Rossiya class cruisers (1896)

Russia (1896)
Armoured Cruisers – Rossiya, Gromoboi

The Giant Russian Cruisers

Back in the 1890s the fast-growing Russian Empire and its global ambition worried the British naval staff much more than the threat posed by a then still small German Navy. The Russian Navy in 1893 ordered for the pacific squadron two massive cruisers to be used as long-range commerce raider. By 1896 the first was launched , the second was to follow in 1899. But her displacement and size reached a peak for an armoured cruiser, and the Royal Navy ordered the two Powerfuls in response. Indeed by 1896 with her 12,300 tons and heavy armament, the Rossia (bearing a very significant name) was the largest warship afloat in this category. Still today the Rossia and her near sister-ship are impressive with their tall bows, spurs, striking white hulls and three lines of portholes, they looked like liners crammed with artillery. Both took a significant part in the Russo-Japanese war, and later participated in WW1, Gromoboi even duelling with SMS Von der Tann.

Gromoboi visiting Australia in 1901



Rossia counted four 8-inch (203 mm) 45-caliber, Pattern 1892 guns sponsoned on each side of the main battery decks. These guns fired a 193.5 pound (87.8 kg) shell at 2950 feets per second and 12,000 yards only due to a lower max elevation. There were therefore no main guns on the deck as the secondary battery, which comprised no less than sixteen 6-inch (152 mm)/45 Pattern 1892 guns was also entirely placed in barbettes or hull embrasures (center). Two of these Canet guns were mounted in the bow and stern. They had a better range (12,600 yd) but their twice lighter 91.4 pound (41.5 kg) shells hit the target slower (2,600 feet per second (790 m/s). Their tertiary artillery which was dealing with TBs comprised twenty 47-millimeter (1.9 in) Canet 43 1892 pattern guns, two 47 mm (1.9 in)/43 Hotchkiss AA guns and eighteen 37mm (1.5 in)/23 fast-firing revolver guns. The latter can hit any ship at the rate of 20 rounds each passing minute at 2700m. In addition for close-quarter duels, no less than five 15 inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes were mounted above the water line, but their original 1880s Whitehead torpedoes were replaced by better models in time.


A real progress on the previous Rurik’s relatively low-grade steel plates, the Rossia, like the Gromoboi, was fitted with newly developed Harvey armor. Krupp armour was a first choice, but Russian production proved too complicated. Both had their bottoms sheathed in wood and copper to reduce biofouling. Both also shared a bow that trimmed badly in bad weather, and through improvement the issue was somewhat solved, both ships estimated being good sea boats, with smooth roll due to tumblehome sides. Apart their thick conning towers (12 in or 305mm) in Krupp armour, Rossia had a better armoured belt than the Gromoboi: The waterline belt extended from the stern to almost the bow (but 80 feets), extended 1.4 m above the waterline and 1.2 m below, and 8 inches (203 mm) thick, reduced to 6 abaft the machinery spaces, 5 at the stern. This belt was closed off at the forward end by a 7 inch transverse bulkhead. Gromoboi’s belt was reduced in thickness by 2 inches (51 mm), shorter and less tall above waterline. The barbettes were 4.7 inches (119 mm) thick, decks 2–3 in (51–76 mm).

Blueprint of the Gromoboi

Blueprint of the Rossiya


To act as commerce raider, Rossia was fitted with a unusual machine arrangement, with one large vertical triple expansion steam engine driving the two external shafts and one smaller cruiser VTE engine for the central shaft. What was really unique was there was not enough steam to drive all three engines simultaneously, so either the central one, or two external shafts had to be uncoupled. No less than thirty-two Belleville water-tube boilers fed these VTEs. 15,523 ihp (11,575 kW) on trials gave about 20 knots (to be precise 19.74 knots or 36.56 km/h. 2,200 long tons of coal gave a 7,740 nautical miles (14,330 km; 8,910 mi) radius and by 1898 oil fuel was also tried.

Gromoboi and Rossiya at sea in 1904, off Vladivostock


The Rossia, often assimilated to Gromoboi as they shared the same hull, were very similar and are so presented here. However, they were not sister ships, differing in many aspects, the Gromoboi being heavily modified in the meantime. Overall, both were derivative of the Novik, a mixed cruiser with sail and steam, but their masts had only a reduced sail. both had similar length, showed four funnels, short foremast and armored tops. Rossia’s original secondary armament comprised twelve 3-in (76 mm) against 24 on the Gromoboi, which in addition only four 3-pdr (47 mm) against twenty on the Rossia, and four 1-pdr (37 mm) against fourteen on the Rossia. Distribution was also different, the secondary guns of the Rossia being placed in side ports, while those of the Gromoboi were in barbettes, giving them a better range. In addition, the belt shield was inferior on the Gromoboi, and she was significantly slower.

Artist impression of the Gromoboi at sea in 1901 (pinterest, origin unknown)

The Rossia and Gromoboi in action

The two units took part in the Russo-Japanese War: They were present at the battle of Uslan and badly hit, but resisted enough to escape. Returning to port, they were so riddled as to be nicknamed “tin strainers”. Their protection was deemed disappointing. In 1906, their drydock overhaul was used to re-arm them with six 6-in (152mm ) guns, tertiary armament being reduced to fifteen 3-in (76 mm) and two 1-pdr (37 mm) plus two TTs instead of the original five On the Rossia.

Gromoboi in 1922 grounded at Liepaja. She was broken up in situ by a German company.

Cruiser Rossiya after 1906

Rossia’s carrer

Built at Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg, the large cruiser was foundered on a sandbar en route to Kronstadt for fitting-out. Before even finishing her trials she participated in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Fleet Review in June 1897 at Spithead, and departed for Nagasaki, Japan in March 1898, then joined Vladivostock where she remains until the outbreak of the war in 1904. She was the flagship of the far east squadron that also comprised the Gromoboi, Rurik, and Bogatyr under command of Rear Admiral Karl Jessen. They undertook sorties against Japanese shipping bound to Port Arthur, assisting the siege, with some success. She also tested an observation balloon for some time.

Rossiya testing an observation balloon

Battle off Ulsan
This was both cruiser real test of fire: Th Russian squadron blockaded at Port Arthur tried to break out but were rebuffed with heavy losses at the Battle of the Yellow Sea. Jessen’s squadron departed on August, 10 to assist it, loosing Bogatyr en route, reaching the island of Tsushima at dawn but failing to see any Russian ship leaving Vladivostock. They however found the blockading “flying” Japanese squadron (Vice Admiral Kamimura Hikonojō), and cruisers Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Azuma. However at night, both squadron failed to spot each others and passed by, but at 5:00 am, after maneuvering, both squadron this time had visual contact and battle began at 5:23, opening fire at 8500m.

All four Japanese armoured cruisers concentrated on the rear ship Rurik, and was left behind. Both squadrons tried to get in range, and at 06:00 Admiral Jessen turned back to reach Rurik and allowed her to participate in the ensuring fire fest. But as Rurik was hit again, this time Rossiya and Gromoboi placed themselves between the Japanese and the wounded cruiser. They scored many hits on Iwate but the Japanese replied and put Rossia on fire (which was extinguished 20 min later). Both ships resumed manoeuvers but at 08:15 Jessen ordered Rurik to join them to Vladivostock. Both ships fought a fighting retreat for 1h30, being slowed sown at 15 knots. Eventually the Japanese broke off and turned back to finish off the Rurik, previously sunk by the slower Naniwa and Takachiho.

Rossiya’s side damages after the battle of Uslan

Damages on the Rossiya were relatively serious, but no hit was scored under the waterline and repairs could be done in two month. She has taken 19 hits starboard and 9 port, with 44 dead and 156 wounded. Half the losses on Gromoboi, because the captain ordered his crews manning the exposed light artillery to lay down and those manning the unexposed guns to go below.

After the war, Rossiya returned to Kronstadt on 8 April 1906, for a three years refit. Masts and armament, were revised and redesigned, with the addition of four guns broadside. In 1909 she visited the Azores, participated in King George V’s Coronation Fleet Review in June 1911 and Copenhagen. She later cruised the Mediterranean from April 1914 when the war broke out. She was mobilized and quickly transformed as a minelayer for the 2nd Cruiser Brigade of the Baltic Fleet. Together with Oleg and Bogatyr she laid a large minefield in january 1915 between Kiel and the Mecklenburg coast, claiming light cruisers SMS Augsburg and SMS Gazelle (badly damaged but not sunk). In october 1915 her armament was augmented again, and she ended with a broadside of six eight-inch and seven six-inch guns. With the revolution, she came under control of the Soviet Red Fleet in September 1917 and later joined Kronstadt, making her “ice voyage” before being interned and eventually sold in 1 July 1922 to the German Company to be broken up. Foundered en route on the coast of Estonia she was later salvaged and towed to Kiel to be broken up.

Gromoboi at war

Gromoboi for “Громобой” meaning “Thunderer” was also a commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, but was eventually severely blooded a the Battle off Ulsan when going back home to Vladivostock. Transferred to the Baltic like her sister-ship she took part in ww1. Before fitting out she was forced aground by sea ice, and later departed for repairs. She left Liepāja on 10 December 1900 for the far east, and when stopping at Kiel, she was examined by Prince Henry of Prussia. She was later present at the constitution to Australia, visiting Sydney and Melbourne and then joined Nagasaki and finally reached Port Arthur on 29 July 1901; By the time the war erupted she did several sorties against Japanese shipping, claiming for example the Hitachi Maru loaded with siege howitzer and troops, and followed the fate of Rossiya at the battle of Uslan.

Gromoboi’s battle damage after the battle of Ulsan

As a consequence of her fighting retreat towards Vladivostock she suffered at least 15 hits starboard, 7 port side of the hull and many more on the superstructures, deploring 87 dead and 170 wounded. In Vladivostock she was repaired and armament was modified, with the addition of six new 6-in guns, received Barr and Stroud rangefinders and Telefunken radio equipment but a mine hit later condemned her to extensive repairs until the end of the war.
The interwar saw a lengthy refit at Kronstadt, and she emerged with engines and boilers reconditioned, less light guns, new 460mm TTs, foremast removed, artillery rearranged, armor modified (upper-deck casemates was increased to two inches, new casemates built, telemeter towers…). After her engine refits in the summer of 1911 she reached on trials 18.5 knots.

During the great war she was part of the 2nd Cruiser Brigade of the Baltic Fleet and was used as heavy minelayer, carrying 200 mines. In one of her sorties on August 10, 1915she duelled with German battlecruiser SMS Von der Tann at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. Until 1917 her armament was modified once more, when she traded its 6-in guns for an additional eight-inch guns. She also received two 2.5-inch and two 47 mm anti-aircraft guns while the light artillery remaining was deposed. Part of the Soviet Red Fleet in September 1917 she departed for Kronstadt and was placed here in reserve. However on October 1920, her crew mutinied and scuttled the ship. later sold for scrap to Germany she ran aground in a storm near Liepāja and was later broken up in situ.

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1906

Specifications (1914)

Dimensions (L-w-h) 146,60 x 20,9 x 8,5 m
Total weight, fully loaded 13,220 long tonnes
Armament 4x 203 mm, 22x 152 mm, 19x 76 mm, 6×47 mm, 2 TT 381 mm
Armor Blockhaus 305, deck 75, casemate 120, belt 152 mm
Crew 877
Propulsion 3 props, 3 VTE engines, 32 Belleville boilers, 15 500 hp
Speed (road) 20 knots (38 km/h; ? mph)
Range ?


Illustration profile of the Rossia in 1914

Evstafi class battleships (1910)

Russia (1910)
Battleships – Evstafi, Ioann Zlatoust

Genesis: 1905′ cruel lessons

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.

The previous Potemkine class, on which the following design was largely based.

Not the last Russian pre-dreadnoughts

As such, these battleships not only capitalized on the Potemkine design, but many aspects were studied with caution. They displaced 12,738 long tons (12,942 t), versus 12,480 long tons (12,680 t). In reality they were 45 tons lighter. They were slightly larger, 385 ft 9 in (117.6 m) instead of 378 ft 6 in (115.4 m), a bit wider at 74 ft (22.6 m) vs. 73 ft (22.3 m), however their engines were essentially the same and top speed about 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph), unchanged. Despite being late in the game, the Evstafi class was not the last one, strangely, it was indeed superseded by the next Andrei Pervozvanny-class battleship, which were completely designed from the bottom-up with the 1905 lessons at heart and probably among the most powerful and capable pre-dreadnoughts worldwide ever designed.

The next Andrei Pervozvanni class was much larger and hybridated with dreadnoughts features, namely greater speed and much powerful armament. These were designed since the beginning to integrate 1905′ battles lessons, while the Esvstafi has been modified so after launched.

Evstafi Class Armament

In armament however, they received an additional four 6in secondary guns (203 mm) in addition to their main artillery of 152 mm, slightly reduced from 16 to 12 cannons to compensate. The main artillery comprised two pairs of 12-inch 40-calibre Pattern 1895. Each had a 260 degrees traverse, +35/-5° elevation can fire at 4 rpm, with 75 shells in storage. The 331.7 kg shells can find their mark at 20 km (22,200 yards). The brand new 8-inch (203 mm) 50-calibre Pattern 1905 guns were mounted in armoured casemates fore and aft, each with a 120° traverse, and 20° elevation. The HE shells weighted 264.3 pounds (119.9 kg), travelled at 2,647 ft/s (807 m/s) and found their mark at 14 km (15,800 yds), with 110 more in storage for each artillery piece.

Evstafi at anchor, black sea fleet, prewar.
Evstafi at anchor, black sea fleet, prewar.

The secondary armament also comprised a traditional set of 6 in (152 mm) pieces in lower casemates, 12 Canet Pattern 1892 45-calibre guns in all. With a 20° elevation, these 91 pounds (41 kgs) shells had a maximum range of about 7 km, with a rate of fire of up to 15 rpm with a well-trained crew. The tertiary artillery meant to deal with TBs comprised fourteen 75-millimetre (3.0 in) guns Canet Pattern 1892, versus 14 × 75 mm M1892 Canet guns and six 47 mm (1.9 in)/40 Hotchkiss guns on the Potemkine.
For close encounters, the ship was given the same two single 17.7-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes on the broadside. Each travelled at 29 or 34 knots at about 2000 or 3000 m depending on the speed selected, and carried to the target a 212 pound (96 kg) warhead of TNT.

Evstafi Power Arrangement

As explained before, the Evstafi class relied on a solution similar to the previous class, with
2 shafts propelled by 2 Vertical triple expansion steam engines, fed by 22 coal-fired Belleville water-tube boilers. Top speed was 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) and range 2,100 nmi (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). By comparison the next class would be able to reach 18 knots. The boilers operated at 242 psi (1,669 kPa; 17 kgf/cm2). On trials, the ships reached 10,800 ihp (8,100 kW) for a top speed of 16.2 knots (18.6 mph). They carried 1,100 long tons (1,100 t) of coal.


Both ships were given a reviewed protection, with German Krupp armour which had a max. thickness (belt) of 9 inches (229 mm) down to 3 inches on the underwater ends and decks. The upper belt was 3.1 to 5 in (79–127 mm) in thickness, the Casemates 3.1 to 5 in (79–127 mm), the conning tower 8 in (203 mm), while the Main turrets were protected by 8 to 10 in (203–254 mm) and main barbettes by 4 to 5 in (102–127 mm).

A lengthy fitting out

The Evstafi was laid down in 1904 and launched in 1906 at Nikolayev Admiralty Shipyard, Nikolayev and the Ioann Zlatoust Sevastopol Shipyard, Sevastopol at the same dates, but in May rather than November. However fitting out took years, whereas it’s usually much faster, as many design revisions accumulated as long as reports from the Russo-Japanese war bring new elements to consideration. One such modifications were the main and secondary gun’s elevation, suppression of three torpedo tubes, mine stowage and the 47 mm QF Hotchkiss guns. Protection at the waterline fore and aft of the main belt was enhanced greatly. Also a second conning tower was added at the rear, and the heavy masts were replaced by light pole masts and light booms for increased stability.

The Evstafi class in service

Both ships appeared as the most powerful battleships in service in Russia by 1911 and they joined the Black sea fleet as flagships; Famously the Evstafi was the Black Sea flagship, carrying Vice Admiral Andrei Eberhardt’s personal mark at the battle of Cape Sarytch. Before that, the fleet performed a shelling of Trebizond on 15 November and again on 17 November. They went hunting for Turkish shipping along the Anatolian coast but changed course and headed to Sevastopol when they intercepted on theyr way back the German battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau.

Evstafi colorized
A nice colorized photo of the Evstafi in service with the black sea fleet

Cape Sarytch Battle

The battle was not an easy win as the fog prevented the ships in line to spot the enemy and the new Russian tactic using a “master ship”, there the Ioann Zlatoust to direct fire for the whole line, caused delays. Both the Evstafi and Goeben duelled at 4,000 yards (3,700 m), taking hits. The Evstafi was stuck in the middle funnel, destroying the antennae for the fire-control radio. This caused the battleship to not relay anymore accurate data (she was the lead ship) to Ioann Zlatoust, and from then on, had to rely on her proper data. As expected all the other ships included the master ship all fired inaccurately due to Ioann Zlatoust’s incorrect data, and the Goeben escaped disaster. Goeben hit Evstafi four more times before Admiral Souchon decided to break and head for Constantinople. Evstafi suffered 34 killed and 24 wounded, fired about 12-16 main shells, and 14 and 19 secondary battery shells. Figures were about the same for the Ioann Zlatoust were lower, with just six shells fired and no hit. So the battle was seen afterwards like a draw.

Russian battleships en route to battle, November 1914

Before the Revolution (1915-1917)

The two next years of the war, the ships went partly inactive, but for exercizes, however from march to May, both sister ships and the fleet performed bombardments on the Turkish forts and installation of the Bosphorus. In May, 9, Turkish destroyer Numune-i Hamiyet spotted the ships, alerting the Goeben that quickly rallied; Both forces spotted each other from afar and set parralel courses but duelled at 17,400 yards (15,900 m), scoring only near-misses. The Russian Admiral then decided “brake” to 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph), which leaved the Goeben at full speed unable to “cross the T” of the Russian line. After more turning manoeuvers, Tri Sviatitelia and Pantelimon rallied the line, and Pantelimon hit the Goeben twice. The German battlecruiser broke and fled but the slower Russians were unable to catch it.

Battleship Ioann Zlatoust
Battleship Ioann Zlatoust

In 1915, the threat if air warfare was taken seriously and QF anti-aircraft guns were mounted on top of each of the turrets and screens on top of their funnels to avoid lucky bomb drops. Tertiary armament also varied from an addition of four 75-millimetre guns to two and two 63.5-millimetre (2.5 in) guns. After the dreadnought Imperatritsa Mariya entered service, both ships formed the 2nd Battleship Brigade. On November, the ships bombarded Zonguldak and Kozlu and later in May 1916 to the second bombardment of Varna. After the revolution started both ships has been mothballed and went into reserve in March 1918.

In May, thy were both captured by the Germans in the context of civil war, and then passed on to the allies. The British inherited both ships in December, and after the situation went badly for the “whites”, their engines were wrecked in 22–24 April 1919. Eventually the Whites returned and the ships were recaptured in turn by the Bolsheviks in November 1920. Records shows both ships had been scrapped in 1922-23 but not stricken from the lists before 1925.

Evstafi class Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 117.6 x 22.6 x 8.5 m 386’x74’x28′
Total weight, fully loaded 12,738 long tons as designed
Armament 2×2 305mm (12 in), 4x203mm (8′), 8x152mm (6′) 12x75mm (3′), 2×457 mm (18′) TTs
Armor Belt: 9′ (230mm)
Turrets: 10′ (254mm)
Barbettes: 10′ (254mm)
Conning tower: 8′(203mm)
Crew 928
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 VTE engines, 22 boilers, 10,600 ihp
Speed (road) 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)

Links, sources
Conways all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1905

Sissoi Veliky class battleships (1896)

Russia (1896)
Battleships – Rostislav, Sissoi Veliky

About Rostislav and Sissoi Veliky

Both battleships were very similar, in fact they were near-sister ships, built at New Admiralty and Nicolaiev yards. They were relatively small, and only differed in armament (see later), that’s why they are seen together here.

Rostislav at sea
Rostislav with the black sea fleet

Sissoi Veliky

Contrary to past battleships like the Tri Svititelia and Navarin, she had as designed an higher freeboard, at 23 feets. She was a 10,400 ton ship, armed with pivot-type turrets and four 305 mm (12 in) as main armament. Her secondary armament consisted in a battery of six 152 mm in barbettes (6 in, 45 caliber), and her anti-TBs battery consisted in 12 x 3 pdr (47 mm) and 18 x 1-pdr (37 mm) and for close encounters, there were three 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes above the waterline, each side. The Sissoi Veliky was laid down in may 1892, launched in june 1894 and completed in 1896.

Her armour was made of nickel steel, her belt was up to 406 mm in the central section (4 to 16 in) thick, turrets 305 mm (12 in) overall, barbettes for the secondary guns were 127 mm (5 in), and the conning tower 203 mm (8 in) thick. Propulsion was assured by 12 bellevilles boilers steaming two Vertical Tubes engines producing 8500 ihp for 15.7 knots in top speed, and a reserve of 500 to 800 tons of coal.


The Rostislav was started in Nicolaiev in 1895 and completed in 1898, the Rostislav was the sister ship of Sissoi Veliky (1894). It differed from the first one, sunk at sushima, by a few details: It has a draft of less than a meter and a light armor. With comparable machines, it was not much faster. But the biggest difference with the Sissoi Veliky was its main armament, reduced to 234 mm instead of 305 mm guns, in French-type turrets. In addition her secondary battery was amidship on either beam.

Sissoi Veliky

Her main belt was 227 feets long, 7 feets wide, 14 inches on the waterline with 6 to 8 inches on the lower edge. Bulkhead were made in compound steel, not Harvey, 5 to 9in while the 5 in upper belt was 150 feets by 7,5 feets. The armour deck was 2 in over the main belt, 3 in at the ends, and the turret crowns were 2,5 in. She has 12 boilers, 2 shafts and a VTE engine for 8700 ihp (200 more than Sissoi), for 15.6 knots, so even slower than her sister ship.

The Sissoi Veliky in action

This ship experienced a sever accident in 1897, so just one year after its acceptance in service. A 12 in gun fired while the breech has not been properly closed. All the crew did as a result. She spent some time in exercises, and was eventually part of the fleet that met the Japanese at Tsushima in 1905. She was badly damaged by gunfire, hit by a torpedo right aft, but survived. However, as she was to be surrendered to the Japanese officers valves were opened, and the ship flooded and sank.

Turret explosion damage in the Sissoi Veliky

The Rostislav first life

Captain Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich assumed command of the ship in 1898, the first Romanov to do so. The ship served as an ambassador in Istanbul and also transported other high profiles of the Imperial family, therefore Shipyards and contractors treated Rostislav with utter priority and care. The ship had its rudder frame reinforced and installation of a backup control post deep under the conning tower.

The Rostislav served as the junior flagship of the Black Sea Fleet until September 1912. Exercisez showed its high coal consumption and revealing smoke panache, severe local overheating, buckling of fireboxes and sudden backdrafts which necessitated repairs and alterations, which weighted the ship so much that its main defensive belt was sunk below the waterline. In 1905 her crew was on the verge of open mutiny, while being ordered to deal with Potemkine’s mutineers, even destroy the rebels by force. The captains refrained to do so. But that occurred at the time of the Ochakov mutiny in November 1905. In 1907 there was a plan to remove elements up to 250 tons to help the ship’s overweight problem, but this was cancelled because of funds shortages.

Rostislav's main guns being cleaned
Rostislav’s main guns being cleaned.

The Rostislav in the Great War

By 1914 she was of questionable military value, despite the removal of a dozen of her 37 mm guns and addition of a modern rangefinder, probably made by Barr and Stroud in 1908. She was versed into the reserve in August 1914. Still, she was an important part of the Black Sea fleet, and as such was engaged intensively in operations, notably to compensate for the absence of other more modern battleships. Between two sorties, her armament was changed considerably: The Torpedo-tubes and tertiary artillery were taken out for the benefit of four 75 mm AA pieces. In 1917 she was engaged against the Yavuz (ex-Goeben) and bombarded Turkish coastal installations.

Revolution and aftermath

Like other ships in Sevastopol, her career was turbulent: In April 1918, she passed under Ukrainian control and flag. She was then captured by the Germans when they advanced, and then by the British after the German capitulation. She the was partially made unusable by the sabotage of its machines in April 1919 to prevent capture by the Bolsheviks. She was eventually recaptured by the white Russians supported by the allies during the Crimean offensive, and used as coastal battery, but finally scuttled the 16 November 1920 in Kerch.

Specifications (Rostislav)

Dimensions (L-w-h) 107.23 x 20.73 x 6.71 m 351’1”x68′ x22′
Total weight, fully loaded 8,880 tons as designed
Armament 2×2 254 mm (12 in), 8 x152 mm (6 in) 20x 47 mm (3pdr), 16x 37 mm (1pdr), 6 457 mm (18 in) Torpedo tubes, 4 above waterline, 2 submarines
Armor Belt: 5–14 in (203–356 mm)
Turrets: 10 in (280 mm)
Barbettes: 5 in (127 mm)
Conning tower: 6 in (152 mm)
Crew 650
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 VTE engines, 12 boilers, 8,700 ihp
Speed (road) 15.6 knots (28 km/h; 14 mph)

Links, sources

Rostislav on Wikipedia
Sissoi Veliky on wikipedia
Conways all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1905


Sissoi Veliky first proposal

Sissoi Veliky final drawing

Petr Velikiy (1877)

Russia (1877)

The ironclad babochka

The Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great) was undoubtedly the oldest Russian battleship in service in 1914, the babochka (“Grandma”) of the Russian navy. This battleship knew several lives. It was in its day the very first Russian battleship with turrets and steam alone, a fashion launched by France and Great Britain and quickly followed by the tsar for the Baltic fleet.

Petr Velikiy in service in the late 1870s
Petr Velikiy in service in the late 1870s

The Russian Ironclad

Probably the biggest and most modern Russian warship drawn in the late 1860s, the Пётр Великий – Peter the Great, was an ironclad turret ship, started in july 1870 at Galerniy Island Shipyard, Saint Petersburg and launched 27 August 1872, for over 5.5 million rubles. The plans betrayed a strong British influence, notably the contemporary HMS Dreadnought (1st) class ironclad of similar configuration, but was initially inspired by the American twin-turret monitor USS Miantonomoh when visiting Kronstadt in August 1866. Rear Admiral A. A. Popov was its designer, and initially proposed a low-freeboard breastwork monitor with full rigging. Peter the Great was completed however in 1876 with a revised design.

From monitor to sea-going Ironclad

From the initial hybrid monitor-cruiser design, submitted to the Naval Technical Committee in 1867, the design evolved as it was ordered the coal carried to be raised from four to five days steaming, triggering design modifications. The design was revised 26 January 1869, but other changes were added by Popov himself, like a central superstructure forward of the breastwork to improve seakeeping and overhanging side armor. The revised design was again submitted and approved in 19 June 1869 but meanwhile the displacement made a jump from 7,496 long tons to 9,462 long tons. While building started, new changed were made to “Kreiser” (cruiser), the rigging was deleted, spar torpedoes added, and after a visit and advice from naval architect Edward Reed, armour was increased to 14in (356 mm). The ship was then renamed in 1872 to celebrate the bicentennial of Peter the Great, founder of the Baltic feet.


Popov’s ironclad was just 100.5 m long at the waterline (330 feets), and on completion her displacement rose to 10,406 long tons (10,573 t). For rigidity and protection, she was subdivided by one centerline and longitudinal, nine transverse and two wing watertight bulkheads, plus complete double bottom. She had a low freeboard and rolled a lot, generally considered as a passable sea-boat. She also had two three-cylinder horizontal return connecting rod-steam engines, each with a propeller. Each was fed by 12 rectangular boilers (36 psi) for a total of 9,000 nominal horsepower (6,700 kW) and a top speed of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) and 1900 nm of range thanks to a reserve of 1230 tons of coal. Boilers proved of frail construction and showed numerous defects, as built by Scottish-funded St Petersburg Baird Works. Sea trials showed it could only reach 11 knots, and the chimney was raised by about 20 feet, but with little effect.

The main armament comprised four muzzle-loading smoothbore 20-inch (508 mm) guns (US. Rodman design), but eventually, an enlarged version of the German 280mm Krupp was chosen, to produce a 12-inch, 20-caliber type. Rather than the muzzles, the hydraulic turret machinery raised and lowered the guns’ trunnions. Range, at 12.5° was 5,800 yards (5,300 m). The 360 long tons (370 t) Coles type turrets fully revolved in a minute although because of the superstructure, only 310° was practical. Secondary armament was defensive against torpedo-boats, six 4 pdr (3.4-inch (86 mm)) guns (4 bridge, 2 stern), and two Palmcrantz 1 pdr (1-inch (25 mm)) Gatling-type machine guns. There were in addition four telescopic spar-torpedoes mounted in the bow, which mostly acted as a ramming deterrent for other ships.

First service period (1877-1905)

Early on, in the context of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and British threat, two 9-inch mortars were fitted on her quarterdeck, later removed in 1880. After many complaints about the machinery (Baird works received a penalty), John Elder & Co., in Glasgow, Scotland, in October 1880 was contracted. Refitting lasted to February 1882. In addition to be reliable and lighter, the machinery allowed the ship to reach 14.36 knots (26.59 km/h; 16.53 mph).

She departed Scotland for a Mediterranean cruise, visiting many ports, then headed north, before reaching Kronstadt on 12 September. In the mid-1880s two 44-millimeter (1.7 in) Engstrem guns replaced the rear deck 4 pdrs, her boilers were replaced in 1892, and by the mid-1890s, four additional 4-pdr were added to each turret, plus six 47 mm (1.9 in) 5-barrel revolving Hotchkiss guns (bridge) four 37mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss guns (deck). Considered obsolete by then, several reconstruction proposals were made. Eventually, this was postponed until a new minister of the Marine came at the office and decided to convert her as a gunnery training ship.

Petr Velikiy as rebuilt
Petr Velikiy as rebuilt

Reconstruction (1905)

The reconstruction plan was approved on 2 February 1904. In 1905-1906 she was entirely rebuilt, with new machines and boilers, two chimneys, two light masts, a high freeboard thanks to a completely redesigned hull, a displacement reduced to 9790 tons and a new armament: Exit the antique 305mm, the artillery now included 4 x 203 mm on the upper deck at the four corners, and 12 x 152 mm on the lower deck in casemates. The rest consisted of small pieces on the main deck.

Petr Veliky was now 321 feet 10 inches (98.09 m) long overall, 62 feet 4 inches (19.0 m) wide, with a 26 feet 7 inches (8.1 m) draft. Displacement was reduced to 9,790 long tons (9,950 t). Top speed was 12.9 knots (23.9 km/h; 14.8 mph) for 714 long tons (725 t) of coal and 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km; 1,700 mi) range.

The Petr Velikiy at war (1914-18)

She was completed the following year of the Russo-Japanese war. She was in 1914 assigned to the Baltic fleet, but played a secondary role, mainly coastguard and part of the Gunnery Training Detachment through 1917 as planned.

In February 1917 she could have been was renamed Respublikanets or Barrikada (Barricade), by the Soviets (still unconfirmed). Retired afterwards, she was completely disarmed in October 1918 and converted as a depot ship for submarines at Kronstadt, then Helsinki. It was subsequently used as a mines carrier and was renamed Barrikada. Hulked on 21 May 1921 she was used to store mines. Renamed Blokshiv Nr. 1 on 4 December 1923 she was forced aground in shallow water by autumn floods in September 1923. She was refloated and repaired in 5 October 1927 and in January 1932 renamed Blokshiv Nr. 4, then BSh-3 (1949) barrack ship at Kronstadt. She was eventually stricken on 18 April 1959 and scrapped, after a 80+ years long career.

Specifications (1914)

Dimensions (L-w-h) 101.7 x 19.2 x 7.5 m 333’8”x63′ x24’9”
Total weight, fully loaded 10,406 long tonnes
Armament 2×2 305mm (12 in), 6x 4pdr, 2x 1pdr HMG, 4 spar Torpedoes
Armor Belt: 8–14 in (203–356 mm)
Citadel: 14 in (356 mm)
Deck: 2.5–3 in (64–76 mm)
Gun turrets: 14 in (356 mm)
Crew 24 officers + 417 sailors
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 HRC rod-steam engines, 12 rectangular boilers, 8,258 ihp (6,158 kW)
Speed (road) 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Range 2,900 nm (5,400 km; 3,300 mi) @10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)


Illustration profile of the Petr Veliki as of 1914

Petr Velikiy on a stamp from 1974.