We’ve all seen/ know about Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet film The Battleship Potemkin and how sailors pissed off about maggoty mystery meat (again?) kicked off a scuffle on the Steps of Odessa. This week we will examine the time, place, and ships of one of Transitional-Russia’s lesser known uprisings.. you guessed it, kicked off by pesky sailors.
images below: Battleship Potemkin on The Guardian
and Poster for silent classic Battleship Potemkin on sale (The Telegraph)
Russian Ironclad Novgorod 1874
by Vladimir Emyshev
Yeah.. it’s round… more
In its time, the ironclad was the most complicated, most expensive artifact of the industrial powers of the nineteenth century, a tradition that would be carried on by the battleship and the dreadnought until World War II. Yet aside from a few museum reminders of what had been, all armored warships of the Ironclad Era have passed into history. +
Imperial Russian Pre-Dreadnoughts
In the pre-dreadnought era, the Russians operated the third largest navy on the face of the globe. “
The Peresvet class was a class of three pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Imperial Russian Navy around the end of the 19th century. Peresvet and Pobeda were transferred to the Pacific Squadron upon completion and based at Port Arthur from 1901 and 1903. All three ships were lost by the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905.
Peresvet and Pobeda were salvaged after the Japanese captured Port Arthur and incorporated into the Imperial Japanese Navy. Peresvet was sold back to the Russians during World War I and sank after hitting German mines in the Mediterranean in early 1917.
Peresvet class pre-dreadnought Oslyabya at anchor
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more: Peresvet class Pre-Dreadnought Battleships on wikipedia
Built in the Tsarist regime’s Admiralty Yard at Kronstadt, they were workmanlike but lacking in technical finesse and, like most Russian-made vessels, they were the product of a cloudy concept as well.
This view shows the main characteristics of the class: high forecastle and sides, three stubby funnels, two masts with fighting tops and separate topmasts as in the French fleet cruisers (French battleships had space-age masts with electric elevators inside them and flying-saucer-like gunhouses at the masthead), a short forecastle just big enough for a 10″ turret, two capstans, and a few bitts and cleats. The sided 6″ and 3″ guns were carried in casemates stacked on two decks, bristling like a hedgehog during naval reviews, but guaranteeing that at least half the guns would be unworkable in any kind of weather.
This design had marked disadvantages, among them top-heaviness, diminished stability, and cramped deck space on the upper levels. In addition, the Peresviets were underprotected and under-gunned; and ill-prepared for the ruthless warfare that awaited them in the Far East.
Launch of the pre-dreadnought battleship
Pobeda in the Baltic shipyard – May 1900
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The Baltic Shipyard (Baltiysky Zavod, formerly Shipyard-189) (Russian: Балтийский завод имени С. Орджоникидзе) is one of the oldest shipyards in Russia. It is located in Saint Petersburg in the south-western part of the Vasilievsky Island. It is one of the three shipyards active in Saint Petersburg. Together with the Admiralty Shipyard it has been responsible for building a large part of Imperial Russian battleships as well as Soviet nuclear powered icebreakers. Currently it is specializing in merchant ships while the Admiralty yard specializes in diesel-electric submarines.
Battleship Tsesarevitch by Vladimir Emyshev
At the end of the Russo-Japanese war the ship was transferred to the Baltic and saw action in World War I, taking part in the Battle of Moon Sound in 1917. After the Russian Revolution she was renamed Grazhdanin (meaning Citizen). She was hulked in 1918 and scrapped in Germany in 1924.The Tsesarevich was a battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, built in France by Compagnie des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée à la Seine. The Tsesarevich design was the basis of the Borodino-class battleships which were later built in Russia.
Ths ship was projected as part of the “Programme for the Needs of the Far East”, authorised by Tsar Nicholas II in 1898. Warships were ordered from foreign yards because of capacity constraints in the Russian shipbuilding Industry. Detailed design was done by a combined team of French and Russian Engineers.
The construction was prolonged with several defective armour plates having to be replaced, however, upon completion, the Tsesarevich was the Russian Navy’s best battleship prior to commencement of the Russo-Japanese War.
The Imperial Russian battleship Borodino
before launching, 3 August 1901
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Pre-dreadnoughts built between 1899 and 1905 for the Imperial Russian Navy. (also known as the Suvorov-class)
The five Borodino class battleships were the largest class of ocean going battleships built by Russia up to that time. Under Russian Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky riding in his flagship, (the Kniaz Suvorov) they led the Russian battleship fleet on the longest coal powered journey ever conducted by a steel battleship fleet during wartime, a voyage of over 18,000 miles (29,000 km) one way.
The vessels were equipped with two 4-cylinder triple expansion engines, with a designed output of 16,300 horse power for the Borodino and 15,800 hp (11,800 kW) for the remaining four battleships.
The Borodino was equipped with three-bladed screws, while her sisters had four-bladed propellers.
The vessels suffered from instability having a high centre of gravity. The centre line bulkhead led to a danger of capsizing and a narrow armour belt became submerged (made worse by overloading). As such, some naval architects regard these as some of the worst battleships ever built.
The battleship Borodino sinking at the Battle of Tsushima
on 27 May 1905
She finally went down after a direct hit from a Japanese 12-inch shell detonated her magazines. Only one of her crewmen survived the explosion.
The Knyaz Suvorov was a Borodino-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Russian Imperial Navy, built by Baltic Works, St Petersburg. Laid down in July 1901, she was launched in September 1902 and completed in September 1904. This ship was named after the 18th-century Russian general Alexander Suvorov. Her only action was at the Battle of Tsushima.
She had to break off from the main battle line after a Japanese shell hit her control room, killing her helmsman and wounding her captain and Admiral Zinovy Rozhdestvensky. She managed to enter a fog where her crew extinguished several fires. However, she soon came under attack again and was sunk by Japanese torpedo boats.
*if you’re feeling really adventurous, or really bored, tackle the entire thread;
FROM LIBAU TO TSUSHIMA on histomil
The dreadnought was the predominant type of battleship in the early 20th century. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy’s Dreadnought, had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as “dreadnoughts”, and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts. Her design had two revolutionary features: an “all-big-gun” armament scheme and steam turbine propulsion. The arrival of the dreadnoughts renewed the naval arms race, principally between the United Kingdom and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial symbol of national power.
Technical development continued rapidly through the dreadnought era. Successive designs increased rapidly in size and made use of improvements in armament, armor, and propulsion. Within ten years, new battleships outclassed Dreadnought herself. These more powerful vessels were known as “super-dreadnoughts”. Most of the dreadnoughts were scrapped after the end of World War I under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but many of the newer super-dreadnoughts continued serving throughout World War II.
Dreadnought on wikipedia
Low and menacing, primitive yet oddly modern, the Gangut, Russia’s first dreadnought, in original fit, at anchor with her torpedo nets spread.
The Gangut Class Baltic Dreadnoughts
A Gaggle of Ganguts on cityofart
1896- Battleship Petropavlosk I in completion; full size 1,945 × 803 pixels
Petropavlovsk wrecksite. eu
Cigarette Card – Petropavlovsk, Russian Battleship
Wills’s Cigarettes, The World’s Dreadnoughts, 1910. No21 Petropavlovsk I (Russia)
An artist’s rendition of the
Destruction of The Petropavlovsk (Le Petit Journal, 1904)
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Suddenly cries of horror arose: “The Petropavlovsk! The Petropavlovsk!” Dreading the worst, I rushed to the side. I saw a huge cloud of brown smoke. “That is pyroxylene [guncotton], therefore a torpedo mine,” passed through my mind. In this cloud I saw the ship’s foremast. It was slanting, helpless, not as if it was falling, but as if it were suspended in the air.
To the left of this cloud I saw the battleship’s stern. It looked as always, as if the awful happenings in the fore-part were none of its concern. A third explosion! White steam now began to mix with the brown cloud. The boilers had burst! Suddenly the stern of the battleship rose straight in the air.
This happened so rapidly that it did not look as if the bow had gone down, but as if the ship had broken in half amidships. For a moment I saw the screws whirling round in the air. Was there a further explosion? I don’t know. It appeared to me as if the after-part of the Petropavlovsk (all that was visible of her) suddenly opened out and belched forth fire and flames, like a volcano. It seemed even as if flames came out of the sea, long after it had closed over the wreck.
Never, even at times when the most important orders were being given, had such silence reigned on board our ship, as at this gruesome spectacle. Habit, however, becomes one’s second nature. As an old navigator I was in the habit of noticing everything. When I saw the explosion, I mechanically looked at my watch, and then wrote in my note-book: “9:43. – Explosion on board Petropavlovsk”; and then: “9:44. – All over.”
–Lt. Vladimir Semyenov, from the forecastle of the cruiser Diana
excerpted from Petropavlovsk Class on cityofart
- Brief article plus extensive photo gallery (in Russian) -
Imperial Russian battleship Sevastopol in Port-Arthur, 5 Mai 1904
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On March 31, 1921 Sevastopol was renamed Parizhskaya Kommuna to recognize the revolutionary Paris Commune of the 19th Century.
Parizhskaya Kommuna had received a refit, including a new bow design, so in 1929 it was decided to send her to the Black Sea.
She left with cruiser Profintern but the force ran into a strong storm in the Bay of Biscay. The new bow created a well that kept water. As the Parizhskaya Kommuna took green seas over the bow, water was trapped in the bow, until it failed.
She had to put into Brest for emergency repairs. The Soviet government was embarrassed by the incident, so repairs were made solely by the crew. Three days later, she left Brest only to be greeted by 35 foot seas.
The condition in the ship deteriorated to worse than before and again the Parizhskaya Kommuna put into Brest for repairs. This time the Soviet government contracted with a French shipyard for repairs.
Petropavlovsk Class Russian battleships: Photos and history of the Russian battleships of the Petropavlovsk Class launched 1894 – 1895, including Petropavlovsk, Poltava and Sevastopol. (World Naval Ships Forum)
Watercolor of Andrei Pervozvanny at Kronstadt, by Vladimir Emyshev
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see: Battleship Andrei Pervozvanny – 1904 / 1912 on cityofart
The Andrey Pervozvanny class were a pair of predreadnought battleships built in the mid-1900s for the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. They were conceived by the Naval Technical Committee in 1903 as an incremental development of the Borodino class battleships with increased displacement and heavier secondary armament. Work on the lead ship, Andrey Pervozvanny (Saint Andrew), commenced at the New Admiralty, Saint Petersburg in March 1904; Imperator Pavel I trailed by six months. more
see also: Imperator Pavel in 1912
Baltic Fleet commander admiral Nikolai Essen tastes food at the Army and Fleet joint manoeuvres; Baltic sea, 1913 (“essen” is the German verb meaning “to eat”)
Admiral Nikolai von Essen, December 1860, Saint Petersburg – 7 May 1915 — Commander-in-Chief (1909-1915) of the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. He was widely regarded as the most able of Russian admirals in WWI. Essen urged far-reaching reforms and moderization of the Russian Navy. He recognized early the importance of submarines and aircraft, and sought to promote younger officers based on their knowledge of modern strategy and tactics, also establishing a naval training academy at Kronstadt. Above all, he pushed for operational autonomy of the Baltic Fleet. On 9 August 1914 Essen led part of his fleet towards Gotland to contain the Swedish navy and deliver a note of his own making which would have violated Swedish neutrality and may have brought Sweden into the war. He was ordered back before his plan could be executed. Essen died unexpectedly after a short bout with pneumonia in May 1915.
Nikolai Essen on wikipedia
Monument to Vice-Admiral Stepan Makarov; Anchor Square, Kronstadt
Stepan Osipovich Makarov (8 January 1849 – 13 April, 1904) was a Russian vice-admiral, a highly accomplished and decorated commander of the Imperial Russian Navy, author of several books and an oceanographer.
Makarov directed two round-the-world oceanographic expeditions on the corvette Vityaz (1886–89 and 1894–96).
He proposed the world’s first icebreaker, the Yermak, oversaw her construction, and commanded her on two Arctic expeditions in 1899 and 1901.
The town of Shiritoru on Sakhalin island, was renamed Makarov in 1946 in his honor.
The Gulf of Finland from Kronstadt to Saint Petersburg
(with Notable Buildings Lying Along the Coast)
Engraver: Matthaeus Seutter, Augsburg c.1742
National Library of Russia; 300 years of Saint Petersburg
View of the Kronstadt Military Harbour
Kronshtadt (Russian: Кроншта́дт), also spelled Kronstadt, Cronstadt (German: Krone for “crown” and Stadt for “city”), is a municipal town in the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on Kotlin Island, 30 kilometers (19 mi) west of Saint Petersburg proper near the head of the Gulf of Finland.
It is also St. Petersburg’s main seaport. Traditionally, the seat of the Russian admiralty and the base of the Russian Baltic Fleet were located in Kronstadt guarding the approaches to Saint Petersburg.
In March 1921 it was the site of the Kronstadt rebellion.
right: The tide gauge in Kronstadt
“A new slavery has taken root… The life of the citizen has become monotonous and banal, to the point of death, regulated according to the rules of the authorities. Instead of a life animated by free labour and the free development of the individual, an unprecedented and incredible slavery was born. This has become insupportable. Revolutionary Kronstadt has been the first to break the chains and bars of the prison”
—Revolutionary Kronstadt News; March, 1921 (source)
The sailors at the Kronstadt naval base had long been a source of radical dissent.
Mutinies had taken place during the 1905 Revolution and the Kronstadt sailors were active in the overthrow of Nicholas II in the February 1917 Revolution. A large number of the sailors were Bolsheviks and during the October Revolution they took control of the cruiser Aurora and sailed it up the River Neva and opened fire on the Winter Palace in Petrograd (St Petersburg).
According to Bertram D. Wolfe: “They jailed their officers without trial in the same hell holes that had been used to discipline them, and drowned or bloodily lynched many. Leon Trotsky later claimed: “The most hateful of the officers were shoved under the ice, of course while still alive… Bloody acts of retribution were as inevitable as the recoil of a gun.”
Many of the Kronstadt sailors came from peasant families and by 1921 had become disillusioned with the direction of the Bolshevik government. They were angry about the lack of democracy and the policy of ‘War Communism’: seizing goods and supplies without payment from towns and villages to supply the Red Army They particularly objected to the way Bolshevik party leaders got special privileges – while they existed on starvation rations, The sailors did not call for the overthrow of the Bolsheviks, only for ‘equal rations for all the working people’ and ‘freedom for the peasants’.
As the historian Orlando Figes says: ‘this was a case of the Bolsheviks being abandoned by their own favoured sons’.
inset image above rt: St. Andrew’s naval cathedral in Kronstadt was one of several cathedrals of the Imperial Russian Navy. St Andrew was the Russian Orthodox patron saint of the Russian navy
On February 28th 1921, the crew of the battleship Petropavlovsk II passed a resolution calling for a return of full political freedoms.
On 1 March 1921 a crowd of 15,000 soldiers met in the Anchor Square in Kronstadt and declared a revolution.
The ‘Kronstadt Revolutionary Committee’ published its own newspaper, which complained about the ‘constant fear of torture by the Cheka… the mass executions and a bloodletting which exceeds even the tsarist generals’… ‘The glorious emblem of the workers’ state – the hammer and sickle – has been replaced by the bayonet and the barred window’ it declared.
Lenin denounced the Kronstadt Uprising as a plot instigated by the White Army and their European supporters. On 6th March, Leon Trotsky announced that he was ordering the Red Army to attack the Kronstadt sailors. However, it was not until the 17th March that government forces were able to take control of Kronstadt. An estimated 8,000 people (sailors and civilians) left Kronstadt and went to live in Finland.
Official soviet figures suggest claiming to over 500 sailors at Kronstadt were executed for their part in the rebellion.
…Sixteen thousand people attended the meeting. Party member Vassiliev, president of the local soviet, took the chair. The delegates who had visited Petrograd the previous day gave their reports. The resolution adopted on 28th. February by the crew of the battleship ‘Petropavlovsk’ was distributed. Kalinin & Kouzmin opposed the resolution. They proclaimed that ‘Kronstadt did not represent the whole of Russia.’
Nevertheless, the mass assembly adopted the Petropavlovsk resolution. In fact only two people voted against it…
Vladimir Kozlinskii: The Kronstadt Card is Trumped! (1921)
Soviet graphic design, 1917-1937
A review of the book
Emanuel Pollack’s The Kronstadt Rebellion (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959)
1921: Kronstadt Uprising; 17 Moments in Soviet History (photos)
The Imperial Russian Navy, 1863 – 1919; BigBadBattleships
Russian Warships 17-20th Century
Russian Battleships - To glorious Russian Battleships it is devoted!
The House Under the Sea by Sir Max Pemberton – Project Gutenberg eBook,
Have a safe and happy Labor day
Special thanks to Feastingonroadkill for his assistance in the compilation of this post
Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang. (twitter)
Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at MM@gcaptain.com. She can also out-belch any man.