprise night attack of Port Arthur, a distant relative to Pearl Harbor. They lukewarm performance at the Yellow sea revealed their identified design problems, being overweight with an armoured belt way too low and lack of heavy firepower.

During the Battle of Port Arthur (February 1904) Peresvet was not hit, but Pobeda was hit amidships with little damage. Pobeda however struck a mine during the squadron’s sortie (13 April) and was repaired for almost two months. Both, stuck in harbor, were soon deprived of their anti-torpedo boat guns and even secondary armament during the summer, to bolster the port’s defense, but they participated in the Battle of the Yellow Sea on 10 August 1904 with their main armament. Pobeda was received 11 large-caliber hits and resisted well, but not Peresvet, hit 39 times and suffering considerable flooding. Back in Port Arthur, they were stripped of even more secondary guns, but when the Japanese eventually captured the hills overlooking the harbor in November 1904 (suffering massive casualties nevertheless), they brought their 280 mm (11 in) siege guns to bear and soon fired from angled never throught of by naval engineers, wrecking both Russian ships. Pobeda sank on 7 December 1904 and Peresvet was scuttled.

Oslyabya led the Second Division of the squadron during the battle of Tushima, and became almost the sole target of the whole Japanese line during the early part of the battle. Many hits ended along her waterline, still too low despite her design revision, caused extensive flooding. Counteracting list destroyed her stability and she eventually sank just an hour after the first shot, being the first modern battleship to be sunk solely by gunfire.

Name trivia: Peresvet was named after Alexander Peresvet, a Russian monk hero, fighting the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Pobeda meant “victory” and Oslyabya after “Rodion Oslyabya”, another 14th-century monk of the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra, also an hero of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.

Suwo and Sagami (the captured Port arthur battleships) served in the IJN for many years, rearmed notably with secondary and tertiary Japanese guns (which were of British, not French standard), until Suwo was resold to the Russians. They generally gave satisfaction and could have been still around as training ships in WW2 if it was not for the Washington treaty.

Read More/src:


Conway’s all the world’ fighting ships 1860-1905

Campbell, N. J. M. (1978). Preston, Antony (ed.). The Battle of Tsu-Shima, Conway Maritime Press.

Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. Osprey.

Krestyaninov, Vasiliy (1998). “Броненосцы типа “Пересвет” (Battleships of the “Peresvet” class)”.

McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis

Pleshakov, Constatine (2002). The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima. Basic Books NY

Schrad, Mark Lawrence (2014). Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State. Oxford

Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.

Taras, Alexander (2000). Ships of the Imperial Russian Navy 1892–1917, Library of Military History


Archives books: The star’s last armada, Pleshakov, Konstantin 2002

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1905 (1979)



Peresviet class on navypedia

Sagami/Peresvet on

On scientific american 1904 (

Model kits

Oslyabya, Kombrig kit 1/700

Combrig 1:350, Modelkrak 1:700, Digital Navy 1:250.

On scalemates


1st Pacific Sqn livery

On 3D model

Levieries examples, before the war, 1st and second pacific Sqn.

The Persevet class in action


In the Russian Imperial Pacific Fleet

Peresvet (or Peresviet) was laid down on 21 November 1895, same day as her sister ship Olsyabya, in New Admiralty Works, Saint Petersburg, launched on 19 May 1898 but not completed until July 1901 due to frequent changes and at a cost of 10,540,000 rubles. She entered service in August 1901, to be almost immediately sent to Port Arthur, in October 1901, after little training. En route, perhaps because of this lack of skills, she ran aground of Langeland Island, Danish Great Belt, on 1 November. Damaged was light and she could free herself quickly. After her long trip, punctuated by many coaling stops, she became flagship of the newly created Pacific Squadron, second-in-command (Rear Admiral Prince Pavel Ukhtomsky). Her peacetime service was spent training, from 1902 to 1904, with a few sorties in nearby Korea and Japan, or along the Chinese coast.

In 1901

Japanese victory at Yalu in 1894–95 (against a superior Beiyang fleet) increased confidence of Japan upon the continuation of its territorial extension and influence over the whole region. The peace negociation attribution of Port Arthur to the Russian soon rose tensions between Russia and Japan as both wanted control over resources-rich Manchuria, and Korea. The Russian failure to withdraw its troops from Manchuria in October 1903 as promised only fuelled Japanese resentment, and negotiations, which started in 1901, were jeopardized ad the Russians were slow and uncertain in their replies, not yet deciding how to resolve ths territorial disputes. Meanwhile, the Japan government grew impatient, and interpreted these Russian dispomatic blunders as deliberate prevarications, only designed to buy time, and complete Russian armament programs and fortify the whole region.

The final straw was the announcement of Russian timber concessions in northern Korea, followed by a strict refusal to acknowledge Japanese interests in Manchuria, assorted with drastic conditions over Japanese interests in Korea. At the time, there was an alliance with Britain since 1902, seen as the most likely potential adversary of the british Empire at the time. These new vexation led the Japanese government to decide by December 1903 was was the only course of action. Troopships were assembled for a full landng in Korea, and to drive out Russian troops, which in response had the Pacific Squadron redeployed in the outer harbor in order to react more quickly and interecept Japanese convoys.

On the night of 8/9 February 1904, the Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur was intended to torpedo all ptsent ships in the harbor, but it went not as well as planned: Peresvet was not hit by the initial torpedo-boat run. Steam was raised and she sortied to intercept the Combined Fleet (Vice Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō). The latter expected more success from the surprise attack, but the Russian had in fact little damage and recovered quickly, regrouped for leading a well-coordinated counter-attack.

The protected cruiser Boyarin, screening outside, was the first spotted, and Tōgō started to attack Russian coastal defenses with his main armament, engage incoming Russian ships with his secondaries. This firepower Splitting however was a poor decision: The best secondary guns of the Japanese, their 8 and 6 inches inflicted little damage to approaching Russian ships, soon able to take a line and broadside with all their armament their Japanese opponents, inflicting some damage. Peresvet was hit three times, but her armour cope well, during the whole engagement. The whole Russian battleline however decided to get back to port.

On 22 March, Peresvet started to firing indirectly at the Japanese ships, still bombarding the harbor. On 26 March, she was outside Port Arthur when accidentally colliding with the battleship Sevastopol, but damage was light. Peresvet took part in another action on 13 April: Tōgō indeed successfully lured out a portion of the Pacific Squadron, notably Vice Admiral Stepan Makarov’s Petropavlovsk, the fleet’s flagship. When turning back, his battleship struck a recently laid Japanese minefield, and she sank very quickly after the explosion of a magazine. Tōgō capitalize don this and resumed his long-range bombardment of Port arthur, expecting anoyther Russian sortie. Peresvet however organized her indirect fire better, using well placed observers, and managed to hit the armored cruiser Nisshin when she was closing on Port Arthur.

Peresvet sailed with eventually with the whole Pacific Squadron on 23 June, in order to reach Vladivostok, under command of Rear Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft. But the well-placed Japanese’s own accuracte, withering fire soon took its toll and forced Vitgeft to order a return to Port Arthur, not willing to engage it in a night battle. Peresvet spent her time afterwards shelling Japanese positions besieging Port Arthur on 28 July, but she had her light guns removed this summer to bolster the defenses. At the end of the summer, she had lost three 6-inch, two 3-in, two 3-pdr, four 1-pdr guns. The Japanese eventually succeeded in bringing their heavy 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns in a favourable position and fired on the harbor on 9 August, hitting Perservet, but with moderate damage.

A direct order from Tsar Nicholas II combined with the progression of the Japanese in their siege operation eventually forced Vitgeft to try a last attempt to reach Vladivostok in full force. His squadron was made ready and sortied on the first hours of 10 August. At 12:25 a screen of Japanese cruisers spotted them, communicating this to the Combined Fleet. This soon developed into the main Battle of the Yellow Sea.

Peresvet during this engagement was fourth in line, not seriously damaged during the early phase, a long-range duel in parallel lines. Around 18:00 however she had her topmasts destroyed by lucky 12-inch shells from IJN Asahi, one more penetrating Tsesarevich’s conning tower. As flagship this luckier ship killed Vitgeft outright as the captain, and the lead ship soon came to a dead stop after a sharp turn. Not knowing about this event all other ships thought it was a manoeuver and started to veer away too. Peresvet maneuvered wildly to avoid hitting the flagship, but was not in the best position to engage the Japanese.

The total confusion was followed by Togo ordering to focus on each ship one by one, targeting Tsesarevich until she was completely in flames, then Retvizan, and eventually Peresvet. The latter’s captain wanted to make a difference and decided to boldly charged Tōgō’s to divert Japanese shellfire and save the rest of the fleet. But the Japanese battleline badly damaged Peresvet, which was forced away. Ukhtomsky, now in command, tried to signal to all the ships following him back to Port Arthur, but this was only gradually recognized. Peresvet meanwhile took 39 hits of all calibers, killing 13, wounding 69. But most importatly, her forward 10-inch turret was knocked out and she had considerable flooding, with compartments in the double bottom counterflooded in response. This restored some stability and save her as she limped back to Port. Repairs followed, not completed until late September.

On 11 August, the bettered Russian squadron was in dire straits: The Third Army (Baron Nogi Maresuke) achieved his complete encirclement and trying to take crucial hills, so Rear Admiral Robert N. Viren, decided continue bolster the defense, stripping the ships of men and guns. On 20–22 September 203 Hill overlooking the harbor was taken and soon, heavy guns were brought on top. Peresvet, Retvizan, Poltava and the gunboat Bobr however soon were ordered to bombarded the hill’s opposite face -with little success- to defend the hill. The Japanese meanwhile started an blind artillery barrage into the harbor on 30 September. They managed to hit Peresvet with six 5.9-inch and 4.7-inch shells, as well as the following day.

Peresviet, sunk in Port Arthur, 1905

On 2 October, they manage to bring forward to range their heaviest howitzers, and Persevet was hit by nine 11-inch (280 mm) shells in succession; Fortunately, they still failed to penetrate her deck armor (notably because they were “soft” low-velocity HE shells). However damage on all unpotected superstructure was considerable. The funnels, bridge, masts, were crippled. Next, Hill 203 fell on 5 December so allowing to bring siege guns on top, now in full view of the Russian ships. Peresvet took an accurate fire, being hit many times. The situation being hopeless, her captain decided to scuttle her in order, not to be recover by the Japanese, but in shallow water. On 7 December 1904, valves were opened and she sank upright, still mostly emerging.

Peresvet as IJN Sagami (1908-1916)

IJN Sagami

Soon the siege was over and the relieving second pacific squadron arrived too late, ambushed an destroyed at Tsushima. The event provoke peace negociations ending with a humiliating defeat for the Russian leading to widespread discontent and a famous mutiny. Peresvet was nevertheless refloated by Japanese engineers, on 29 June 1905. She managed to steam under her own power to Sasebo Naval Arsenal for extensive repairs and standardization. She arrived on 25 August 1905 and renamed Sagami after the ancient province, reclassified as first-class battleship on 25 August. Newt she was moved to Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on 16 September and entered the drydock on 30 September. Repairs and modifications were quite extensive and went on until 20 July 1908, so about three years. She participated in the review of captured ships on 23 October.

Japanese engineers soon identify her problems and stared to improve her stability: They decided to remove her forward fighting top for a simpler pole mast. She was rearmed with four 10-inch/45 caliber to IJN standards, as well as ten 6-inch guns plus sixteen QF 12-pounder 12 cwt Vickers standard. She kept her surface torpedo tubes, but they wree changed for Japanese 18-inch model. Her crew rose to 791 officers and men. She greeted notably the American “Great White Fleet” when visiting Japan in late 1908. In subsequent training exercizes, she always played the “enemy” ship and participated in the 1909, 1910, 1911 annual fleet maneuvers. Reclassified as a first-class coastal defense ship on 28 August 1912 her career started to be quieter.

Peresvet back in Russian hands (1916)

In mid-1916, the Russian government realized it needed to bolster the Baltic and Black Seas, and since Japan was allied to UK, it was found allied to the triple entente as well. Russia asked the Japanese government to sell them back Sagami, and other ex-Russian warships in March 1916.

Sagami left Japan and arrived in Vladivostok on 3 April 1916, with a ceremony and crew transfer. She was renamed Peresvet and classified as an armored cruiser on the 5 april, prepared for a long trip back to the west. However she ran aground on 23 May, while conducting trials. The IJN refloatedher on 9 July and she eventually started repairs in Maizuru Naval Arsenal, from 30 July. She only was ready to sail west from opean 18 October 1916. The admiralty now wanted her to be posted with the White Sea Fleet. She crossed the South China eat, east indies, Indian ocean, then entered the Suez canal, entering Port Said for machinery repairs in early 1917. On 4 January 1917 she was underway, some 10 nautical miles north of Port Said when stricking two mines laid by the German submarine SM U-73. Her boiler rooms holed, she catch fire while flooding progressed quickly and eventually sank, bringing with her some 116 or up to 167 men depending on the sources.


As built, 1903

Named after Rodion Oslyabya, the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra Monk hero of Kulikovo was built at the New Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, from 21 November 1895 to her launch on 8 November 1898. The Shipyard’s delays had her completed only in 1903, at a cost of 11,340,000 rubles. She headed after little training to Port Arthur, on 7 August 1903 with Bayan. However she ran aground in the Strait of Gibraltar, on 21 August, repaired until late November in Algeria and La Spezia in Italy, proceeded again to the Far East, until recalled to rush back to join the Baltic Fleet on 12 February 1904 as the Russo-Japanese War just broke up. It was indeed intended to equip her with more modern equipment. Back to St. Petersburg in April 1904 she received indeed brand new 4.5-foot (1.4 m) Barr & Stroud rangefinders, plus telescopic gun sights, a new ventilation system, and a modern Telefunken radio equipment, making her the most modern of all three Persvet class.

Early Career


Oslyabya in Bizerte, 1904

She was intended to leave for the Far East as reinforement, a strategy first drafted in 1897 in case of war with, the First Pacific Squadron remaining if possible in Port Arthur, avoiding a battle until reinforcements arrived, and a pincer made with the Vladivostok fleet.

On 15 October 1904, Oslyabya departed at last Libau for Port Arthur, becoming Fölkersam’s flagship, taking the head of all Second Pacific Squadron ships under overall command of Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky. Their 18,000 mile (29,000 km) journey took quite a strain on the coal-powered fleet and experienced many issues on their way, including total confusion when they fired and sunk by error British trawlers in the mist, or collission in the Skagerrak already between Oslyabya and the destroyer Buistri.

While in Tangier on 28 October, Rozhestvensky ordered a split of his forces, Von Fölkersam’s squadron going through the Suez canal, the Red Sea, making a rendezvous in Madagascar. Rozhestvensky Oslyabya sailed with the rest of the main force to the “long trip”, down the African horn, rounding it up to Nosy Be island, NW Madagascar, arriving on 9 January 1905. The reunited squadron rested there for two months while coaling arrangements were made for the last trip. But by that time, they received news that Port Arthur had surrendered, so he decided to head for Camranh Bay in French Indochina to resupply thanks to their alliance. It was on 16 March. They stayed there one more month the slower third Pacific Squadron (Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov).

Reunited on 9 May they prepared to head for Vladivostok on 14 May, reorganized on their way into three tactical divisions: First: Four Borodino-class battleships (Rozhestvensky). Second: Oslyabya, Navarin, Sissoi Veliky, Admiral Nakhimov (von Fölkersam). Third: Knyaz Suvorov, and Imperator Aleksandr III (Nebogatov). Von Fölkersam was ill with cancer and passed out on 26 May, replaced by Oslyabya’s Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Ber.

Oslyabya at the Battle of Tsushima


Oslyabya was, like the Borodinos perhaps overweight, resulting in a lower than normal draft and therefore, armored belt. it was due to the mass of coal and other supplies carried for the trip. Not only it gravely compromised their protection, but also their stability as gun platforms. Oslyabya’s main armor belt was indeed already fully submerged at full load, so presumably more with extra coal and supplies. This left only the upper 4-inch upper armor above the waterline.

On 27 May she was spotted like the rest of the squadron, awaited by the Japanese combined fleet in the Korea Strait. Oslyabya led Rear Admiral Nebogatov’s reorganized Second Division (Knyaz Suvorov, Oslyabya, Imperator Aleksandr III and Borodino.), targeted of at least two Japanese battleships and two armored cruisers from 14:10. Rozhestvensky, from line ahead formation, ordered parallel columns, Oslyabya almost stopping to not colide during the manoeuver with the battleship Oryol, last of Rozhestvensky’s 1st division.

Shells knocking out her main rangefinder, severing cables connecting the guns to the Geisler fire-control system and wounding or killing the gunnery staff. The mainmast was shot way and fell, the forward gun turret was knocked out a well, then three port side 6-in guns. Splinters also entered her conning tower, killing the quartermaster and having the rest if the staff badly wounded. Eventually, Oslyabya fell out of line, on starboard, soon engaged by the concentrated fire of six Japanese armored cruisers, now at short range.

Meanwhile she continued receiving 12-in caliber shells on her waterline, having major flooding quikcly and starting sinking by the bow as she moved forward. She also started to list to port, and engineers attempting to counter-flood her starboard forward magazine, but this added more displacement forward, making her ploughing even more, to the point her entire deck level above the waterline disappeared undesea, and her stability only went from bad to worse. She listed 12 degrees at 14:20, and only when her funnels touched the water around 15:10, Captain Ber ordered to abandon ship, but it was already too late: She sank a just a few minutes, with 470 men onboard, including Captain Ber.


Early Pacific career

Pobeda on the kronstadt roadstead in 1901

Pobeda (“Victory”) or Pobieda (Conways) was the last ship of the class, ordered much later. She was built at the Baltic Works shipyards (Saint Petersburg) unlike the two others, from 30 May 1898 (the formal keel-laying ceremony was held on 21 February 1899 !), launched on 10 May 1900, towed to Kronstadt for fitting out work on 31 August 1901, followed with machinery trials in October 1901, but she was still completed the next year. Sailing to Reval (Tallinn) on 1st August in time for an naval review in front of the Tsar’s cousin, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Pobeda completed her artillery trials and officially entered service in October 1902, and only officially accepted for service on 10 March 1903, costing 10,050,000 rubles.

She sailed from Libau on 13 November 1902 to Port Arthur, arriving on 13 June 1903, assigned to the Pacific Squadron. She barely had to time to train therefore until hostilities broke with Japan, just a mere eight months.

The Russo-Japanese war

Pobeda, date unknown

On the night of 8/9 February 1904, the IJN attacked Port Arthur by surprise and torpedo boats managed to fail hitting Pobeda. She was prepared and sortied the following morning. They were met by Vice Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, which soon took the best firing position as soon as Boyarin, patrolling nearby, was spotted. Tōgō split his fire between the Russian coastal defenses and approaching ships, but the latter started to pound the Japanese to some effect. Pobeda was struck perhaps twice amidships close to the waterline (2 kille, 4 wounded), but without penetration and overall little damage. She then followed the fleet back to Port Arthur.

On 22 March, Pobeda joined a new sortie to repel the Japanese comibined fleet, bombarding Port Arthur’s harbor. Pobeda managed to hit the battleship IJN Fuji once, but again, this sortie was indecisive and all ships were back in port. On 13 April, she was part of the fleet drawn out of the port with Vice Admiral Stepan Makarov’s flagship, the Petropavlovsk. Makarov however, turned back when Petropavlovsk struck a mine and sank quickly. Pobeda also struck a mine herself, but she survived and managed to reach the harbor despite massive floosing and a 11° list. Repairs were completed on 9 June, when already some of her guns were removed to reinforce the perimeter’s defenses: Three 6-inch, two 3-in, one 47 mm, four 37 mm in all were retired.

She participated on 23 June on another abortive attempt to break through and reach Vladivostok under the new fleet commander, Vice Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft. He turned back as soon as he spotted the Japanese fleet shortly before sunset and did not wanted to try a night battle.

Battle of the Yellow Sea

Pobeda in port Arthur

On 9 August the Japanese bombardment intensified and the same day, a direct order to attempt a sortie by the Tsar Nicholas II, forced Vitgeft to try another run to Vladivostok, which started at 12:25 on the 10th, when spotted by Japanese cruisers. Soon, Togo’s Combined Fleet pounced at the Russians, which this time held firm. This developed into Battle of the Yellow Sea. Pobeda was third in line, not seriously damaged during the first long-range duels. At around 18:00, the flagship Tsesarevich took two 12-inch shells from IJN Asahi, killing Vitgeft and causing mayhem in the line. Pobeda maneuvered to avoid hitting her flagship and turned.

As Retvizan charged Tōgō’s battleline, Peresvet followed under the new command of Rear Admiral Prince Pavel Ukhtomsky. The Japanese formed a barrage by “crossing their T” and forced them away, until Ukhtomsky believed it was lost and ordered to follow him back to Port Arthur, a signal only seen late. Pobeda meanwhile took 11 12-in shell hits, killing 4, wounded 29 but her armor managed to remaine intact, and she reached Port Arthur, having one 10-inch gun disabled as well as three 3-in guns as battle damage.

Siege of Port Arthur

Back on 11 August, the Russian squadron only saw with despair Baron Nogi Maresuke’s siege intensifying. The newly appointed commander, Rear Admiral Robert N. Viren, decided to diesmount al the guns he could to massively reinforce the defenses of Port Arthur. Pobeda however was soon like the rest of the ships under Japanese field guns fire, blind fire, and she was struck by several 5.9-inch (150 mm) and 4.7-inch shells, but not causing great damage overall. When 203 Hill fell 5 December, the Japanes raised on top their best guns for more accurate fire. Soon Pobeda was struck by several 28-centimeter (11 in) siege guns, and she took 30 hits in all, causing her sinking in shallow waters, on 7 December. She could not be efficiently scuttled and was left here as her crew evacuated, most joint the last defenders of the perimeter. They surrendered soon afterwards.

As IJN Suwo

IJN Suwo in Yokosuka, 1908
IJN Suwo in Yokosuka, 1908

Pobeda was refloated by Japanese on 17 October 1905, nearly a year after the end of the siege. She was reclassified as a first-class battleship, renamed Suwo on 25 October, (an ancient province), steaming to Sasebo Naval Arsenal, arriving on 16 December for temporary repairs, and then a full reconstruction at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, from May 1906, until 10 October 1908. Japanese engineers soon recoignised her issues and started to improve he stability, like her sister ship Sagami, by remving her heavy military masts. To stick to Japanese standards, she was rearmed with four 10-inch/45, ten 6-in, sixteen QF 12-pounder 12 cwt (3 in or 76 mm), all licenced Vickers guns. Suwo also received two new above-water 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes. Her Japanese crew was setup at 791 officers and ratings.

IJN Suwo - Brassey's rendition
IJN Suwo – Brassey’s rendition

IJN Suwo became a first-class coastal defense ship in August 1912, then training ship for cadets and engineers, as she was no longer up to standards. After the 1st Standing Squadron, in 1914 she was fully reactivated as flagship, 2nd Squadron (Vice Admiral Kato Sadakichi). This squadron sailed out to blockade the German colony of Tsingtao in China. Suwo cooridnated the fleet’s effort and support of the Imperial Japanese Army that eventually captured the city.

Suwo, Tango, HMS Triumph, shelled German fortifications until the Germans surrendered on 7 November 1914. Suwo remained flagship of the Second Squadron, Second Fleet in 1915 and in 1916. By then, with the new upcoming nava programs she was declared surplus and reclassed as a gunnery training ship, based in Yokosuka until November 1918. In April 1922, the Washington Naval Treaty obliged her to be disarmed (which was done at the Kure Naval Arsenal) and her her armor removed. However during this critical operation she experienced a grave stability inbalance and capsized on 13 July. Scrapping was probably done in 1923, other sources claiming she was refloated and used as an utility hulk, then BU up at Kure in 1946 (1922 for Conway).

Imperial Russian Armoured Cruiser Ryurik (1892)

Armoured Cruiser Ryurik (1892)

Imperial Russian Navy, 1890-1904

The Russian pacific cruisers

In 1881, the 20-year shipbuilding program, notably for the creation of the Pacific cruiser fleet, went along with the creation of squadrons of seagoing battleships. In grand total, Russia wanted a fleet 30 cruisers strong, with twenty-one light ones, classed as corvettes, nine “medium and large” ranked as frigates. These cruisers took into account expected tactical tasks to determine their design preferrences. The implementation of this program conducted logically to the creation of modern armored cruisers, characterized by the creation of more powerful seaworthy steam and fully rigged cruisers, all-metal, providing a significant reduction dislacement, using modern consruction techniques.

The development of cruisers of that kind was largely stimulated by the rivalry between Russia and England. The latter needed ways to reliably protecting its sea communications from any Russian attack in far-flung colonies. Tactical requirements of the Russian side was the ability to act independently (like frigates of old), in the absence of supply bases, and to deliver quick, powerful strikes without support, achieved an overall psychological effect greater than its actual consequences, and without looking for close combat with enemy ships.

The Russian objective by deploying these was to achieve panic, a threat to the enemy sea ​​trade, which would have badly hurt British trade exchange market, causing a large inflation or market crash. Until 1895, they determined the main characteristics for Russian cruisers, which needed increased seaworthiness, high speed, autonomy as it as said, as well comfortable living conditions in “tropical” areas, saving the crew’s strength in a long voyage. Of course for combat, they needed a powerful armament and a decent protection calculated to provide them immunity against most cruisers of the time. The British indeed in 1890 deployed most of their second to third rate cruisers to distant station, taking place of former gunboats, keeping the best for the home fleet.

Going to the Pacific to conduct hostilities at a moment notice in waters known for typhoons, exhausting temperature (From 50°C and 90% moist to dropping icy cold in the north), rare supply depots or friendly ports, the impossibility of large repairs, all called also for extreme human stress. These cruisers therefore an extremely reliable technological package. Russian cruisers in addition could not count on numbers to make a difference when facing the Royal Navy, only intrinsict qualities to make a difference.

The vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean provided the Russians a tactical advantage, of elusiveness (contrary to the Baltic) and authorized efficient hit-and-run attacks. In turn specialists of the Russian Maritime Technical Committee (MTK) formed the tactical and technical requirements for armored cruisers, for this predefined “frigate rank”, mainly taking into account British experience in creating similar ships. The later armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov (Baltic Shipyard) was built on instructions of the MTK following British armored cruisers. One result of the paraoia of 1890 was the prospect for British yards to fulfil exceptionally lucrative orders, and deliberately underestimated their capabilities to sell their most advanced models. The Royal Navy cruisers had better powerplants and offered more in power density, efficiency, weight and dimensions and were helped by the presence of several bases for replenishment and repairs, whereas the Russian were limited to Vladivostok.

The Russo-British naval rivalry enable the creation of large oceanic cruisers, with high speed and large autonomy, a trend already started in mid-1880s, in connection with the creation of the first-class transatlantic commercial steamers displacing 12,000 tons with long hulls and capable of 18.5-19 knots. At this speed and length of the hull, they represented 1-1.5 the average length of the ocean wave and having a refined hydrodynamic profile, large elongation with unloaded ends, closed forecastle up to amidships allowed to cut the wave rather than riding over it. If it was good for passengers, it was equally good for large cruisers, which benefited from a better stability as gunnery platforms and no loss of speed when trying to catch merchant vessels in heavy weather.

At the same time, the newest oceanic armored cruisers of the Nakhimov class (101.5 m, 16.38 knots) as opposed to the British Orlando class (91.44 m, 18.5 knots) could develop design speeds only on calm water and in heavy weather these relatively short wide and drafty vessels hopelessly lost speed, down to a mere 5 knots, unable to catch merchants steamers or sailing cutters. The British admiralty, having well studied the peculiarities of ocean-going steamers construction still resised E. Reed’s calls to use transatlantic steamers as examples to built cruisers, but the Russian came to different conclusions.

Design development

Russian armoured cruiser Admiral Nakhimov

Pamiat Azova

Late 1880s Russian cruiser development

Recognizing the unsatisfactory seaworthiness and speed of Admiral Nakhimov in terms of the hull elongation, making her more akin a “battleship with cruiser armament”, Russian shipbuilders of the Baltic Shipyard workout several designs to take car of both seaworthiness and speed, while maintaining a sufficient level of armor protection. They looked at the French experience in armored cruisers, notably the brand new Dupuy de Lôme, and worked on a “semi-armored frigate”, the Pamiat Azova in the late 1880s.

In terms of displacement and firpower, the Pamiat was a “medium cruiser of frigate rank”. She surpassed Admiral Nakhimov in absolute length with an extra 14 meters of hull (45 feets) and lengthening of the hull with a more favourable ratio of 7.57 versus 5.46. This new project still assumed a significantly lower displacement of just 6,000 tons versus 8,500. Due to this elongation she was supposed to use an even less powerful powerplant, rated at 4000 shp versus 8000 shp, lighter and more economical, yet still provding a speed increase, even in stormy conditions, and up to 18 knots. There was also a minimal coal supply of 1,000 tons, making for a 3,000 nautical miles range.

However, at that design stage actual displacement still significantly exceeded design prospects, largely due to unknown size and weight of the power plant ordered in England, exceeding established figures. In this regard when completing Pamyat Azova it was concluded that by keeping her onboard armor protection, ensuring high speed and long cruising range obliged to further increase the absolute length of the hull, leading in turn to a larger displacement and then accordingly, a larger power plant.

In 1889, the British managed to create a powerful yet economical and compact steam engine, using vertical tubes (VTE), opening up new opportunities but at the price of side armor. Taking these into account, the designers of the world’s longest armored cruisers, the Blake class (design displacement 9,000 tons, 13,000 hp) quickstarted a new race. With 20,000 hp in forced draft, designed speed promised to reach 20-22 knots still with a cruising range of 10,000 miles at 10 knots. The British Admiralty considered this class so successful that construction of 1st class armored cruisers was completely stopped, at least until 1900, and the largest armoured cruisers in british service, before ending for good with the advent of the dreadnought. But this happened as Rurik was already in development.

A new cruiser for the east

The Imperial Russian Navy wanted a cruiser for the far east, specifically dedicated to act in case of a war between Russia and the United Kingdom. Russian admiral Ivan Shestakov was instrumental in this, submitting the design of Rurik to the Baltic Works at St. Petersburg, directly for construction, instead of following the normal procedure in use by the admiralty, to gain time. Indeed, the practice was to submit the design to the Naval Technical Committee (MTK) first, for technical evaluation, before being submitted to various yards in a comemtitive manner after funding was secured.

The Baltic Shipyard as a result started work without receiving technical assignment from the MTK just on the personal sanction of the head of the Marine Ministry, Admiral N. M. Chikhachev. it was developed by the ship engineer and senior assistant to the shipbuilder, N. Ye. Rodionov. The result was in contrast to the construction of the contemporary Blake class started in England. it was a constructive development of the Pamyat Azova.

The original specifications submitted by Shestakov no longer exist but most authors and historians today assumed Shestakov intended a very large ship (carrying a lot of coal), enough to travel from “the Baltic to Vladivostok without recoaling” This was ludicrous and the only vessel ever targeting such role was Brunel’s Atlantic-only “Great Western”. The giant ship was built around cavernous holds carrying untold quantities or unrefined coal for a one-way travel. Since the 1850s, steam technology went ahead and fortunately, modern VTE steam engine were dozens of times more effcicient than anything built prior, significantly lowering the quantity of coal needed to travel great distances.

It also appears Shestakov wanted something closer to Pamiat Azova, also to gain time, so basically an upcaled version of the latter, submitted via a constructor from the Baltic Works to the MTK. but that initial design of a 9,000-ton cruiser protected by a 8 inch thick belt armor was rejected by the MTK as impractical, although tensions between Shestakov and the MTK, as well as the General Admiral of the Navy, still Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich at this point, were probably more to point out than pure technical issues.

Features were determined as the following: Ths new ship had to be given an armored deck with only partial side armor over 85 m of hull’s lenght, and 8 inches (203 mm) thick, the citadel ending 20% short to both ends in order to save wieght, a first in Russian shipbuilding practice in order have a light hull at both ends. Still, the hull internals were protected by cofferdams filled with cellulose, whicha also increased side height and closing the extended forecastle. The initial design displacement was estimated to be 9000 tons standard for an ideal total length of 131 m at the waterline, which still surpassed all warships existing at that time. There were to be also two steam engines developed by the Baltic plant, with total output estimated to be over 12,600 shp to ensure a design speed of 18.5 knots, and 2,000 tons of coal supply (20,000 nautical miles at 9 knots). The armament came last and only comprised sixteen 6-inches (152 mm) and a lighter battery of 47 and 37 mm QF guns.

The initial design was further modified by Shestakov, calling a very long warship, over 400 feet (130 m), which was beyond the capacity of any Yard in Russia at the time, and with the same design endurance of 20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km), something completely unheard of for a warship. However his author died in December 1888 and could not argue for his design, which fell through.

Shestakov’s successor, Chikhachev, however had excellent relations with the MTK board: The return Baltic Works design was rejected. Chikhachev submitted his own project to the Yard on June 14, 1888, and to the MTK in July. The MTK proposed this time its own design, larger, 10,000-ton vessel, fitted with an ever better armored belt, 10 inch thick, but operational top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h). It was still much better than any battleship in existence at the time and most cruisers, while still capable of 10,000 nautical miles (20,000 km). The latter helped creating a more balanced design, and still counted on a realistic network of coal depots or support along the way to the east, a range helped by a complete barque rig that could help sparing coal along the way.

Rurik’s plan

Conclusion of the MTK was based on the opinion of the acting chief ship engineer of St. Petersburg port, N. A. Subbotin. He positively assessed favorably all high design characteristics of the cruiser, writing it as “really desirable for the Russian fleet”, but at the same time referred to contemporary British cruiser building in its excessive increase in the length and hull elongation, in need of significant strengthening of the structure and, therefore mass, to the detriment of combat characteristics like top speed. The MTK specialists also argue there were limited docking capabilities in Asia for a 130-meter cruiser, the only drydock nearby being at Yokohama, but also cramped roadsteads. It was also argued that cofferdam compartments flooded increased frictional resistance, provoked excessive roll and insufficient stability on this tight waist design. MTK pointed out the inevitability of an increase in armor weight also due to the longer hull. MTK proposed another design, still comprised within displacement limits of 9,000 tons.

Ship engineers from the Baltic yard present at the meeting object MTK, and N. Ye. Titov associated with N. Ye. Rodionov, the author of the project, as well as M.I. Kazi, Baltic shipyard director. The latter adressed a letter to the MTK chairman in November 18, 1888, arguing that, with the construction of Pamyat Azova, the shipbuilding department of the MTK ignored British statistics and missed the proposal of the Baltic Shipyard to dramatically increase the hull’s absolute length. Calculation carried out by the Baltic Shipyard showed the Rurik’s hull was equal in strength to HMS Duke of Edinburgh, 27% stronger than the Admiral Nakhimov, drawings and specifications of which were entirely the product of MTK. According to data obtained from the British Imperieuse and Warspite, strength calculations should not be in doubt.

Hull’s water lines

The experience of creating ocean-going mixed steamers confirmed that only lenghty steam vessels were capable ocean crossings with high average speeds. They also argued that the MTK were wrong in their assessment about load distribution for commercial steamers for strength was very different from warships, overloaded at the ends with artillery and armor. Civilian ship’s loads for example was way more unstable than on warships, causing even higher hull stresses. Lloyd’s Register rules even stipulate more robust hulls for commercial steamers. In conclusion, M.I. Kazi, proposed to the MTK to develop new Strength standards for Russian military ships, more accurate due to the nature of their purpose.

MTK in the end however left all Kazi’s arguments unanswered. The i=office, in their publication No. 149, November 28, 1888, repeated all their objections to elongation of hull, taking as an aexample Pamyat Azova’s own completion which did not yet proved its strength in practical sailing. They warned the admiralty that if they nevertheless agree with Baltic Shipyard’s own scheme, the hull’s practical displacement with all fittings and fully loaded, would increase by 42% instead of the Yard’s own figure of 34%, so reaching 10,000 tons. As a result, Admiral-General Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich proposed the Baltic plant project being rejected, development now being completely entrusted to the MTK.

For the name, Rurik soon made unanimity, as the founder of the Kingdom of Kiev and of the Rus’. Plans were approved in 1889 by Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich and submitted back to the admiralty works. Construction started in 1890 at Baltic works, just completing its new drydock. Powerplant issues proved to be the toughest point, but were ultimately solved by technical designers at the Baltic Works.

Final design of Rurik (Summer 1888)

Steering, final design

Top view and artillery arcs

Armor Protection cutout, battery deck

Internal details

machinery space cutout

Machinery space details, aft.

The final MTK design was drafted under the leadership of N. E. Kuteinikov, which opinion towards proposals of the baltic Yard started to shift, and revised the initial draft design, with two displacement options, at 9,000 and 10,000 tons. By mid-January 1889, both projects were completed and on January 17, 1889, a discussion took place in presence of invited representatives of the admiralty. On May 25, 1889, the final discussion, led to accept final characteristics of the cruiser which featured the following:
-Design displacement of 10,000 tons.
-Overall length reduced from 130.6 to 120.8 m.

-Waterline lenght reduced from 128.4 to 118.9 m.

-Greatest beam increased from 18.6 to 20.4 m.

-Average draft increased from 7.5 to 7.9 m.

-Hull ratio established to 5.8 instead of 6.88

-Relative hull mass assumed to be 40% of the displacement.

-Powerplant decreased from 12,600 to 12,250 hp, sufficient for 18-knots.

-Coal reserves decreased by 200 tons at 1528/1917 tons.

-Same protection scheme but without the armored deck, but 10-in belt instead of 8-in as in Admiral Nakhimov.

-Artillery unchanged.

-Sailing capacity kept minimal, to just keep some mobility at sea, cruising when wind favourable.

On July 1, 1889, no less than ten blueprints, pre-approved by Emperor Alexander III, were sent to the General Directorate of Shipbuilding and Supply to place an order for construction. On July 20, 1889, final specifications were prepared.

Hull construction and specificities

The final cruiser’s hull design was based on previous Russian armored cruisers, emphasised autonomy and seaworthiness at the expense of other characteristics, notably speed. They were meant as raiders in the Pacific Ocean, based in Vladivostok, with possibly also Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky only. Likelihood of meeting strong opposition in the Pacific was slim, therefore speed and firepower were to be sacrificed in favor of range and protection.

Rurik’s hull was given a large, pointy ram, and she was also one of the last large cruiser of her generation to have a fully rigged sailing scheme, with a fore, main and aft masts, two fore square sails and a brigantine. It was assumed that sails make possible to save coal in long crossings when practicable, but in practice they turned out to be completely useless and not adopted for Rossia and Gromoboi. Rurik’s hull was tall, with a raised forecastle improving her seaworthiness, which as later assessed by the crew, was excellent. The steam propulsion however later appeared not to be powerful enough, top speed sticking to 18 knots. There were some extra bracing frames at three places along the hull, which was pierced only by small apertures for secondary guns to keep its integrity.


It was all Russian made, with 2 shafts (large brone propoellers, diamatere unknown), driven by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines in teh British fashion, fed by 8 cylindrical boilers. They were rated for a total of 13,250 ihp (9,880 kW) in normal draught. This was enough for a specified top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), although more was achieved in sea trials.

Range as designed was 19,000 miles at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), and at full speed it was reduced to 2,300 miles.

Protection scheme

Along the waterline, the amidship hull section was well protected, with an armored belt in steel-nickel armor, ranging in thickness from 127 (5 in) to 254 mm (10 in). The belt itself rested on a 37 mm thick convex armored deck, covering everything below the waterline, up to 3 inches (76 mm) on the slopes. At the ends of the belt however, the citadel was closed by transverse bulkheads 8 inches (203 mm) thick. Outside the citadel, only the forward conning tower was armored, with walls 6 in (152 mm) thick.

Rurik’s artillery was located entirely above the citadel, in completely unprotected sponsons on the main deck. Only the 6 in (152 mm) guns in the battery had at least some structural protection. But in sponsons, neither the gun servants or their ordnance was protected, open to plunging fire and shrapnel. This had dire consequences, since her firepower was soon knocked out at Ulsan, and she was reduced to her ram and torpedo tubes, steering halph-hazardly with her shafts only.


1892 drawing of Rurik.

Main: Four 8-in/35

The 8″/35 naval cannon (203.2 mm) gun was developed by A.F. Brink, produced by Obukhov. It was adopted by the Navy in 1885 and equipped the armored cruisers Admiral Nakhimov, Pamiat Azova and the Koreets class gunboats, seeing action in the Russo-Japanese War. Barrel weight 13 tons and 710 kgs, shell weight 87.8 to 133 kgs depending on the type, AP or HE, muzzle velocity from 583 to 663 m/s, max range 9,150 meters at +15° elevation. On Rurik, they were placed in barbettes on the four corners of the hull, fore and aft, as customary for 1880s ships. They were low enough as not to compromise the stability if they had been placed higher up, but in 1895, this was an obsolete configuration, notably looking at twin turrets British ships.

Secondary: Sixteen 6-in/45

canet gun

This was a naval rapid-fire, medium-caliber gun developed in the 1880s by French firm Forges & Chantiers de la Mediteranee, designed by Gustave Canet. First entered service in the French Navy in 1889. Rurik became the first Russian ship armed with it, adopted by the Russian fleet on August 31, 1891.

It was a popular alternative to the classic Vickers 6-inches of the time. Total mass 14 tons, 690 kgs. Barrel length, 6858/45 mm, Barrel weight with breechblock 5,815 to 6,290 tons, shell weight, 41.4-49.76 kgs, muzzle velocity 229-793 m/s, unitary or separated propellant charge, rate of fire 7-10 rpm, recoil course 375 – 457 mm, max elevation +20°, range 11,523 m. They were placed along the hull in recesses fore and aft, and in barbettes on the main battery deck. Due to their exceptional range, better than the main guns, they were used as complement in between reloads: The 8-in fired at 3 rpm of average, double that with the Canet guns.

Tertiary: Six 4.7-in/45

Deck Canet gun, under mask.

Although this seems tp complicate the battery with a very close caliber, Rurik also carried six 120 mm guns in open sponsons. They were also Canet guns, manufactured under license in Russia by Obukhov and Perm. The agreement was signed on August 10, 1891 and it was adopted in 1892, mostly for battleships: Emperor Alexander II class, Tri Svititelia, Admiral Senyavin class as well as the cruisers Rurik, Dmitry Donskoy, Vladimir Monomakh, Zhemchug class, Novik, Boyarin, Almaz, Gilyak class gunboats Kars and Lieutenant Shestakov class destroyers. They had a long service life, were faster-firing (12-15 rpm) even than the 152 mm and about the same range.

Barrel lenght 5400/45 mm, weight 2952 to 2989 kgs, shell 20.41 – 28.97 kgs, single cartridge style charge, muzzle velocity 686 – 823 m/s, max range 11,306 at +25°. They also served in WW2 in coastal positions.

Light: 47 & 37 mm, HMGs

75 mm gun onboard after Rurik’s rearmament.

In total, the ships carried officially six Hotchkiss 47 mm QF guns and ten 37 mm, also Hotchkiss. Similar to those used on other navies and placed on the decks and fighting tops. According to British sources, they were also armed later with a complement of twenty-two small Q.F. guns of the 3 pounder and 1 pounder type (20 mm), also presumably on fighting tops or dismountable for landing parties, two also fitted on the steam cutters.

Light gun deck, masked.

Torpedoes: Six 381 mm models

One in the surface bow tube, a chase stern tube, two hull broadside tubes and two underwater. These were likely if the 1876 15″ (381mm) Whitehead model, carrying a 57 lbs. (26 kg) warhead to a range of 440 yards (400 m) at 29 knots. Still in use before the introduction of the 1898 model, a locally built variation.

Author’s illustration of Rurik as built

Rurik specifications as built

Dimensions 125.6 x 20.4 x 9.1m (412 x 67 ft x 30 ft)
Displacement 10,950 long tons (? t) standard
Crew 768
Propulsion 2 shafts 2-cyl. VTE, 8 v.boilers, 13,250 ihp
Speed 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range 19,000 nmi () at 10 knots, 2000 tons coal
Armament 4 x 8-in (203 mm), 16 x 6-in (152 mm), 6 x 4.7-in (120 mm), 6 x 47 mm, 10 x 37 mm, 22 x 1-pdrs
Armor 8-12 in belt (305 mm), 2-3 in (76 mm) deck, CT 6-in (152 mm).

Reception and the anglo-russian naval arms race

The gargantuan Powerful class cruisers

The Centution class, which answered the support battleships of the Pereviet class.

As plans of Rurik were being finalised, Britain had glimpses and rumors about the new design and became exceedingly nervous about it. It feared, as it was already conceced by the Russian themselves, that it would threaten her large commercial fleet not only in the far east, but Indian ocean as well, due to its long range. The British press further fuelled this anxiety, to the point it reached paranoia. In return, the Royal Navy admiralty itself grossly overestimated the threat posed by Rurik, so to trigger in effect, a naval arms race (but also test the envelope by building “super cruisers”).

Indeed, the house of commons and the opinion put pressure on the Royal Navy to find a solution quickly, and the admiralty responded in building two “cruiser killers”, two new armoured cruisers, HMS Powerful and Terrible. These became in effect when completed the largest warships in the world. But since after the construction of these cruisers the Russians decided to support them with dedicated, fast battleships, the Peresvet class, the British replied in turn with ships derived from battleships but rather comparable to proto-battlecruisers, producing the second-class battleships of the Centurion class, and Renown, after the announcement of the construction of Oslyabya, the third of the Peresvet class.

The British cruisers were absolutely massive, and turned out to be much faster at 22 knots, using watertube (or coil) boilers, which later were proven superior, becoming a standard for all new warships. They were also better armed and better protected, as well as the following Rossia and Gromoboi. The result of this 1890s frenzy however was costly for the British taxpayer: Both the Powerful class cruisers and Centurion class battleships had a short span useful service life. The Centutions were even discarded before WWI, while the Russian threat has been completely deflated. The 1902 strategic alliance with Japan, which own navy was massively backed by the Royal Navy, followed by the Russo-Japanese war, achieved to make this earlier Russian threat completely irrelevant.

Ryurik in action

Launch of Rurik in 1892

In service: Marine Company at stand

Rurik was built at Baltic works, laid down on 31 May 1890, Launched November 1892 and commissionedin May 1895. Her captains were Enegelm, Fyodor Petrovich 1890-1891, during construction, Pavel Nikolaevich from 1891 to 1894, Krieger, Alexander Khristianovich 1894-1896, Rodionov, Alexander Rostislavovich 1896-1897, Haupt, Nikolai Alexandrovich 1897-1900, Matusevich, Nikolai Alexandrovich 1900-1903 and her final wartime captain Evgeny Aleksandrovich Trusov, from 1903 until she sank.

Rurik, after her training cruise in the Baltic, headed for the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok under command of Admiral Fyodor Dubasov. The latter, after she arrived in the pacific squadron, recommended modifications after short service here: Her poor steaming performances had her reboilering, and her rigging was found as hingerance and entirely removed, along with ropes, capstans, leaving only the bare masts at least to hoist combat ans signal flags. The reboilering project however never was carried out due to limited capacities and the absece of suitable boilers to do the job.

Stern view of Rurik at tsingtao

Her 1896-1904 years are no recorded in detail. Rurik soon took a routine of summer and autumn cruisers and fleet manoeuvers, going south for the latter, probably as far as the south China sea, and visiting many ports in between. She visited for sure Nagoya and Hakodate, but also the German colony of Tsingtao. Each year also she was drydocked in Nagasaki for full maintenance, since there was no drydock large enough for her in the whole region.

Rurik and Gromoboi in the Golden Horn Bay (Zolotoy Rog), Vladivostok.

Rurik off nagazaki before 1904.

Prow of the ship, with a crew busy cleaning her/repainting the hull.

Prow of the ship, Vladivostok winter. Lhe late 1890s or early 1900s

The Russo-Japanese war

Rurik and the rest of the fleet in Vladivostok

When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in 1904, Rurik was not alone in the Pacific Squadron, but with Rossia, Gromoboi, and Bogatyr, which she trained with for many years, in Vladivostok. All these cruisers as tensions were high with Japan, charged with their initial commerce raiding task, of searching and destroying Japanese merchant traffic in the Sea of Japan and off the coast of the home islands. By August 1904 however, only one vessel was spotted and sunk, while the Imperial Japanese Army already moved siege artillery on the hills of Port Arthur. The siege kept the battleships of the Pacific Squadron trapped into the port, after failing to breakout repeatedly.

Battle of Ulsan

Rurik in Feb-March 1904, painted medium grey, with reduced rig and new 3-in light guns.

On August 14, 1904, the cruiser Vladivostok squadron advanced to join the 1st Pacific squadron’s battleship during another attempt to breaking through the siege, to be met in the Korean Strait by a Japanese squadron of four armored cruisers, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, Azuma, and two other protected cruisers. Under command of Vice Admiral Kamimura Hikonojō in the Tsushima Strait, it was purposedly waiting between Korea and Japan. Japanese armored cruisers were better than the Russian in firepower and protection, and when they met their Russian opponents, the latter turned out to be in a bad position to fire, with opposite force in 8-inch guns of 12 vs. 16, and soon due to manoeuvers fell to 6 vs. 16. Bogatyr was left behind during the battle, having received damage due to grounding.

Rurik in the Scientific American Vol 91, N09 August 1904, in black paint, before she was camouflaged grey in 1904.

This, in combination with a generally better rate of fire and more powerful shells, played their part in their own salvoes by 4-5 times, the Japanese firing HE and the Russian firing armor-piercing shells of the French type with a much smaller explosive charge. The melinite charge used by the Japanese however did not surpass much the Russian pyroxylin explosion energy with a ratio of 3.4 MJ/kg versus 4.2. For observers of the battle nevertheless, the Japanese hits looked very “spectacular”. Another factor which played a part in the battle was the Japanese using armored towers, versus Russian half-open casemates. Also choice in armor schemes had the Russian ships unarmoured at the extremities, and on Rurik herself, the otherwise aft rudder compartment’s cover was inexistant.

Due to the rapid show of firepower superiority by the Japanese, it was decided to withdraw back to Vladivostok. At 5:30, while starting her retreat, Rurik received a hit in her stern, below the waterline, flooding the steering compartment. She slowe down and went out of formation and at 6:28, in response the flagship enquiry answered by signals her rudder was jammed. From then on, Rurik became a stitting duck. Caught up by the whole Japanese line, she was pummelled, volleys destroying her and steering completely. Although the crew managed to regain some control for a time, by an unfortunate turn of event, another shell penetrated just at the tight place to jam the steering blade at the starboard side, so she ship was now condemned to turn in cicles.

Her captain tried had to have her staying on course, by playing with the opposite shaft’s revolutions, or even rerverse it but she became completely separated from the detachment. Nevertheless, this did not prevent her gunners to keep the enemy at bay with a vigorous and accurate 8-inches barrage, and with the other guns, inflicting heavy damage on IJN Iwate. Nevertheless she soon lost three 6-in, one 3-in guns on the starboard side, with 40 killed. Admiral Jessen eventually ordered Rossia and Gromoboi to cover Rurik. They came back and tried to interpose, eventually pushing back the Japanese.

This diversion cost them dearly as they came under heavy Japanese fire, taking punishment and casualties, until being forced to leave the battle, leaving Rurik to fend for herself. At 8:20 am, the flagship ordered the line back to Vladivostok, trying to keep the Japanese armored cruisers on their tail, hoping that Rurik could fight off the remaining light armored cruisers and ultimately correct the damage and resume her trip back. Or possibly to reach the Korean coast. The Japanese indeed chased the Russians as expected bu soon ran out of shells and at 10:04 Kamimura decided to stop the chase and turn back.

Menawhile, Rurik still could not recover steering control, and maneuvered by varying shafts revolutions between shafts to try to keep some stright path but her firepower by that time was significantly weakened. Soon, the Japanese closed in on her for the finish. With their remaining shells, and closing each time, they methodically destroyed all remaining gun positions while Rurik’s captain ordered to raise steam and achieve greater speed. At some point she even turned to attempt a ramming, and started to fire her working torpedo tubes. Evading, the Japanese cruisers retreated at a safer distance, but went on shelling her nonetheless. After a while, the Russian cruises fell silent, and after listing by the stern, as the Japanese approached, they could saw Rurik sinking. Indeed, as the cruiser’s firepower was gone, and out of 763 crew members, 204 were killed, including the commander captain 1st rank E. Trusov, senior officer captain 2nd rank N. Kholodovsky, and 305 injured. The senior surviving officer, Lieutenant Ivanov, ordered the ship to be scuttled. The Japanese only arrived to pick up about 625 survivors. The remaining two Russian cruisers escaped back to Vladivostok, joining there Bogatyr. They will be no other attempt to save Port Arthur, which now rested with the “second pacific squadron”, en route.

General assessment of Rurik

Commemorative stamp of the battle

Despite her obsolete look with open barbette guns, barque rigging and ram, Rurik performed surprisingly well at Ulsan. She covered in effect the other two Russian cruisers, less some Japanese indecisiveness. Even the late battle ramming and torpedoing attemps reached the desired effect, of scaring the Japanese away, which went back to a sporadic, but less accurate fire on a well protected cruiser. But Rurik’s sacrifice at Ulsan further weakened the 2nd Pacific squadron’s chances to relieve Port Arthur. Rossia and Gromoboi would not hope to defeat the Japanese, especially with Bogatyr having permament grounding damage. Gromoboi never sortied for the rest of the war. Nevetheless, the “Rurik’s heroic last stand” was an inspiring story in the Russian Navy and it was certainly not at random that the last and most powerful armoured cruiser of the Russian Navy ever built, retook the famous name: The 1906 Rurik

Conway’s profile

Author’s profile: Rurik 1895, in white livery.

Rurik in te Pacific, 1899.

Rurik in overall marine green-grey, battle of Ulsan, 1904.

Read More/src:

Rurik 1889-1904


Conway’s all the world’ fighting ships 1860-1905

Schrad, Mark Lawrence (2014). Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State. Oxford

Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.

Brook, Peter (2000). “Armoured Cruiser vs. Armoured Cruiser: Ulsan 14 August 1904”. Conway

Frampton, Victor; Head, Michael; McLaughlin, Stephen & Spurgeon, H. L. (2003). “Russian Warships off Tokyo Bay”.

McLaughlin, Stephen (1999). “From Ruirik to Ruirik: Russia’s Armoured Cruisers”. Conway

Warship International Staff (2015). “International Fleet Review at the Opening of the Kiel Canal, 20 June 1895”.

Watts, Anthony J. (1990). The Imperial Russian Navy. London: Arms and Armour.

Taras, Alexander (2000). Ships of the Imperial Russian Navy 1892–1917, Library of Military History



Получить печатную версию этой книги

Additional photos & plans

On wikipedia RU


On Russian torpedoes before WWI

120 mm Canet guns on navweaps


On wikipedia

Model kits

About Kombrig’s 1/350 kit on (as built)

1/700 kit Kombrig by by Vladimir Yakubov, 1904.

Armoured Cruiser Rurik (1906)

Armoured Cruiser Rurik (1906)

Russian Empire

The world’s largest cruiser in 1907.

Rurik represented the pride of the Russian navy in 1914, before were introduced the first dreadnoughts. Her presence in the Baltic overshadowing the still vivid memory of the crushing defeat and humiliation of 1905. In fact, when she was laid down in August 1905, the war was still ongoing. If committed in the far east, she would certainly have been a match for any of Togo’s warships. She Certainly was one of the most powerful armoured cruiser when launched in November 1906. However at the same time, HMS Dreadnought was already in fitting-out since February, shaking admiralties into rethinking naval power. Therefore Ryurik was already obsolete when eventually in service, in 1909: The first Invincible class battlecruisers entered service a year prior already.

The previous Rurik was already a large ship, a 11,700 tons armoured cruiser from 1892, built for the Pacific fleet, and scuttled in Port Arthur on 14 August 1904. The new ship was built at Vickers Armstrong in August 1905. By her general design, both compact and broad, with a powerful seocndary artillery, Rurik also interested the admiralry and the yard defined it as a prototyope for a possible replacement for the oldest armoured cruisers. In all case, Rurik impressed all naval staff present when participating in the Spithead in 1909 coronation review. The name payed homage to semi-mithycal Rus Viking Rus chieftain that established a colony on the Don from 862, and funder of the first Slavic state of Novgorod while his son funded the Kingdom of Kiev.

Design-wise, Rurik was not overly protected, but the repartition was well distributed, sparing weight, with two armored decks and citadel with no weak point. In large part this was due to reports and studies after the Russo-Japanese war and based on Russian recommendations. The new Rurik was launched on November 17, 1911, completed in September 1908 and commissioned in July 1909, time to fix some issue with her barbettes. In 1911, she gained a new tripod mast and modified bridge, and in 1917, 40 mm AA guns installed. She operated from 1908 as flagship of the Baltic fleet. Modified to carry mines, she could carry up to 400. Accidentally stranded on February 13, 1915 at Gotland she deterred the German fleet and rarely had the occasion of a fair fight. Hitting a mine on November 19, 1916, she was never repaired before the recolution and placed in reserve in 1918, broken up by the new government in 1923.

Design development

Bayan - Brasseys
The previous armored cruiser Bayan for comparison

Rurik Brasseys
Initial design of Rurik in 1915, Brasseys

Definition of the needs and British selection

Seeking a designer for this “fast wing” vessel attached to a battleship squadron and used for reconnaissance took time. The previous Russian armored cruiser Bayan already was designed with this in mind, completed just before the Russo-Japanese war, but the new ship was to be much larger and stronger to cooperate notably with the newly planned battleships Andrei Pervosvanny and Imperator Pavel I. In July 1904, the Marine Technical Committee of the Ministry of the Navy announced the launch of the competition to design such a ship according to the assumptions developed in Russia.

Both Russia and Japan after the very first encounters of the Russo-Japanese War deduced that they needed heavier ships with new designs, notably larger armored cruisers with heavier guns. In June 1904, the Imperial Japanese Navy ordered the Tsukuba class, which both for the first time ever, had 12-inch guns (305 mm), a caliber reserved to battleships. This were an in-between between armored cruisers and battlecruisers.

The winner of the competition was the British company Vickers, from Barrow-in-Furness, whose intermediary was the famous arms dealer Basil Zaharoff. The initial Vickers project proposed four 10-in (254 mm), twelve 8-in guns in casemates, and twenty 3-in (76 mm).

Rurik’s original tasks were not to fight battleships, and her armor would have to only resist enemy cruiser’s fire so 8 inches for the main turrets, 7 for their barbettes and secondary turrets, 6 for their barbettes and main armor belt. The top speed of 21 knots was below most cruisers at the time, but the main gun longer range compensated, and it was still found appropriate to take some distance with any incoming battleship.

Russian design changes

However, almost immediately the Vickers design was reworked by the Russian admiralry board before submitting it to the yard responsible for construction. This usual practice led to lengthy delays in cosntruction, and was not due to any wrongdoing of the British yard that delivered the blueprints as schedule on time. The end result for the Russians (the same as in french yards by the way) were ship usually obsolete when introduced in service, more so when fixes were to be made after trials, which was the case here.

-The main Russian change was to have the eight 8-in guns relocated in twin turrets and the initial Vickers 3-in guns QF (76.2mm) upgraded to local 120 mm guns. The Vickers-designed turrets also were replaced with Russian models, the same adopted for the Andrei Pervozvanny class battleships. Designed displacement was thus increased from 13,500 t to 15,000 t.
The purchase agreement for a single ship was eventually signed on 31 May 1905. It was scheduled completed for the express date of 1 March 1907 to an agreed price of 1.5 million pounds (14,190,000 rubles).

The official signing of the contract took place on January, 23, 1906, well after the keel was laid down.

-As construction progressed however, the Russian admiralty board continued to ask for changes, at first with the armor scheme, which was decreased in places and augmented on others and with the horizontal armor design scheme in particular. It was never practiced in British shipbuilding and immediately cause concerns for Vickers.
-They also asked to swap the initially planned, trusted triple-expansion engines, for steam turbines, raising horsepower to 42,000 hp, and procuring a new designed speed of 25 knots.

But Vickers was no longer working on detailed bluprints now answered this change would result in the disassembling of the steel farming already in place above the keel defining the bottom (At that time 2,600 tons of steel has been assembled), even starting construction anew.
The Russians were eventually persuaded to accept this argument and launch proceeded in November 1906.

modernized rurik
Rurik if modernized in the 1930s – Alexey Sokolov’s “Alternative: The Unbuilt ships of the Russian Imperial and Soviet Navy” book. More


Rurik measured 149.4 m (490 ft 2 in) long between perpendiculars, 157.6 m (517 ft 1 in) at the waterline, finally 161.23 m (529 ft) overall, which was as large as many 1st generation dreadnoughts. Her beam was still “nimbler” at 22.86 m (75 ft) for a draft of 7.92 m (26 ft). She displaced less than a dreadnought though, at 15,190 long tons (15,430 t) standard, approx. 16.900 fully loaded. The main feature was her long forecastle deck, extended to her aft main mast. She also had a pronounced ram bow under the waterline. The hull had a “full shape”, mostly broaded at the secondary turret barbettes kevel. Her superstructure were reduced to the bare essential as customary for Russian ships of the period, with just her forward main conning tower and command bridge above, and a smaller secondary conning tower aft with a small “flying bridge” above. A proper small enclosed bridge was built during her first major overhaul.

As completed she had a somple pole main mast ahead of the aft conning tower. In 1909 however, a pole foremast was installed, atop her forward conning. In 1917, this fore mast was replaced by a proper, sturdier tripod, now supporting a spotting top. For steering she had a single rudder. Crew consisted of 26 officers and 910 ratings.


Rurik was given two shafts, drived by two vertical triple-expansion (VTE) steam engines, which steam came from twenty-eight Belleville coal-fired water-tube boilers. Exhaust went through three funnels located amidships. Total output as design for this power plant was 19,700 indicated horsepower (14,700 kW), whih was enough for engineers to reach 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). Coal storage was 1,920 long tons (1,950 t) and at 10 knots cruiser speed, she could reach 6,100 nautical miles (11,300 km; 7,000 mi).

Rurik in completion, without armament for sea trials, Barrow in Furness, 1907


Longitudinal section

Her armour scheme called for Krupp cemented armor plate overall. Here is the scheme:

-Armor belt from 2.36 m (7 ft 9 in) above waterline, 1.5 m (5 ft) below.
-Main belt section between barbettes: 152 mm (6 in)
-Main belt tapered to 138 mm (5 in) top edge citadel
-Main belt tapered to 104 mm (4 in) bottom edge citadel.
-Main belt forward: 102 mm, then 76 mm (3 in) bottom edge
-Main belt aft 76 mm closed by same thickness transverse bulkhead.
-Upper belt armor strake 76 mm (tertiary casemates).
-Lower armored deck 25 mm (1 in) sloped 38 mm (1.5 in).

-Main armored deck 38 mm thick
-Casemate battery foor 25 mm.
-Fwd conning tower 203 mm walls
-Main battery turrets faces and sides 203 mm, 64 mm (2.5 in) roof

-Main barbettes 180 mm (7 in) down to the ammunition magazines.
-Barbettes Behind the belt 115-50 mm (4.5 in-2.0 in).
-Secondary turrets 180 mm faces and sides, 50 mm roofs.
-Secondary turret’s barbettes 152 mm above belt, 38–76 mm below.

-Underwater protection: Torpedo bulkhead 38 mm thick with 3.4 m (11 ft) width over the citadel.


Forward guns turret
Forward guns turret

Rurik’s main armament:

Four (2×2 turrets fore and aft) 254 mm (10 in)/50 guns. These were designed by Vickers, uniquely for Rurik. Not the same at all as the ones mounted on some armoured cruisers and swiftsure class 2nd rank battleships. These had an ovale shape, more French-style than British; and classically above the working chamber from the magazines, seating on barbettes. Ther was just one set of hoists to mount amunitions to the working chambers, then another set transferred them to the turrets proper, adding propellant charges. This split hoist arrangement was detrimental for the firing rate (2 rpm) but used for safety. It was doubled by anti-flash doors and a sprinkler system in the magazines plus a quick filling valve to flood them on simple button command.

-Rate of fire: 2 rounds a minute
-225.2 kg (496 lb) shell (armor piercing or high explosive)

Muzzle velocity 899 m/s (2,950 ft/s).
Maximum elevation 21°
Maximum range 22,224 m (AP), 18,520 m (HE).

Reloading at −5 to +8°.

Severe issues


Gunnery trials started in the spring of 1908, under the direction of Russian supervisor Vladimir Kostenko. The latter, just just 27 years old, written a work on the concept of high-speed armored cruiser and he would (after two years in Japanese captivity) also oversee construction of the Andrei Pervozvanny. The cruiser soon showed severe problems with the barbettes, for both main and secondary turrets. When firing a broadside, this opened seams in the hull which required in turn extensive modifications. Kostenko showed little patience for Vickers solutions and spent more time trying to persuade the crew to join the Socialist Revolutionary Party…

Main guns in 1916
Main guns in 1916

Rurik’s secondary battery

To make for the slow rate of eight main 10-in shells a minute, Rurik was provided with a full secondary battery of eight (4×2) 203 mm (8 inches)/50 Pattern 1905 guns. These were Russian Obukhov made, but Vickers designed models. The four twin turrets were located on the corners of the superstructure. The global arrangement was classic for the time, the same as Blücher and German dreadnoughts of the time. It allowed to fire a broadside of four, as in chase or retreat. While the turret design was broadly similar to the main ones, the fact they could be reloaded at any angle with a simple reloading system made them faster firing. They could provide 12 shells every minutes, compensating for the 8 of the main guns. As usual for spotters, it was difficult to distinguish water plumes from SAP shells from HE/AP of the main guns due to close caliber.

-139.2 kg (307 lb) semi-armor-piercing (SAP) shell
-Muzzle velocity 792.5 m/s (2,600 ft/s).
-Average range at 15°: 15,729 m (17,201 yd)
-5-25° angle possible, real range figures unknown.
-Reload possible at any elevation
-Rate of fire 3 per minute

Stern view
Stern view
Stern views showing the aft main turret, secondary turrets, aft CT, casemate and light guns

Rurik’s tertiary battery

To deal with destroyers, Rurik carried also twenty 120 mm/50 (4.9 in) guns in side casemates. Sixteen one the forecastle deck around the superstructure, four in the stern. Theur main advantage was a high rate of fire, delivering SAP rouds at a closer range which was still well beyond the useful torpedo range of most destoyers of the time. It could be useful to set ablaze superstructures in a close fight as well. Indeed, they can rain down 160 shells a minute.

-28.97 kg (63.9 lb) SAP shell
-Muzzle velocity 792.5 m/s
-Maximum range 13,718 m (15,002 yd) 19.5°
-Rate of fire eight rounds per minute.

Ryurik’s guns in 1911

Rurik’s light QF battery

To deal with Torpedo Boats Rurik also had four 47 mm (1.9 in) 43 cal. Hotchkiss guns. They could be used as saluting guns as well, but were not dismountable to be placed on a stem pinnace for a landing party.

Rurik’s Torpedo tubes

This consisted in just a pair of 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes for and aft, submerged, launching the M1908 torpedo. These were later replaced with M1912 21-in type (2000 m at 43 kts, 5,000 m at 30 knots, 100 kgs warhead).
-95 kg (209 lb) warhead
-Range 1,000 m (1,100 yd) or 2,000 on the 27 kts setting
-Top speed 38 knots (70 km/h; 44 mph).

Tsar Nikolai II onboard Rurik in 1908.


Rurik in 1908

With The Minotaur class:

In the 1905 context of vivid tension with Great Britain and a “battle” while underway to Korea to fight its ally Japan, the Royal Navy was the main focus of the Russian admiralty, well before Japan. However when completed, the context had changed dramatically and she was no match facing HMS Dreadnought or Invincible, outranged and outgunned by ships that were even slightly faster and better protected. To search for a more even match, she must be confronted with the last British armoured cruisers class: The Minotaur class (Commissioned about the same time in 1908-1909):

With the Scharnhorst class:

In 1909 the context changed and in the Baltic where she was stationed, Germany was the main problem, no longer the Royal Navy. The last German armoured cruisers were the Scharnhorst class, and while they were stationed in the Pacific, it is useful to compete them.

With SMS Blücher:

Theis peculiar vessel was unique as the last armoured cruiser of the Hochseeflotte, and entered service in October 1909, one year after Rurik. Of all possible opponents she was perhaps the best fitted for a contest at sea. SMS Blücher about the same size, tonnage, but she was way faster at 25 knots. Armament was a completely different philosophy, as she was in fact a direct copy of Cuniberti’s uniform, “monocaliber” battery. Ruril still kept the “old scheme” of pre-dreadnoughts staged defence; She had indeed twelve 21 cm guns in six twin turrets placed like for the first German dreadnoughts, so with a useful broadside of eight guns, six in chase or retreat. Her 21 cm (8.3 in) SK L/45 guns had a range of 19,100 m (20,900 yd) with 4-5 rpm. Her secondary armament was more powerful with eight 15 cm guns. So, in combat, and giving her better optics, she could have pummeled Rurik with more shells per volley and still keep an advantage to choose her distance and disengage. Rurik’s armor could have managed to resist her blows, and conversely Blücher’s protection was weaker, apart for the CT. A 10-in AP shell could have been devastating, if lucky. Result: Draw, but slight advantage to Blücher (optics, speed). In reality, Blücher was sunk at the Dogger Bank early in the war, so she was never deployed in the baltic after the situation stalemated in the west.

Old author’s illustration of Rurik as completed

⚙ Specifications (1906)

Displacement 15,200 t, 16,900 t FL
Dimensions 161,23 x 22,8 x 7.9 m (529 x 75 x 26 ft)
Propulsion 4 shafts VTE, 28 Belleville boilers, 19,700 hp
Speed 21 knots (39 kph, 24 mph)
Range 6,100 nm (11,300 km; 7,000 mi)/10 knots
Armament 4 x 254 mm (2×2), 8 x 203 (4×2), 20 x 120 mm, 4 x 47 mm, 2 x 457 mm TTs
Armor CT 203 mm, decks 75 mm, turrets 203-178-152 mm, battery 76 mm, belt 104-152 mm
Crew 26 officers +910 ratings

Read More/Src

Rurik underway in 1913

In Reval, 1913

Rurik in 1912

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1905
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-1921
McLaughlin, Stephen (1999). “From Ruirik to Ruirik; Russia’s Armoured Cruisers”. Conway
Dodson, Aidan (2018). Before the Battlecruiser: The Big Cruiser in the World’s Navies, 1865–1910. Annapolis
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Annapolis
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis
Staff, Gary (2011). Battle on the Seven Seas: German Cruiser Battles, 1914–1918. Pen & Sword Maritime.
“Trials of the Russian Armoured Cruiser “Rurik””. Engineering, London, Office for Advertisements and Publication
Watts, Anthony J. (1990). The Imperial Russian Navy. London: Arms and Armour Press.

Open siurce photos
Modellers’s corner: Combrig’s Rostislav WW1
Orel 1/200 paper model kit
Kombrig 1/700 Rostislav steelnavy review
On shipbucket

Rurik in action


A late entry into service and controversy

Rurik in Bjorkesund, 1908
Rurik in Bjorkesund, 1908

Rurik in Antivari, 1910
Rurik in Antivari, 1910

The new cruiser started her sea trials in July 1907 without armament. After these were completed with success, Beardmore company, Dalmuir was commissioned for fitting out, notably to install artillery. Early artillery trials took place in the summer of 1908, and the mating of Russian turrets on Vickers barbettes immediately showed a poor mating, causing deformation of the deck during firing sessions. This fixes including strengthening and fastening of the turrets in August, but Ruruk sailed to Russia anyway. Further trials in Russia revealed more problems with these mountings again, until they were finally removed altogether in Kronstadt in June 1909, with the help of the manufacturer, Vickers, at the cost of over 3 million rubles, which the Russian side withheld from the contract. Vickers indeed only received 1 129 972 pounds as the ship entered service.

The construction of such a ship for Russia in Great Britain was something completely new, especially in the light of recent, tense relations as for most of the second half of the 19th century, Russian maritime doctrine saw the British navy as its main potential enemy, not Japan. Great Britain unofficially supported Japan as well and also tailored its own vessels, especially cruisers in the 1890s, to answer Russian ones. The anglo-Japanese alliance and help to develop the IJN was also in response of Russian expansionnism in the asian area. The unexpected result of the Russo-Japanese War however might have been a harbinger of rapprochement between the two countries, which eventually culminated by the signing of an anti-German alliance, creating the Entente in 1907. Imperial Russia indeed had much better relations to France until that time.

Ryurik, Andrei Pervozvannyy and ImperatorPavelI in 1913, the core of the Baltic fleet

The construction of two more “Rurik” was planned in late 1905, but abandoned due to technological difficulties with the imported high-strength steel and redesigns needed. Early in 1906 also, the plan to re-equip Rurik with steam turbines had its development hindered by the Russian engineers lack of experience in this field, delays and costs, so the project was abandoned. Nevertheless, Vickers also prepared a turbine version of Rurik, proposed as a sister-ship in 1906, but the Russian Government declined to purchase it, as it was now clear that the artillery scheme adopted was now obsolete.

Rurik in 1913, Portland

Rurik, 1913 in Reval.

Prewar service

Akula and Rurik in the background before the war

Fixing these acute structural weaknesses took time. They mostly showed up when testing her main guns. The Russian Navy decided to complete her on time, fixing these issues afterwards. During these early trials she fired 30 rounds with two 254 mm guns, and 30 from two 203 mm guns, 15 from 120 mm guns. Steam trials followed in 1908, showing her design speed and horsepower figures exceeded. Final completion was only made official in September 1908, almost two years after launch, twice as long for such ship in the Royal Navy, but not uncommon in Russia. She was sent to the shipyard just after a short shakedown cruise in Kronstadt, for the extensive modifications called for, that were labelled post-trials fixes. Her hull structure was strenghtened, using bracing and other measures, notably around the barbettes. Once out of the drydock, she entered service as planned with the Baltic Sea Fleet for two years. By July 1910, she sailed south, for a cruise in the Mediterranean and was back to the Baltic for the next three years, also becoming in 1913, the fleet’s flagship.

Rurik in the great war: Early operations

Rurik colorized
Ryurik in 1912, colorized by irootoko jr.

Winter 1914-15, Lappvik

In July 1914, Russia was caught declaring war with a still unready navy: Both the Borodino-class battlecruisers and Imperatritz Mariya-class dreadnoughts were incomplete, to the dismay of the admiralty. Soon, workers enlisted wile materials was redirected, leaving the work focus on the four Mariya while suspended on the Borodinos. This left Rurik, not a battleship, as flagship, leading the Bayan-class cruisers as the only assets of the Baltic Fleet to face the mighty hochseeflotte.

Rurik hosted Admiral Nikolai Ottovich von Essen, commander of Baltic Russian naval forces. The captain was Mikhail Bakhirev, which was a first patrol sortie with Rurik and Pallada on 27 August. They made in sweep into the western Balti, up to Bornholm in Denmark and even went firther, to Danzig. But they met no enem vessels.

Rurik in Helsingfors, 1914
Rurik in Helsingfors, 1914

This however, boosted the morale of the Baltic Fleet. Still, uklike Hipper, Essen was prevented to attempt more sorties that westwards, but Tsar Nicholas II refusal. His planned sorties were to force action with the German fleet and potentially draw these pursuers onto minefuelds and pre-dreadnought battleships. A major intel breakthrough was done by capturing the unscuttled SMS Magdeburg, stranded in Russian waters. The codebook was passed to the Royal Navy, and both now had the ability to decrypt German wireless signals. They would nevr been caught off guard.

In November, Rurik was sent in port for modifications, notably with mine rails, in order to act as a fast minelayer. Her first sortie was on 14 December (Admiral Ludvig Kerber) with Admiral Makarov and Bayan. This wa cobined with another pair of cruisers escorting another minelayer in the north. Rurik laid 120 mines off Danzig by night, and came back home, never encountering opposition. Anoher sorties was made on 12 January 1915, but Ruril was now part of the escort, with the same cruisers. Three other cruisers laid minefields off Rügen island, much furthest west. This minefield later claimed SMS Augsburg and Gazelle.

Rurik in Reval, winter 1915-1916
Rurik in Reval, winter 1915-1916

Rurik escorted minelayers off Danzig also on 13 February 1915. However due to incomplete maps, she ran aground east of Gotland, her bottom badly damaged while underway. Thus put an end to the mission. Despite having beein flooded by 2,400 tons in half her boiler rooms, she still could free herself and sail back to Reval. Repairs took place in Kronstadt, lasting for 89 days. Heavy ice next prevented further sorties. Meawnhile, the Ganguts’s completion was over and the fleet was reorganized. Rurik ended with Group 5 with Bayan and Admiral Makarov, 1st Cruiser Brigade. Nevertheless, the dreadnoughts were left out of action by fear of loosing them, and offensive operations were still led by the cruisers. They patrolled the Gulf of Finland for months.

Battle of Åland Islands (June 1915)

Map showing the battle

By late June, the Russian naval command planned a gunnery support of the beleaguered garrison at Windau (Latvia). An attack on the city of Rostock at first was planned, but it was well behind German lines. The opetration was mostly a morale booster, in large part to demonstrate the Russian fleet strength. Vice Admiral Vasily Kanin, replacing Essen as fleet commander however showed more caution. Her refused permission to send Rurik to such a dangerous mission, in case it would fail.

The target was changed to a much closer Memel. Rear admiral Bakhirev led the bombardment force, which, according to Paul Halpern, comprised Admiral Makarov, Bayan, Bogatyr, and Oleg, Rurik sailing separately with the destroyer Novik in cover, a submarine squadron screened ahead. Gary Staff however states the Rurik, Oleg, and Bogatyr were the bombardment force, with Admiral Makarov and Bayan in cover. In any case, the fleet departed shortly after midnight, on 1 July 1916. Heavy fog off Memel however conducted the admiral to cancel the operation. The city itself was not located. Rurik and Novik separated and the fleet remained in the vicinity to make another attempt the following day, hoping the weather would improve.

Bakhirev made another attempt but underway her received an urgent radio message: Decrypted intercepts from German wireless signals pointed out a minelaying operation was to take place off Riga. Bakhirev then decided to intercept this force instead. The four cruisers from the bombardment group guided by wireless intercepts proceeded to the ideal position to ambush the German flotilla. Estimated German strneght was a single armored cruiser, two light cruisers, a minelayer, and seven destroyers. The two fleets spotted each others at 06:30. This ws the start of the Battle of Åland Islands a major WWI clash in the Baltic. The Germans soon realized the strenght of their Russian opponents, and turned to flee. Meanwhile, Russian cruisers focusef on SMS Albatross, the minelayer, which took such punishment, her captain drove it ashore not to sink, saving his crew.

Bakhirev ordered Rurik, in cover, to reinforce his line, and the latter arrived in the area at around 09:45 but could not locate friendly nor enemy ships. Captain A. M. Pyshnov turned northwards to locate Bakhirev, while later underway, crossing the path of SMS Lübeck.

Both opened fire, the German light cruiser being no match for Rurik. But despite of this, the latter failed to score any hits, while taking some light 105 mm rounds. One started a fire in her forecastle while a near-miss damaged her forward rangefinder. These German shells could not penetrate her armor however, but Lübeck’s captain still could cause mayhem on her superstructures and decks, using HE shells; which he ordered. This went so bad for Rurik that one shell also temporarily disabled one main turret, fumes from an explosion on the turret entered it. The crew evacuated the turret, time for the latter to clear out the toxic fumes inside.

Eventually the German armored cruiser SMS Roon was spotted incoming to try to save Lübeck. Her captain was ordered to disengage. At 10:04, Rurik ceased concentrating on Lübeck and turned to engae Roon. But soon, the latter was joined by SMS Augsburg, starying to stack the odds agains Rurik. The latter opened fire at 15-16,000 m (16,000 to 17,000 yd), concentrating on Roon, but failing to score any hits. She however received another hit on her aft conning tower. The surrounding superstructure was badly damaged. The German commander, however, despite his advantages in numbers, decided to disengage by using the bad weather and fog, to cover his escape. Russian lookouts also spotted what they thought was an U-boat and this threat was enough to cause Rurik to disengage. This was the only serious naval battle of the Russian cruiser in this war, and stayed unconclusive although it clearly revealed a general poor accuracy, grave lack of training, optics, or calculations skills altogether.

Last Operations (1916-18)

Ryurik, Slava and Tsesarevich in Kronstadt, 1917
Ryurik, Slava and Tsesarevich in Kronstadt, 1917-1918

Ryurik in the ice, winter 1917-1918, Kronstadt

On 11 November 1915, Rurik departed for another minelaying operation, laying some 560 mines off Gotland. Another followed on 6 December, with 700 more mines. By that stage, the Allied submarine threat was real and so severe the Germans renounced to send any major warship in the area, especially capital ships. From June 1916, Rurik made several sweeps in the Baltic, searching for German merchant shipping. Just one vessel was spotted and sunk during these. On patrol off Hogland island on 7 November 1916 however, Rurik struck a mine. Badly damaged she was still able to proceed to port and was later drydocked, remaining under repair until April 1917. Thuis was also her last overhaul as her foremast was replaced by a tripod supporting a fire control tower. This was a welcome addition given her poor score.

Mine damage

The Russian Revolution however erupted in March 1917, followed by a full Revolution in November. The Bolsheviks government signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty, Russia granted Finland independence so the Russian fleet there was to move back from Helsingfors to Kronstadt. Rurik at that point was placed in reserve in October 1918. In 1922 she was left there without any maintenance, rotting, but she was nevertheless inspected and listed for long-term preservation, on 21 May 1921 in between. From there, she was disarmed, her artillery being recycled in the Red Army to take part in the civil war. By late 1923, her poor condition was revealed during a new inspection. Due to her age it was decided to scrap her. Struck on 1 November 1923, she was towed to Petrograd to be dismantled in 1924–1925. Her 8-in guns in particular were relocated in coastal artillery batteries still operational in WW2.

Rurik in 1917
Rurik in 1917

The same in 1918
The same in 1918

WW1 Russian Battleships

WW1 Russian Battleships

Russian Empire (1875-1919) – About 50 ships

The origins: From ironclads to Coast Defense ships

Historically, Russia embraced ironclad technology as soon as it was available, but the development of the first ship, Sevastopol, took some time, after the Crimean War. It started with two conventional frigates which were converted in 1864, basically the same story that happened with the French Gloire. Sevastopol sister-ship, Petropavlovsk mostly diverged by her battery. Small coastal ironclads followed (Pervenetz class) ordered for the first in UK in 1862 and built in Russia for her two sister-ships, in 1863-64. It was not long before the technology swapped to the Kniaz Pojarski, her first central battery ship. She was followed by an armoured cruiser of such tonnage she was reclassified as an ironclad, and first Russian turret ship, very fast at that: Minin (1869).

She became also the oldest ship in the Russian Navy in 1914. The 1860s saw a need for coastal defense through a type of ship inspired by the current American civil war: Monitors: The ten Bronenosetz class (1864) were followed by Smerch, a low freeboard turret armored ship very similar to the Danish Rolf Krake, also in 1864. In 1867 this was compounded by the construction of two relatively close turret ships, the Charodeika class, and the Admiral Lazaref and Admiral Chigalov classes (all were retired in 1907), followed by probably the most amazing coast defense ships ever imagined at that time: The Novgorod and the larger Vice-Admiral Popov, low-freeboard and with a circular hull, designed both for the black sea fleet. See the 1898 Russian fleet records for more.

Petr Veliky (1872)

The Petr Veliki (Peter the Great) was arguably the oldest Russian battleship in service at the time. She was in her time the very first Russian turret, steam-only battleship, a fad pioneered by France and Great Britain. In 1905-1906, she was completely rebuilt, with new machinrys and boilers, two funnels, two light masts, a high freeboard thanks to a completely rebuilt hull, a displacement reduced to 9,790 tons and a new armament: Four 8-inches (203 mm) on the upper deck at the four corners, and twelved 6-inches (152 mm) on the lower deck, in casemates. The rest consisted of small, fast-firing light guns on the main deck. In 1914 she was assigned to the Baltic fleet, but played a secondary role as coastguard and as training vessel due to her low speed and limited artillery. In February 1917 she was renamed Respublikanets, but retired and decommissioned in October 1918. She was used as a mine transport, renamed Barrikada and managed to survived until… 1959.


Displacement & Dimensions 9790t standard; 104 x 19 x 8.3 m
Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 8 cyl. Boilers, 10,000 hp. 15 knots max
CT: 305 mm armor, 75 mm decks, 120mm-76mm turrets, casemates 120mm, belt 305 mm
Armament 1914: 4 x 203 mm, 12 x 152 mm, 12 x 76 mm, 4 x 57 mm, 8 x 47 mm, 2 x 37 mm.
Crew 650 men.

Ekaterina II class (1886)

The Ekaterina II (Or Sonope for some authors) class were a class of four battleships built for the Black Sea Fleet. They had three barbettes grouped in a triangle around a central armored redoubt, two forward and one centerline aft to maximize firepower forward. Local Black sea shipyards needed to be upgraded before even construction started. All four ships were in the same unit, based on Sevastopol and during the Potemkin’s mutiny in June 1905, Ekaterina II’s crew was dismissed and sent ashore to avoid joining the movement. Chesma’s crew also was of dubious loyalty but she escorted Potemkin towed by her sistership Sinop from Constanța. Sinop and Georgii Pobedonosets also pursued Potemkin to Odessa and their crews nearly avoided mutiny as well. After 1905 it was clear these vessels were longer relevant, and proposals were made for a reconstruction, none being carried out. Ekaterina II and Chesma ended sunk as target ships after 1907, Sinop and Georgii Pobedonosets survived as gunnery training ships and guardships in Sevastopol, spending WWI here. In 1918, the British took them over and sabotaged their mahinery before leaving them in 1919, recaptured by the Whites and Bolsheviks in turn. Sinop rbridfly served with Wrangel’s fleet, fled and ended in Bizerte, while Georgii Pobedonosets arrived later, towed. They were scrapped in 1922 and 1930 respectively.


Displacement & Dimensions 11,400t standard; 103,48 x 21 x 8.5 m

Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 14 cyl. Boilers, 9,100 hp. 15-16 knots

CT: 8-9 in, casemates 12 in, belt 6-16 in

Armament 1914: 3×2 12-in, 7x 6-in, 8x 3-in, 8x 3pdr, 4x 1-pdr, 7x 15 in TTs.

Crew: 674 men.

From turret ships to pre-dreanoughts

In that topic, we start to cover battleships that were for half of them, sunk or captured during the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905 and the rest still available in 1914, which makes things complicated to follow. In 1872, Russia had its first turret ship, at the same time of their british equivalent, steam-only vessels with a compact central superstructure and two Coles-type turrets on either side. Petr Veliky was very large at 10,400 tonnes, but only armed with 12-in guns. With the next 1886 Ekaterina II class, these four vessels were given each an arrangement allowing for three barbettes instead, with two guns each. This triangular configuration was quite unique at that time and stirred interest in the west.

In 1887, smaller and less well armed vessels were built, the Imperator Alexander class barbette ships, which mixed various calibers: Two 12-in in a partially covered barbette, and four 9-inches in the corners, plus three other calibers. A much smaller version was built in 1890, the Gangut, and in between a more conventiional design, Dvienadsat Apostolov. In 1891, Navarin was perhaps the closest predecessor of a pre-dreadnought. It had a low freeboard, and so was the following, larger Tri Svitielia in 1893. The Sissoi Veliki in 1894 was an atempt to design a small battleship on a budget. And she was indeed, a “battleship”, no longer a “turret ship” in Russian nomenclature.

At that point however it was realized, just as in France later, that multiplying prototypes was perhaps not the right way forward to built a fleet in being. A change of direction urged the construction of a class of coastal defense battleships to replace those of the 1880s, the Admiral Ushakov class. The game changing ships at the time, was the Petropavlovsk class. Very conventional but large, close to 12,000 tonnes, Harvey-nickel armour, and a well balanced armament the three identical ships were the closest to British battleships of the time, a fitting change of direction assuming Russian ambitions in the Pacific were antagonizing both the British Empire and Japan (which would ally in 1903).

They were all started in 1892 but launched and completed after the end of the Sino-Japanese war. As a result of negociations, and to the frustration of Japan, Russia obtained Port Arthur. This strategic acquisition triggered the need for new battleships for the Pacific fleet. Again, Russia turned to French design for the Rostislav (1896) and the Peresviet class (1898), the near-sisters Potemkine and Retvisan (1900), and the French-built Tsesarevitch, which inspired the construction the Borodino class, an ambitious program of five battleships completed just before the Russo-Japanese war.

Imperator Alexander II (1887)

Imperator Alexander II, Imperator Nikolai I

Imperator Aleksandr II was a single battleship built for the Russian Navy and used as artillery training vessel with Baltic Fleet. Between 1902 and 1904 she was modernized in France, her armamament altered:

Her torpedo tubes were removed, five 8-inch (200 mm) added, eight 6-inch, ten 3-pdr guns. When the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 broke up she was scheduled to be sent to the Pacific, but this was counter-ordrered and she stayed in Kronstadt for the duration of WWI. Her crew eventually joined the revolution of 1917, renamed Zaria Svobodu, but she took no part in the civil war. The new Kronstadt port authority had her available for service on 21 April 1921 but it was decided to sold her for scrap on 22 August 1922, and she was later towed to Germany, stricken and BU. Imperator Nikolai I served in the Baltic and Mediterranean before being ent as reinforcement in the Pacific Ocean, taking part in the Russo-Japanese War. She however surrendered after the Battle of Tsushima, recommissioned as IJN Iki, and sunk as target in 1915 but only stricken in 1918.


Displacement & Dimensions 9,500-9,600t standard; 101,65 x 20.42 x 7.87 m

Propulsion: 2 shaft HTE, 12 cyl. Boilers, 8,500 hp. 15.3 knots

CT: 10 in, Barbettes 10 in, casemates 12 in, belt 14 in

Armament (original): 2x 12-in, 4x 9-in, 8x 6-in, 10x 3pdr, 8x 1-pdr, 5x 15 in TTs.

Crew: 611 men.

Dvienadsat Apostolov (1890)

Dvenadsat Apostolov was ordered as the first of two ships for the Black Sea Fleet, the second however fell short. Initial armament, eight 9-inch (229 mm) guns were in two twin turrets, the remainder in a central casemate. But by early 1888 construction was restarted on a revised design defined by the Naval Technical Committee. Belt armor thickness was augmented, displacement took 75 tons more, and the armament was revised to include two twin turret of 12-inch guns in barbettes completed by four 6-inch (150 mm) guns and shorter casemate. As modified, the “Twelve Apostles” as a pre-dreadnought eventually entered service in 1893 with the Black Sea Fleet, fullu commisioned in 1894. She was active during the attempt to recover the battleship Potemkin in 1905. Having little use eventually she was decommissioned and disarmed in 1911, but became a submarine depot ship in 1912. Captured by the Germans in 1918 (in Sevastopol) she was given to the Royal Navy, and was later recaptured by the white Russians, and when they evacuated Crimea in 1920, the Bolsheviks. Dvenadsat Apostolov was used in 1925 during the filming of “The Battleship Potemkin” and scrapped in 1931.


Displacement & Dimensions 8,700t standard; 102,24 x 18.29 x 8.38 m

Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 8 cyl. Boilers, 8,500 hp. 15.3 knots

CT: 8 in, Barbettes 12 in, Battery 5 in, belt 14 in

Armament (original): 4x 12-in, 4x 6-in, 12x 3pdr, 4x 1-pdr, 6x 15 in TTs aw.

Crew: 611 men.

Gangut (1890)

Second “Gangut” of that name, she was designed as a smaller version of the Imperator Aleksandr II, on the instruction of Navy Minister, Ivan Shestakov. This was to make her a cheaper vessel ideal for the shallow water of the Baltic Sea, but still had the range top operate in the Mediterranean and Far East. In 1887 her design was developed until completion and was approved by the Marine Technical Committee in 1888. She was ordered to the New Admiralty yard in Saint Petersburg, and construction started on 29 October 1888, she was launched in July 1893 and Completed in 1894, but 600 tons over her designed displacement. The many modifications she required were never carried out. The irony was her shallow draught caused her doom: On 12 June 1897, Gangut hit an uncharted rock near Vyborg (Gulf of Finland) during an exercise. Massive flooding power loss plus her design shortcomings led to an ineffective counter-flooding, so she settled and slowly sank on her keel under 30 metres (98 ft 5 in), fortunately with no human loss. The experience ensured no ship of that kind was ever ordered again. The wreck is marked but has never been scrapped.


Displacement & Dimensions 6,590t standard; 88,32 x 18.9 x 6.4 m

Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 8 cyl. Boilers, 6,000 hp. 14.7 knots

CT: 10 in, Barbettes 9 in, Battery 5 in, belt 16 in

Armament (original): 1x 12-in, 4x 9-in, 4x 6-in, 4x 3pdr, 10x 1-pdr, 6x 15 in TTs.

Crew: 521 men.

Navarin (1891)

One of the rare Russian battleships which was sunk in action in 1905 rather than captured or shelled in Port Arthur, the Navarin was singular in more than titles: Besides four funnels in two tandem pairs because of her unusual machinery arrangement -which had her nicknamed “Zavod” (factory)- she was also heavily armoured. But machinery flaws created massive construction delays while costs rose and the Navarin was already obsolescent when in service by 1895, whereas the first trials took place in… 1891 (before launch). She sank during the battle of Tsushima, by “flying mines” laid by the Fourth Destroyer Division when chasing her off.

Tri Sivititelia (1893)

The “Three Holy Hierarchs” was an early 1890s pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, the best protected in her class with thick Harvey armour, and first fitted with a radio. She served with the Black Sea Fleet and opposed the mutiny of the Potemkin in June 1905, duelled with the SMS Goeben/Yavuz twice but ended her years in an endless refit in Sevastopol started when the February 1917 revolution broke out. Not exactly a fitting career for arguably one of the best Russian capital ships of the 1890s.

Russian Battleships of 1905

Prior to the Russo-Japanese war, the japanese should have been cautious before engaging the Russian Navy. The ratio was overwhelmingly favourable on paper to the Russians, in a situation which recalled the comparison between the USN and the Armada in 1898. Like the that case, the best Spanish units stayed in Spain. For the Russians, fleets were very far apart: The Pacific fleet was literraly at the other side of the world while the baltic and black sea fleets were relatively close in comparison. The improbable scenario back then, was that the local Pacific fleet would be defeated by the Japanese, forcing the Baltic fleet to a harrowing travel around the world, trying to relieve the beleaguered, battered Pacific fleet trapped in port Arthur.

Respective Forces

Russian Empire

Japanese Empire

Imp.Alexander II Chin Yen
Imp.Nikolai I Hei Yen*
Dvienadsat Apostolov Fuji
Navarin Yashima
Tri Svititelia Shikishima
Sissoi Veliki Hatsuse
Petropavlovsk Asahi
Poltava Mikasa
Imp.Alexander III
21 8

Table (comparison japanese/russian fleets). Note, i excluded guardships and vessels no seaworthy enough to take place in a fleet for frontline combat or coastal ones, like the Ushakov class.
*Hei Yen was a captured Chinese vessels in 1894, a coastal armoured ship, closer to a gunboat than battleship, but it fought in the Russo-Japanese and was lost in December 1904 to a mine off Pigeon bay near port Arthur.

Petropavlovsk class (1894)

Petropavlovsk, Sevastopol, Poltava

The Petropavlovsk class were inspired from afar by the British Royal Sovereign class, while making use of French model turrets. The secondary artillery was thus distributed in twin turrets and the rest in barbettes. The danger of torpedo boats was taking care of by no less than 28 “revolver” 1-pdr guns in the armoured tops and other positions and 12 3-pdr QF guns on the decks. The hull was flush deck and vertical protection extended over 66% of the length of the vessel while horizontal protection was guaranteed by a “turtle back” ranging from 50 to 76 mm/ The protection did not exceeded 370 mm at the level of the belt, likely to minimize the impact of a torpedo, all in steel-nickel Harvey. However numerous delays ensured construction took seven years, making them nearly obsolete when completed.

All three units were sent to the Pacific Fleet, their planned station. At Port Arthur, they were became the spearhead of the fleet, under order of Admiral Makarov. Petropavlovsk attempted a sortie past Port Arthur at the start of the Russo-Japanese War and hit a mine and sank on 13 April 1904, while the other two were badly hit in the Battle of the Yellow Sea. Refugees in Port Arthur, they were subsequently shelled by the Howitzers of the Japanese army after a long, bloody and protracted siege. Sevastopol, in poor condition, was scuttled on January 2, 1905. Poltava sank alongside her moorings and was refloated after the war by the Japanese to serve as IJN Tango. But due to Japan’s alliance with the triple entente in WWI, she was returned to Russia, renamed Tchesma on April 5, 1916. She made a famous journey from Vladivostock to the White Sea (Arctic) via the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal and the North Sea. But she was not in active service again until February 3, 1917, rearmed (6x 6-in, 2x 3-in AA), was seized by the Allies in 1918, and BU by the Soviets in 1923.

Specifications (as built 1899)

Displacement & Dimensions: 11,350 standard t – 112.70 x 21.3 x 7.8 m

Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 16 cyl. boilers, 11,250 hp. 16.5 knots

Armor: CT 203mm, Decks 50-76mm, 370mm belt, 305-254-120mm turrets

Armament: 4 x 305 mm, 12 x 152 mm, 12x 3pdr, 28x 1-pdr, 6x 18-in TTs, 60 mines

Crew 630 men.

Started at Nicolaiev in 1895 and completed in 1898, Rostislav was a near-sister ship of Sissoi Veliki (1894). She differed from the first by a few details: With a lower draft of nearly a meter and light armor. Having comparable machinery, she was hardly faster. But the biggest difference with Sissoi Veliki was her main armament, reduced to 234mm instead of 305mm main guns. In fact, in 1914, this was of questionable war value and the battleship was sent in reserve in August 1914, still in the Black Sea. Reactivated, she was intensively engaged in operations, in particular to compensate for the absence of other more modern battleships. Between two sorties, her armament was modernized significantly: Her torpedo tubes were removed, her light artillery was removed in favor of four 75 mm AA (3-in). In 1917 she duelled with Yavuz (ex-Goeben) and Turkish coastal fortifications. Like other ships in Sevastopol, her career was eventful: In April 1918, she fell under Ukrainian control and flag. She was then captured by the Germans during their advance, then by the British after the German capture. She was then rendered unusable by machinery sabotage in April 1919 to prevent capture by the Bolsheviks. She was recaptured by White Russians during the Crimean offensive and used as a coastal battery, and permanently scuttled in November 16, 1920, in Kerch.

Specifications (1914)

Displacement & Dimensions 10,140 standard t; 107.2 x 20.7 x 6.7 m

Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 12 cyl. boilers, 8,700 hp. 15.6 knots.

Armor: CT 152 mm, decks 51-65 mm, turrets 254 mm, belt 254 mm

Armament: 4×254 mm, 8×152 mm, 4×76 mm AA.

Crew: 650 men.

Peresviet class (1898)

Pobeda before the war, colorized by Irootoko jr.

The only survivor of a class of three units with the Osliaba and Pobedia, Peresviet had also taken part in the Russo-Japanese war, but was sold to the Russians in 1916. The Peresviet marked a turning point in the design of Russian battleships: Much more larger than the previous Petropavlovsk, or the contemporary Rostislav, they were not excessively heavier, in particular due to minimal protection given their large hull. Their prow was one level higher and their wide and flared section “à la Française” like the model of their turrets, and the secondary and tertiary artillery in barbettes on two levels, which by counting the parts of the bridge, made it. three. Despite their high freeboard and satisfactory stability, they were not of a happy design in terms of protection and did not have exceptional speed, which was amply demonstrated during the Russo-Japanese War, where the three units were lost: The Peresviet was with the Pobedia at Port Arthur in February 1904 during the Japanese attack.

Repaired, the Peresviet took part in the Battle of the Yellow Sea, badly damaged by enemy fire, and was still under repair at Port Arthur during the siege of Japanese troops. These 280 mm Howitzers of the siege artillery made it totally useless, after a total of 23 shells received. Yet it was thought necessary to scuttle it. The Osliaba on its side was engaged in the battle of Tsushima, and sunk during an artillery duel on May 27, 1905. The Pobedia on its side, jumped on one of the mines in front of Port Arthur, on April 13, 1904, was repaired, then took part in the Battle of the Yellow Sea in June. She was hit there, but less severely than the Peresviet, but was later sunk by the siege Howitzers on December 7. The Peresviet and the Pobedia were refloated and repaired by the Japanese, becoming the Suwo and Sagami. In 1916, the renamed Sagami Peresviet was returned to the Russians. She ran aground on a reef on May 26 off Vladivostock, then was transferred to the Black Sea via Suez. He jumped on a U73 mine in front of Port Said on January 4, 1917.


Displacement & Dimensions 12,683 t standard; 132.43 x 21.8 x 8 m

Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 22 Belleville boilers, 15,000 hp. and 18 knots.

Armor, Blockhouse 152 crew, 75 bridges, 230 turrets, 100 battery, 120 casemates, 230 mm belt

Armament (Aurora, 1914) 4 guns of 305 mm, 11 of 152 mm, 20 of 76 mm, 8 guns of 37 mm, 5 TLT 356 mm

Crew 752 men.

“Pantelimon” in 1914 was much better known as Potemkin: “Kniaz Potemkin Travicheski” in fact, named after the count who was the favorite of the insatiable Catherine II. The battleship for her part was started in Nikolaiev for the Black Sea Fleet in 1898, and completed in November 1903. Technically, she was very compact, with large French model turrets, a double casemate deck, and reinforced armor. As a result, she seemed much smaller than the previous Peresviet, yet still heavy. She will not have the opportunity to demonstrate thess qualities during the Russo-Japanese war, to which she was not invited.

On the other hand, news of the defeat and infiltration of the crew by Bolshevik elements led to discontent, which exploded on June 14, 1905 in Odessa. The allegedly “inedible Borscht” became a pretext for the mutineers to seize the ship. The famous mutiny, staged in the no less famous film “Battleship Potemkin” by Sergei M. Eisenstein (1925), remains one of the key moments in history. Renamed Pantelimon after the mutiny, in 1914 her bow TT was removed as well as four 3-pdr guns and her military masts. She participated in Black Sea Fleet operations. In Februaryy 1917, revolutionaries renamed her Potemkin again, and in April, Boretz za Svobodu. She received two 76 mm AA (3-in), and was temporarily Ukrainian in 1918 before being captured by the Germans, turned to the British after the capitulation, sabotaged in 1919, recaptured by the Bolsheviks, never repaired and eventually BU in Germany in 1922.


Displacement & Dimensions 12,582 standard t; 115.36 x 22.25 x 8.23 ​​m

Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 22 Belleville boilers, 10,600 hp. 16.6 knots

Armor: Blockhouse 230mm, Decks 75mm, turrets 254mm, battery 120mm, casemates 152mm, belt 230mm

Armament: 4x 305 mm, 16x 152 mm, 20x 76 mm, 2x 47 mm, 4x 381 mm TTs (sub)

Crew 750 men.

Retvisan (1900)

She was a three-funneled flush deck ship and arguably the best Russian Battleship so far. Although she had a strong “family connection” appearance with Pantelimon (ex-Potemkine), Retvisan was completely different in many ways, but perhaps her dimensions. She hard 12-in guns in french-style turrets, the same as in Pantelimon, but less secondary guns, twelve instead of sixteen 6-in guns, four on the main deck battery and four of the corners of the upper casemate battery. She compensated by more light guns, twenty 11-pdr guns (3 in), no 3-pdr but eight 1-pdr instead (37 mm) plus six 15-inches (356 mm) torpedo tubes instead of five, four above water and two underwater/ The decks also received rails to carry 45 mines.

she had a complete belt, with a lower strake 4 feets below, to 3 feets above, 9 inches with a 5 inches lower edge, with 7 inches bulkheads closing the citadel and a taperede down belt to 2 inches. The armour deck was made of alloy steel, 2-inches thick with 3 inches slopes. Rstvisan was in the pacific fleet in 1904; She was torpedoed during the night battle, repaired, and took part in the battle of the Yellow sea. Badly damaged she was finished off by Japanese artilery inside Port Arthur. Raised by the latter, she became after repair and recommission, the Battleship IJN Hizen. She participated in WWI and ended as target in 1924.


Displacement & Dimensions: 13,516 standard t; 118.5 x 23.2 x 7.92 m

Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 20 Belleville boilers, 16,500 hp. and 18.5 knots max.

Armor: , Belt 190, Turrets 254-152 mm; Crew 593 men.

Armament: 4x 305 guns, 12x 152 mm guns, 20x 76 guns, 20x 47 mm guns, 4x 356 mm TTs (uw)

crew 200

Tsesarevich (1901)

Tsessarevich was the only capital ship of the Russian fleet entirely built in France, at La Seyne naval yard. More importantly, she was a sort of prototype for the Russian-built Borodino-class battleships (Or Slava). Aong others, her short bow and stern (the stern main guns almost reached the end of the stern deck) and considerable tumblehome, high freeboard and thick military masts were all typical of the “French style”. She also had the “lozenge” style secondary gun arrangement, with two twin turrets on either side, and four on the corners. Most of her 11-pdr were in casemates along the main battery deck. She underwent a rocky service life starting at Port Arthur, fighting the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, the Battle of the Yellow Sea and later interned to Tsing-Tao. She was returned to the Russian Navy in 1914, and was in the Baltic Fleet while her crew mutinied in 1917. She took part in the battle of the Moon Sound but was later seized by the Bolsheviks, and fought for the “Reds” as Grazhdanin during the civil war. She was scrapped in 1924.


Displacement & Dimensions: 13,516 standard t; 118.5 x 23.2 x 7.92 m

Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 20 Belleville boilers, 16,500 hp. and 18.5 knots max.

Armor: , Belt 190, Turrets 254-152 mm; Crew 593 men.

Armament: 4x 305 guns, 12x 152 mm guns, 20x 76 guns, 20x 47 mm guns, 4x 356 mm TTs (uw)

crew 200

Borodino class (1901)

This class of powerful battleships, which equipped the three fleets (Baltic, Black Sea, Pacific) paid a heavy price in the Russo-Japanese war: Of 6 identical battleships, launched in 1901-1903 and completed in 1904-1905, only two survived the war, Orel being captured by the Japanese and served until 1922 under the name of IJN Iwami. Slava was therefore the sole remainder of the class in 1914 in Russian service. The Slava was the last of her class of large and slow ships derived from the Tsessarevich built in France. These were therefore still influenced by this design, notably their impressive tumblehome. Their armor was thicker in general, but distributed in a less efficient way (which weighed heavily on their seakeeping). Slava served in the Baltic during WWI. She notably operated many times in the Gulf of Riga. She had modified her main guns mounts modified so she can raise them up to 30°. During her duel with SMS König, the latter had the same artillery caliber but only 16° elevation, so Slava could reach her from further, added to a technique of partial flooding to increase her range artificially. During the Battle of Moon Is., this was the precision of German fire and density that got the better of the Russian battleships: At 10 guns against 4, the game was uneven. Damaged above the waterline and flooded, Slava sank slowly, while it was still possible to tow her safely. It was decided to scuttle her by torpedoes coming from a destroyer, on October 17, 1917.


Displacement & Dimensions 13,516 standard t; 121 x 23.2 x 8 m

Propulsion 2 propellers, 2 mach. VTE, 20 Belleville boilers, 16,300 hp. and 17.8 knots max.

Armor, Blockhouse crew 200, Belt 190, Turrets 254-152 mm; Crew 593 men.

Armament 4 x 305 guns, 12 x 152 mm guns, 20 x 76 guns, 20 x 47 mm guns, 4 TLT 356 mm (Surf. SM)

Orel in Kronstadt, colorized by Irootoko jr.

Borodino, colorized by Irootoko jr.

Defeat and consequences

In 1904, the Russian Navy was considered by all experts of the time as a first rate naval power, on paper able to project a large battleship force of three full-strenght squadrons (21 ships), and many long range cruisers, some among the most powerful in the world, as the Rurik. Obtaining Port Arthur after the post Sino-Japanese war negociations was both a blessing and a curse for the Russian Navy. A blessing for this strategic location would bring far more weight to the Russian eastern expansion and ambitions in the region.

In winter indeed Vladivostock’s harbour was frozen over, and it was remote compared to the “hot areas” of the Yellow sea, Korea, and Northern China. Port Arthur allowed to dominate the Yellow sea. But it was also a curse: Suddenly, the port needed to be defended and the Russian navy, until then stretched between the Baltic and Black sea, had to further divide the Imperial Fleet. On paper, the most likely enemies were the Royal Navy and Japanese Navy, and certainly more likely the latter. So it was planned to muster in Port Arthur a force of at least six battlehips and plans were made this way already in the late 1890s.

But nothing could have prepared Russian opinion for the debacle and public humiliation that was the result of this war. This unprecedented disaster at many level largely participated in the fall of the regime in 1917, after the first attempted revolution in 1905, so just after the war. Because not only many Russian battleships were destroyed in combat (they fought well nevertheless, and Togo at first committed several errors), but many were also captured, something unheard of in recent military history: Captured ships were commonplace at the time of wooden ships, after battles such as Trafalgar and Aboukir, but noone could have imagine this happening in the XXth Century.

In a concrete way, the war discredited the Russian Navy to the world’s stage, and more so to the Russian populace itself. Both corruption and clientelism or favoritism were fingers pointed, and Russian practically lost their ideal Pacific access, since Vladisvostok was way further north, outside the Yellow Sea, in the much more contested sea of japan. The last and most obvious consequence was the loss of the bulk of the fleet. After most ships had been sent in the Pacific, there were only seven battleships left between the Baltic and Black sea. New programs were needed urgently, while a few months into 1906, the British launched HMS Dreadnought.

Caught off-guard, the Russians launched the Evstafi class, practically a repeat of the previous Retvisan, and the transitional, semi-dreanoughts imperator Pavel class. They were obsolete at completion and when the war broke out in 1914, the Russian Navy was back to 11 ships, plus four dreadnoughts in completion and four more started. The Russian Navy was the only one not to have any dreadnought in service by August. Caught in a merciless land war which turned badly, the Tsarist Army started to collapse in 1916, dooming any prospects of buiding new ships, while the Imperatritsa Maria class was never commissioned, and the Borodino class battlecruisers never completed.

WW1 Russian Battleships (1906-1917)

The second battleship brigade in 1912-1914, colorized by Irootoko.jr

Russian Empire

Imperator Alexander II
Tri Svititelia
Ioann Zlatoust
Imperator Paveil
Andrei Pervoswanni
Total: 11(+4)

*About to enter service bewteen November 1914 and January 1915, 4 more in construction.

Evstafi class battleships (1906)

Evstafi, Ioann Zlatoust

The total defeat suffered by the Pacific fleet, then the entire baltic fleet in the hands of the Japanese in 1905 not only durably harmed the regime’s authority outside but weakened it inside as shown by the Potemkine mutiny and popular bread walks suppressed by force. This will re-emerge in 1917 and bring the Romanov dynasty to its knees. For the Navy, lessons had been learnt, and when designing the next pre-dreadnought, still on the basis of the Potemkine class (1903) but larger and with many modifications that much delayed their completion to 1911. By then they were hopelessly outmatched and stayed in the black fleet, facing the Turkish navy as possible opponent and their career was relatively short, as both has been scrapped in 1922, barely after ten years of service.

Specifications (1914)

Displacement & Dimensions 12,800 standard t; 118 x 22.55 x 8.23 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 22 cyl. boilers, 10,800 hp. 16.5 knots.
Armor: CT 9 in, decks 9 in, turrets 10 in, belt 9 in
Armament: 2×2 12 in, 4x 8 in, 12x 6 in, 14 x 11-pdr, 6x 3-pdr, 3x 18-in TTs.
Crew: 880 men.

Pervoswanni class battleships (1906)

These two ships (Imperator Pavel I and Andrei Pervosvanni) the last Russian classic battleships. They were started at the Baltic shipyards and Galernii, to serve in the Baltic fleet, and had been designed in light of the Russo-Japanese war. We had finished with the French influence (apart from the turrets) on the designs of hull and armor, and these two units, started in April 1903 and 1904 were modified profoundly along the way, which explains their launch delayed for three years. They were not completed until July and September 1910, at a time when the dreadnoughts were in favor of the admiralties.

Their protection was complete, without cuts or privileged areas, their hull without portholes, their deck was continuous and their tertiary artillery grouped in barbettes raised on the battery deck. Their masts incorporated the “basket” system developed in the USA which in theory gave them great resistance to the wind while being light. (In fact they suffered too much from strong vibrations, which rendered ineffective the efforts of the shooters at the top of the masts and were later replaced by single masts from the height of the funnels in 1916-17).

Their career in the Baltic during the Great War was rather timid, and they saw their 47 mm artillery withdrawn in favor of two 75 mm AA guns and the laying of anti-torpedo nets. After the revolution of February 1917, the Pavel I was renamed Respublika, and remained at anchor in Kronstadt, inactive until its demolition in 1923. The Pervosvanni was for its part very active during the revolution, in the hands of the “reds” . It was in Kronstadt when it was attacked on August 18, 1919 by British torpedo boats, and badly hit by CMB 88. It was later stripped of its 120 mm and it remained inactive until its demolition in 1924.


Displacement & Dimensions: 17,400 t standard; 140.20 x 24.4 x 8.20 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 22 Belleville boilers, 18,000 hp. and 17.5 knots max.
Armor: Blockhouse 203, decks 100, Battery 160, Turrets 203-152, Belt 220 mm;
Crew 933 men.
Armament: 4x 305, 14x 203, 12x 120, 8x 47 mm, 3x 457 mm TTs (uw)

Gangut class battleships (1911)

Gangut, Petropavlovsk, Poltava, Sevastopol

These vessels were the first Russian Dreadnoughts. They were ordered by Tsar Nicolas II in person, and this despite the real sling of the Duma (the embers of the 1905 revolts were not yet extinguished, and these new battleships were considered to be another expensive madness of the Tsar.). The navy was also still tainted with the discredit resulting from the Russo-Japanese war. However, these buildings were programmed as early as 1906, when the HMS Dreadnought came out. Their plans were prepared and discussed at length. The invitation to tender generated by the admiralty in 1906 had brought back 51 plans, coming from 6 national yards, and 21 foreign ones, and numerous engineers. Finally the choice was made between the plans of Blohm & Voss, and those of Vittorio Cuniberti, the inspiration of the Dreadnought. The latter was finally rejected on the grounds that it proposed a secondary armament in turrets and not in barbettes as specified by the specifications.

Finally, the admiralty opted for a unique and original configuration at the time, that of a main artillery placed at the same level and composed of triple turrets. The German plans had been reworked with the assistance of engineers from the English shipyards John Brown, but also the advice of Cuniberti. An original so-called “Baltic dreadnought” compromise was reached, in which the armor gave way at speed. The construction order, which was to be initially passed in Germany, met with strong opposition from parliament, but also from France, through the voice of its ambassador. The admiralty was forced by the Prime Minister to place an order with the two major shipyards in Saint-Petersburg, The admiralty shipyards and the Baltic shipyards, specially adapted with two large basins each. These four ships, the Gangut, the Petropavlovsk, the Poltava and the Sevastopol, were launched at the same time on June 16, 1909, and accepted into service in November and December 1914.

Having a 12-piece plank of 305mm (of the excellent Obukhov model) all on the base plane of the deck, with a low center of gravity, and a long, extremely tapered hull, we had an excellent capable vessel. full 12-piece broadside (which was still rare at the time) while being very stable and fast. The casemate batteries were not satisfactory in service, because they were too low and lacking in effect in heavy weather. Due to the imposing presence of the four turrets, the superstructures were spartan, reduced to a few bridges grafted onto armored towers. The very light boilers were of the new Yarrow model, allowing a saving in size and weight. The speeds were excellent, the Poltava arriving at the tests to reach 24.5 knots in light displacement, its machines developing 52,000 hp.

Another originality was that they were fitted on plans with lattice towers of the model developed for the Pervozvanni, but in the light of the tests and excessive vibrations of the latter on these two battleships, they were finally fitted with single reinforced masts. On the other hand, the icebreaker bow, specific to Russia, was retained. However, none of these excellent vessels were in line by August 1914. Their arrival in service in 1912 would have posed a formidable potential threat to the Hochseeflotte. But the problems of rigidities of the hull, associated with the procrastination between the design office and the admiralty, administrative red tape and delays, meant that more than two years elapsed before the completion of these ships after their launch and that their unit cost rose to two million rubles at the time.

Petropavlovks in Helsingfors

Operational at the beginning of 1915 they were already obsolete, outclassed by the new battleships aligned by Germany and the Royal Navy. What is more, these ships had a career confined to the Baltic, closed by the German fleet, and rather disappointing. All four were assigned to the 1st Battleship Brigade based in Helsingfors (present-day Helsinki). Apart from Gangut and Petropavlovsk, which provided cover for the minelayers ventured near Gotland, the other two remained in coastal waters in defense of the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. All except the Gangut were rearmed in 1916-17 by receiving 4 pieces of 47 mm AA, one on each turret, then in 1917 on the four, two pieces of 76 or 63 mm AA on the extreme front and rear turrets. Their anti-torpedo nets were also removed and they received a new director of fire. Their active career changed dramatically with the eruption of the revolution of 1917:

In July-August 1917, the crews led by the Bolshevik elements passed over to the “reds”. They did not make an sortie, based in Helsingfors, but when the army was demobilized in 1919, they had to flee in April and take refuge in Kronstadt to avoid the threat of British seizure. The Petropavlovsk alone had enough experienced officers to conduct cover sorties to protect the passage of the rest of the Red Fleet in Kronstadt. Its large guns kept the English destroyers at bay. On August 17, 1918, however, he was the victim of a night-time attack by English stars including the CMB 31 and CMB 88 who put their 4 torpedoes on target. Badly protected, the Petropavlovsk sank and landed on the bottom.

The other three battleships suffered from a lack of maintenance which caused a devastating fire on the Poltava at the dock in November 1919. Too damaged, it was left docked until 1925, when its hull was expected to be used for testing. shooting. Renamed Frunze the following year, it was decided to repair it to make it operational, which in the end only happened very slowly. In 1936, this project was abandoned, and it remained docked as a utility hull (sunk in 1941). The other three were renamed in the 1920s and rebuilt. The Gangut became the Oktyabrskaya Revoluciya, the Petropavlovsk, Marat, and the Sevastopol, Parizhkaya Kommuna. They were the spearhead of the new Soviet navy on the eve of World War II

Parizhskaya Kummuna, former Sevastopol before her reconstruction.


Displacement & Dimensions: 23,360 t standard, 25,850 t. PC. ; 181.20 x 26.6 x 9.2 m
Propulsion: 4 propellers, 4 mach. VTE, 25 Yarrow boilers, 42,000 hp. and 23 knots max.
Armor: Blockhouse 254, Belt 230, Turrets 203-127 mm, Bridges 76 mm, Barbettes 203 mm;
Armament: 12 x 305 (4×3), 16 x 120 mm guns, 4 x 47 mm guns, 4 TLT 457 mm (SM)
Crew 1126 men.

Imperatritsa Mariya class battleships (1913)

Imperatristsa Mariya in Sevastopol.

This second class of Russian dreadnoughts was, to save time, closely derived from the Gangut, however a number of faults of the latter were avoided. For a time (early 1911) a type of battleship capable of 22 knots and armed with 355 mm guns was imagined to face the Turkish Resadiye-class battleships commanded from England, but the Admiralty rejected this proposal in order to concentrate on a type of building close to the Gangut, with a higher caliber artillery but better protection. The hybrid Gangut design was abandoned and the solution to contain the tonnage was to restrict the dimensions. The Obukhov arsenals not being able in time to develop the expected 355 mm, we fell back on the tested 305 mm. But as a result, even with a generous 12-gun battery, the artillery was of less range and effectiveness than other contemporary dreadnoughts.

As expected, the armor was considerably reinforced. The belt was doubled, the turrets, the blockhouse, the barbettes, the bridge received from 20 to 100 mm of additional armor. In the end, the three Mariya, planned for the Black Sea and built in Nikolayev (Russud sponsored and supported by John Brown and the standard shipyard by), weighed 22,600 tons as standard against 23,360 for the Gangut, their width being increased and their length reduced. The hydrodynamics of the hull were less good and as a result, the speed reached was lower (21 knots against 23 and more) with it is true a much lower engine power (26,500-27,000 hp against 42,000). The layout of the secondary artillery and its composition had changed to cope with this criticism of the Gangut. 130 mm 55 caliber in well-protected casemates were adopted rather than the 120 mm of the Gangut considered too weak compared to the 152 mm of the other dreadnoughts of the time. Finally, it was thought for a moment to equip them with lattice masts, but it was quickly abandoned. Generally speaking, the colossal budgets allocated to the Gangut had severely restricted the admiralty’s possibilities. The Mariya were thus “cheap battleships” intended for a fleet (from Sévastopol) little worried by an aging Turkish navy.

These three buildings were started on October 30, 1911, launched in November 1913 (Imperatritza Mariya), April 1914 (Volya, ex-Imperator Alexander III), and June 1914 for the Imperatritsa Ekterina II Velikaya (Ex-Ekaterina II). They were completed respectively in July and October 1915 (Mariya and Ekaterina) and June 1917 for the Volya. The latter was then renamed in completion due to the February revolution. The first two allowed the Black Sea fleet to be in superiority over the Turkish fleet and to enshrine operations of bombardment of the coasts and forts of Turks and Bulgarians while preventing an exit of the Turkish fleet. Finally, the Imperatritsa Mariya was very very seriously damaged by the explosion of a bunker at the quayside on October 20, 1916. It sank in the port and was considered unrecoverable. Her hull was later refloated and demolished in 1922. For her part the Ekaterina velikaya was also renamed on April 29, 1917 Svobodania Rossiya. Later, it fell into the hands of the Bolsheviks and left Sevastopol threatened by the German forces towards Novorrossiisk, in April 1918, then when this last city fell in its turn, it is the destroyer Kerch who torpedoed it to avoid a capture.

The Volya for its part quickly flew the Ukrainian flag, but the Bolsheviks forced it to leave Sevastopol for Novorrossiisk, but it returned there two weeks later to be seized by German troops. The latter put it back into service for the account like the Volya, and the latter made only one sortie in the Bolsphore before being captured, after the capitulation, by the British. The latter then transferred him to Izmid to avoid his capture by the “Reds”, then in the “white” fleet of Admiral Wrangel in October 1919, renamed General Alekseev, very active until the capture of Crimea. It was then demolished under French control in 1936 after its sale in 1924.


Displacement & Dimensions: 22,600 t standard, 24,000 t. PC. ; 167.8 x 27.3 x 8.4 m
Propulsion: 4 propellers, 4 Parsons turbines, 20 Yarrow boilers, 26,500 hp. and 21 knots max.
Armor: Blockhouse 305, Belt 267, Turrets 305 mm, Bridges 76 mm, Barbettes 203 mm;
Armament: 12 guns of 305 (4×3), 20 of 130 mm, 8 guns of 75 mm, 4 of 47 mm, 4 TLT 457 mm (SM)
Crew: 1220 men.

Imperator Nikolai I (1916)

A fourth ship was ordered for the Black Sea Fleet, at the Russud shipyards in Nikolayev on January 28, 1915. It was the Imperator Nikolai I. It was derived from the ships of the Mariya class, but significantly larger (188 meters long overall by 28.9 wide and 27,300 tonnes light) and with increased protection, increasing by almost 50% on many key points. Falsely named Ivan Grozniy, It was launched on October 18, 1916, but never completed. Its construction was delayed when the announcement was made of the cancellation of the order for a battleship by Turkey in Brazil. After the February revolution it became the Demokratiya, and in February 1917 it was captured in the basin by the Germans. Later it was the British who seized it, and blew it up to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Reds at the end of 1919. Its wreck was dismantled in 1923.

Borodino class battlecruisers (1915)

Recreation of the Borodino class underway

Among the various capital ships planned by the Russian admiralty during WW1, the Borodino class were certainly among the most impressive. They reached a stage well beyond paper stage: They were actually launched in 1915-16, but all work was suspended in early 1917, and by October, ceased completely due to the revolution and subsequent civil war and later broke up for spare metal in 1922. That was the fate of many other ships started too late, like the Svetlana class cruisers (completed in the 1920s), Nakhimov class (two completed out of four), or the battleship Imperator Nikolai I. However, this should not prevent to study these unique attempts to contest the Baltic to the Kaiserliches Marine’s battlecruisers. They could have easily take on the latest Germany had to offer if completed in 1917, with quite a powerful armament, unrivalled at the time. The most advanced Izmail (which often gave its name to the class) was long considered by the Bolsheviks for completion, including an aircraft carrier, but nothing came out of it. All four battlecruisers were named after famous Russian naval battles.

Projected Battleships (1915-17)

Startin in 1908 already, the Russian admiralty looked at various dreadnought designs, the first of which, inspired by the Italian Dante Aligheri, was the Gangut class, the last “four triple” gun design, after the Austrian Tegetthoff class. To gain time, mostly as superfiring turret solutions were really new for large turrets at that time, they were all paced at deck level. The Gangut was out while both the Cesare and Tegetthoff, which used superfiring twin or small triple turrets already were also in completion. The admiralty, which urgently needed more dreadnoughts, at least four for each fleet, just ordered a repeat for the next class, shorter with a thicker and better distributed armor (destined to the Baltic). In between, quantities of designs had been studied and Russian planned battlecruiers as well, a project which went all the way to near completion stage, interrupted by the Revolution. So, from 1914 to 1917, quantities of dreadnoughts and battlecruiser designed were studied and planned for the admiralty by naval engineers and officers. Here are some of these:

Bubnov’s designs

In 1914, Ivan Grigoryevich Bubnov was the engineer responsible for the Gangut-class battleships. He also offered another design to the Russian navy. In 1914, as the Gangut were completed and the Mariya were in construction, all armed with twelved 12-in guns, he came with a naval superiority design of twelve 16-inches guns, while the most powerful dreadnoughts in completion at that time were armed with 13.5 to 14 inches. This was Project GUK, mentioned in Russian and Soviet Battleships, Naval Institute Press 2003 or Last Giants of the Imperial Russian Fleet. Judged too ambitious, it was unsurprisingly rejected but some of its ideas were also common to the Borodino class battlecruisers. The main concept was the use of not four, but three quadruple turrets, so the shorten the hull and concentrate armor, something the Ganguts were sorely lacking. Apparently, the project was seriously considered, 8 units planned to be laid down by mid-1915 for the baltic and black sea or the pacific. The project was later postponed until 1922. Here are their known specs:


Displacement: Standard – 34,300/35,600 tons, 38,660 tons FL
Dimensions: 210.0 x 32.6 x 9.15/9.83 m
Armament: 12x 16″/45, 20x 130mm/55, 4x 100mm/37 AA, x12 450mm torpedo tubes
Armour: Belt 280+75 (KC), decks 35+75, barbettes 375/250, turrets 400/250, CT 400/250mm
Propulsion: 4 shafts 67,500 h.p. 25 knots, 3,800 tons oil range 5000nm/15 kts

Putilov’s 1914 Projects

A second project of 1914 was proposed by the Putilov shipyard, and 9 sub-proposals or variants, all with assistance of Blohm and Voss. Three of these called for triple turrets and 14-inch guns, and six others involved 9-12 16-inch guns, ranging overall between 12x 14-inch and 12x 16-inch guns for the largest, their displacement calculated between 39,400 and 47,100 tons, 23 knots and from 5 to 11 boilers. One of their main feature was to use this time superfiring turrets, albeit far apart. Just like Bubnov’s proposal, project nine also had three quadruple turrets.

Six of the nine projects

The third project more in detail.

Super-dreadnought project 1915

In 1915, the Italians were planning their Carracciolo class, which construction just started, armed by eight 16-in guns, while the british had an ambitious naval plane for ten “super-dreadnoughts” even before the war, the Queen Elisabeth and Revenge classes. To not to be undone, the Russian Admiralty planned a class initially scheduled for commission in 1918 of at least four “super-dreadnoughts” of their own. These were to be aso a complement to the Borodino class battlecruisers. Their displacement was estimated to be around 45,000 tons, for 30 knots, about 265 x 34.4 x 9.1 m (869′ x 113′ x 30′), sixteen 16-inch guns in four quad turrets, fourteen 6-inch in casemates, four 3-inch, four 18-inch torpedo tubes, and Armor including a 12-inch belt, 16-inch barbettes, 17.7-inches conning tower.

Kostenko black sea fleet design 1917

A late war designed by one of the best Russian engineers: V.P. Kostenko. It is semi-official as the Navy obtained none of the documents asked for, but it survived. However any construction was doomed by the dire conditions of the Russian army in 1916-17 Russia. This was however Russia’s post-Jutland battleship, and four version were prepared:
V1: 42,360 tons, 252 x 30 x 10.1 m, 8x 16″/45, 20x 6″/50, Belt – 250+100mm, 144,000 h.p. 31.5 knots
V2: 44,000 tons, 240m and same, 9x 16″/45, 20x 6″/50, Belt – 275+100mm, 120,000 h.p. 30 knots
V3: 43,600 tons, same as 1, 10x 16″/45, 20x 6″/50, Belt – 300+100mm, 96,000 h.p. Speed – 28 knots
V4: 45,000 tons, 230 x 30 x 10.1 m, 12x 16″/45, 20x 6″/50, Belt 325+100mm, 72,000 h.p., speed 25 knots

Read More/Src

R. Gardiner, Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1905 & 1906-1921
Amazing colorized photos by Iroo toko

Battleship Development in Russia from 1905 to 1917, Sergei E. Vinogradov (Warship International) on JSTOR
On russian

Borodino class battlecruisers (1915)

Russia (1915) Borodino, Izmail, Kinburn, Navarin

The First Russian Battlecruisers

artistic rendition of the Borodino
Artistic rendition of the Borodino, if completed.

Among the various capital ships planned by the Russian admiralty during WW1, the Borodino class were certainly among the most impressive. They reached a stage well beyond paper stage: They were actually launched in 1915-16, but all work was suspended in early 1917, and by October, ceased completely due to the revolution and subsequent civil war and later broke up for spare metal in 1922. That was the fate of many other ships started too late, like the Svetlana class cruisers (completed in the 1920s), Nakhimov class (two completed out of four), or the battleship Imperator Nikolai I. However, this should not prevent to study these unique attempts to contest the Baltic to the Kaiserliches Marine’s battlecruisers. They could have easily take on the latest Germany had to offer if completed in 1917, with quite a powerful armament, unrivalled at the time. The most advanced Izmail (which often gave its name to the class) was long considered by the Bolsheviks for completion, including an aircraft carrier, but nothing came out of it. All four battlecruisers were named after famous Russian naval battles.

Izmail in construction in St Petersburg, 1915.

Design development

After the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the Russian Naval General Staff decided fast armoured cruisers were desirable, notably to do their own version Admiral Tōgō’s battleline done to them at Tsushima, crossing the T. The Naval Staff at first concentrated on high speed (28 knots) but above the average armoured cruiser with a main armament of 305 mm (12 in) guns. To save speed, protection was light, at best 190 mm (7.5 in) for the belt. The Tsar approved four of these on 5 May 1911. However the State Duma session ended before the vote was taken, and it was reported on 1912.

Meanwhile, preliminary bids were offered to private builders, both in Russia and foreign ones, but they were quite too optimistic and received no responses, leading the writing of more reasonable requirements. The Naval Staff issued this on 1st July 1911. Top speed was downgraded to 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph), but armour raised to 254 mm (10 in) in response. The more interesting aspects was the main, armament jumping to nine 356 mm (14 in) guns instead of 12-in, and in three deck-level triple turrets. This last one was due to incorrect intelligence that the Germans were choosing this caliber for their next battleships. The Russian Navy also justified the choice of widely separated turrets and magazines lowered the chance of a catastrophic ammunition explosion. This also allowed to make a lower profile, smaller target, and improving stability, thus, accuracy as well. The new design became in short an elongated Gangut with just one less turret and much more power output.

The Naval Ministry sent to 23 yard’s the last bid on 8 September 1911, but only 7 responded after an extra month. Several were rejected outright as not meeting the new specs, while new revisions were added by the Russian Artillery Section of the Main shipbuilding Administration. They settled indeed on a four-turret design. This revision was communicated in May 1912 to the seven bidders of the first round. The winner was the Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg. They sticked to the proven triple turret design, but managed to add one more, obtaining the same number of guns as the quadruple turret design, twelve.

Construction start
The Duma this time approved the construction of four ships based on this design in May 1912, with more facility as it was a domestic one. The design was finalised while 45.5 million rubles were allocated for each hull. The fourth gun turret however stretched the ships and tonnage, and they ended overbudget at 7 million rubles more for each, but to hide this, some of the budget was officially redirected for the Svetlana-class cruisers. Final Orders were placed on 18 September 1912. A pair of each one were laid down at the Admiralty Shipyard and to at the Baltic Works, all in Saint Petersburg. The first pair was launched and ready to start trials on 14 July 1916, and the second scheduled for 14 September 1916.
As named, these were the :
-Borodino (Admiralty Yard): 19/12/1913, launched 1.7.15
-Izmail (Baltic Yard): 19/12/1913, launched 27.6.15
-Kinburn (Baltic Yard): 19/12/1913, launched 30.10.15
-Navarin (Admiralty Yard): 19/12/1913, launched 9.11.16

1913 armour Trials
Full-scale armour trials that year revealed in between a great weakness in the protection scheme proposed, as showned by the modified old ironclad Chesma using the Gangut-class scheme, then under construction. The deck and turret roof were shown well too thin, and the side armour inner supporting structure too weak to withstand the impact of 12-in shells. Since this was the same scheme applied to the Borodinos, it was called for serious revision. This of course, slowed construction much, as the ships were intended to be launched earlier in 1915. Their deck armour was thickened by adding a sandwich of extra plates and the turret roofs thickened. The planned aft conning tower was deleted to save some weight while the main belt thickness was slightly lowered. Also the internal structure was revised, using mortise and tenon joints between the armour plates and their vertical edges. This was to lower the impact stress on the supporting internal griders and general hull structure. This was responsible of a six month delay, which basically doomed the completion of these ships because of events.

Detailed overview

The Borodino-class ships measured 223.85 metres (734 ft 5 in) long overall, to compare to the 188 m of the battleship Nikolai I in construction. Their beam reached 30.5 metres (100 ft 1 in), more than 2.5 m more than the latter, so not that favourable ratio, and a draft of 8.81 metres (28 ft 11 in) fully laden. Also to improve stability, they were fitted with three Frahm anti-rolling tanks on each side. Displacement reached 32,500 long tons (33,000 t) at normal jauge, 36,646 long tons (37,234 t) fully laden, which was 6,000 tonnes more (the equivalent of a cruiser) than the Nikolai I, and 11,000 tonnes more than the Imperatritsa Mariya class. So in short, they were the largest capital ships ever designed for the Russian Navy up to that point, and stayed so until the late 1930s. This was true also compared to their latest German contemporaries, the Derrflinger class then in completion, and more even than the German Macksensen class which construction just started, which had the same caliber artillery, but only eight guns versus twelve.

Launch of Izmail, June 1915


The Borodinos were powered by four sets of steam turbines, each connected to its own propeller shaft. Steam came from 25 triangular Yarrow boilers, working at a working pressure of 17 kg/cm2 (1,667 kPa; 242 psi). Together, they produced an output of 66,000 shaft horsepower (49,000 kW), and can be forced-fired overloaded at 90,000 shp (67,000 kW). The forward boilers were in the same compartment, separated between three inner compartments and the three oil-fired boilers in each. The rear boilers were installed in four separated compartments, each with four coal-fired boilers. The latter were fitted with oil sprayers to maximize burn rate. Top speed on paper was estimated to be 26.5 knots, and by forced heating, this went to 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h; 32.8 mph) for trials (which never started). They carried 1,974 long tons (2,006 t) of coal, 1,904 long tons (1,935 t) of fuel oil for allowing for a 2,280 nautical miles (4,220 km; 2,620 mi) range at full speed and more at cruise speed, probably around 6-7,000 nm. Distances in the Baltic were shorter, so a high range was not the main objective. The Borodino class also had a consistent electrical output from six turbo generators and two diesel generators, in total rated for 320 kilowatts (430 hp). These were planed in four separated compartments on the platform deck fore and aft in pairs in between the boiler and engine rooms. These generators provided alternating current for most equipment onboard and heavy machinery like the cranes and turrets.

Sources disagree on the powerplant though. Russian sources, which states the steam turbines were ordered on 22 April 1913 from Franco-Russian Works (also in Saint Petersburg) by the Admiralty Shipyard were built and effectively delivered and installed, while some additional components were ordered abroad. Western sources states that Navarin’s turbines were ordered from from AG Vulcan, but seized when WW1 broke out, ans used in the Brummer-class light cruisers. The model was replicated already for the Gangut class, so naval historian Stephen McLaughlin estimated Russian sources to be correct, these turbine ordered from Germany were indeed used on the Brummer and Bremse.


Primary armament: Twelve 356 mm/52 (14 in) Model 1913 by Obukhoff, mounted in four electrically powered turrets placed at deck level, one of the forecastle forward, one aft, and two amidship separated by the second funnel. Basically the same configuration as Russian battleships of the time. They could elevate and traverse at 3° per second, and from −5° to +25°, while still loaded between −5° and +15°. Designed rate of fire was three rounds a minute. 80 AP and HE rounds were stored per gun, so 960 in all, 747.6 kgs (1,648 lb), exiting the barrel 731.5 m/s (2,400 ft/s). Max theoretical range was 23,240 metres (25,420 yd).

Secondary armament: Twenty-four 130 mm/55 (5.1 in) Pattern 1913 guns in casemates along the hull. They were arranged in a very particular, very “Russian” way, in two-stage at the front, and a more classic way aft. Indeed, four were located in the hull’s forecastle, beyond recesses along the upper deck, in two-story locations. The lower pair would have been exposed to heavy weather’s spray, as waves would have landed on the lower recess deck. There were two more casemates at the level of the bridge. A second pair, with more limited recesses was installed either side of the first amidship turret, and another with rear-facing recesses and limited traverse abreast the number 3 turret, and the last pair abreast the aft turret.
The guns had a maximum elevation of +20° and 15,364 metres (16,802 yd) range. They fired a 36.86 kg (81.3 lb) AP shell at 823 m/s (2,700 ft/s).

Light armament: Eight 75 mm (3.0 in) guns were mounted in pairs on the main turret roofs. They could fire star shells and tracers for main gunners training.
Light AA armament: Four 64 mm/38 (2.5 in) anti-aircraft guns were provisioned, to be installed on the upper deck. 220 rounds were stored for each, of a 4.04 kg (8.9 lb) shell fired at a muzzle velocity of 686 m/s (2,250 ft/s).
Torpedo Armament: Six underwater 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes were installed on each broadside (location unknown). Eighteen torpedoes were in store for reloads.

Fire control

The main armament was served by a 6-metre (19 ft 8 in) rangefinder which provided data for the main turrets for an aft and another 5-metre (16 ft 5 in) model, mounted on top of the conning tower. These would provide data for the Geisler central artillery post analog computer, which would then transmit commands to the gun crew.[18] The mechanical fire-control computer would have for the amidship turrets. They should have mounted either a Pollen Argo range clock (They were in purchased 1913) or a domestically designed Erikson system.


The hull called for High-tensile steel used extensively, and mild steel used for non-structural element and backing. 25 transverse watertight bulkheads were managed under and over the waterline to reduced the risk of flooding, while the engine room was separated by a longitudinal bulkhead. There was a double bottom 1.275 metres (4 ft 2.2 in) in height, while vitals of the ship were protected by a triple bottom that added an extra 875 millimetres (2 ft 10.4 in) of depth. The design called for a freeboard of 8.89 metres (29 ft 2 in) forward, 6.24 metres (20 ft 6 in) amidships and 6.49 metres (21 ft 4 in) aft.

Trials made on the modified battleship Chesma had quite a result for the armour protection design of the Russian battlecruisers: Krupp cemented-armour plates were used, but resized to match the frames newly installed during construction, and joints supports. Plates were indeed locked together with mortise-and-tenon joints. It was hope the impact energy could be better distributed and avoid disjointed plates that would let water flooding the ship.
Belt: It was protected by 237.5-millimetre (9.35 in) at the waterline on the middle section for 151.2 metres (496 ft 1 in) over 5.015 metres (16 ft 5.4 in) high, 3.375 metres (11 ft 0.9 in) above water, and 1.64 metres (5 ft 5 in) underwater. The ends tapered down to 125 mm (4.9 in). The upper belt was 100 mm (3.9 in) thick over 2.89 m (9 ft 6 in), tapered down to 75 mm forward of the casemates. It was extended to the bow.
Decks: The aft section of the forecastle deck had an upward extension of the upper belt close to the forward barbettes and upper casemates. The upper deck comprised a 37.5 mm (1.48 in) thick plating and the middle deck 40-millimetre (1.6 in) thick plates, all made of KNC, plus 25 mm nickel-steel plates (NS) over the armoured citadel.
ASW protection: Behind the side armour was located the longitudinal splinter bulkhead. It was 50 mm (2.0 in) thick between the middle and lower decks, down to 25 mm (0.98 in) in between the middle and upper decks. True underwater protection consisted in a 10 mm (0.39 in) watertight bulkhead, located behind the upward extension of the double bottom. It was thinned down towards the end turrets.
Bulkheads: The Forward casemates were protected by 100 mm transverse bulkheads. The longitudinal bulkhead sloped from the edge of the lower deck down to the lower edge of the armour belt, 75 mm thick. This was a sandwich of 50 mm Krupp non-cemented armour (KNC) above a 25 mm nickel-steel plate. The armoured forward citadel was protected separately and its transverse bulkhead 75 mm thick. The aft bulkhead was 300 mm (11.8 in) thick between the middle and lower decks. It was tapered down to 75 mm at the armour belt level.
Main gun turrets: 300 mm front, 238 mm side, 150 mm roofs (12 in, 10 in, 6 in), 50 mm gun port plates, and 25 mm internal bulkheads between the gun.
Gun barbettes: They had 247.5 mm (9.74 in) thick walls above the upper deck, but thinned down to 147.5 mm (5.81 in) behind it. What’s original is that they were shaped like truncated cones pointing downwards, in order to deflect plunging rounds.
Conning tower: Forward one only, 400 mm (15.7 in) thick walls, reduced to 300 mm below the upper deck.
Funnel uptakes: 50 mm tubes.

Construction and fate

Photoshopping of the Gangut, showing what the Izmail could have look like in service, colorized by irotooko jr.

All four battlecruiser were officially laid down on 19 December 1912, work starting in March–April 1913. A progress review was published on 4 June 1914, but the launching of the first pair of ships was delayed until October and after August, it was assessed Izmail was 43% complete, while the others were lagging behind. Delays accumulated, first with the turbines ordered abroad, not delivered, and re-ordeded to the Franco-Russian works. Also the gun turrets resting on 203 mm (8 in) roller bearings made in Germany, but their replacements in United Kingdom and Sweden could not be obtained, no company willing or able to produce these. The new 14-in guns produced by Obukhof also had problems et were not delivered, leading to alternative proposals. There was also the competition for materials and men, diverted by more pressing needs, notably field guns production and small arms. Although Three ships were launched in 1915, completion was a long way forward. mostly because the turrets lacked many crucial parts, still non-delivered plus a general shortage of steel. The Russian Imperial administration eventually reclassed them as second rank projects while construction virtually stopped in 1916. Navarin was eventually launched the last, in November 1916, just to clear off the slipway. However there were still hopes to complete the Izmail, still waiting for its main turrets throughout 1916 and 1917.

Incomplete hull of Navarin in Petrograd (ex Saint Petersburg). She was BU in Germany in 1922

Issues with the design

First off, the increased main armament stemmed from rumours about the same move in the German Navy, which probed false. It was probably the biggest issue as, together with armour scheme trials, it delayed the construction at its root, by having the blueprints completely modified to integrated an extra turret. In 1912 the fourth triple turret design was also paid in a drop of 1.5kts making the new design equal, and not superior in mobility to German battlecruisers. Emphasis standardisation of silhouette with the Gangut dreadnoughts was tried first but quickly revised for a raised forecastle to reach higher speed while preserving sea-keeping. The battlecruisers were even better armoured than the Gangut class, but this protection paled in comparison to German battlecruisers. Gangut class design issues, such as placing the 130 mm casemates directly below the heavy turrets was one crucial issue, as it repeated its shortcomings.

But overall, the Russians tried to expedite the construction of the new class by partly ordering turbines abroad, for the last pair, Navarin’s turbines from Vulkan and Kinburn’s ones from Parsons and of course after August 1914 they were never delivered. Consensus is they would have been delivered by the Franco-Russian Works like for the first pair, but both the shortage of materials and labour as Russia mobilized weighted heavily on the following program. The admiralty then took the decision to concentrate on the most advanced ship, Izmai, but only after June 1915. The three others were given low priority and work advanced slowly, although Borodino was launched just a few days after Izmail.

Also the development and introduction of the untested brand new 356 mm/52 Model 1912 guns from Obukhov Works was riddled with problems, and this, despite Vickers’ assistance in the process. This went so far as the admiralty suggested to the yards to replace the initial guns by well-proven 305 mm/52 (12 in) guns as delays to obtain the 356 mm pieces dragged on. Early in 1917, construction for all three battleship was stopped by order. Izmail however still had full priority and was scheduled for completion in early 1918. Of course the Bolshevik Revolution ruined these plans. It appeared that rearming the turrets, design for the new guns, for smaller 12-in would have cause more delays. There was also the solution of plating over part of the barbettes and install in shorter rings, turrets from the unfinished battleship Imperator Nikolai I, but that plan also would have cause delays.

A two views of the Borodino class in 1916 (below) and the original design in 1911 (top)- Unknown src Russian book, from Pinterest

Projects and fate of the incomplete hulls

After the revolution, the new government was submitted a request by the new admiralty to complete the ships. Various plans were drafted by the General Staff and in coordonation with the Main Administration of Shipbuilding. One of these was to modify the turrets in order to authorize loading at a fixed angle of +4°. This would have made their completion much faster and simpler, although detrimental to the rate of fire. Another change planned was the lengthening of the funnels by 2 m (6 ft 7 in) for smoke interference, as seen on the Gangut-class already. Other proposals included a new modern powerplant, with geared turbines and a turbo-electric drive, or the brand new Föttinger’s hydraulic transmission.

The assessement of 28 April 1917 showed Izmail was the closest to completion, with her hull complete, engines and boilers in place and 65% complete, armour 36% complete. Turretsdelivery had now been delayed around 1919. The Congress of Shipyard Workers voted to continue working on the Izmail from mid-1917, mostly to provide jobs as there was no pressing defense at sea. The Provisional Government by 24 October 1917 confirmed this concentration by halting all remaining work for good on the ships, but later on 14 December 1917 the Bolsheviks decided the workers were needed elsewhere and cancelled the Izmail as well. The civil war was about to end and by October 1921, the Bolsheviks discussed about the fate of Izmail, and even possibly Borodino. They estimated that at least two years were necessary to built the turrets for the first battlecruiser only, and if only enough guns were available. So far, ten had been delivered by Vickers before the Revolution, while Obukhof tried to completed the rest from 1912. However the poor state of the immediate post-war Soviet heavy industry doomed this project. The commission also underlined the complexity of the electrical system and the lack of skilled engineers also meant it could not be completed under the current circumstances. The commission estimated a further delay of twenty months to replace this by a simpler system. However in a general way, there was some motivation to complete the ships: They were immensely superior to the Gangut class and due to their speed and perspectives of modernization, would have fare better against 1930s fast battleships of the time.

Projects for the last two battlecruisers
The Soviets discussed also finishing Kinburn and Navarin. They thought it cold be sensible to used their hull for a much modified design, featuring 410 mm (16 in) guns in two-gun turrets which could fit in the 14-in guns barbettes and weighed even slightly less. This was rejected because acquiring these guns from Vickers was unlikely. The Domestic manufacturing was also out of question due to the state of the industry at that point, and no other foreign manufacturers had that gun caliber “in store” on offer.
The commission after ruling out this plan, studies other conversions. One, a bit outlandish, was to convert the hulls into cargo ships or passenger liners. It was also discussed of a conversion into 22,000-long-ton (22,000 t) oil barges. But the size and shape of the hulls made them ill-suited for this. In the end, after all proposals were ruled out, the commission decided the best course of action was to just sell them at scrap metal value to Germany. They were sold for scrap on 21 August 1923, giving some well-needed currency to the government.

Izmail, fist modernization proposal
Izmail, whatif modernization proposal

Aircraft Carrier Izmail
In May 1925, Izmail was still available, her hull in laying in the Baltic Yard of Petrograd. The Administration of the Soviet Navy discussed another option, more in line with international naval developments than completing a 1911 battlecruiser design. Izmail was proposed to be converted as an aircraft carrier. Indeed, there was no shortage of examples of such conversions, framed by the treaty of Washington: The US Lexington class and the Japanese Kaga and Akagi were at that time in full reconversion. The experience of the Royal Navy showed this was not only possible, but potentially can bring new capabilities to the Navy. Some schematics were drawn around the hull, which was 230 m long, more than enough to carry a roomy landing deck.

Izmail, alternative proposed CV
Izmail, alternative proposed Aircraft carrier (“aviamatka”)

As defined, specifications of the new carrier were a top speed of 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph), while the hangar carried up to 50 aircraft. The armament was also brand new, integrating eight 183-mm (7.2 in) guns in casemates, the new caliber designed for the Kirov class cruisers but also eight 102 mm guns in turrets. Armour protection was of course much reduced, down to 76 millimetres (3.0 in) for the belt. As shown by the reconstructed scheme, this was a kind of “hybrid” design typical of the time. There was little confidence to the aviation on board to defend the ship, so she was armed with the firepower equivalent of a cruiser, basically her potential escort. The guns were mounted in sponsons, in single turrets fore and aft, in tandem. In addition, eight 183 mm (7.2 in) casemate guns were kept, left in their original positions fore and aft, the forward pair being raised in the forecastle.

The flying deck was much shorted than the bow and also the stern, and narrow as the beam, but on either side for the sponson guns. The close hangar was also short, starting at the level of the island, about 1/3 from the prow. It was also stopped about 1/5 short of the stern. This would have made the accommodation of 50 planes unlikely, but only if using folding wings. The island itself was rather low, and long, and not built off-set to port but on the deck. There were two telemeters for the main artillery fore and aft of it and two tripod masts with projectors. The hangar was served by two lifts along this island. AA artillery was quite impressive for the time, presumably made of 37 mm guns, twenty in all, in four offset platforms fore and aft of the hull at flying deck level.

The “Tactical RKKF aircraft carrier had its speed set well above battleships, “so as to meet their special tasks the aircraft carrier will separate from the battleships and her condition is joining them in the shortest possible time“. The final air group, which looked more realistic, consisted of:
-12 torpedo bombers
-12 fighters
-6 Scouts and 5 artillery spotting planes.
No studies for modifying aircraft for carrier service was done, as the whole project was to be first validated.
The alternative protection included still 237 mm armor plates for the main belt, or leaving it to 76 mm, while the main flight deck was armored, at 51-64 mm armor as designed. This could have been the first carrier with an armoured flight deck, such as the British built at the end of the 1930s and the US in 1943.
Final design approximative displacement was around 20,000-22,000 tons, for a top speed of 27 knots. The schematic design of the NTK UMVS was approved on July 6, 1925.

This proposal was eventually approved by Alexey Rykov, Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissars, on 6 July 1925. However the Red Armyat the time considered it was a costly naval project not in line with the supposed defensive stance of the Navy at that time. The Red army staff therefore strongly opposed and it, managing to block the project by gaining control of the commission reviewing the needs of the Navy in December 1925. The conversion project was cancelled on 16 March 1926 and the incomplete Izmail was scrapped from 1931 in Leningrad. This was not the last aircraft carrier project of the USSR, but certainly it was the first. The Russian navy however had some experience operating seaplane carriers during WWI.

A fictional rendition of Izmail, second of the Borodino class battlecruiser in WoW, as if modernized in WW2.

Specifications (1915)

Dimensions 121 x 23.22 x 7.97m (397 ft x 76 ft 2 in x 26 ft 2 in)
Displacement 32,500 long tons standard, 38,900 FL
Crew 1250
Propulsion 4 shafts Parsons turbines, 25 Yarrow boilers, 68,000 ihp
Speed 26.5 knots (as designed)
Range 1575 t coal, 150t oil, circa 8,000 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 12 x 356mm/52 (14-in, 4×3), 24 x 130mm/55 (5.1-in), 8 x 75mm (3-in), 4 x 63mm AA, 4 MG, 6 x 533 mm TTs (21 in)
Armor Waterline belt: 238–102 mm (9.5-4 in in), Decks: 63 mm (2.3 in), Turrets: 238 mm (9.7 in), CT: 10 in (254 mm)


Conway’s all the world’ fighting ships 1906-1922
Borodino Class Battlecruisers
Breyer, Siegfried (1992). Soviet Warship Development. Volume I: 1917–1937. London: Conway Maritime Press.
Friedman, Norman (2008). Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era.
Soviet Battleships 1933-1957 an illustrated technical reference
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth.
Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906–1921.
McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.
Taras, Alexander (2000). Ships of the Imperial Russian Navy 1892–1917]. Library of Military History (in Russian).
Watts, Anthony (1990). The Imperial Russian Navy. London: Arms and Armour Press.
Crawford, Kent R. (1991). “Question 40/90”. Warship International. International Naval Research Organization. XXVIII
Haun, Claude; Ley, Michael P.; Morton, A. & Paist, Paul H. (1991). “Question 40/90”. Warship International. XXVIII

Model Kits:
-Zvezda 500789027 Model Cruiser Borodino 1:350
-Kniaz Suvorov 1/750 Eastern Express Kit review
-Combrig 1/700 Battlecruiser Izmail, 1917, resin kit
See also:

Pervozvanny class Battleships (1908)

Russia (1908) – Andrei Pervozvanny, Imperator Pavel I

The last Russian pre-dreadnoughts

The Andrei Pervozvanny class were the last Russian Imperial Navy pre-dreadnought battleships, tailored for the Baltic Fleet. They conceptualized by the Naval Technical Committee in 1903 deriving from the Borodino-class battleships but massive displacement and a secondary armament that classed them almost as “semi-dreadnoughts”. However the 1905 Russian led to many redesigns and contradictory orders and delays and they ended obsolete when entering service 1911, a whooping six years after the first Dreadnoughts was launched. In fact the Gangut class was in construction already at that time.
They were pretty inactive until the 1917 revolution, and were captured by the Bosheviks, all their officers killed in the process. They formed the bulk of the Ice Cruise of 1918, Andrei Pervozvanny helping mutineers of Krasnaya Gorka the next year. They were also instrumental in the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921, but due to the lack of money for maintenance, the Pervozvanny class battleships were just scrapped in 1923, after a mere ten years of active service.

Development and design of the Pervozvanny class

It all started with the five Borodino-class battleship planned to leave their slipways in 1904, giving the impetus from the Naval Technical Committee (NTC) to organize a conference, late in 1902 about the ambitious new Russian Navy 20-year shipbuilding program. Budgets were needed for four battleships FY1903-1904, for Black Sea Fleet (which became the Evstafi class) and two other for Baltic Fleet (our subject). Recommendations were given and the NTC chose to try a much larger versions of the Borodinos with secondary guns 8-inch in caliber (203 mm) instead of the classic 6-inch of the previous class, and more than the 7.5 in of their immediate predecessors. The first scheme asked for 16,500-long-ton (16,765 t) of displacement to reach.

Brassey’s diagram of the Pervozvanny class as completed, with the corbel masts

Early in 1903, the General Staff was proposed sketch from the designer of the Borodino class, Dmitry Skvortsov, adopting NTC design and issuing more detailed requirements:
-Main battery of two twin 12 in
-Second battery of 8-in guns in twin turrets
-Tertiary of twenty 75-mm (3 in) guns
-9-inch (229 mm) waterline belt, upper strake 7-inch (180 mm), 8 in for the base.
-Top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
-Maximum draught 26 feet (7.9 m) (for the Suez Canal).
-Lowered superstructure by one deck.

Chief engineer Skvortsov worled on the project and presented his blueprints in June 1903 and denounced the excessive drag of the hull shape imposed by Alexey Krylov. The latter eventually departed for the Far East and NTC approved the design. By July, 4, 1903 the NTC failed to inform master builder Sergey Ratnik of Baltic works about the new ships, but construction was approved. Ratnik tried to warn NTC over overweight caused by internal arrangements, adding 500–600 long tons more, dismissed in turn. In August 1903 the NTC had the final design ready after afew adjustments and on the 29, the Navy Ministry awarded construction contracts. Both Galernyi Shipyard and Baltic Works were contracted to delover respectively Andrei Pervozvanny and Imperator Pavel I.

Construction of the Pervozvanny class

Final blueprint were approved and work started by March 15 1904 for the first, while for her sister ship Imperator Pavel I it was on October 27. As usual, specialized yards were contracted for equipments, the Franco-Russian Works providing the powerplant and Coal-firing boilers. The NTC bureaucracy for some unclear reasons ordered two different specifications for the powerplants, and the first ship was laid down in May 1905, as the 1905 revolution erupted in between.

The laying-down ceremony was simply cancelled for Imperator Pavel I. Both progressed at a slow pace, with many redesign demands and counter orders, implying rework and long delays, partly due the internal situation and political changes. While Andrei Pervozvanny was completed, the yard received seventeen design changes to comply, linked notably to the removal of all apparatus for mines, since the explosion of the battleship Petropavlovsk in April 1904. These mines were intended to protect the battleships at anchor, in addition to their nets. By 9 November 1904 the use of mines on battleships was forbade and in December the stern torpedo tubes were to be discarded, keeping only the bow and broadside tubes, changed to the broadsides ones in mid-1905.

The NTC this year nevertheless inundated the yards with conflicting orders, with reports of the war. Small-calibre guns for example were to be replaced by May 1905 by more 75 mm guns and no 47 mm, using the upper-deck casemate, ans the latter were replaced in turn by 120 mm guns on 30 May after Tsushima. It was established that unarmoured plating to preserve stability generated splinters that can cripple the ammunition hoists and boiler exhausts. Additional armour was asked for, making the displacement rose to 17,151 long tons, by late 1905. In May 1906, the central 8 in turrets were replaced by single casemate guns, while gun embrasures and portholes were deleted by fear of flooding in case of a list. Ventilation and therefore habitability became an issue and guns relocations demanded many adjustments and rebuilding of the superstructure.

Andrei Pervozvanny as built in 1912 – The original and the colorized version by iroo toko jr.

Reports from the Battle of the Yellow Sea conducted the NTC to conclude that to avoid a single hit disabling a mast Lattice masts, just introduced on the South Carolina-class battleships, seemed to give a more redundant structure in case of a hit, and the yards were asked to built two per ships, making these Russian pre-dreadnoughts also the first and last with these corbel masts. The difference was the Russians decided on thinner masts, which proved troublesome in service: They vibrated and the lookouts and signals positions were plagued by smoke. It should be noted that both captains had very different opinion about them. Imperator Pavel I’s commander accepted to quickly remove them in three days while Fleet commander Admiral Nikolai Essen pressed the other to do the same in August 1914, but the ships kept their lower baskets cut at different heights.

Design of the Pervozvanny class

Hull and armour protection

The Pervozvanny class hull was subdivided in 17 transverse watertight bulkheads while the engine rooms were separated by a centerline longitudinal bulkhead. Both also had a double bottom and a 4 feet (1.2 m) metacentric height.

Based on Battle of Tsushima battle reports Krupp cemented armor was adopted for a more refined and thicker belt. The main one reached 216 mm, the upper one 127 mm. The main turrets only had 8 inches (203 mm) and the deck 38 mm. None of these figures went to 12 inches which would have been coherent to protect the central citadel. The dreadnought’s armor ranged from 280 to 305 mm, however the smaller Evstafi class also had 10 inches (254 mm) armor for the main turrets and casemates. So overall, protection was rather weak for battleships, compensated it was thought by the nature of Krupp armor, supposed to equate 50-100 mm more armor thickness.

The Belt was 4 to 8.5 inches (102–216 mm) depending on the location, thicker at the center and between barbettes. The upper belt was 3.1–5 inches (79–127 mm) thick, Casemates had walls 3.1–5 inches (79–127 mm) thick. Even the massive Conning tower only had 4–8 inches (102–203 mm) thick walls. Perhaps because it was massive and tall. There was no “true” command bridge above or below. The main gun turrets had 10 inches faces and 8 in sides (254–203 mm). The main gun barbettes were protected by 4–5 inches (102–27 mm) and the the secondary gun turrets were protected by 5–6 inches (127–52 mm) thick armor.


The two Russian Battleships were propelled by two sets of 4-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines, fed by 25 Belleville boilers at a working pressure of 285 pounds per square inch. They delivered a total output of 17,600 indicated horsepower (13,100 kW). During sea trials they were forced-heated to produce 17,635 ihp (13,150 kW), giving them a top speed of 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph). For autonomy, normal load was 800 long tons (810 t) of coal, enough for 1,300 nautical miles (2,400 km; 1,500 mi) at the reduced cruise speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). In wartime, this could be raised to 1,500 long tons (1,500 t) enough for 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km; 2,800 mi). Contrary to pre-1905 Russian battleships they never had to undetake a long journey on the other side of the globe, they spent all their active career in the confines of the Baltic sea.


Pervozvanny main and secondary turrets, forming a chasing six guns volley.

Main armament comprised two twin turrets housing 12-inch (305 mm) Model 1895, 40-caliber Obukhoff guns fore and aft in a classic configuration at the same deck level. Maximum elevation was 35° down to -5°. 80 rounds was stored per gun, so 320 total of the standard AP type, and optional HE. They fired at a round per minute on average. The amazing twin level secondary armament comprised no less than fourteen 8-inch (203 mm)/50 Model 1905. Eight were mounted in twin-gun turrets at both corners of the battery superstructure. Since for stability, the amidships turrets were removed, it allowed to place six guns in casemates.

The second level of secondary armament was a duel-purpose one as it was considered fit to deal with destroyers torpedo boats, combing quick-firing and long range. These twelve 120 mm (4.7 in) were mounted in casemates, above the 8-in guns. This was completed by two 6-pdr (47 mm), also to deal with small ships and salute guns. From the original plan of four TTs, only the two underwater broadsides 450mm (17.7 in) were kept with six torpedoes in reserve.

Specifications of the Pervozvanny as built

Dimensions 140.2 m x 24.38 m x 8.23
Displacement 17,320 LT (17,600 t), 18,580 LT deep load
Crew 956
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE 25 CF Belleville WT boilers, 17,600 ihp (13,100 kW)
Speed 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph)
Range 2,100 nmi (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at 12 knots
Armament 4 x 305mm (2×2), 14 x 203mm, 12 x 120mm, 1 x 47mm, 2 TTs 21-in bds
Armor Belt 102–216 mm, Casemates 79–127 mm, CT 102–203 mm, Main turrets 203–54 mm, barbettes 102–27 mm, Sec. turrets 127–52 mm.

The Pervozvanny in action

Career of the Andrei Pervozvanny

Andrei Pervozvanny was officially started at the Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg on 15 March 1904 but officially laid down on 11 May. just like other ships in constructions at the time in many yards she was delayed by labor strikes during and following the 1905 Revolution. She was at least launched on 30 October 1906, two years and a half after being laid down, making initial sea trials in September 1910, completed one month later, but after fitting out she entered service on 10 March 1911. Andrei Pervozvanny was in the Baltic Fleet, visiting like her sister ship Copenhagen in September 1912. In September 1913 she toured UK (Portland), France (Cherbourg) and Norway (Stavanger) but ran aground on Odensholm Island banks, off the Estonian coast. It happened on 1 July 1914 and she was undeegoing repairs when the war broke out. Modifications included the removal of her lattice masts, light topmasts fitted instead.

Andrei Pervozvanny rarely fired her guns but in exercizes as the squadron remained inactive during the war. The commander’s naval strategy was defensive; The ships were kept for a sortie in case German minesweepers would try to clear the minefields the Russian Navy laid at the start of the war, covered by the Pervozvanny and other ships. Their role was not to seek out an open sea engagement with the German fleet,, despite the fact it was mostly committed to the north sea. In early 1915 the ships received torpedp nets in case a submarine would slip through, and her torpedo tubes were removed like her sister ship in January 1916. By late 1916 she also received four 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns.

In March 1917, news of the revolution the preceding month in St Petersburg, with the baltic navy cruiser Aurora taking part in it, the ship’s crew joined the mutiny of the whole Baltic Fleet, started on her sister ships, in Helsinki. Her officers were murdered. Later, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, requiring the Soviets to either evacuate Helsinki in March 1918 or have them interned in Finland. This last option was chosen, despite the fact the gulf of infland was freoen over, they way opened by an icebreaker. Andrei Pervozvanny and Respublika (ex-Pavel I), were part of the second group which depared Helsinki on 5 April to reached Kronstadt on 1 April, the “Ice Voyage”.

During the October Revolution of 1918, Pervozvanny remained on active duty in the Red Navy, but took litte part in the Civil War. On 13-15 June 1919, Andrei Pervozvanny and Petropavlovsk however made a sortie, shelling the Fort of Krasnaya Gorka, as its garrison rebelled against the Bolsheviks, joining the “white russians”. Pervoizvanny fired broadsides after broadsises in anger, the first time it happened during her career, a hundred and seventy 12-inch shells and four hundred eight 8-inch shells. The garrison ultimately surrendered two days after, on 17 June. Leon Trotsky indeed negociated indeed their safe release; however once out, they were all machine-gunned.
Andrei Pervozvanny continued operations in the baltic until she was attacked by the Royal Navy, torpedoed by C.M.B. 31 or C.M.B. 88 (bot claimed her hits), during the night of 17/18 August 1919. By that time, the battleship was anchored in Kronstadt. She received a torpedo hit on the port bow. Her ASW compartimentation did her job and she listed only from 2 feet (0.6 m) down by the bow.
The British allegedly claimed she was hit three times but Russian reported that two in fact struck the harbor wall behind. The battleship survived, although flooded and sinking to the bottom, whereas Victoria Cross were awarded to the CMB’s Commander Claude Congreve Dobson and Lieutenant Gordon Charles Steele. Ultimately, Pervozvanny was raised and docked but never fully repaired due to the lack of resources, other priorities, and another hit While under repair. This time she was near-missed by an airplane bomb during the British 3 September air raid. It was decided to retire her artillery and have her scrapped instead. Andrei Pervozvanny’s dismlantling started on 15 December 1923 but she was striken only by 21 November 1925.

Career of Imperator Pavel I

Imperator Pavel I construction took place in the Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg, starting on 27 October 1904, and in between design changes was almost stopped by workers’s striked during and after the 1905 Revolution. At last she was launched on 7 September 1907, but multiple redesigns led to a completion in October 1910, and she only entered service on 10 March 1911, for mover modifications and new official trials completed in October 1911, one year after completion.
For her first assignation with the baltic fleet, Imperator Pavel I visited Copenhagen in September 1912, Portland, Cherbourg, and Stavanger the other years. From August 1914 Pavel I was deployed to cover minelaying operations at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland. There were almost no sorties from the Russian naval Baltic squadron, which stayed in the defensive, at least until the end of the war. This was however quite a formidable force, comprising the four Gangut-class dreadnoughts and two Andrei Pervozvanny-class predreadnoughts. Thir main task was to surge to counter any intrusion in the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. In aaddition to the lattice masts partial removal (stopped below the funnel’s caps), torpedo nets were fitted, this time in early 1915 while the broadsides torpedo tubes were removed in January 1916. By late 1916 also, four 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns were added on the superstructure.

In 1917, the events in the country stroke all the baltic ships as well as the Black sea ships: But the Pavel I had a role to play in the Revolution, as it was a committe of disgruntled sailors onboard the battleship which instigated mutiny in the whole the Baltic Fleet, by then stationed in Helsinki. It started on 16 March 1917, soon after the February Revolution in Saint Petersburg. Officers were arrested, shot or jailed, and Pavel I was renamed Respublika (Republic) on 29 April. The Brest-Litovsk treaty imposed by the entente on Russia required the Soviets to evacuate the Helsinki naval base in March 1918. The other choice left to them was to have their ships interned in Finland, now independent and neutral. However that that time the Gulf of Finland was frozen over.
Respublika and Andrei Pervozvanny led the second group, departing on 5 April to reach Kronstadt the 10th in which was called the ‘Ice Voyage’, their way open by an icebreaker and their wight doing the rest. Upon arrival, Pavel I was laid up in October 1918. The main reason was the lack of manpower; Rusting, priorities for maintenance going to the Ganguts instead, the comitte eventually decided to have the ship not stricken from the lists yet, bu scrapped from 22 November 1923. Respublika was formally stricken only on 21 November 1925, but two of the 8-inch turrets were installed at the coastal battery No. 9 near Leningrad in the 1930s, scrapped today athough their concrete shafts remains.

Src/Read more

Conway all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1905
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley
Gutthridge, Leonard. F. (2006). Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection.
Head, Michael (2009). “The Baltic Campaign, 1918–1920, Pts. I, II”. Warship International.
McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Naval Institute Press.
Melnikov, Rafail. M. (2003). Lineyny korabl “Andrey Pervozvanny” (1906–1925)
Melnikov, Rafail. M. (2005). Lineyny korabl “Imperator Pavel I” (1906–1925)
Taras, Alexander (2000). Ships of the Imperial Russian Navy 1892–1917 Library of Military History
Vinogradov, Sergei E. (1998). “Battleship Development in Russia from 1905 to 1917”. Warship International.
Afonin, N. N.; Kuznetsov, L. A. (1996). Lineyny korabl “Andrey Pervozvanny”
Shirokorad, A. B. (1997). Korabelnaya artilelleriya Rossiyskogo flota 1867–1922.

The models corner

1/200 142 GPM Andrei Pervozvanny cardstock paper kit
Kombrig 1:700 models Pavel I & Pervizvannyreview

Russian cruiser Novik (1898)

Russian Empire – Protected Cruiser

A German built cruiser with two lives

Novik, from a postcard The Imperial Russian navy Novik was ordered part of a program intended to boost the newly formed Pacific Fleet. The admiralty wanted a 3000-ton class scout cruiser. Since no yard had experience yet in this field, foreign shipbuilders were submitted a tender, and designs were reviewed. The admiralty eventually settled on German shipbuilder Schichau-Werke, usually a specialist in the construction of torpedo-boats.

WoW review of the 1/42 model

Novik (named after a medieval term for a “noob”, teenager of a noble family, boyar or cossack enlisted or in an Opolchenie) was launched on 2 August 1900. Her sea trials started on 2 May 1901 in Germany and some vibration problems were identified. The problem was fixed and testing ended on 23 April 1902 after five runs made at around 25.08 knots. Therefore Novik became one of the few fastest cruisers in the world, impressing the Russian naval leadership enough that they would copy the concept and built close ships, the Izumrud and Jemtchug.

Soon after her arrival in the pacific fleet, war broke out with Japan. She surrendered at the battle of Tsushima and was captured. After some modifications she would serve as IJN Suzuya, and sold for scrap 1 April 1913, so she don’t even participated in the great war, but is mentioned here because of the Izmurud class.

context of the order

The Russian Main Naval Headquarter’s operational-tactical task (OTZ) studied the design of a “small” cruiser for the Pacific Theater in 1895. It started right after the degratation of relations with Japan, but since 1882, the concept of a “small” cruiser for the Russian Navy has been rejected since yards concentrated in medium to large cruisers to face by then the most likely foe, the Royal Navy. In addition the admiralty was aware of small cruisers shortcomings, short range and unsatisfactory seaworthiness, plus unstable artillery platform in heavy weather.

It’s Armstrong large-scale exports of successful “small” Elswick type cruisers started to make the Russian admiralty change its mind, especially after their actions during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Inexpensive, yet well-armed, they complied Pacific Theater conditions and fir the Russian needs. After 1894, Japan had a clear cut numerical superiority in light cruisers and destroyers in this area, with a large Shipbuilding Program to match.

Therefore in May 1895, Vice Admiral S.O. Makarov organized a meeting at Chifu, and substantiated the concept of a universal light cruiser concept inspired by Elstwick’s J. Rendel, with the Esmeralda, a 2800 tons, heavily armed ships tailored for the Far East Theater and ancestor of the export “Elswick type”. Later Izumi was described by Makarov as an “ideal combat ship” close to his universal armored “small” cruiser up to 3000 tons with a speed of 20 knots, two 8-in, four 6-in and twelve 3-in. It was even more suitable during times of financial constraints and for serial construction able to shift balance of power in the pacific.

However Makaroff also strongly opposed the increase in speed to the detriment of artillery, high speed being not so important for long-range reconnaissance as situation changes too quickly and preferring destroyers for the task. For him a squadron of armored cruiser was perfectly able to resist both destroyers and light cruisers, with superior speed and manoeuvrability, if necessary to encounter a squadron of battleships and survive. From November 1895 to December 1897 other meetings saw the confirmation of a suitable design for the Pacific and soon resorted the need of a small reconnaissance cruiser of 2000-3000 tons. Taking account of financial constraints and operational and tactical features for this theatre, that new type of small cruisers could replace obsolete gunboats and counteract Japanese destroyers.

Design development and tender

By December 12-18, 1897, the Pacific cruiser design was first drafted: Vice-Admiral I.M. Dikov proposed that each squadron of battleship to be screened by one reconnaissance cruiser and a destroyer. The main quality pointed out was to be speed, allowing the rest to be sacrificed, contradicting Makaroff’s concept of a “universal armored vessel”, but it was accepted to form the basis for the development of Pacific cruiser design.
Vice Admiral E.I. Alekseev had the experience of commanding a squadron in the Pacific and asked to increase the number of cruisers, arguing for eight armored cruisers of 5000-6000 tons, plus four reconnaissance cruiser of 3,000-3,500 tons and four more of 1,500 tons.

Taks defined were to serve as screens, advanced scouts, squadron dispatch vessels or to operate separately, but also surveying, and coastal reconnaissance. Vice Admiral N. I. Skrydlov wanted some for a squadron of Peresvet type battleships, the “troika” accompanied each by a reconnaissance cruiser and three squadrons meant at least 9 units in the Pacific Theater.

Model of the Novik, 1/42

By December 1897, a meeting was held by Admiral General P.P. Tyrtov, managing director of the Maritime Ministry, N.I. Kaznakov, V.P. Verkhovsky, I.M.Dikov, S.P. Tyrtova, S.O. Makarov, F.K. Avelan and E.I. Alekseev. It was decided to built two squadrons of three battleships instead of 10 small scouts. In March 1898, the Maritime Technical Committee (MTK) designed a 2nd class cruiser, with a fixed displacement of 3000 tons, 360 tons of coal, 5000 miles rage at 10 knots, 25 knots in top speed and armed with six 120 mm, six 47 mm guns and a single Baranovsky AA gun; plus 12 torpedoes, and 25-30 mines and an armored deck. The document was approved by the ITC Chairman Vice-Admiral I. M. Dikov and chief inspectors while in parallel another program for a 30-knots cruiser was also launched. The general document was however confusing and contradictory. The tender was submitted to German, English, Italian, French, American and Danish yards and specs were quite demanding.

Finalized design

Hovaldtswerke (Kiel), F. Shichau & Krupp andswered the call in Germany, London-Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co, Laird, Ansaldo in Italy and Chantier de la Gironde in France, Burmeister og Vine in denmark also were contacted, while in Russia, Nevsky Shipyard provided technical assistance with British yards. The announced winner was Hovaldtswerke, Kiel, on April 10, 1898, and also a “30-knot” design. The German blueprints defined a hull of 103.63 m, 12.8 m beam, and 4.88 m draft, two vertical triple-expansion steam engines with a capacity of 9,000 liters and Thornycroft water tube boilers. It was calculated the ship needed 25,000 liters to reach 30 knots. Displacement was fixed at at least 2000 tons, and for 3000 tons artillery and fuel made for 1000 tons. I. M. Dikov sanctioned the calculations, submitted to St. Petersburg.

The longitudinal, cross sections, coal tanks locations, engine and boiler configuration were refined as the tonnage jumped to 3202 tons. The armored deck was defined to 20 mm thick, with 40-50 mm slopes around the engine rooms. A model was constructed and delivered on June 13, 1898 while at the same time was studied the Ansaldo yards blueprint for MTK consideration followed the next month by the British yards but both the price tag and lack of documentation closed it.
Nevsky Shipbuilding’s project saw engineer E. Reed participating with Maudsley, Field & Sun, with a large length ratio of 9.6. It was followed by Schichau, Laird and Gironde yards proposals, and eventually in August 1898, Vice-Admiral V.P. Verkhovsky signed with Schihau’s boss R. A. Ziese. Deadline for sea trials was December 5, 1900). Construction took place in the Danzig branch of Schichau, equipments being provided by the Elbing branch.

The crew was formed before construction, controlled by 2nd rank Pyotr Fyodorovich Gavrilov also supervising construction of four 350-ton destroyers, and met Whilhelm II later, discussing the ship’s construction. however paperwork and supply problems delayed construction until December 1899, and even then the keel was laid down by February 9, 1900. Work progressed steadily, with launch scheduled only six months after the start ans Schichau was in a hurry, hoping to present the ship at a crowned head official meeting in Danzig. Novik was launched on August 2, 1900, but unusually harsh winter for Danzig slowed down the completion.

Design of Novik

Description of the hull structure in the Report on the Maritime Department in 1897-1900, is very telling, decribing Novik as

“a huge 3000 tonnes destroyer with a 25-knot sped; A lower part cigar-like, slightly flattened vertically, covered by an armored deck, with a double bottom gradually converging with the outer hull approximately halfway from the keel to the waterline, bordering coal rooms, bottom and top armored deck. Above the flattened underwater “cigar” the superstructure, most part above-water forms a single interdeck space.”

Between perpendiculars, the hull measured 106 m with a 12.2 m beam, excluding the skin thickness, and height from the keel to upper deck of 7.7 m. The building material is a mild Siemens-open-hearth steel with 610 mm spacing. Normal displacement as stpipulated by contract, water and 360 tons of coal was 2720 tons, 300 tons less than expected, thanks to the efforts made in lighterning the structure during construction. The structural lightness was made very clear by the fact in 1902 it became necessary to replace the ladders in the boiler room due to vibrations. By 1903, ramps, entrances and exits were quite narrow, also to gain weight, but this did not pleased the crew and visitors alike.

The cruiser’s command bridge was the forward cabin with wooen paneling and from the small conning tower in battle and aft quartedeck bridge. All three had compasses, mechanical steering wheels and electric steering systems plus link to the telegraph, and communication tubes and electric bells to the engine room. Initially there was no wheelhouse aft. A wave breaker shield was installed forward. By the spring of 1901, when all was installed, it appeared to the yard the bridge was too low, with short wings so that vision of the hull’s sides was impossible. The Yard later admitted the mistake and replaced the bridge meeting P.F. Gavrilov exact specs.


Speed was indeed paramount: The powerplant consisted in three vertical four-cylinder compound engines. Two low, one medium/high pressure cylinders, triple expansion. They were fed by 12 Schichau water tube boilers, a German modification of the Tornycroft models. Total heating surface was 4500 m2 and their working pressure was 18 atm. Two engine rooms were managed, forward and aft explaining the three funnels far apart. It took a consireable space inside the hull with six boiler in two rooms. Their exhausts were combined into pairs across the hull ending with their own funnek. More so, these engine rooms were placed in échelon: Two boiler rooms followed by a machinery room, then one boiler room followed by another engine explaining the distance between the funnels.Speed:
This powerplant produced a total output of 18,000 hp (13,000 kW) and the specified 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) top speed was easily reached on sea trials with forced heating. Novik carried only 500 tons coal, enough for a range of 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) or 500 nmi (930 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).

Propellers differed slightly as the former was 4 m in diameter and the other 3.9 m. However after an accident on May 11, 1901, slightly smaller diameter propellers were installed of 3.9, 3.76 m, respectively. However strong vibrations persisted, forcing a new change with three-blade propellers 3.9 m and while four-blade propellers were 3.56 in diameter.


Novik in Brest, 1902
Novik in Brest, 1902

Armoured deck
The main protection was provided by the armored deck, as in any protected cruiser. It was located on 0.6 m above the waterline. The belt connected to it stopped 29.5 m short of the bow, and it smoothly graded down aft, resting on the stem at 2.1 m deep. Reduction there of the armored deck started 25.5 m from the stern with a recess of 0.6 m. The deck consisted of two layers of hardened steel plates for a total of 30 mm (10 mm + 20 mm). The armored deck weighted 600 tons

Belt, upper decks and CT
The side slopes formed a 1.25 m stray below the waterline with a total combined thickness of 50 mm (15mm + 35mm). Over the machinery space which protruded above the armored deck there was 70-mm thick glacis. Additional protection was provided by coal storage rooms alongside the hull, located just above the armored deck, and along the engine and boiler rooms. Stability was provided by the conning tower, protected by 30 mm nickel steel armored plates walls. The well connecting the wheelhouse with the armored deck to transmit command was protected the same way.

ASW compartmentation
17 watertight bulkheads were built below the waterline and nine above the armored deck. There was also a double bottom in the engine and boiler rooms dividing this area by longitudinal bulkheads. MTK was pleased with this high compartmentation and demanded more, to bring transverse bulkheads from boilers rooms bottoms to the upper deck. The curvilinearly design of the bulkheads, ensured smoke exits were kept watertight.


Specifications (1914)

Dimensions (L-w-h) 110, x 12,2 x 5 m (360 x 40 x 16 feets)
Displacement 3080 t standard, 3129 t FL
Propulsion 3 shafts VTE, 12 boilers, 18,000 hp
Speed (road) 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range 5,000 nmi (9,300 km)/10 kts, 500 nm/20kts
Armament 6x 120mm, 6x 47mm, 2x 37mm, 5 TT 381 mm
Armor Deck: 50 mm (2 in), Conning tower: 28 mm (1 in)
Crew 340

Novik’s first career

Novik as built in 1902
Novik as built in 1902, shortly after entering service in Kronstadt

Reception of the Novik

Construction, completion and tests in Russia of the first experimental high-speed small reconnaissance cruiser in Russian history, given the extremely contradictory tactical and technical requirements of the Russian Admiralty, was quite technical achievement of Schichau. It even became and a landmark in the development history of light Cruisers, internationally remarked. To satisfy the high speed request, the yard was pushed to innovate: An unusually lengthened hull, maximum ease of construction to the detriment of strength and use of an unusually powerful, lightweight and compact steam-piston propulsion system, all wrapped into a striking package.

Prior to the the Russo-Japanese War, the Novik was highly controversial as viewed by world’s experts. However upon completion Emperor Wilhelm II though the Russians unreasonably increased armament while German experts, were not as enthusiastic as the article of German magazine “Die Flotte”, calling the Novik over-powerful compared to its weight and in short “an overkill”. For
Admiral S. O. Makarov, the Novik also had an unjustifiably high speed and having no intermediary caliber like 203 mm (8 inches) limited its combat capabilities at long distances, rendering her speed somewhat irrelevant.


WoW’s renditions and closeups

By February 1904, Makarov, sent a vitriolic letter to the managing director of the Navy Ministry F.K. Avelan. He proposed instead a reconstruction at the Nevsky Shipyard, bringing characteristics closer to the armored cruiser he wanted. Chief engineer P.F. Veshkurtsov calculated a gain of 270 tons allowing a better armament to be fitted, with a single 8-in and five 6-in and plus ten 3-in guns while the estimated speed was to decrease by 2.7 knots. But there was no time for reconstruction, as the ship was badly needed in the 2nd Pacific squadron.
N. L. Klado also estimated Novik was completely unsuitable for battle or even for scouting missions due to her short range and limited seaworthiness in heavy weather, which in addition to a short range, limited also her top speed. So much so she have been left behind any armored cruiser. Range compared to Bogatyr (also of German construction) was much better.

Early career 1902-1904

Novik was commissioned on 3 May 1901, sailing a day before for factory trials. Instead of joining the Pacific directly, and by May 12, 1901, Novik unofficially visited Kaiser Wilhelm II which greatly appreciated her, but stating her artillery was probably too strong for her small size. On 15 May 1902 she was assigned to Kronstadt in the baltic sea and by August 30, she was reviewed by Nicholas II during a German fleet exercise Danzig, talking with P. F. Gavrilov about the new cruiser’s features. The plant somewhat botched sea trials, forging heat instead of searching for progressive tests.

On 14 September 1902, after months of training the captain was ordered to depart for the Pacific. She transited via the Kiel Canal in Germany to exit the Baltic, stopped at Brest, France on 5 October, then Cadiz in Spain, Naples in Sicily, and arrived in the Piraeus to met the battleship Imperator Nikolai I in state visit. The two ship then sailed to Port Said on 11 December, but this was thwarted by the heavy weather. Both ships went back to transit via the Suez Canal on 20–21 December. Novik stopped afterwards in Jeddah, in Djibouti and Aden (red sea), then Colombo (indian ocean) and Sabang (Indonesia) then Singapore on 28 February 1903. Both ships would reach Manila in the Philippines and recoal a last time in Shanghai in southern China before reaching Port Arthur on 2 April 1903.

Novik in port Arthur

On 26-29 May 1903, Novik would team up with Askold for a diplomatic visit to Japan, carrying the Russian Minister of War Aleksey Kuropatkin, both in Kobe and Nagasaki; They went back to Port Arthur on 12–13 June and Novik underwent a drydock overhaul (her first since her launch) in Vladivostok, started on 23 July. Like the rest of the Pacific Fleet she was painted in drydock with a dark olive, and was back to Port Arthur in early September 1903, amidst tensions between China, Russia and Japan (over Korea notably).

Novik in the Russo Japanese war

Novik scuttled at Korsakow bay
Novik scuttled at Korsakow bay

During the battle of Port Arthur on 9 February 1904, Novik sallied forth, and single-handedly pursued the Japanese destroyers squadron for nearly 30 miles on, exposing her to cruisers fire. but she onlu suffered minor damage from an 8-inch shell and went back. Captain Nikolai von Essen offered combat to the enemy after the night attack, pursuing it and closing only 3,000 yards to the blockading squadron, actually even launching a torpedo, which missed. Back in the yard her repairs took nine days but the captain was rewarded for his bravery.

On 10 March 1904, Admiral Makarov made Novik his flagship and tried to exit from Port Arthur, along with Bayan, in order to rescue one his destroyers stranded after battle damage with a Japanese destroyer outside shore battery range. Her made three attempts but withdrawn within shore battery protection as Japanese Armored Cruisers eventually sank the destroyer. On 13 April strory repeated, as Strashni fought off IJN Destroyers when she was badly damaged and Bayan came to the rescue, making the Japanese fleeing. But Bayan, after picking up some survivors outside of Port Arthur met Makarov in his flagship Petropavlovsk, escorted by Novik, Askold, Diana, and Poltava, just existing Port Arthur. Soon Petropavlovsk struck three mines and sank with great loss of life and the Admiral and the fleet was back inside.

On 23 June, Novik was at war again, making a sortie from Port Arthur as flagship of Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft, but was repelled by heavy fire. On 10 August, Vitgeft tried once again to run the blockade, which this time degenerated into Battle of the Yellow Sea. With crippling losses, most of the squadron was back in the harbor to not attempt another exit again until the city fell. Novik was slightly damaged by three hits with two KiA but reached the neutral port of Tsingtao (German colony).

To avoid internment however, soon Commander von Schultz exited again and left behind the Japanese pursuers, heading towards Vladivostok, Tsushima at its heels. Soon the Japanese cruiser was joined by IJN Chitose. Later Novik was spotted by a Japanese transport ship coaling at Sakhalin, but she was soon caught and trapped in Aniva Bay. The Russian cruiser was soon forced into the Battle of Korsakov.

Tsushima approached Korsakov at 16:00, on 20 August 1904. She looked for, and spotted smoke rising from the harbor and was sure this was Novik. The cruiser was later spotted steaming south from Korsakov at 16:30. The duel commenced, both cruisers firing at each other furiously. It was a sharp but one-sided action, wrapped in 30 min. The much heavier Tsushima scored several hits, knocking off half her boilers while the steering compartment was flooded. Novik veered back for Korsakov but 30 min. later around 17:40, she scored a hit on the pursuing IJN Tsushima, striking her on the waterline, flooding two compartments. IJN Tsushima started to list so heavily that she was stopped dead for emergency repairs. Novik was safely in Korsakov and repairs commenced immediately.

Much later as Tsushima was repaired, IJN Chitose arrived and both cruisers sailed to Korsakov during the night. Novik′s steering gear was not repairable, and her searchlights had soon spotted second Japanese cruiser approaching. Realizing she was hopelessly outgunned and having suffered five hits already, including three under the waterline, Von Schultz decided to scuttle his ship and evacuated the crew to the coast. So in short, it was her high speed which allowed the Novik to flee the IJN squadron, but her low range which doomed her.

At dawn on 21 August, IJN Chitose entered the harbor, finding Novik laying half submerged on a sandbank. All her boats and launches were arouund, trying to save her crew and some equipments and documentaion. Chitose opened fire on the cruiser at 9,300 yards (8,500 meters), then 4,400 yards (4,000 meters), scoring 20 more hits with terrific consequences. He closed to 2,700 yards (2,500 meters) before stopping fuiring, realizing the cruiser was now a wreck and could not be salvaged. The paradox is that the Japanese would salvage her later anyway.

Novik’s second life as IJN Suzuya

IJN Suzuya in Kobe, 1908

The IJN was not laft unimpressed by the Novik and her speed. Despite the cruiser was considered damaged beyond repairs, an engineering crew was sent on the ship to study the possibility of summary repairs for a salvage in August 1905. The operation took almost a year. She was refloated and later towed at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal not only for repairs but reconstruction. She could be recommissioned as IJN Suzuya on 20 August 1906, after the Suzuya River in Karafuto, but repairs and reconstruction will last two years.

Reconstruction consisted in fitting eight Miyabara boilers, and she emerged with two funnels. Her lateral engines were removed and her output fell to 6,000 shp. Her bow and stern main guns were discarded and replaced by modern QF 120-mm guns while the secondary artillery only comprised 3-in guns, but she retained her six 47 mm Hotchkiss guns and two 37 mm guns (which were field guns that can be mounted on wheeled carriages for landings parties.

In December 1908, she was officially completed, making sea trials, and redesignated an aviso. She served as a reconnaissance and dispatch vessel but due to battle damage and incomplete repairs and halved machinery, her top speed never past 19 knots (35 km/h), making her less desirable in this role. In addition the adoption of wireless communications achieved to make her obsolete. IJN Suzuya was re-classified as a second-class coastal defense ship in August 1912, but declared obsolete in April 1913. She was sold for scrap soon afterwards, having a service time in the Japanese Navy of only six years and total active life of barely ten years.


Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1906
Corbett, Julian. Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War.
Corbett, Sir Julian (2015) Maritime Operations In The Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905.
Howarth, Stephen. The Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun: The Drama of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1895–1945.
Jentsura, Hansgeorg. Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945.
Steer, A. P., Lieutenant, Imperial Russian Navy. (1913) “Novik” in The Russo-Japanese War


Illustration profile of the Jemtchug, inspired by the Novik

Support us ! Get the Russian ww1 navy poster

Borodino class battleships (1901)

Russia (1901) Borodino, Knyaz Suvorov, Imperator Aleksander III, Orjol, Slava

The Russian battleships of Tsushima

Built in a rush to be sent to the newly-acquired Pacific harbour named Port Arthur, on the Chinese coast, the five Borodino class battleships built from 1899 entered service just after the Russo-Japanese war broke out, and they paid a heavy price to this: Three were lost in action at the Battle of Tsushima where a fourth was captured by the Japanese.

Many reasons explained this result, notably the poor training of the crew, which enlisted and rushed to the Pacific, making exercises on their way, worn out machinery and tired crew when arrived, thrown into battle with incomplete information and Japanese forces confident, fresh, well-trained and well-led. The Borodino class failure is symbolic of the battle of Tsushima in itself, on the Russian side. The ships also had their flows as we are about to see.

The largest Russian class of battleships

WoW’s close look at the 1/42 shipyard scale Borodino class

Indeed, the Russian Imperial Navy used to launch individual ships to incrementally test designs like the French, with some exceptions: The Ekaterina II barbette ironclads (1886, 4 ships), still in service by 1904, the Imperator Alexander II class (1887, 2 ships), Petropavlosk class (1894, 3 ships), Ushakov coastal battleships (1893, 3 ships), and for the most recent, the Peresviet class (1898). The French-built Tsesarevich was a way for Russian to keep pace with Western designs and possess a good basis for a possible serie.

The taking of Port Arthur was such occasion. By ordering five battleships to three yards (Galernii Is, New Admiralty and Baltik Works – the latter built three of these, the Russians showed they can achieve the same homogeneity and increase the size of their fleet like Western Navies like Germany, UK and France. The Problem with the Borodino class was they were already obsolete as a design worldwide as in France, where the brand new République class has been constructed, and Danton class were laid down at that time, already semi-dreadnoughts.

Port Arthur
Port Arthur and the Russian Imperial Pacific fleet seen from Gold Hill

Background Development

Tsar Nicholas II emitted the desire of a warm-water port in the Pacific from 1894. In March 1898 Russia signed a 25-year lease for Port Arthur with China as a treaty result of the war of 1894 (Battle of Yalu).
Indeed the Triple Intervention of France, Russia, and Germany forced Japan to return the port and obtain an indemnity by the Chinese instead. Both Japan and Russia lanched extensive shipbuilding programmes, and Russia started from scratch a pacific fleet, in which the Borodino-class battleships would be instrumental.

Brassey's diagram of the Slava

The Borodino class was exceptional at more than one title: Not only it was the most numerous class ever built by Russia, but they were based on the French-designed Tsesarevich to gain time. However new requirements in the designs imposed more speed and a bigger armament, when the contracts were signed.
This, in turn, dictated ships normally with the same speed, draft, guns and armor as the Tsesarevich on a greater displacement. The final design was to be done by D. V. Skvortsov with his tram of the Naval Technical Committee (NTC). It was done in July/August 1898, one month was the contract was signed, showing an increase of 1,000 long tons (1,000 t) in displacement while being slightly larger and wider.

Borodino 1904
Russian Imperial Navy Borodino in 1904 – colorized by iroo Toko JR

The final appearance of the ships mirrored the Tsesarevich, but Skvortsov squeezed two more casemates for 3.0 in (75 mm) guns, at the bow stern. They were added the twelved 3-in guns on the sides, in the characteristic tumblehome, which was flattened. The centreline bulkhead between the engine and boiler rooms combined to a narrow belt armor presented a risk of submersion.

Design of the Borodino class

Orjol under construction
Orjol under construction

The ship’s hull was 389 feet 5 inches long or 118.7 meters waterline, 397 feet 3 inches or 121.1 meters overall. The beam was 76 feet 1 inch or 23.2 m, but the decks width was reduced as for the tumblehome. These battleships had a draft of 29 feet 2 inches or 8.9 meters, when measured completed in battle order, some 38 inches or 0,965 meters more than designed.

This had consequences on the belt armour being lower and possible flooding issues. Normal displacement ranged from 14,091 to 14,145 long tons, 14,317 to 14,372 tonnes. This was some 900 long tons more than designed specifications, originally to be 13,516 long tons. Normal peacetime crew comprised 28 officers and 754 enlisted sailors, up to 928 crewmen in wartime, such as in 1904.

Powerplant of the Borodino-class

The Borodino-class battleships had two four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines. They each drove their own propeller shaft and were fed by steam coming from 20 Belleville boilers. As designed, top speed was 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) which was good for the time of their conception. Borodino was given a freshly reverse-engineered and copied La Seyne steam engine, previously used on Tsesarvich at the Franco-Russian Works, and transferred at New Admiralty NyD, Saint-Petersburg.

Slava aft
Stern view of Slava before launch, 4-bladed propellers.

The other four ships had Baltic Works machinery. The lead ships VTE engines were rated for 16,300 indicated horsepower (12,200 kW), boilers having a working pressure of 19 atm (1,925 kPa; 20 kgf/cm2). The four other sister-ships developed 15,800 ihp (11,800 kW) at a greater working pressure of 21 atm (2,128 kPa; 22 kgf/cm2). Borodino also had boilers economisers and specific three-bladed screws. Her sister-ships had four-bladed propellers and standard boilers. In addition all had an electrical power station fed by the steam engines, six generators for a total of 738 kilowatts, equivalent to 990 hp.

When completed the ships were to be rushed in the far east. They nevertheless conducted short, botched sea trials. Oryol was the only ship to reach her designed speed, obtained at 14,176 ihp (10,571 kW). The paradox was her sister-ships with forced heating produced a better output but failed to reach 18 knots. They all carried a coal supply of 1,350 long tons (1,372 t). This was enough for 2,590 nautical miles (4,800 km; 2,980 mi) at 10 knots cruising speed. Of course, this meant the ships had to stop in many places or find ways to gather coal during their long world’s round trip to Port Arthur.

Russian battleship Borodino after the battle of 1905


Main armament:
Two twin 12-inch guns turrets of 4 calibers for and aft. They were mounted the French way on pivot barbettes and with cylindrical, not sloped armour, and run on electric power. Maximum elevation was +15°, and each gun was provided with 60 rounds, 120 for a turret and 240 total. These were 731-pound (332 kg) AP cap shells fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,598 ft/s (792 m/s). Range was 16,010 yards (14,640 m) at maximum elevation, and the rate of fire was 90–132 seconds between each volley (2.2 minutes), which was relatively slow (at least in 1905).

Secondary armament
Twelve 45-caliber Canet Model 1891 6-inch (152 mm) (QF) guns from France were mounted in six twin-gun turrets on the upper deck. They were all electrically-driven, and the mounts allowed a maximum elevation of +15° while their traverse was around 180°, broadside, front and rear. Each gun was supplied 180 rounds, so 2160 in all. They compensated the slow RPM of their main guns, by being able to deliver 2–4 rpm. Thy fired a 91 lb (41.4 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,600 ft/s (792.5 m/s) and maximum range og 12,600 yards (11,500 m). This means to take advantage of them peppering enemy superstructures of an enemy vessels between main guns volleys obliged to recede about 4000 yards of distance, and more, as 12,000 yards was not optimal. Distances were closer at Tsushima.

75 mm gun
Russian 75 mm gun.

Tertiary Artillery
For close defence against torpedo boats, twenty Canet QF 75 mm/3 in 50 cal. guns were carried, all mounted in hull embrasures. 300 shells were provided for each gun, for a grand total of 6,000 11-pound (4.9 kg) AP shell. They exited the barrel at a muzzle velocity of 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s). Maximal range was 7,005 yards (6,405 m) at +13°. Again it was well above the optimal range (best accuracy ratio). This was not all, as the ships had no less than sixteen to eighteen 47 mm (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns placed higher in the superstructure, firing each 2.2-pound (1.00 kg) shell at 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s). Their rate of fire was 15 rpm on average. They were the last line of defence against TBs.

Torpedo armament
As customary of the time, the Borodino class carried four 381 mm or 15 in caliber torpedo tubes. Two were mounted above water (bow and stern) and two broadside underwater. The latter were placed close to the forward 12-in magazine. They were ten reloads. This deigned a typically French cross pattern, allowing to fire them in any direction. The Borodino class also has been designed to carrying 50 mines, only to protect their anchorage in little protected areas from Torpedo Boats, in addition to nets.

Detail of the flank, Slava coaling in Portsmouth

Rangefinders and fire control
The Borodino class were designed to carry Liuzhol stadiametric rangefinders. They used the angle between two vertical points, aiming for example at the waterline and crow’s nest, in order to estimate the range. These references were passed on to the gunnery officer, which calculated the proper elevation and deflection, data transmitted to each turret officer via a Geisler electro-mechanical fire-control transmission system. However as the ships were fitted-out, they were replaced two Barr and Stroud coincidence rangefinders. The latter used two images to be superimposed to derive the range a more reliable and way faster system.

Also at the last minute, the turrets were fitted with Perepelkin telescopic sights. However the crews never had the time to familiarize with them. For the anecdote, when the ships coal-supplied in Madagascar, a firing exercise took place, revealing the officers used these telemeters quite incorrectly. On the same target, one gave an estimated range of 7,300 meters and the other 11,000 ! Nothing was done to remedy to this settings problem (Journal of the United States Artillery, Volume 30).

The crews were also unfamiliar with the Barr & Stoud system, despite them being easier to learn. It was crucial during the battle as the Japanese ships, built in UK or on British plans were all provided Barr & Stoud rangefinder and the crews were perfectly trained to used them in the British Fashion, claiming the highest accuracy in the world.

Armour protection of the Borodino class battleships

Knyaz Suvorov in Kronstadt 1904

The armour protection scheme was closely derived from the Tsesarevitch, using Krupp cemented (KC) armor. The waterline belt was 5.7–7.64 inches (145–194 mm) thick depending on the location. As usual, thinner beyond barbettes level. The main turrets had 10 in (254 mm) walls with 4 in roofs (100 mm). The secondary turrets were 6-in thick (152 mm) and the 11-pdr (3-in guns) battery deck had equivalent walls of 3-in (76 mm).

The deck armor was only 1 to 2 inches (25 to 51 mm) on two levels and the armored deck, lower, was 1.5-inch (38 mm) thick, and curved downwards to create an anti-torpedo bulkhead. The conning tower had 8-in (203 mm) walls. These figures ate not particularly impressive, the same as on the Tesarevich, but even weaker as the latter has her Conning tower protected by 10-in walls.

Oryol (Orel), date unknown

Slava (1901) specifications

Dimensions 121 x 23.22 x 7.97m (397 ft x 76 ft 2 in x 26 ft 2 in)
Displacement 13,517 long tons (12,900 t) standard, 15,000 FL ?
Crew 835 – 995
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE engines 4 Cyl. 20 boilers, 16,300 ihp
Speed 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph, as designed)
Range 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots
Armament 4 x 305mm/40 (12-in, 2×2), 12 x 152mm/45 (6-in, 6×2), 12 x 75mm/50 (3-in), 20 x 47mm/50 (3-pdr), 4 x 356 mm TTs (15 in, 2 surf, 2 sub, 10 reloads), 40 mines
Armor Waterline belt: 160–250 mm (6.3–9.8 in), Decks: 40–50 mm (1.6–2.0 in), Turrets, barbettes: 250 mm (9.8 in), CT: 10 in (254 mm)

Profile of the Borodino class by the author
Profile of the Slava by the author in 1914

Slava drydock
Slava in drydock during WW1; This battleship had an active carrer in the baltic, duelling with four German battleships in all, including two dreadnoughts.


Conway’s all the world’ fighting ships 1860-1905
Arbuzov, Vladimir V. (1993). Borodino Class Armored Ships. Armored Ships of the World. 1.
Campbell, N.J.M. (1978). “The Battle of Tsu-Shima, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4”. Antony Preston
Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05.
Hough, Richard (1958). The Fleet That Had To Die.
Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter & Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945.
McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships.
Nekrasov, George M. (2004). Expendable Glory: A Russian Battleship in the Baltic, 1915–1917.
Pleshakov, Constantine (2002). The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima.
Preston, Antony (1972). Battleships of World War I: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Battleships of All Nations 1914–1918.
Preston, Antony (2002). The World’s Worst Warships. London: Conway Maritime Press.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships.
Staff, Gary (2008). Battle for the Baltic Islands 1917: Triumph of the Imperial German Navy
Westwood, J. N. (1986). Russia Against Japan, 1904–1905: A New Look at the Russo-Japanese War.
// More photos
Extra photos – web archives
Journal of US artillery, vol.30

Launch of the Borodino in St Petersburg
Launch of the Borodino in St Petersburg

Model Kits:
-Zvezda 500789027 Model Cruiser Borodino 1:350
-Kniaz Suvorov 1/750 Eastern Express Kit review


The Borodino class in action

Speech of the Tsar Nicholas II onboard Knyaz Suvorov before departure
Speech of the Tsar Nicholas II onboard Knyaz Suvorov before departure

Slava, aft view in 1915
Slava, aft view in 1915

The completion of the Borodino class ships started with Imperator Aleksander III in November 1903, followed by Borodino in August 1904, Knyaz Suvorov in September 1904, Oryol in October 1904, and Slava in October 1905, the only one that missed the battle of Tsushima. The Russo-Japanese war broke out in February 1904, so only Imperator Aleksander III was ready by that time, with a brand new crew which tried to familiarize with the ships.

On 15 October 1904, Knyaz Suvorov, flagship of Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, commander of the 2nd Pacific Squadron. He took the lead of the three other sister ships and departed for Port Arthur. The first step was Libau to gather the squadron and supplies. Alrter came that torpedo boats disguised as fishing vessels were present on the intended course and maximal alert was kept.

Diplomatic incident

Oryol under tow
Oryol under tow, circa 1905

Coaling was done at Skagen in Denmark on 7 October and the following day, at the early hours near the Dogger Bank, an auxiliary repair ship, Kamchatka made an alarmist reported of an attack by torpedo boats in the rainy mist. Four hours later, the squadron stumbled upon fishing trawlers on the Dogger Bank.
Due to the previous warning and recent alert, and after a quick deliberation, Rozhestvensky signalled to the fleet to open fire, at very short range. The mist somewhat prevented a correct identification, and the strike was merely preventive. But it had grave consequences: One trawler was sunk, three others badly damaged; Fishermen were killed and wounded. In the mist, confusion was such that the battleships at some point also misidentified the Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi and fired on them, before a warning was sent by projector.

After returning to port, the surviving trawlers reported the incident, which spread like wildfire. This enraged the British population and caused a diplomatic incident. The parliament was nearly bordering war. At that time, France and Russian had a strong alliance, from which the British were excluded, and there has been tensions already in the far east over Russian imperialist ambitions.

There was even in the 1890s a “cruiser scare” which conducted the Royal Navy to launch the construction of two massive armoured cruisers, the Powerful and Terrible. In the end, there were quick telegraphic exchanged from Moscow and official apologies by the ambassador. Russia in the end agreed to pay reparations on 29 October and the incident was closed.

Imperator Aleksander III in 1904 in Kronstadt
Imperator Aleksander III in 1904 in Kronstadt

Stop at Madagascar

Rozhestvensky, meanwhile, informed of the incident, nevertheless condicted his fleet down the Atlantic, in view of the African coast. He arrived at the Cape of Good Hope and reached the island of Nosy Be, off the north-west coast of Madagascar by 9 January 1905. Madagascar was then French and due to the alliance, granted hosting to the Russian fleet for two months. This allowed the fleet to coal, other supplied to be taken on board, and the crews to train.

Meawnhile a telegram arrived to the Admiral HQ, and he learned of the capture of Port Arthur. After a reunion with all officers, he decided to aim to Vladivostok instead, to hous the pacific fleet. This was indeed the second only Russian port in the area. Therefore the squadron departed again for Camranh Bay in French Indochina on 16 March.

Stop in Indochina and departure for Vladivostock

Borodino in Kronstadt, 1904

The squadron reached the bay a month later and stayed there. The goal was to wait after the older ships of the 3rd Pacific Squadron (Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov). They arrived at Camranh Bay on 9 May. The combined fleet then departed for Vladivostok on 14 May. The ships by then had been supplied again with massive quantitied of coal for the long trip north, perhaps as much as 1,700 long tons or beyond, stored high on the decks, which hampered their stability and submerged their waterline armor belt.

This had grave consequences as the shops were already known to have overweight problems with the submersion of the belt. It was now further down below of 4 feet 6 inches (1.4 m) with consequences such as possible massive and quick flooding if the ships were hit above, which was very likely.

Same as above. The black livery was relatively unusual when made for the hole superstructures in addition to the hull, but the tumblehome imposed this. Funnels were yellow. No attempt to paint them in grey were made during their trip.

The battle of Tsuhima

Admiral-Zinovi_Petrovich_Rozhestvenski Before the battle, Rozhestvensky grouped the four Borodinos into one division, and commanded it. Oryol, trailing at the rear of the column, fired the first shots of the Battle after Nikolay Yung her captain spotted a Japanese cruiser at 11:42 at around 9,000 meters (9,800 yd). Rozhestvensky ordered Yung to cease fire, as the latter had little success. Knyaz Suvorov in the lead opened fire at the IJN Mikasa (Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō’s flasghip) at 14:05. The Japanese line then opened fore in turn; Soon, superior marksmanship and rate for fire took their toll on the Russians: Their HE shells set fire in the superstructures of the Borodinos class battleships and at 14:35, both Rozhestvensky and the captain were wounded by splinters entering through the conning tower’s thin openings. At 14:52 Knyaz Suvorov’s steering gear was hit as she manoeuvered to starboard and she was condemned to make full circles until engineered can use her machines to compensate. Her aft gun turret was destroyed by an explosion and her quarterdeck devastated, forward funnel obliterated, mainmast shot away while the thick smoke of the burning superstructures were obscuring the gunner’s spotters view completely.

Borodino, aft view

Imperator Aleksandr III followed Knyaz Suvorov until she was out of contro, and turned north to try to manoeuvrer around the IJN battleline. While Knyaz Suvorov concentrated Japanese fire, Imperator Alexandr III’s captain Nikolai Bukhvostov, tried to emulate Retvizan’s maneuver at the Battle of the Yellow Sea, brashly charging straight to change their focus away from Knyaz Suvorov. This succeeded but to a high price, as the ship was crippled in turn. Borodino then, relatively spared, took the lead and other the ships to turn south trying to disengage and take refuge in the mist and fog.

Imperator Aleksander III in Reval, 1904

Knyaz Suvorov was found isolated, and the Russian destroyer Buinyi started to evacuated the admiral and other officers. But the ship was still capable of fighting and resumed the fight: With just an unwounded midshipman in command, she veered southwards and continue her course at about 4–5 knots. Soon, Japanese cruisers engaged her from 18:30 until there was so much smoke and fire that her gunners fired at random. Four Japanese torpedo boats of the 11th Torpedo Division then closed in and attacked at 19:20. Seven torpedoes were fired, two-three hitted the hull, possibly detonating a magazine as a spotters swa a huge cloud of yellow and black smoke bellowing out. The battered Knyaz Suvorov listed to port even more and capsizing at about 19:30, taking with her the remainder of the crew, some 928 sailors aboard. Special tribute was paid after the war to their gallantry, and by the officers onboard Buinyi.

Evening fight

The Japanese never lost sight of the Russians and the duel resumed around 18:00. Togo concentrated fire upon Imperator Aleksandr III and Borodino, the only ships spared so far. Imperator Alexandr III was hopelessly devastated and at 18:30 she capsized, and sink around 19:07, sadly with no survivors. Borodino was also wrecked but resisted better. She even succeeded hitting the battleship Shikishima at 19:18, soon engulfed in flames, and the ships destroyed each others turrets. Ten minutes later the Japanese ceased fire and the last hit from IJN Fuji hit Borodino beneath her starboard forward six-inch turret. The flash was communicated to the ready-use ammunition in the turret. The following detonation came as a shock for all that were present. Several magazines exploded in turn, opening a huge gash into her hull, and she quickly capsized and sank. Only one crewman was saved (from 855) projected away from the ship when she exploded.

Oryol was the last of the four Borodino class still in shape of doing some action, and took the lead in turn, soon was joined by Nebogatov’s Second Division. Meanwhile, the IJN fleet disengaged with darkness falling. Nebogatov took command of the crippled fleet and proceeded to Vladivostok. However the Japanese were waiting for them, and at around 10:00, they fell on Nebogatov and attacked the fleet.

Imperator Aleksander III postcard

Since they were faster, the Japanese ships stayed beyond the range of the Russian ships, and the admiral, after a few shots, understood his fate was sealed, as he has no hope of winning. He decided to surrender at 10:30. This was one of the few events that showed that longer artillery range and speed could wing a victory almost without firing a shot. A lesson well understood by all naval staff around the world, notably admiral Fisher, confirmed on his ideas of a monocaliber fast battleships and battlecruisers.

Orel damaged during the battle
Orel damaged during the battle

Suvorov battle damage
Suvorov battle damage

colorized photo Oryol

The capture or Oryol and new career as IJN Iwami

IJN Iwami after reconstruction in Kure, 1907

The Japanese captured Oryol, which was towed in Japan for repairs and reconstruction before she was recommissioned n June 1907 as IJN Iwami. A dedicated post will be done on her but here are the details: The Japanese engineers knew her main problem was her top weight, and they cut down the superstructure while the were repositioned lower. Also her original worn-out boilers were replaced by more modern Miyabara boilers. At last, for supplies reasons, she was entirely rearmed her with Japanese guns. Her displacement fell to 13,500 long tons (13,700 t) while the crew was about 750 officers and sailors.

As such, Iwami served in WW1, participating in the Siege of Tsingtao in 1914, and served as flagship of the Japanese expeditionary force in Vladivostok in 1918 (Russian Civil War). She was then a training ship in 1921 and was disarmed in 1922 (Washington Naval Treaty)later sunk as target or BU in Kobe in 1924.

Slava: The survivor

Slava (Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg), laid down on 1 November 1902, was launched on 29 August 1903 and completed in October 1905 so she missed the Russo-Japanese War. When at home, her first mission of importance was to team up with Tsesarevich, helpeding to suppress the Sveaborg Rebellion (1906). She served as a training ship for new officers (Naval College created with the post-Tsushima naval reforms). When in the Mediterranean, she rescued survivors from the 1908 Messina earthquake, carried to Naples. In August 1910 one of her boilers exploded and was towed by Tsesarevich to Gibraltar for temporary repairs. She want after to Toulon’s drydock for more extensive repairs lasting a year. Back to Kronstadt she was transferred to the Baltic Fleet.

Slava in Piraeus, 1907

Slava in naples, 1908

In this fleet she was just on of four pre-dreadnoughts known as the Second Brigade when the war broke out, whereas the Gangut class dreadnoughts were in completion. She was sent to patrol the Gulf of Finland, through the Irbe Strait on 31 July 1915 providing gunfire cover for Russian troops around Riga and repel possible German reinforcements.

Duing this mission, on 8 August, Slava was posted at the Irbe Strait, teaming with the gunboats Khrabry and Groziashchii, watching in recently placed minefields. She spotted German minesweepers and engaged them, but soon they were rejoined by the German pre-dreadnoughts Elsass and Braunschweig. Slava duelled with both, stasking massive splinter damage from near misses but her captain did not ordered to anwser back, to not reveal he was out-ranged. The Germans eventually withdrawn, having failed in their mission.

2nd Battleship brigade winter 1914-15 in helsingfors

On 16 August, they came back, this time reinforced by the SMS Nassau and Posen to protect the minesweepers. Slava in shallow waters, had by order of the captain her side compartments flooded, in order to give them the 3° list list which artificially increased her maximum range to 18,000 yards (16,459 m). By doing this, she also raised her belt higher, providing better protection surface of her side. This was reckless as by doing this she hmpered her chances to withdraw.

Yet again, even though she was surrounded by near-misses, she did not engage the Germans, concentrating on the minesweepers and later the armored cruiser Prinz Adalbert which came nearer to open fire. Yet again, the Germans retired, but they came back the following day, and deliberattly, more accurately fired on Slava which was eventually was hit three times (by 28 cm (11.1 in) rounds).

Slava in 1916

Her upper belt armor was penetrated and the heat made coal bunker explode, while the second pierced through the upper deck, and disabled the supporting tube of the aft port side six-inch turret. A fire spread to the ammunition hoist, but the magazine was flooded. The third just pierced through two boats and exploded in the water on the other side. Evetually, Slava received the order to withdraw and pumps were activated to allow her to be fully reloated. The Germans entered the Gulf of Riga on the 19, but forced to withdraw after the submarine HMS E1 torpedoed the battlecruiser Moltke while the Russian coastal artillery squared on other ships dangerously.

Slava, meanshile was undergoing repairs and later on resumed her gunfire cover for the troops. On 25 September 1915, was bombarded German positions ner Tukums when German field artillery started to take her as target. She was hit in the conning tower, killing the captain and officers. There were conflicting attribition as Nekrasov reported a German account of a 10-kilogram (22 lb) bomb dropped by German seaplanes. The relatively weak rood was indeed not able to resist the blast. Slava nevertheless performed her mission to the full, until the Gulf of Riga was starting to freeze over. She retired to Kuivastu for the winter. There, German seaplanes went on attacking and she was hit by three other light bombs on 12 April 1916, claiming seven sailors. On 2 July she was back to try to repel advancing German troops. She was engaged by field artillery, taking a 8-inch (203 mm) shell on the waterline. Support went on for the whole summer. Submarine UB-31 tried to ambush her, and low-flying torpedo bombers attacked her when she was busy targeting German cruisers on 12 September as a bait. They all missed but this was important as the first ropedo attack by planes on a moving battleship in history.

Battle of Moon sund 1917
Battle of Moon sund 1917

The last chaper was the Battle of Moon Sound:
In October 1917, Slava was kept in reserve during the German landings on Saaremaa Island, at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. Slava was defensinf the Kassar Wiek inlet, between Saaremaa and Hiiumaa (or Dagö). She spotted and fire on German torpedo boats on 15-16 October, and went to the Moon Sound Strait.

On 17 October German minesweepers attempted clean up minefield south to the Moon Sound Strait when Slava, Grazhdanin and the cruiser Bayan sailed to their estimated position by Vice Admiral Mikhail Bakhirev. At 8:05 a.m. they engaged the minesweepers, soon spotted and engaged in turn by SMS König and Kronprinz. The Russians splitted their forces, and Slava, further south, engaged the dreadnoughts at long range 12 minutes later while Grazhdanin and Bayan dealt with the minesweepers.

The German concentrated on the Slava, which was the objective, but missed, falling short while Slava resumed to fire, but scoring no hit but closer near-misses, on König in particular. Realizing their position in a narrow swept channel did not authorized any manoeuver, they retired.

Meanwhile, the German minesweepers went on in their mission, as the Russians missed them for the most. They meremy had shell splinters damage and were flooded by near misses; avant when all thee Russian ships reunified and shore batteries opened fire in turn. Slava’s front turret was disabled by accident (probably metal fatigue) and fired 11 shots only before she had to stop. The Russian fleet was ordered north to eat and rest and returned to resume firing at 10:04.

Slava flooded and battle damaged before scuttling at Moon sund

Slava then fired with her rear turret at 12,000 yards (10,973 m), but by then, the minesweepers had cleared a channel northwards, allowing both German deradnughts to return and pass through the minefields, surprising the Russians: SMS König opened fire first on Slava at 10:14. She took three hits: Her bow dynamo room was blasted and flooded. The forward 12-in magazine was also flooded and other compartments damaged, the capstan also disabled.

Taking 1,130 metric tons and a list of 8° compensated by counter-flooding but her forward draft was now 32 feet (9.8 m), in the shallow waters. The third hit hit the port side armor but bounced off. She took two more shits in the superstructure, blewing the ix-inch magazine and forward boiler room but the fire was mastered and the forward left 6-in magazine was flooded. At 10:39 she took two other hits, exploding in the boiler room. By then she was ordered to retire northwards, Bayan trying to make a diversion.

The drama was however that Slava’s bottom was in contact with the gound below. Even with the machines at full power, she did not moved, trapped between Hiiumaa Island and Vormsi Island. She was to wait for deep-draft ships entering the channel to scuttle herself at the entrance. However she was grounded on a shoal southeast of the channel instead by the revolutionary sailor’s committed. Later destroyers evacuated the crew. Her 12-in magazine was detonated and three destroyers torpedoed her. She was struck on 29 May 1918, scrapped in 1935 by the Estonians.

Battleship Rostislav (1896)

Russian Empire

Rostislav: The Russian-build oil-burning battleship

It’s unfair to restrict the quality of a ship to a unique characteristic, so to summarize, but four points could help cornering her a little bit.

  • Russian built
  • Lightly armed
  • Oil-burning boilers (world’s first)
  • Slow completion and overweight

She was the result of discussions in the admiralty and changes of directions; but reflected also the state of industrial expertise of a young shipbuilding industry with teething problems. Rostislav was envisioned as the head of a possible serie of coastal battleships to defend Sevastopol in 1890, possibly to be used also in the Pacific. Short range and light displacement, but 12-in guns and seaworthy enough for black sea operations were its main initial characteristics. She was named after Rostislav I of Kiev, famous medieval Prince of Smolensk and Novgorod, at the head of the Kievan Rus.
Although the ship and its powerplant were of fine quality, there were issues with her Russian-made guns Obukhov guns, and their mounts that delayed considerably her completion. The rest of the Artillery was French, as well as the turret design, and the armour was American, using the new Harvey process. Her belt protection was doomed by overweight issues, which were never really resolved. After Tsushima, the Black sea fleet starved for funds that would be necessary to modernize her and solved her protection problems. They stayed an issue all along WW1, as well as her relatively weak main armament, compensated by progresses made in long range gunnery accuracy (new fire control, rangefinders and ballistic tables).

Rostislav underway in the black sea, circa 1905-1906

Development of the design

The battleship Rostislav was the brainchild of Admiral Nikolay Chikhachov, at the head of the Ministry of the Navy. He envisioned in 1892 a squadron 4,000-5,000 “pocket battleships” to fit in a 24,000 long tons targeted total displacement for the black sea fleet. Chief designer of the Nikolaev Shipyard, Sergey Ratnik, was consulted in mid-1892 on this proposal, but quickly advised against it. His position was compounded by the Naval Technical Committee (NTC). They estimated also that combining firepower, protection, speed and stability in such a small package was unrealistic, and only at least 6,000 long tons (6,100 t) of displacement was a base to go further.

In response, Ratnik’s advised to just build a modernized and more compact version of the Sissoi Veliky which displaced 8,880 long tons. But he remained firm in his initial proposal, soon rejected by the NTC, which further declined to discuss tactical matters. Chikhachov was left free to decide the armament. This back-and forth process took the better of 1892 and early 1893.

Eventually, Andrey Toropov, at the head of Nikolaev Shipyard was ordered to design two proposals at the request of Chikhachov, which wanted a confirmation: one with 10-inch and one with 12-inch guns to see of they were realistic. Toropov estimated the displacement needed in both case to be at least 8,880 tons. Admiral Chikhachov eventually had to admit this as fact and transmitted the designs to the NTC. Both Chikhachov and the admiral’s board agreed on the 12-inch variant, as being already a world’s standard.

The NTC, consulted, however advised against it. The Navy brass further discussed the issue April-May 1893 and eventually settled on a larger displacement of 8,880 tons, but stand firm on the 12-inch guns. Eventually, the CNT apparently went over their head, and General Admiral Grand Duke Alexey put an end to the debate on forcing the adoption of the smaller caliber variant.
To speed up the design process it was accepted to take the same hull as Sissoi Veliky, but protected with the newly developed Harvey armor and a serie of grounbreaking innovations, such as the use electric power instead of hydraulic power, and oil-burning boilers. The definitive designed was sanctioned and accepted in late 1893. The ship was voted at the Duma and the order came in December 1893, to Nikolayev Shipyards. Rostislav was laid down on 30 January 1894.

Brassey's diagram of Rostislav
Brassey’s diagram of Rostislav


Rostislav measured 105.3 m long (345 feet 6 inches) at the waterline, 107.2 m overall (351 feet 10 inches) for a beam of 20.7 m (68 ft) which made a 1/5 ratio, and 7.7 m (25 feet 2 inches) in draught. The final displacement figure as built was 10,520 long tons (10,690 t) standard. It was 1,500 long tons more than initial designed displacement (8,880 long tons). This was notably the result of bad calculation over the waterline armored belt total weight and other additions.

Modifications during construction

Rostislav’s preliminary work started on January 30, 1894 but she was officially christened on May 20, 1894 as the formal laying down ceremony took place almost one year after on 19 May 1895. Baltic Works was in charge of forging an providing the powerplant, oil-firing boilers and VTE engines. Since the brand new Harvey process was chosen for the armor, plates were ordered in the United States, at Bethlehem Steel. They were part of the same contract to provide its armor to the Petropavlovsk-class battleships, the first protected with it in the Russian Navy. Bethlehem Steel however was the object of an enquiry of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs for an alleged price per ton half ws it was paid by the US Navy, a prejudice to US taxpayers.

The hull was launched on September 2, 1896 and due to the absence of cranes later, Nikolaev’s Yard had to creative improvize ways to install its massive engines in place. This became so difficult, that the prospect of completing the ship to Sevastopol was contemplated. In July 1897, fitting out almost over (less the armament) and the ship could sail already. The new Russian battleships made her speed trials on October 21, 1898 showing her power plant did the job, but the problem laid with engineers calculation over the combined hull and armor weight, with a surplus of 295 long tons which impacted performances and changed the waterline.

The problem rapidly came on the armament side, as the 10-inch Model 1897 guns chosen were manufactured by Obukhov in Saint Petersburg. In addition, the factory had to provide the Admiral Ushakov-class and Peresvet-class and was not familiarized with many complex techniques. This alone delayed the completion of Rostislav until late 1899. Indeed on fire trials, a gun ordered for Admiral Ushakov exploded at the proving ground. Further tests were made, showing many defects and poor control quality in general. Many tubes were refused and had to be manufactured again.

Secondary turrets on Rostislav

Ultimately Guns 16-19, the four intended for Rostislav, completed their tests successfully and were shipped to Sevastopol in the summer of 1899. They were installed in the turrets, and Rostislav performed her first gunnery trial on April 12, 1900, with all her armament in place. Secondary and light guns were standard and arrived sooner indeed. The trials showed recoil mechanisms and the cradle base had many manufacturing defects.
Turrets were retired, mounts deposed and repaired, but not changed, so the problem persisted, to the point no further live firing tests were made, the guns never fired until 1901, when they were rebuilt like those used by the armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov. In June 1902 Rostislav passed her final gunnery tests. At last, the electrical power that drove the turrets notably proved complex to maintain and troublesome with their 332 contact pairs.


Rostislav had two shafts propellers connected to two standard vertical triple-expansion steam engines. They were identical to those onboard Sissoi Veliky. Total output was 8,500 indicated horsepower (ihp), or 6,300 kW. Steam came from eight cylindrical fire-tube boilers. The great novelty however, was to introduce alongside four coal-fired boilers, four oil-fired boilers. This made Rostislav in effect the first capital ship worldwide to use fuel oil. The main reason, contrary for example to the British Empire, was due to immediate cheap oil from Baku, way cheaper and better for energy independence that importing coal at great cost.

Rostislav performed her sea trials in 1898, her powerplant delivering 8,816 ihp (6,574 kW) for a top speed of 15.8 knots (29.3 km/h; 18.2 mph). Total carried was 820 long tons (830 t) of both fuel oil and coal. This allowed a range of 3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph).


As said above, Rostislav was fitted with Harvey Armor, a new process to harden steel which has to do with a long cooling process, injecting carbon to obtain the best hardened surface, but essentially a sandwich of a very hard, brittle high-carbon steel on the surface backed by a flexible “mattress” of low-carbon wrought iron plate. In the late 1890s, it was made obsolete by the Krupp process.
At the waterline belt the armor plating was 14.5 inches (368 mm) thick, tapered to 10 inches (254 mm) abreast the magazines, with an immune zone covering 227 feet (69.2 m) in length. The belt was 7 feet (2.1 m) high. but the great problem with calculation errors were that much of this belt ended under the water level, and in fact a new waterline was painted above it due to a draft 3 feet (0.9 m) deeper. The armored box was close by a 9-inch (229 mm) bulkhead forward and 5-inch (127 mm) aft. There was an upper belt 5 inches thick, 7 feet 6 inches (2.3 m) high over 160 feet (48.8 m) long.

The main gun turrets had 10 in (254 mm) thick walls, 2.5-inch (64 mm) roofs. The 6-in turrets were protected by equivalent thickness walls as well as the conning tower, unusually “weak”. The flat armor deck was 2 inches (51 mm) thick. There was another layed under the armored citadel, 3-inch (76 mm) thick.

Cleaning of the main turrets
Cleaning of the main turrets 10-in gun barrels


Main guns:
It consisted in four 10-inch (254 mm) 45-caliber, Model 1891 Obukhov guns. They were mounted in the French-style, in center-pivot twin gun turrets. Each of these, fore and aft, had a 240° arc of fire, maximum elevation of +15° and depression of −5°. Their ammunition was the standard AP shell 496.5-pound (225.2 kg), fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,273 ft/s (693 m/s). Practical max range was 7,320 metres (8,010 yd).

Secondary guns:
The secondary guns were delivered much sooner, from France. These were eight 6-inch (152 mm)/45 Canet Pattern 1891 models, installed in pivot-mounted turrets, six in all on the main deck. They were positioned at corners of the superstructure. Their arc of fire was reduced to 110°. Standard ammunition weighted 91.4 lb (41.46 kg) and had a muzzle velocity of 2,600 ft/s (792 m/s), max range at 20° was 12,602 yards (11,523 m).

Tertiary guns:
To deal with torpedo boats, twelve 47 mm (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns were mounted on the superstructure (8) and the remainder in the hull, and/or dismounted to be carried by boats and provide close support to landing parties. Their shell weight 2.2-pound (1.00 kg) with a muzzle velocity of 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s). In additions, sixteen 37 mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss guns were also placed in the superstructure including half in the fighting top. Their shell weighted 1.1-pound (0.50 kg) and muzzle velocity was 2,150 ft/s (660 m/s).

The armament was completed by six 15-inch (381 mm) fixed torpedo tubes, a bow and stern above water tubes a broadside aft pair above water while the forward pair was underwater. In addition, the battleship carried 50 small to surround her anchorage, plus protective nets.

Rostislav in the early 1900s.
Rostislav in the early 1900s.

Modernization of Rostislav

In 1901 already, the ship underwent a refit: Their main turret being deposed and new overhauled mounts installed which solved their manufacturing issues.
Rostislav was seen as a Royalty’s warship and she was considered a priority customer by the Yards and their contractors. Aside her reconversion to coal-only, the new commander Grand Duke Alexander previously in command of Sissoi Veliky persuaded the NTC to reinforce Rostislav’s rudder frame. He also ordered the installation of a backup control post, well protected, deep under the conning tower to serve this same rudder.

In 1907, the Naval General Staff proposed a major reconstruction of the ship, aimed at solving the main problem: Her excessive draft which made her armor too low to be effective. Indeed a shell would well have pierced through above the citadel and provoke excessive water flooding.
These were radical weight-saving measures: It was decided to remove the above-water torpedo tubes and torpedo nets, auxiliary boilers, 47 mm guns, while the superstructure was cut down, fighting tops (and their 37 mm guns) with a simple pole mast rigging installed in their place. Total displacement of Rostislav could fell by 250 long tons (250 t), but the budget was not here to proceed. Only the above-water torpedo tubes were removed.

In 1912 the Black Sea Fleet command wanted to remove the auxiliary boilers of the Russian Battleship and submerged torpedo tubes only, but also to modernize the main artillery by replacing 47 mm by modern 75 mm guns. but cost considerations again prevented it. Alterations did proceed however, notably most of the 37 mm guns has been removed since 1906, and the next years, modern british-built 15-foot (4.6 m) Barr & Stoud rangefinders were installed, greatly improving long range gunnery. This was just after the disaster at Tsushima, and the year after, Rostislav’s ballistic tables were changed (see later).

Rostislav and Tri Svititelia in fleet exercises
Rostislav and Tri Svititelia in fleet exercises

The Rostislav in action

Captain Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich took command of Rostislav on the 1st of May 1899, a member of the Romanov family and only one to do so since Peter the Great. He would also host Grand Duke Kirill several months next year 1900 for exercises in the black sea. Numerous prestigious guests, parties and diplomatic visits however interfered with normal routine of the crew. However all alterations were controlled and expanses paid until 1903, as Alexander was promoted to rear admiral, becoming squadron commander, Rostislav bearing his mark and also be used as the junior flagship of the Black Sea Fleet until 1912.

There were problems however with the guns mountings but also the boilers. Oil burning as it was discovered generated a thicker, darker smoke, making the ship even more conspicuous than using coal. Heat distribution inside the boilers caused local overheating, metal buckling and backdrafts and the boilers gradually ceased to work, from the small auxiliary power unit to the main boilers.

Rostislav was not alone in this case. Other oil-fired ships of the Baltic Fleet had similar issues and this imposed repairs and alterations which culminated in 1904 as the admiralty thrown the sponge and decided to convert the Russian battleship to coal-burning only in 1904-1905. However in addition of these repairs and alterations the ship took more weight, to the point eventually by 1907 its belt armor was entirely underwater.

1905 Mutiny

The severe defeat at Tsushima not only gravely dented the prestige of the Navy and its officers, but the admiralty and the Royalty as well. popular resentment, combined with famine, led to popular revolts brutally supressed by the Tsar’s mounted police. This was known by the crews.
In June 25, 1905, the mutineer group called “Tsentralka” decided to start on Potemkin rather than Rostislav. In consequence two days later when it erupted Rostislav was conveniently at sea under command of Vice Admiral Alexander Krieger.
Nicholas II ordered Krieger and fleet commander Grigory Chukhnin back to Sevastopol, with orders to apply force if necessary one the rebels. After arrival however, the admirals restrained to fire, not to provoke a response which would escalade in a deadly short range artillery duel. Guns were trained on the Potemkine at all times.

The same officers even left the mutineers fleeing to Odessa unmolested, and Romania afterwards. Krieger indeed knew his own crew on the verge of mutiny too. On July 2, 1905, a military council made it on board of Rostislav to decide how to do. It was decided to moor the ships in Odessa, disconnect propellers shafts and let sailors going ashore. This did not prevented the Ochakov mutiny of November 1905, but fleet morale in between improved, the grip on the crew (with more loyal and trusted sailors) decided Krieger to fire 17 shells against the rebels to put an end to their attempt. Soon after all mutiny prospect in the black sea fleet ceased, to erupt again in 1917.

Post-Tsushima period

In 1908 lessons of the Russo-Japanese war just started to be digested. Alexei Krylov and Yevgeny Berkalov commanded the Rostislav a long-range gunnery shooting, 330 shots made at 8 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km), which proved the original ballistic tables were inaccurate. Data was compiled to help making brand new ballistic, later generalized adopted by the Navy and well as a rapid counter-flooding standard next year, complementary to the old Makaroff device.

This long period saw the black sea fleet, the last homonegeous naval force left in Imperial Russia from the epic disaster of the Russo-Japanese war, absorbing lessons and integrating them in numerous exercises.

1905-1912 fleet exercises

Improving gunnery skills and fire-control practices became a priority for the general staff. The 1908 long range gunnery exercise led to devise brand new ballistic tables, installed in 1909 and complemented by Barr and Stroud telemeters. Other modernisation plans took place, but budgetary limitations severely limited them. The most crucial problem remained all along: The belt armour was underwater, meaning in case of a duel, round would penetrate the area above, and this openings cause severe water flood.

In 1909-1910, the Black Sea Fleet started joint operations with submarines. At first it was planned to install the first Russian underwater acoustic communication system on Rostislav but it was suspended and later went to the Panteleimon instead. This anti-submarine exercise prolongated into the night of June 11, 1909, and Rostislav accidentally rammed the submarine Kambala, which sank with all hands. Even the two rescue divers trying to recover survivors died in their attempt. The blame fell on the submarine commander while Rostislav’s captain was cleared of any charge by the enquiry commission.

Rostislav was paying a state visit to Romanian on August 11, 1911 with Evstafi and Panteleimon, when she ran aground on a shoal off the port of Constanța. Officers of the battleship detected the obstacle and steered to safety, but failed to alert the other ships, causing the Panteleimon’s demise. This caused an international embarrassment, leading to ehe resignation of fleet commander Admiral Ivan Bostrem.
Another international incident was nearly avoided in 1912. During the the First Balkan War saw Rostislav into the Sea of Marmara, protecting the Russian Embassy in Istanbul. She accidentally fired a live shell into Turkish troops. Fortunately, no one was injured and the captain defused the crisis by making official apologies to the Ottoman government.

Rostislav in World war one

During the winter of 1913–14 Rostislav was being refitted. In April 1914 she emerged from the yard and returned to active service with a brand new machinery, modern rangefinders, new gun sights, and a modernized armament. She was able to reach 15.37 knots (28.47 km/h; 17.69 mph) on her first sea trials.

By November 1914, the Black Sea Fleet sailed in force to shell Zonguldak. It was a retaliatory attack after the Turkish-German attack on Sevastopol (with Yavuz and Midilli). Rostislav’s captain by then was Kazimierz Porębski. She was the ship chosen to shell the installations whereas the other battleships and smaller vessels made a protection screen around her.

She would fire 251 shells on the port, destroying it entirely. On November 18, she was operating a move after another such attack and crossed the path of battlecruiser Yavuz. This was the Battle of Cape Sarych. However the much faster ships were already out of range when the tail battleship, Rostislav, was able to spot her. She would cross the same ship again in 1915 and 1916, but never duelled directly wit her. In 1915 however, Rostislav was hit by four 75 mm rounds during one such engagement with other vessels.

The Imperatritsa Mariya-class dreadnoughts commissioning robbed Rostislav to any sinificant role as a first line capital ship. She was separated into an independent combat group, as flagship. This Batumi Group was ordered to cover ground operations of the Caucasus Army. Her first sortie in this role was on February 5, 1916, off Arhavi. She fired 400 shells against Turkish positions. On March 4, she and the gunboats Kubanetz and Donetz supported an amphibious landing at Atina. She also supported landings of marines which captured Rize. By late March, helped by Panteleimon she pushed the Turks out of Trabzon.

The summer 1916 admiralty plan was to consider a large scale amphibious assault on the Bosphorus, mirroring the failed Dardanelles operation. Fleet commander Andrei Eberhardt took charge of the project and quickly dismissed any attempts to do so before cleaning up the waters of naval mine. He also stressed the possibility of torpedo boats attacks in coastal waters. He argued as a preliminary for the operations with have the precious battleships in drydock refitted with anti-torpedo bulges.


This started with Sinop in Nikolaev in July 1916, and Rostislav was planned to be next when the whole operation was cancelled in August 1916. Rostislav was sent to the Romanian coast as flagship of the Constanța Group. This port became a temporarily huge logistical hub for Russian troops as they operated on the Romanian Front. It was also a base for minelayers, submarines and destroyers which rampaged the Bosphorus area.

The Germans made several air raids on the Romanian harbor, but met little success. They scored however a bomb hit on Rostislav. It blew up on the edge of the aft 10-inch turret, injuring sixteen, but turret remained fully operational. In October 1916, the Romanian Front collapsed and Russian troops were retiring to Constanța. The evacuation commenced immediately. Rostislav took troops with her on her way back to Sevastopol, where she was to be overhauled. She was still in drydock when caught by an event of major proportion in 1917.

Rostislav and the revolution

In February 1917, the Revolution had its effect on the Black Sea Fleet but not as sudden as in the Baltic Fleet. Captain Fyodor Stark maintained Rostislav combat-ready and well-maintained and disciplined until the end of 1917. Elements such as radicals, as well as anti-German feelings and Ukrainisation were kept a bay. She made a sortie to to Batumi in October. However at her retun the crew raised the Ukrainian flag when entering Sevastopol on 25 October.

Later, part of the crew never returned to the ship, and volunteered into the Red Guards. In December 21, this was such that only 460 re-enlisted, plus 28 officers, but in January 1918 this was total collapsed as crew rebelled for good, hunting officers and abandoning the ships and the German Army advanced. By late April 1918, the Bolsheviks captured, manned and sailed two battleships and sixteen destroyers to Novorossiysk, but Rostislav remained.

Sevastopol was captured and occupatied by the Germans untuil November 1918, succeeded after the armistice by Anglo-French forces, which stayed until April 1919. As the “reds” were coming back, it was decided to sabotage Rostislav’s engines. Baron Wrangel instead later captured the ship and used it as a floating battery, towed in the Sea of Azov. She was manned y a small white Russian volunteer crew. Rostislav was anchored in the Kerch Strait, shalling positions in the Taman peninsula, and ensure no landings would take place in Crimea. Wrangel’s whites were eventually defeated, and the small ragtag crew scuttled Rostislav, right in the Kerch Strait to block ships and prevent them to access to the Black Sea.

” width=”600″ height=”250″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-19751″ />

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1921
Bascomb, Neal (2007). Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One.
McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships.
Melnikov, R. M. (2006). 1893–1920 Squadron Battleship Rostislav
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships.
Smigielski, Adam (1979). “Imperial Russian Navy Cruiser Varyag”.
Willmott, H. P. (2009). The Last Century of Sea Power: From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894–1922.
Shirokorad, A. B. (1997). Korabelnaya artilleriya Rossiyskogo flota 1867–1922

//,_1896) (photos)
Wikipedia page

Modellers’s corner: Combrig’s Rostislav WW1

Orel 1/200 paper model kit
Kombrig 1/700 Rostislav steelnavy review

WW1 Russian Cruisers

Russian Empire (1875-1919) – About 50 ships

Overview of Russian cruisers development

Like for other nations, Cruisers were an evolution of 1850s steam frigates. However the first three “Kreisers” (Cruiser) were called so in the early 1880s when the three Variag class wooden screw corvettes were rearmed so. Laid down in 1861, the Askold, Variag and Vitiaz were ordered and designed before the American secession war, and therefore the age of ironclads. No further ship was therefore built of this class. Poor sailboats, their single shaft and unique rectangular boiler, procured them an average speed of 10 knots. Alongside these, the Russian Navy purchased three foreign civilian merchant ships, iron-hulled in the USA by 1874-78. Their machinery was above the waterline, exposed and therefore their military value was poor. They were named Azia, Afrika (2500-2590 tonnes) and Europa (3160 tonnes). In 1884 the Variag class ships (see below) original 17 smoothbore, mouth loading guns were replaced by either a single 6-in/23 and ten 4.2 in/20, eight 6-in and four 4.2 in or one 3.4 in and a spar torpedo.

The Rynda, as built.
The Rynda, as built.

In 1965, the Russian Navy was actually smaller on paper than the Turkish Navy, counting three brand new (launched 1860) screw three-deckers, including the 135-guns admiral ships Tsessarevitch from Baltic works at Nikolaiev. Alongside these, discarded in 1862 were nine traditional sailing three-deckers of the line. In addition were six converted screw two-deckers of 74-84 guns, nine screw frigates of 1858-61, 40-68 guns, eighteen screw corvettes and eight screw sloops. Also discarded in 1862 were four frigates and four corvettes.
In 1862 were launched the first Russian broadside ironclads, screw frigates converted on the stocks called Sevastopol and Petropavlovsk. They were followed by the Pervenetz class (1863), the Kniaz Pojarski (1867) and the Minin. Launched at Baltic Works in 1869 she was a turret ship at first, later converted and rebuilt, then classed as an ‘armoured cruiser’ in 1878, quite a long process of nearly ten years. The spur for such endeavour was the original design, copied from the British Captain. The model capsized and this created such a scandal that the formula of rigged turret ships in this fashion was soon abandoned.

General Admiral as built. She was arguably the world’s first armoured cruiser.

Contemporaries of this reconstructed vessels was the first purpose-built Russian armoured cruiser, the General Admiral class. She was also the world’s first of the type, arguably. Fully rigged and without ram, she had a central battery with 8-in guns and and a 5-6 in wrought iron armour, lighter than the Minin’s 7-in plates. Both cruisers were locally built, at Nevski and Baltic works. The Vladimir Monomakh, another masted armored cruiser followed nearly ten years later in 1882, and Dmitri Donskoi in 1883, Admiral Nakhimov in 1885 and Pamiat Azova in 1888. The Nakhimov was looking towards UK and the HMS Warspite, inaugurating four twin-turrets with eight 8-in guns, whereas Pamiat Azova seemed to look more for French designs, the two most prestigious references at the time (and best navies).

Growing rivalry with UK especially in Asia trigerred the construction of an even larger cruiser, the 11,700 tons Rurik. nearly twice the tonnage of the previous Azova, the Rurik created quite a stir in the west. This was one of the largest armoured cruisers of the time of her launch in 1892. The French Dupuy de Lome indeed displaced 6,600 tonnes, and the British Edgar class displaced 7,700 tons. So the Rurik outclassed them with quite a margin. Instead of turrets she had only four sponsons-masked singe 8-in guns, completed by sixteen 6-in guns, lighter guns and torpedoes. Her rigging was traditional, barque style. The admiralty reacted by ordering the Powerful class, to which the Russians replicated with the Rossia, even larger than the Rurik at 13,670 tonnes, and the near-sister Gromoboi. Both had the same four-funneled silhouettes and very smlar features. All three ships were armed the same and posed quite a threat to any Navy at the time.

The Rurik, first of the name. At that time, the world’s largest cruiser. She was scuttled in Port Arthur by 14 August 1904 to avoid capture.

However this trend was soon to end. In 1899, when the Gromoboi was launched at Baltic works, the Russian admiralty looked to the West again, this time for a more reasonable, medium-size and cheaper design. The Bayan and Makarov were therefore ordered at La Seyne. Only Bayan was ready for the Russo-Japanese war, completed in 1903. The Makarov was launched six years after, and completed in 1908. The design was considered sound enough to undertake the construction of two more ships, the Bayan second of the name (as now the first was in Japanese hands, renamed Aso), and the Pallada. They had modern military masts, protection and two turrets for their main armament, the rest being placed in barbettes.

At the same time these latter cruisers were laid down at New Admiralty, the Russian staff returned to British influenced and looked for the latest Vickers Armstrong armoured cruisers. The last Russian armoured cruisers therefore became one of the very best in the world, almost a quasi-dreadnought. This was the Rurik, second of the name. This 15,200 tonnes ship actively participated in the first world war and her appearance changed over time.

Bayan in 1903 at Kronstadt
The Bayan in 1903 at Kronstadt

Meanwhile, the cruiser line evolved with the first proper “cruisers”, unprotected, the barque-rigged Pamiat Merkuria in 1879, followed by the Vitiaz class, first Russian protected cruisers in 1884. Vitiaz and Rybda were launched at Galernii Is yards and completed in 1886-87. Sheated and coppered, their protection was only partial. The first “true” protected cruiser, by a full steel protection, reduced military masts (schooner style) and pronounced ram bow was in fact a typical French “product”, built at St Nazaire. She was followed nearly ten years after by the Le havre built Svetlana. This gave Russian engineers clues about modern protection, trigerring the construction of three properly Russian cruisers of the Pallada class. Of these, the famous Aurora was instrumental in the Revolution and is therefore religiously preserved. Displacing 6,600 tonnes these 1899 cruisers were well armed, all with deck or sponsons masked 6-in guns.
Growing tensions in Asia conducted the admiralty to order ships from other yards to complete the fleets, such as the Variag at Cramp, USA, and the Aslkold in Germany at Krupp yards. They had similar specifications and therefore counted both twelve 6-in guns, twelve 11-pdr, eight 3-pdr, and two 2-pdr and torpedoes.

Renewing her confidence to German Yards, also due to the arrival of Nicholas II on the Throne and similar will to built a strong colonial empire based on a similarly strong navy, the Russian admiralty would order the Bogatyr (head of class, the other three were built in Russia) in Vulkan, Stettin (1901), the novik at Schichau (1900) and Boyarin at Burmeister & Wain (1901). The Novik later inspired Russian-built near-copies, the Izmurud class. Launched in 1903 they were the last Russian cruisers (with the Rurik) until WW1 broke out. Indeed, the next Murarev Amurski class ordered at Schichau in 1913, were launched in March and November 1914 in Germany, both requisitioned by the German Navy and only the first survived WW1. The Admiral Nevelskoi, renamed Pillau and used as a minelayer cruiser was completed in September 1915 and sunk in action in 1916.

WoW’s rendition of the Svetlana class. None was completed before the revolution and civil war.

Elbing survived until WW2. But their design proved quite influencial for the ships of the 1912 programme. These were the Svetlana class cruisers, which were to be followed by the 1912 and 1914 program Admiral Nakhimov. All eight ships were relatively similar, with a 7600 tonnes displacement. The first pairs were ordered at Reval and Putilov yards, and the second at Russud and Nikolayev, for the four fleets. The first six were laid down in 1913 ad the last in 1914. Unsurprisingly construction was stopped by the war. Of the first Svetlana class only two were completed after the revolution, partially rebuilt (see the WW2 Profintern class) one incomplete, and two completed as the Chervonia Ukraina and the completely redesigned and rebuilt Krazny Kavkaz.

Going through all this only shows the influence of foreign designs pretty much until the war broke out, Britiah at first, then French when rivalry sprung, and lastly German, mostly for political reasons. Contrary to Western fleets which privileged uniform classes, the Russian cruisers ended as unique ships, causing some discrepancies in armament variety and management. Inferior numbers were compensated by individually superior vessels, such as the triplet Rurik-Rossia-Gromoboi in the 1890s or the impressive Rurik (ii), contemporary of the Dreadnought and very much influenced by the monocaliber and fast battleships concepts popularized at that time. Like France or the USA, the launch of HMS Dreadnought pretty much killed any cruiser project before 1912-13 and they were never realized. In fact only Great Britain and Germany did designed and produced modern light cruisers during the 1906-1914 decade. Budgets were reaffected entirely in the design of dreadnought type battleships, way more costly and complex.

Armament of Russian cruisers

Armament scheme on the Bogatyr class (Brasseys)

-203 mm/35 (8″) Pattern 1885:
Among the oldest guns, designed by Brink, at the head of Russian artillery. They were used on early armored cruisers and gunboats. The serie started in in 1886 with 29 ordered. They were discarded in 1904-05 and ended in coastal defense guns, usrviving until WWI. They were composed of an inner tube followed by a barrel and three hoops rows, manual breech with pneumatic gear. They fired the HE & AP “Light” (176/198 lbs, 80/90 kg) and “Heavy” of 193 lbs (133 kg) rounds. Muzzle velocity ranged from 2175 fps (663 mps) for the ‘light’ to 1912 fps (583 mps) for the ‘heavy’ round.

-8″/45 (20.3 cm) Pattern 1892:
The guns were designed by the Obukhov factory by the late 1890s, for armored cruisers. Thirteen guns were made for 1901 more for the 1906-07 Bayan (II) class ships. During the war, more were made to rearm older cruisers and others went into coastal defense batteries, deactivated by 1941. The barrle was made with an inner tube and two connected cylinders. In addition, the were used by Rossia, Gromoboy, Bayan, and the gunboat Khrabry.

These 1892 model guns fired the HE “old model” (193.5 lbs/87.8 kg), and the AP “old model” (193.5 lbs/87.8 kg), and the semi-AP modified model 1907 fired a 235 lbs./106.9 kg shell. The 1907 HE model fired a 193.5 lbs./87.8 kg round and the
HE/Semi-AP model 1915 fired a 246.3 lbs/112.2 kg rounds, while the shrapnel shell weighted 257.5 lbs/116.8 kg.

Closeup of the Oleg armament: 6-in guns in barbettes and turret.

-120 mm/45 (4.7″) Pattern 1892:
French Canet guns using fixed ammunitions for an exceptional rate of fire, derived from a pair of 15.2 cm/45 (6″) guns shown to the 1891 Russian delegation. The Russian derivatives were capable of 12 rpm, down to 10 rpm for the 15.2 cm/45 (6″) guns, licenced. In 1901 many were manufactured by OSZ. During the Russo-Japanese wars, some bursted open and the barrels were reinforced afterwards. In total, 83 were manufactured until 1917. They found their way into the cruisers Vladimir Monomakh when rearmed, Rurik, Novik class, Boyarin and Almaz, gunboats and even the Shestakov class destroyers. They fired AP, SAP, HE, FRAG, Shrapnel and diving shells weighting from 45 up to 63.87 lbs. (28.97 kg) and muzzle velocity ranged from 710 to 2,700 fps (823 mps) for the HE round model 1907.

-203 mm/50 (8″) Pattern 1905:
These guns were guns were designed by Vickers. At first as heavy secondaries at OSZ/Vickers. The order was completed by 1911, while more were ordered in 1914 and 19 completed by 1917. Outside the formidable Rurik (II), these guns also equipped the Andrey Pervozvanny, Evstafii classes, the Sinop and Petr Veliky, but also coastal fortifications. During the Russian Civil war some were placed on river barges and railroads to bring troop support and joined coastal defense positions during the interwar, in single open mounts or in twin turrets. Some 36 coastal defense guns and two railroad guns were available in 1941. About ten were relined down to 18 cm (7.1″) as well on MO-8-180 mounts.

These guns weighted 14.2 tons (14.397 mt), and fired the HE mod 1907 (246.3 lbs/112.2 kg), HE/Semi AP model 1913 (306.9 lbs/139.2 kg), the HE/Semi AP model 1915 246.3 lbs/112.2 kg) or the shrapnel (257.5 lbs/116.8 kg). Their muzzle velocity ranged from 2,647 fps (807.7 m/s) for the HE model 1907 to 792.5 m/s or 807.7 m/s (HE/Semi AP model 1913/1915) and 746.8 m/s for the 2,448 fps for the Shrapnel one.

-120 mm/50 (4.7″) Pattern 1905:
These artillery pieces were designed by Vickers for Russia, emerging in 1905. Used in Army coastal forts and Russian ships for the decade 1905-1913, 170 completed by OSZ. The Russian Revolution almost stopped production the last being delivered in 1921-24. Still many were in service by 1941. They were manufactured with an inner tube, fastened with one layer, 3 cylinders, outer casing. They were used on the Gangut class ships, the Rurik (II), monitors and gunboats.
-Smaller calibers:
75 mm /50 (2.9″) Pattern 1892 and 7.5 cm/50 (2.95″) Canet Model 1891, 6-pdr (2.72 kg) Hotchkiss guns, 1-pdr (0.45 kg) Hotchkiss Guns, 37 mm/30 (1.5″) Maxim gun, 76.2 mm/30 (3″) Pattern 1914/15 “Lender’s Gun”, 63.3 mm/38 (2.5″) Pattern 1916.

Bayan crew between 1911 and 1918

Battle of Tsushima

Wartime Russian cruisers

In August 1914, the Russian Empire entered the conflict with a fleet amputated from a third of her cruiser force after the crippling losses at Tsushima and in the Yellow sea nine years before. However, two of these captured cruisers would be acquired back from the Japanese in 1915-16, under the entente.

Captured Cruisers

Around 1916, new cruisers entered service (again for some). These are cruisers no longer listed as they were captured, repaired and integrated in the Japanese Navy (in the case of Peresviet and Variag), or captured Turkish cruiser, in the case of Prut.


The Russian battleship sunk at Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War and salvaged by the Japanese after fall of the fortress. Reconstructed during 1908-9 and commissioned as the coast defence battleship Sagami. She was returned to her old name and rerated as cruiser. Designated for the Arctic Ocean Flotilla, she was armed with 4-10in, 10-6in, 2-75mm AA. Stranded off Vladivostok on 5 April 1916, was not refloated before July. During the transfer to the Arctic on 4 January 1917 on 2 mines laid by U 73 off Port Said.


The Turkish protected cruiser Mecidiye) was mined 15 miles of Odessa on 3 April 1915 and sunk on an even keel. She was raised by the Russians and docked in the Ropit Yard, Odessa on 31 May 1915. Under the name Prut she was placed on the List 26 June and re-armament as well as reconstruction begun. She was to be armed with 6 x 130mm, 4 x 75mm AA, 2 MG but this was supplemented by additional 4 x 130mm in midship sponsons. The works were completed in January 1917 and she reached 17.9kts during sea trials. Seized by the Germans in Sevastopol and returned to Turkey on 12 May 1918.


The Russian cruiser scuttled after VARIAG protected cruiser action against Japanese cruisers off Chemulpo on 9 February 1904.
Raised by the Japanese and commissioned by them as the training ship Saya. Returned to the Russians at Vladivostok on 5 April 1916 she reverted to her old name while the armament was augmented by mount hulked. Sold for scrap 1920 but stranded again off Scotland and scrapped there during 1923-25. February 1917 for repairs and rearmament with 10-130mm but these were never carried out. Seized by the British on 8 December 1917 and beached off the Irish coast while in forecastle and quarterdeck 6in guns on the CL thus enlarging the broadside to 8 pieces. In June 1916 she sailed for the Arctic being armed at that time with 12-6in, 4-75mm, 2 MG, 3 TT. Arrived Liverpool in under tow but raised later and hulked. Sold for scrap in 1920 but strabded again off Scotland and scrapped there in 1923-25.

Aviation Cruisers

Also not listed here, although in Russian parlance they were called ‘Kreizers’, the Russian Empire also operated many “aviation cruisers”; To be fair, the first, Orlista was called a seaplane carrier, but she was followed by six ships, former auxiliary cruisers converted to operate seaplanes, which made the Russians the second largest operators of this kind of ships behind the Royal Navy during the Great War. As they will deserve their own post we will only see them sparingly:

-Orlista (1915). This vessel from Caledon, Dundee, launched in 1903 as SS Vologda, freighter, she was renamed Imperatrista Alexandra and converted in 1913. In 1915 she had two hangars and housed four seaplanes while a fifth one was stored inside the hold, which doubled as workshop. At her commission as Orlitsa in February 1915 she carried five FBA floatplanes, and M9 by 1916. She saw action in Courland and the Gulf of Finland, survived the war and was resold to the civilian amrket, name changed to Sovet in 1923. Fate unknown.

-Imperator Alexander class (1916)
Two liners purchased in UK, launched in 1913 and converted in 1914 as seaplane carriers, for the black sea fleet 29 November 1916. The holds were demolished and fusioned into a single very large hangar, roomy enough to carry nine seaplanes. In addition a flight deck was constructed aft. Soon after her planes spotted and sank the German coaster Irmingard. Alexander I was captured by the Reds and renamed Respublikanets in May 1917, while Nikolai I became Aviator. Tyhey were both recaptured by the Germans in Sevastopol in 1918, then under British control, scuttle to avoid captured in 1919.

-Regele Carol I (1916)
This Fairfield-built, 1898 2370 tonnnes ship was loaned by Romania from 1916, converted as a seaplane carrier. Armed with four 6-in (152 mm) guns, four 3-in (75 mm) and carrying four seaplanes into her holds. Sher served with the Black sea fleet until 1917 but apparently was returned to Romania in 1918 to retake civilian service.

-Rumania class (1916)
The second, third and fourth vessels loaned by the Romanians, they were all 18 knots steamers built at Ch. de la loire St nazaire (france), launched 1907 and commissioned in 1916. They received four 6-in, four 3-in and carried four to seven floatplanes, with a flight deck aft. They were returned in 1918 to Romania.

Early armored cruisers

General Admiral class

General-Admiral and Gerzog Edinburgski were two armored cruisers, at first laid out as central battery ironclads, later redesignated armored corvettes and eventually semi-armored frigates. With their armament concentrated amidships, they were seen by many authors as the first armoured cruisers. They were completed in 1877 but commissioned in 1875, as many modifications were made on the long run. As the the “first true armored cruisers”. These redesigns added to their oveall displacement, from 4,604 long tons (4,678 t), to 5,031 long tons (5,112 t) in the end, standard. They were fully rigged, and iron-hulled, with an underwater ram. They had a vertical compound steam engine driving a two-bladed, 6.25 m propeller, fed by cylindrical boilers.

They produced 4,772 indicated horsepower (3,558 kW) at around 60 psi. This was enough to propel them to 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). Both ships carried 1,000 long tons of coal for an overall range of 5,900 nautical miles (10,900 km; 6,800 mi). To avoid excessive drag under sails, the single funnel and propeller were retractable. Both differed by their armament: General-Admiral featured 8-inch (203 mm) guns plus two 6-inch (152 mm) guns and four 87 mm (3.4 in) QF RBL while Gerzog Edinburgski was given 107 mm (4.2 in) guns instead. The armored belt and decks ranged from 5 to 6 inches amidships. General Admiral missed the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 due to an accident and repairs.

She was reboilered in 1886 after service in the Mediterranean, having two new funnels, not retractable, as the new propeller. She became a school ship from 1906 with a reduced rig. The Edinburgski served in the Far East from 1879 to 1884 and in the Mediterranean Sea from 1897 until 1900. During this time she also served in Crete with International Squadron. Like her sister-ship she was converted into minelayers in 1908–11. Both were renamed Narova and Onega. They had their superstructures reduced, two pole masts and four 75-millimeter (3.0 in) guns while they were given rails to carry 600–800 mines. Onega was hulked in 1915, and ended as mine storage ship in Helsinki in 1917. She was hulked in 1915 as a depot ship, renamed № 4 Barrikada after the Bolshevik Revolution, broken up in 1949.

General Admiral 1880s



The Minin was originally launched as a low freeboard turret ship, intended to be similar to the Captain with full rig, 4-1 in guns in twin turrets and 4-6in, 2 on the forecastle and 2 on the poop. After the disaster to the Captain in 1871 her completion was stopped and she was reconstructed as an armoured cruiser. There was a complete waterline belt from 2 ft above to 5ft below lwl with a lin steel deck at the belt upper edge, but the guns were unprotected on the upper deck with the 8in in sponsons.

The Minin was sheathed and coppered and heavily ship-rigged. Her details were altered several times, a report of 1893 indicating 30 cal 8in and 28 cal 6in guns with the addition of 8-3pdr revolvers. Later, as a training ship the 8in and 6in were replaced by 10-6in/45. She was also reboilered with 18 Bellevilles and her rig reduced to that of a barque. In 1909 she became the minelayer Ladoga with a capacity of 900 mines, and was sunk in the Baltic on a mine laid by UC4. Read More about the Minin

Vladimir Monomakh (1882)

Monomakh and Pamiat Azova
Monomakh and Pamiat Azova

Originally, with a heavy full rig, Monomakh had a complete 6in belt, with a 4 in lower edge from 2}ft above to 5ft below lwl. There were 4-3in bulkheads between the main and upper deck protecting 8 of the 6in guns from raking fire and also the 4 sponsoned 8in, but otherwise the guns were unprotected. The armour deck was 3in-2in. The Monomakh was modernised in 1897-1898 and rearmed with 5-6in/45, 8-4.7in/45, and 8-3pdr, retaining the lpdrs and TTs. She was torpedoed during the
night at Tsushima and surrendered next day but could not be kept afloat.

Vladimir Monomakh started as a semi-armored frigate, an improved version of the preceding Minin. She was named after Vladimir II Monomakh the Grand Prince of Kiev and spent most of her career in the Far East. She was fast enough to outrun enemy battleships while well armored enough to face any cruiser of the time. She was iron-hulled, with a ram, and sheathed in wood and copper for anti-fouling. Her hull was particular as being subdivided by ten transverse bulkheads with a double bottom. It was an avant-garde ASW protection long before the age of submarine. She was propelled by two hsaft vertical compound steam engines, fed by six cylindrical boilers at 70 psi. They produced together 7,044 indicated horsepower (5,253 kW), enough to reach 15.8 knots (29.3 km/h; 18.2 mph) while carrying 900 long tons of coal, setting her range to 6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km; 7,100 mi). She was rigged as a three-mast barque, with a total of 26,000 square feet (2,400 m2), and to reduced drag like previous ships, had rectratable funnels. These were deleted when the ship was reboilered later.

Vladimir Monomakh after her 1892 refit
Vladimir Monomakh after her 1892 refit

Vladimir Monomakh was armed with four single 8 in (203 mm) guns in a “X” central battery position in sponsons. This was completed by twelve single 6 in (152 mm) guns (eight mounted in the central battery), the remaindr outside the battery at the ends of the ship. The cruiser lighter armament also comprised four single 9-pounder guns and ten single Hotchkiss guns plus three 381 mm (15 in) torpedo tubes above the waterline. Armour comprised a waterline belt was composed of compound armour extending over the whole lenght. It ranged from 6 inches around the battery and was lowered to 4.5 inches (114 mm) to the ends. The transverse bulkheads were 3–4 inches (76–102 mm) thick and the sponsons barbettes were 8-in while the protective deck was reduced to only 0.5-inch (13 mm). Clearly plunging fire was not a priority at that time.

Monomakh 1905
Vladimir Monomakh 1905

Vladimir Monomakh was completed at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg on 13 July 1883. She made a first trip from the Baltic Sea to the Far East. Arriving at Vladivostock she became was the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet under Rear Admiral A.E. Kroun. She made another voyage in the Mediterranean in 1889, after being refitted. In 1892, after yearly service in the Mediterranean and blak sea she was refitted at Kronstadt, when her heavy sailing rig was replaced by three signal masts, funnels fixed and boilers changed. In 1895 she headed with Captain Zinovy Rozhestvensky at her command for the Mediterranean, before departing for the far east when the Sino-Japanese war broke out. She sailed to the port of Chefoo and became the rear admiral ship, Pacific Fleet, raising the ensign of Rear Admiral Yevgeni Ivanovich Alekseyev. She was stationed in Kobe in 1896.

Vladimir Monomakh was however the Baltic at the start of the Russo-Japanese War. She was assigned to the Third Pacific Squadron and participated in the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905. She was tasked to protect the Russian transports and was not heavily engaged during the daylight portion of the battle. The ship was torpedoed during the night and was scuttled the following morning by her captain to prevent her capture by the Japanese.

Monomakh and Pamiat Azova
Monomakh and Pamiat Azova in Pireus, Greece

Dmitri Donskoi


According to official British reports the Donskoi, which originally had a heavy full rig, was not well subdivided and if the very large engine room had flooded she would have sunk. The belt was as in the Monomakh and there was a 2in deck, but the 14 6in guns on the main deck had no protection and the two 8in in deck sponsons only small 2in shields.
She was modernised in 1895 and rearmed with six 6in/45, ten 4.7in/45, six 3pdr, and ten 1pdr, retaining the revolvers and TT. The Donskoi survived Tsushima and a destroyer attack on the night of the 28th but was scuttled next morning.


Admiral Nakhimov

Admiral Nakhimov

The Nakhimov was in many ways a close copy of the Imperieuse and Warspite, of which the Russians had managed to obtain drawings, though they contrived, by alteration of bunkers and hatches, to impair the protection of the machinery. She was sheathed and coppered and originally rigged as a brig. The belt was 147ft long with a 6in lower edge and extended from
about 3ft above to 5ft below lwl, ending in 10in-6in bulkheads. The barbettes were 8in – wing 8in-7in – to the main deck with 3in ammunition tubes below, and two 2-in shields, but the 6in guns on the main deck were unprotected.

The armour deck was 3in over the belt and at the level of the belt lower edge fore and aft. The Nakhimov was reboilered in 1899, the 3.4in removed and the lighter guns altered to twelve 3pdr and four 1pdr revolvers. She appears to have escaped serious shell damage at Tsushima but was torpedoed during the night and her crew opened the sea-valves on surrendering to the Japanese.

Russian Fleet 1892 Nakhimov

Pamiat Azova

Author’s illustration of the Pamiat Azova – Read More

A three-funnelled ship, sheathed and coppered and originally barque-rigged without royals. The belt stopped 45ft from the stem and 35ft from the stern and extended from 2 ft above to 5ft below lwl. It was 6in amidships, reduced to 4in fore and aft and at the lower edge, and ending in 4in bulkheads. The 8in guns in sponsons had small 2in shields while the main deck 6in were unprotected. The armour deck was 23in reduced to 1lin at the ends. The Pamiat Azova was reconstructed in 1904 and reboilered with 18 Bellevilles. Russian official figures, of uncertain date, give only 5,664 ihp for 16kts. She became the torpedo school ship Dvina in 1909 and was torpedoed by CMB79 in the attack on Kronstadt.

The Russian Imperial Navy in WW1 – Helps us support Naval Encyclopedia !

Early Russian masted protected Cruisers

Variag class (1862)

These wooden screw corvettes are often assimilated as the earliest ancestors of Russian cruisers. They were slow under sail, and Vitiaz was renamed later Skobeleff to free the name for better ships. Variag possessed the old engines of the reformed frigate Balkan. After the fight at Hampton roads bwteen the Merrimack and Monitor, there were serious doubts about proceeding with the construction of unarmoured ships and the Askold narrowly escaped cancellation. They were the last Russian unarmoured warships of above 2000 tonnes built for 20 years. Laid down in 1861-62; launched in 1862-63 they were completed in 1863-64, and served with various armaments, confined to roles of training vessels and accomodation ships until BU circa 1887-94.

Pamiat Merkuria (1879)

Pamiat Merkuria with her original barque rig
Pamiat Merkuria with her original barque rig

This was the first “modern” iron hull, unprotected masted Russian cruiser. She was made for the Black Sea Fleet. Originally named Yaroslav, the Pamiat Merkuria was a barque-rigged, unprotected steel and iron cruiser with a projecting ram bow. She was reckoned to be a good sea-boat. The 6in guns were without shields, and were located at bow and stern with four in upper deck sponsons. The smaller guns eventually comprised 4-3pdr, 2-1pdr and 2-1pdr revolvers, with 2 TT.

Vitiaz class protected cruisers (1884)

Vitiaz under sails
Vitiaz under sails

The original Vitiaz and Rynda were the first Russian protected cruisers. Wooden-hulled screw corvettes with full rig, Vitiaz being very slow under sail. Vitiaz was later renamed Skobeleff. Variag had the engines of the older screw frigate Balkan. After the actions in Hampton Roads there was considerable doubt whether to proceed with the Askold, and she was the last unarmoured warship of over 2,000t laid down in Russia for 20 years. The armament was frequently changed and in 1884 was: Variag 1-6in/23, 10-4.2in/20; Vitiaz 8-6in/23, 4-4.2in/20; Askold as Vitiaz, with one 3.4in and spar torpedoes.

The 1884 ships of the same name were steel and iron-hulled partly protected cruisers with clipper bows and barque-rig. They were heathed and coppered. Rynda at least is believed to have shown signs of weakness and to have been strengthened. Protection was limited to a 1in deck over boiler and engine rooms. The 6in guns were on the upper deck with four in sponsons and three on each
side. Rynda was latterly a training ship, and 1901 reports give her as 4-6in/28, 2-3.4in, 2-11pdr, 10-1pdr revolvers and 4-15in TT. She was reported to have had diesel engines fitted as experimental ship in 1911.

Protected cruiser Admiral Kornilov (1887)

Admiiral Kornilov

A steel protected cruiser, sheathed and coppered, with a pronounced ram bow and originally rigged as a barque. There was a 2 in-lin deck with 3in CT and 4lin-3in engine room hatch glacis, but the 6in guns had shields only. These were on each side of the upper deck with the end guns in slightly projecting sponsons. For most of the waterline there was a cofferdam filled with coconut fibre. The Kornilov was rearmed in 1904/1905, 10-6in/45 replacing the 14 older guns, and from 1908 onwards was a torpedo school ship.

Protected cruiser Svetlana (1896)


A three-funnelled cruiser with a pronounced ram bow, and sheathed and coppered, the Svietlana was in peacetime fitted out as a yacht for the Grand Duke commanding the Russian Navy, and had a considerable amount of woodwork installed. There was a lin deck with 2in slopes, a 2in hood over the engine room and 5-in glacis to the hatches. The CT was 4in and the ammunition tube to the
forecastle 6in gun and the broadside patches protecting the TT were 2in. Four of the 6in guns were in main deck sponsons and two fore and aft on the upper deck. Svietlana was sunk on the day after Tsushima by the Otowa and Niitaka.

1890s Masted armored cruisers

Rurik (1894)

Although the Rurik caused a considerable stir when first built, she was a thoroughly unsatisfactory design with only half her armament available on the broadside, inadequate protection and poor compartmentation. The belt was 320ft long, 6ft 9in wide and 10in-8in reduced to 5in at the lower edge and ending in 10in-9in bulkheads which were taken to the upper deck. The 8in guns in sponsons, the 6in on the main deck and the 4.7in on the upper deck were protected by shields while the heavy bulkheads gave some protection to 14 of the 6in.
The armour deck was 2-in over the belt, increased to 3bin forward and 3in aft. Rurik was barque-rigged and sheathed and coppered. She was sunk at Ulsan by 8in and 6in shells from the Japanese cruisers.

Rurik 1894

Rossia & Gromoboi (1896)

Gromoboi visiting Australia, 1901

An unfortunate design, though an improvement on the Rurik. The armour belt ran from the stern to 80ft short of the bows, and from 4ft 6in above to 4ft below lwl. It was 8in-6in with a.4in lower edge and a 7in fore bulkhead. A patch of 5in side armour above the belt, with a Sin bulkhead forward, protected the engine rooms, with, in addition, a 3in glacis between
lower and main decks. Apart from the battery bulkheads the guns had only thin shields, lin traverses and lightly
armoured hoists for the 8in. The mild steel armour deck was 3 in over the belt and 2in forward. The 8in guns
were in sponsons on the upper deck with 3-6in forward under the forecastle, 6 on each side of the main deck and 1 aft. At full power only the 2 wing shafts were used, giving the ihp quoted above, as there was insufficient boiler powe to use the 2500 ihp centre engine in addition, and this was kept for cruising with the wing screws disconnected.


The Rossia, which was sheathed and coppered, was rearmed to some extent in 1906, 6-6in being added in sponsons on the upper deck while the foremost 6in was remounted on the forecastle and the lighter guns reduced to 15-11pdr and 2-3pdr, with 2 TT. In 1916-1917 the 6in were reduced to 14 and 2-8in added at bow and stern to give a total of 6. She was considerably damaged by the Japanese armoured cruisers at Ulsan in 1904 and had heavy casualties but could still steam well. In the First World War she was employed in the Baltic, at times as a minelayer with 100 mines.

The Rossia, often confused with Gromoboi, very similar, differed from the latter by many aspects which justify its separate description: Overall, it was a derivative of the Novik, the latter being a mixed cruiser-battleship (sail and steam), while the masts of the Rossia had only a reduced sail. It had four funnels, and its short forward mast had an armored top. Its displacement and its size reached summits, and the Royal navy, which worried about it ordered the two Powerfuls.

Its original armament included 12 pieces of 76 mm against 24 on the Gromoboi, the latter having only 4 pieces of 47 mm against 20 on the Rossia, and 4 of 37 mm against 14 on the Rossia. Their distribution was also different, the secondary pieces of the Rossia being in side ports, while those of the Gromoboi were in barbettes giving them a better shooting range. In addition, the belt armor was lower on the Gromoboi, the latter, built in the same shape as the Baltic shipyards two years later (accepted in service in 1900) was significantly slower.

The two units took part in the Russo-Japanese War: They were present at the battle of Uslan and seriously affected, but resisted enough to escape with all steam with many victims. Returning to the port, they were nicknamed “tin strainers”. Their protection was judged disappointingly afterwards. In 1906, they took advantage of their repair to rearm them with 6 pieces of 152 added, replaced in overhangs, and the tertiary armament reduced to 15 x 76 mm and 2 x 37 mm, with two TTs instead of the original five on Rossia (for Gromoboi, see file). They served in the Baltic during the Great War and were broken up in 1922.

Russian cruiser Rossia – Author’s illustration
Read more about the Rossia

Modern Russian armored cruisers

Bayan class (1896)

Aso, ex-Bayan in IJN service. She was back in the Russian Navy under her old name in 1916. Colorized by Iro Ootoko

Medium-size armoured cruisers of better design than such ships as the Rossia. The main belt ran from the stem to the after turret and from 2ft above to 4ft below lwl, ending in a 7in-8in bulkhead. The belt was reduced to 4in at the lower edge and ends. The upper belt was 23in to the main deck as were the casemates for the 6in guns and the midships battery for 8 of the 11pdrs. The armour deck was a uniform 2in. The first Bayan took part in the Russo-Japanese war, being mined on 27.7.1904, and was sunk at Port Arthur by 11in howitzers on 8.12.1904. She was raised and served in the Japanese Navy as the Aso.

In the First World War Pallada was blown up by a torpedo from U26. The remaining two ships had two 11pdr or two 3pdr AA added and when used as minelayers could carry up to 150 mines. Bayan (ii) took part in the action off Moon Sound on 17.10.1917 when one 12in hit from the König caused a serious fire.

Rurik (ii) (1906)

The Rurik was one of the great prides of the Russian navy in 1914. It was certainly one of the most powerful and modern ships in its class, foreshadowing in many ways the dreadnoughts under study. The name comes from the chief of the Viking tribe of the Rus established from 862 onwards by forming the first Slavic state of Novgorod, his son becoming the ruler of Kiev.

The previous Rurik no longer existed when the ship was put on hold at the Vickers Chantiers Anglais in August 1905: The 1892 mixed cruiser-battleship had just been sunk a year earlier at Ulsan during the Russo-Japanese War. By its general design, both compact and broadly dimensioned, the Rurik project interested Vickers yards as a testing ground, and cut across previous Russian productions (he participated in the review of the Spithead in 1909, something rare for a foreign cruiser ).

The shielding, without being very important, was judiciously distributed, moreover forming a double armored bridge with formwork within the building, which had almost no weak point. The disastrous results of the Russo-Japanese War weighed heavily on the Russian recommendations. The new Rurik was launched on November 17, 1911 and completed in September 1908, then accepted into service in July 1909, the time to remedy its problems with barbettes. In 1911, its silhouette changed somewhat, an important front mast being assembled, later becoming tripod, with a blockhouse of direction of shooting installed in 1917, and a piece of 40 mm AA.


The Rurik had been operating since 1908 as the flagship of the Baltic fleet cruiser squadron. It was modified to carry mines, up to 400 according to certain sources. She was accidentally stranded on February 13, 1915 at Gotland, then struck by a mine on November 19, 1916, seriously damaging the rear part of the live works. She was put in reserve in 1918 and finally demolished in 1923.

Displacement 15,200 t standard
Dimensions 161.23 x 22.90 x 7.90 m
Propulsion 2 shaft mach. VTE, 28 Belleville boilers, 19,700 hp. 21 knots max.
Armor: CT 203 mm, decks 75 mm, turrets 203-178-152 mm, battery 76 mm, belt 104-152 mm;
Crew: 750 men.
Armament: (Aurora, 1914) 4 x 254 mm (2×2), 8 x 203 (4×2), 20 x 120 mm, 4 x 47 mm, 2 x 457 mm TTs (sub)

WW1 era protected cruisers

Pallada class (1899)

Pallada class - IJN Aso
Pallada class (here, the Aso in Japanese service).

She was undoubtedly the most famous class of Russian cruisers, more for historical than technical reasons. The fact that the Aurora, anchored today on the Neva in Saint Petersburg ( was one of the few cruisers of this preserved era largely contributes to this. The Pallada and the Diana were ordered in 1895 from the Galernii shipyards (the Aurora in 1897 from the shipyards of the new Admiralty). Much more spacious than the Svetlana of 1896, they were also well armed, with a 76 mm battery in port and barbettes, and eight 152 mm (6-in) instead of 6. They were classified among the protected cruisers, and not armored.

The Pallada, completed in 1902, was quickly sent to the Pacific. She was in Port Arthur the night of February 8 to 9, 1904 during the attack on the Japanese torpedo boats. She survived an impact by a miracle, but was sunk by the Howitzers deployed by the Japanese infantry of the siege army on December 8. After the capture of Port Arthur, Pallada was raised, repaired summarily, taken to Japan for further work and renamed Tsugaru. She was in service by 1914 in the Imperial Japanese Navy, not purchased back by Russia and was broken up in 1923.

The Diana and the Aurora were in the Baltic fleet, constituting the 2nd brigade of cruisers. The Aurora had gun shields upon completion, and was rearmed with two 152 mm guns, losing four 75 mm and her torpedo tubes, with reduced rigging. Diana in 1914 received ten 130 mm and four 75 mm, her torpedo tubes were removed, and her 37 mm QF guns were removed later in favor of two 75 mm AA. In 1916 and until February 1917, Aurora was docked for rearming with four additional 152 mm guns and one 75 mm AA instead of the 37 mm. Diana was reformed in 1918 and sold in 1922, while Aurora, drowned in Bolshevik elements, launched the revolution of February 1917, the mutineers supporting the revolutionaries with her guns in St Petesrburg. Rearmed in 1923, she was preserved in 1948.

Displacement: 6600-6800t
Dimensions: 126.70 x 16.7 x 6.35-6.55 m
Propulsion: 3 propellers, 3 mach. VTE, 24 Belleville boilers, 12,000 hp. and 19 knots max.
Armor: 152 mm Blockhouse crew, 51-65 mm bridges; Crew 576 men.
Armament: (Aurora, 1914) 10 guns of 152 mm, 20 guns of 76 mm, 8 guns of 40 mm, 3 x 381 mm TTs (sub)

Variag (1899)


The Varyag was built during the 1898 naval programn, and the Russian Imperial Admiralty contacted William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the construction of the new cruiser. Work started on August 1, 1898, and the new cruiser was launched on October 31, 1899. She left the United States on March 10, 1900 and headed for Russia. On May 19, 1901, after taking commission, she received Nicholas II of Russia.

In November 1901, Varyag was transferred to the Far East, Pacific fleet. When the Russo-Japanese War started the cruiser and the gunboat Koreets were based in the neutral Korean port of Chemulpo. To avoid any interference the Japanese admiral Uriu Sotokiti at the head of a fleet comprising the cruisers Asama, Naniwa, Takachiho, Chiyoda, Akashi, Chihaya and eight other vessels, blocked Chemulpo. Koreets attempted to reach Port-Arthur but never passed the barrage and was constrained to return to port. A day after an ultimatum was presented to the Russian kontr-admiral Vsevolod Fiedorovich Roudnev, the latter decided to set sail anyway, forcing the admiration of the international fleet present. The Japanese admiral and his fleet, posted off Yodolmi island reiterated the order to surrender his ships to the Russians, ignored once more, which resulted in the Japanese opening fire.

The duel was intense, at around 9000m, lasting for 50 minutes. It was an amazing feat of bravery given the odds. During this fight, the Varyag would send 1,105 shells, sinking a IJN destroyer, and damaging, according to him, the Asama, Chiyoda, Takachiho and Naniwa for the alleged loss of around 30 dead and 20 wounded. The Varyag however was hit eleven times, including three times below the waterline, and an officer, thirty sailors are killed, whereas six officers and 85 sailors were injured and 100 more slightly injured. Damage was too great to break through, and both ships returned to port. The captain would later order to scuttle her.

Captured by the Japanese and raised in 1905, Varyag was repaired and integrated later as Soya. She served as a cadet training ship and made frequent trips to Hawaii and the US West Coast. After WW1 broke out she servd in the home islands and patrolled the Pacific. Eventually in march 1916, she was resold to Russia for 4 000 000 yens, renamed Varyag. She was held at Murmansk in the arctic and later sent to Liverpool shipyard for modernization when the revolution broke out. As the modernization was led by the British and were left unpaid by the Soviets, the British seized the ship which was ultimately resold to a german company for breaking up in 1920.

The Varyag after the battle of Chemulpo
The Varyag after the battle of Chemulpo

Displacement: 6,500 t standard
Dimensions: 129.50 x 15.09 x 5.9 m
Propulsion: 2 shaft VTE, 30 boilers, 10,000 shp. and 23 knots max.
Protection: 40-75 mm
Crew: 20 officers and 550 sailors
Armament: 12 x 152 mm, 10 x 80 mm, 2 x 47 mm, 6 x 457 mm TTs.

Askold (1900)


This large protected cruiser built in Germany became universally known for her unique silhouette, due to its five tall chimneys, a configuration never seen before, but also a sign of its high speed. She had a continuous deck hull, of decreasing height, a short superstructure packed forward, and most of the parts on deck rather than barbettes. Its 152 mm battery well supplemented made it a formidable building. There was a protective bridge of 51 mm running along the entire length with slopes of 76 mm and a glaze above the machines of 100 mm, and the tubes of ammunition and torpedo tubes 12 to 63 mm. Started in Krupp in 1898 and completed in 1901, it gave full satisfaction to its sponsors, and took part in the Russo-Japanese War: He was forced to flee during the action of the Round Island and took refuge in Shanghai where he was interned. Returned to Russia, he was then assigned to the Siberian squadron, as a flagship in 1906.

He then joined the Pacific, then from there the Mediterranean at the start of the war, making a journey of 102,000 km, and participated in the Dardanelles operations, nicknamed by the allies “packet of Woodbines” (cigarettes then in vogue among the English). She then served in the Baltic, being assigned there on October 21, 1916, but was modified and transformed in Toulon then in Great Britain on the way, losing all his artillery of 47 and 30 mm, while he was grafted two pieces of 75 mm in stern, two 47 mm AA, 4 new TLT of 457 mm in place of the old ones, two bridge rails for mines and two ASM grenade traps. He did not arrive until September 1917. Three times later, he served with the “reds”. Captured by the Royal Navy, he served from June 14, 1918 under the Jack Union as “Glory IV”. It was then returned to the Soviets in 1921 and demolished in Germany.

Displacement: 5905t standard
Dimensions: 133.20 x 15 x 6.20 m
Propulsion: 3 shafts VTE, 9 Schultz-Thornycroft boilers, 20,420 hp. 23.8 knots max.
Armor: CT 152 mm, decks 51-100 mm
Crew: 576 men.
Armament: 12 x 152 mm, 12 x 76 mm, 8 x 47 mm, 2 x 40 mm AA, 6 x 381 mm TTs (sub)

Bogatyr class (1901)

Bogatyr by Bougault
Bogatyr by Bougault

This class of cruiser was developed before the Russo-Japanese War, and started in 1898-1901 in four shipyards to serve in the Black Sea (Ochakov and Kagul, later renamed Kagul and Pamiat Merkuria following the mutiny of November 12, 1905 in Sevastopol), and in the Baltic (Bogatyr and Oleg). Their armament was divided into double turrets at the front and at the rear and side barbettes, and they were better protected than the other Russian cruisers. The Bogatyr was the only one built in Germany (at Vulkan, near Stettin). It was in service as early as 1902.

Only Bogatyr and Oleg were operational before the war against the Japanese Empire, and sent to the Pacific, but they were not damaged. All four were on the other hand in service in August 1914, the two cities being affected again in the Baltic, and the two others in the Black Sea. The latter saw one of the most serious mutinies of the fleet, with that of the Potemkin, the Ochakov confronting at anchor loyalist vessels and being seriously affected.

In 1907 she was renamed Kagul, which forced the other Pamiat Merkuria to be renamed. The two Baltic units assigned to the 1st cruiser brigade, and in 1916 received new armament comprising 16 pieces of 130 mm including 8 on the main deck, 4 in double turrets and 4 in casemates, 4 of 75 mm AA and 100 mines. During the revolution, both were taken by the Bolsheviks and served until 1919. The Oleg was sunk by the torpedo boats CMB-4 during the night attack of the Royal Navy in Kronstadt on June 17.

Merkuria was rearmed with 4 x 152 mm added and two 75 mm AA instead of her initial battery, but not Kagul. The latter was renamed Ochakov under the red flag in 1917, but these two units later displayed the Ukrainian flag. They then passed to the Germans, then to the British, the Ochakov was renamed Kornilov and operating in the Wrangel fleet. The recaptured Merkuria was renamed Komintern and served until 1942.

Displacement: 5905t standard
Dimensions: 133.20 x 15 x 6.20 m
Propulsion: 3 shafts VTE, 9 Schultz-Thornycroft boilers, 20,420 hp. 23.8 knots max.
Armor: CT 152 mm, decks 51-100 mm
Crew: 576.
Armament: 12 x 152 mm, 12 x 76 mm, 8 x 47 mm, 2 x 40 mm AA, 6 x 381 mm TTs (sub)

Novik (1900)

Novik cruiser

A three-funnelled cruiser with a single mast between the second and third funnels, and a ram bow. The Novik was lightly built as a much enlarged destroyer, but there was a 14in deck increased to 2in on the slopes and to 3in over the top of the engines. The 4.7in guns mounted fore and aft with two on either beam. For her day the Novik were was a very fast ship and attained 19,000ihp for 25.6kts on trials. She was scuttled at Korsakovsk in Sakhalin after an action with the light cruiser Tsushima on 20.8.1904 and was later salved by the Japanese and served in their navy as the Suzuya. The Novik name was given in 1911 to the first of a new revolutionary Russian destroyer.

Boyarin (1901)

Boyarin- Color

Very different from the Novik in appearance, the Boyarin resembled a lighter version of the Bogatyr class with a short forecastle and poop, three funnels and two masts. There was a lin deck with 2in slopes amidships and 3in on the CT. One 4.7in gun was mounted far forward, one aft and the others in upper deck sponsons by the fore and mainmasts. Boyarin struck a Russian mine off Dairen near Port Arthur and was abandoned by her crew. Towing appeared possible, but the Boyarin broke loose during the night and drifted on to another mine and sank.

Izumrud class (1903)


Building of the Izmurud class (Izmurud, Iemtchug) protected cruisers derived from the Novik of 1900, were differentiated mainly by the three masts instead of only one, a significantly greater length, and a modified tertiary armament. The Novik and the Izmurud having been forgiven during the Russo-Japanese War, the Jemtchug was the only survivor in line in 1914. She was at that time based in Penang in Malaysia (North-West of the peninsula), and was surprised October 28, 1914 in the middle of the night by the SMS Emden, the famous German privateer cruiser detached from the Pacific squadron of Von Spee, who, with a fake fourth funnel, posed for a brief moment as a British cruiser before opening fire at close range on the ill-fated Russian Cruiser, with a cannon and a torpedo. See this event. The latter, whose crew was awakened with a bang, barely had time to reply. Screened from all sides, she sank into the harbor and the Emden was able to leave Penang without being worried.

Displacement: 3103t standard
Dimensions: 111 x 12.20 x 5 m
Propulsion: 3 shafts VTE, 16 Yarrow boilers, 17,000 hp. 24 knots max.
Armor: CT 31 mm, decks 30-76 mm;
Crew: 350 men.
Armament: 6 x 120 mm, 6 x 47 mm, 2 x 37 mm, 3 x 381 mm TTs (sub)

Murarev Amurzki class cruisers (1914)

Launch of Amurzki at Schichau, Gdansk, Poland
Launch of Muravyov Amursky at Schichau Werke, Gdansk, Poland.

Authorised under the 1912 Programme for the Far Eastern station, they reflected the Russian view on the light type of protected cruiser, in common use in these waters before the Russo-Japanese War. In all respects they were a reduced version of the Svetlana class being built in home yards at that time. Their silhouettes were standardised with those of the mentioned cruisers and 35kts destroyers. Both ships were requisitioned by the German Government on 5 August 1914 and completed for the Kaiserliche Marine as Elbing and Pillau respectively. See under Germany.

Svetlana class cruisers (1915)

Svetlana class blueprints HD

Authorised under the 1912 Programme for deployment with the Baltic Fleet. The preliminary studies initiated in 1907 resulted in the characteristics of a 4500t, 28kt cruiser armed with 1-8in, 6–120mm (3×2) in turrets. There were several designs and requirements evaluated in June 1911 extending to 30kt ships armed with 12-6in/50 in 4 triple turrets. Their silhouettes were similar to those of Gangut class dreadnoughts. In February 1912 when it was learned that those demands could be fulfilled within a 10,000t hull, the Naval Staff issued in May 1912 tenders for 6500t, 30kt ships armed with 12-130mm/55 in single shield mountings and armoured with a 3in belt.
Because of the abandonment of turrets it was decided to standardise silhouettes with those of the 35kt destroyers being designed at the same time. To save money for the enlarged battlecruiser programme the Naval Ministry decided in February 1913 to reduce speed by half a knot and on 14 February 1913 orders were placed for four ships.

The side protection of the hull comprised l-in armour between the main and lower deck and 3-in belt uptakes had l-in on the whole length from the lower deck down to 3ft below the waterline.
The main and lower decks had 20 mm of armour each and around the funnels base. In 1913 one seaplane was introduced and at the end of 1917 it was decided to increase their number to 2, together with the crane added to handle them. Svetlana had her 63mm AA replaced by 75mm ones, the others were to get 4in AA guns. The contracted completion dates of June-October 1915 were rescheduled because of shortage of material and manpower and difficulties with replacing of orders for equipment placed in Germany.

Soviet cruiser Profintern during WW2
Soviet cruiser Profintern during WW2

Completion of the most advanced Svetlana was planned for the beginning of 1918. She was evacuated with the other incomplete ships from Reval to Petrograd in December 1917 but the Reds were not able to complete her for service with the Active Squadron in 1919. Renamed Profintern on 7 December 1922. Admiral Greig and Admiral Spiridov were completed as mercantile motor tankers Azneft and Grozneft by the Baltic Yd and Northern Yd respectively and transferred to the Black Sea. The former was stranded in a gale off Tuapse. The hull of Admiral Butakov had been laid up after the Bolshevik Revolution and was renamed Voroshilov in 1928.

Admiral Nakhimov class cruisers (1915)

Admiral Nakhimov class oiginal design – Credits navypedia

Authorised under the 1912 (first pair) and 1914 Programmes for deployment with the Black Sea Fleet. The Naval Staff decided to build these cruisers as the repeated Svetlana class and appropriate drawings were presented to the Russud and Naval Yards. The design was critically reviewed and John Brown Yd consulted to help the Russians to rework these with the general layout retained but displacement enlarged by 1000t and speed increased. The Naval Staff approved the modified design and the first pair of ships was ordered in March 1914, followed by the second one in October 1914. The yards made an agreement giving hull construction to Russud while the Naval Yd was to fit them out.

In 1917 the Naval Staff decided to add the second seaplane and a crane to handle it. At that time it was decided to equip Admiral Nakhimov with 75mm AA instead of 63mm while the other ships were to be fitted with 4in AA. The completion of this cruiser was delayed from autumn to December 1917 because of wartime difficulties and her sister ships were far less advanced at that time. The Bolshevik Revolution prevented completion of Admiral Nakhimov which together with incomplete hull of Admiral Lazarev was seized by the Germans in 1918. Both of them were handed over to the Allies in November 1918 and transferred to Wrangel’s fleet in 1919.

Still incomplete in 1920 Admiral Nakhimov was scheduled for evacuation but the Whites were forced to abandon her in Odessa. She was seized there by the Reds and renamed Chervona Ukraina in December 1926. Admiral Lazarev was completed to the modified design in 1932 and entered service under the name Krasni Kavkaz. Admiral Kornilov was launched to clear the slipway in 1922 and BU while Admiral Istomin was dismantled in situ. More on the Profintern class cruisers

Krazny Kavkaz, the most extensive reconstruction of the two cruisers (with Chervona Ukraina)

4000 tons minelayer cruisers project (1915)

Authorized under the 1915 emergency program, to be deployed in the Baltic fleet, and replaced the Amurski class requisitioned by Germany. The naval staff worked out the requirements under the influence of successful minelaying operations of Russian light forces. They were to be 4000 tonnes standard, 5000 tonnes fully loaded, and armed with six to eight 130 mm/55 guns, and were to be ale to carry some 350 to 450 mines. The blueprints were never completed and the ship never ordered. For their appearance, they could have been Russian versions of the Pillau class.

Read More/Src

R. Gardiner, Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1905 & 1906-1921
Amazing colorized photos by Iroo toko