Russian battleship Petropavlovsk (1897)

Russian battleship Petropavlovsk (1897)

The "Petropavlovsk" ("Петропавловск") was the lead ship of the "Petropavlovsk" class of battleships built for the Imperial Russian Navy. During the Russo-Japanese War, "Petropavlovsk" was a flagship of the First Pacific Squadron, taking part in battles against the Imperial Japanese Navy. On March 31, 1904, the battleship was severely damaged and sunk after being hit by a mine near Port Arthur. The sinking of the ship and the death of Vice Admiral Stepan Makarov who was on board, were losses that affected Russia greatly in the Russo-Japanese War.Citation|last=Gribovskij|first = V.| author-link = | last2 = | first2 = | author2-link = | title = The catastrophe of March, 31 of 1904 (the wreck of battleship Petropavlovsk)|journal = Gangut|volume = 4|issue = |pages = 49|date = |year = |url = |doi =|id = ]


New battleships in the Imperial Russian Navy got their names from famous land and naval battles of the 18th and 19th centuries. "Petropavlovsk" and her sister ships "Poltava" and "Sevastopol" received their names in this manner. The name "Petropavlovsk" refers to the Siege of the port of Petropavlovsk during the Crimean War. A wooden destroyer leader built by Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg with 58 guns and a displacement of 6175 tons had been given the same name earlier in 1858.cite book|last = Berezhnoj, Ammon|first = |authorlink = |coauthors = |title = Heroic ships of the Russian and Soviet fleet|publisher = Military publishing house| date = 1990|location = Moscow|pages = 240|url = |doi = |id =|isbn =] After being refitted with 22 guns, the ship was part of the Baltic Fleet's active fleet and a flagship of admiral Butakov's squadron. On 4 January 1892 the old destroyer leader was stricken from the navy list and its name transferred to the new battleship.



In a response to a build up of the Imperial German Navy, the Russian navy initiated a program to expand its Baltic Fleet in 1890. The program included a plan to build 10 battleships, 3 armored cruisers, 3 gunboats and 50 torpedo boats. The battleship "Sissoi Veliky" was the first of the ships to be constructed. It was later decided to build a class of 3 ships.Citation|last = Suliga|first = S.|author-link = |last2 = |first2 = |author2-link = | title = Battleships of Poltava type|journal = Technika Molodezhi|volume = |issue =|pages = 32|date =|year = 1993|url = |doi = |id = ]


The design of the "Petropavlovsk" was approved in January of 1891. It was an improved version of the "Imperator Nikolai I", but with supplementary barbettes, including four with 203 mm guns. Armor protection consisted of the full belt below the waterline. The "Imperator Nikolai I" was chosen to be used as a basis for the ship because of its notable ocean-going and seakeeping qualities.

However, the initial design was changed later and the armour protection was entirely redesigned. The armament was changed after construction had already started. Barbettes of main and secondary calibre were replaced with wing turrets, and 203 mm guns were replaced with contemporary canet guns. As a result, the new battleships did not resemble the "Imperator Nikolai I" either in appearance or in characteristics.


The "Petropavlovsk" was laid down in 1892 in Galernij island, Saint Petersburg, and launched in 1894. She was completely equipped by early 1899, after the full fitting-out was delayed due to unavailability of guns and armour. The battleship cost 9,225,309 rubles. In October, 1897 "Petropavlovsk" was put to sea for the first time. However, her guns and torpedo tubes were not operational. During trials, it became clear that one of the engines couldn't attain the required power and she returned to port. New trials took place a year later. On October 14, 1898 she cruised to speeds of 16.86 knots.

Description of structures


The "Petropavlovsk", like all the other ships of her class (Petropavlovsk class battleships) had part of the hull above water, resembling hulls of French vessels. It had a straight stempost and a round stern with three decks; the lower, the main (the battery) and the upper. The elevation of guns under the water was 7.9 m. The length of the ship at the waterline was 112.5 m and its width in the midship section was 21.3 m. The "Petropavlovsk" had three masts.

Armor protection

The typical scheme of armor protection for battleships of that time were used on the "Petropavlovsk". The foundation of this scheme was a main armor belt at the waterline. The armor belt of the "Petropavlovsk" was 73.15 m in length, comprising 65% of the hull. It's height was 2.29 m, with 1.39 m normally under the water. The thickness of the main armor belt was 406 mm. The quality of the armor protection varied on different sections. The main part of vertical armor protection was made of steel-nickel armor, produced by Izhorsky Zavod. The main armor belt was made of armor which had been bought from the Battleham Iron company's plant in USA.


According to the primary project, "The Petropavlovsk"'s armament was to consist of four 305/35 (gun's calibre/length of gun's tube in calibers) and eight 203/35 guns. A decision to change the guns to a the new system with 305/40 and 152/45, was made in 1893. The new guns had higher muzzle velocity and rate of fire, which improved the ship's firepower. However, it delayed the activation.

The main armament was four artillery guns of 305/40 calibre, placed in pairs on forward and after turrets. The maximum elevation level was 15°, with the rate of fire being one shot in 2-2.5 minutes. It was considerably higher than the rate of fire of foreign ships of that time. The main guns and turrets of the were produced by the Obukhov State Plant. Ammunition allowance was fifty eight shells for each gun.

Secondary armament consisted of twelve 152/45 сanet guns. Forward turrets' fire angle was 0-130°, and the fire angle of after turrets was 45-180°. The maximum elevation level was 15-18°. The fire rate was 5 shots in minute. However, it was reduced to only one shot in a minute in practice, due to low safety mechanisms. Ammunition allowance was 200 shells for each gun, stored in cellars under the turrets.

Antimine armament consisted of ten 47/43.5 and twenty eight 37/22.8 Gochkin's guns. They were placed troughout the whole ship. For landing force, "The Petropavlovsk" had two 63.5/19 Baranovsky's guns.

Mine armament consisted six torpedo tubes, and "The Petropavlovsk" had six searchlights with diameter of 75 cm and two mine launchers.

Propulsion machinery and characteristics

The ship had two vertical steam engines with a general power of 10600 horse power (in practise 11255 horse power).

"The Petropavlovsk" had a crew of 750. After construction, the battleship had a black hull and straw-coloured smokestacks. The painting scheme was changed many times afterwards. By the beginning of combat operations, all ships of Port Arthur's squadron were painted with an olive green scheme.


The "Petropavlovsk" was a well-balanced ship with an optimal combination of armament, armor protection, speed and navigability. By the time of launching she was one of the most powerful of his class in the world but prolonged fitting-out resulted in that she was commissioned when more modern, up to date ships began to appear.

The guns of the main calibre met all requirements except for it had a low rate of fire. The middle artillery with excellent characteristics of the guns was placed a bit abortively which caused that turret mountings were not reliable, had a low speed of horizontal aiming and low rate of fire. Antimine artillery was almost useless because the size of new torpedo boats increased and by this time the standard of antimine became 75-mm guns. The majority of torpedo tubes was under water which increased targetability of the battleship. The storage of shells in the cellars in forward and hull part which didn't have armor protection decreased the battleship's defence and eventually played a weird role in her fate.

The speed and navigability were satisfactory.

The scheme of armor protection reflected the conceptions of 1880's which foresees the defence of engines, boilers and foundations of turrets by the maximum thickness of armor. The main armor belt was almost invulnerable. It was hard to send "The Petropavlovsk" to the bottom using armor-piercing shells but hitting by explosive shells could cause flooding of considerable parts of forward and hull parts of the battleship, decrease in speed and handling. In such a condition The "Petropavlovsk" wouldn't be able to follow the squadron.

Modern Japanese battleships "Mikasa", "Asahi", "Shikishima", "Hatsuse" had full armor belt at waterline, the defence of all middle artillery (furhermore they had two more 152-mm guns), better antimine artillery consisting of 20 76-mm guns and better speed. Authoritative sea book "Jane" estimated "The Petropavlosk's" combative force 0,8 to 1 of Japanese battleships. Japanese battleships Fuji and Yashima which were constructed approximately at the same time with "The Petropavlosk" had more powerful main armor belt (457-mm) but it was shorter than "The Petropavlovsk"'s. The upper armor belt of Japanese battleships was less thick (102-mm) but had a bigger length. Japanese artillery had a weaker defence. The armor protection of turrets was weak and it almost led to the wreck of the Fuji during Battle of Tsushima. [cite book| last = Suliga| first = S.| authorlink =| title = Ships of Russo-Japanese War| publisher =| location = Yakutsk| date = 1995| pages =| doi =|isbn = 5-85259-077-0 ] The defence from underwater bursts was not better - Yashima sunk after striking a Russian mine.

ervice Life

Early years

In October 1897, "Petropavlovsk" sailed from Saint Petersburg to Kronstadt to be outfitted. In 1898 the guns was fitted and later the battleship moved to Liepāja, returning to Kronstadt in 1899. On October 5, 1899 " Petropavlovsk" was transferred to the Far Eastern, East Asia Squadron. Aleksandr Kolchak who was the chief of the watch on aboard, was to have conducted hydrology experiments in the northern Pacific ocean. However, when the ship arrived in the Mediterranean, Kolchak accepted Eduard Toll's proposal to take part in his expedition and left the "Petropavlovsk". "Petropavlovsk" reached Port Arthur on April 28, 1900, becoming the flagship of vice admiral Skrydlov and the East Asia Squadron. In 1900—1901, "Petropavlovsk" took part in suppression of the Boxer rebellion in China. In particular note, she transported artillery and troops from Port Arthur to Taku. In October, 1902, Rear admiral Stark took command of the East Asia Squadron and raised his flag on "Petropavlovsk".During 1903, the she participated in all cruises of squadron to Chemulpo and Vladivostok.

Russo-Japanese War

On the night of February 8, 1904, the "Petropavlovsk" like the majority of ships of the East Asia Squadron was anchored in outer harbor. The squadron was attacked by Japanese torpedo boats with 16 torpedoes. The Russians were not ready for attack which caused confusion amongst the fleet. The " Petropavlovsk" was not damaged, but three ships; the ("Tsesarevich", the "Retvizan" and "Pallada") suffered heavy damage. The inactivity of the Russian fleet in the following months and other events led to Admiral Stark's resignation and appointment of Stepan Makarov as a commander of the squadron. However, before the arrival of the new commander, the battleship managed to take part in a battle.

The following day, the main Japanese fleet consisting of six battleships and nine cruisers under the command of admiral Togo engage the Russian fleet in battle, lasted for nearly forty minutes. The Japanese ships broke away and Russians didn't pursue them. The battle didn't give considerable results to any of the opponents but some ships suffered damage. [cite book|last=Balakin|first=S.|authorlink =|title = Sea battles of Russo-Japanese war|publisher = Sea collection|location =|date = 2004|pages =|doi =|isbn =] The "Petropavlovsk" fired 20, 305-mm and 68, 152-mm shells and was struck by 3 shells (2-305 and 1-152). One of the crew was killed and four were wounded, the damages to the ship were insignificant.

As a result of the repair of the battleship "Tsesarevich", Makarov chose the "Petropavlovsk" to be his flagship. During the following month the battleship made five sorties in order to practise manoeuvring.


Having failed to blockade or bottle up the Russian squadron at Port Authur using fire ships, the Japanese under Admiral Togo formulated a new plan. Ships were to mine the entrance from the harbour and then to lure the Russians into the minefield it in the hope of sinking a number of Russian warships. The minelayer "Koru-Maru" on the night March, 31 under cover of four detachments of torpedo boats. The Japanese were spotted by Admiral Makarov who thought that they were Russian torpedo boats whom he had ordered to patrol that area. In the evening the commander decided to make a night sortie and in the hope of finding the enemy and attacking him with torpedo boats. Soon after the departure, the torpedo boats "Smelij" and "Strashnij" straggled from the main squadron. The Russian ships reached Elliot island, they did not spot any Japanese vessels in the area and successfully returned to Port Author.

The "Strashnij" during the night stumbled upon the Japanese squadron which was covering the torpedo boats, having mistaken the ships for the Russian squadron followed it. The Japanese also mistook her for one of their ships, however when dawn came the "Strashnij" was attacked and sunk by the Japanese. The Russian cruiser Bayan which turned to help "Strashnij" was attacked by Japanese cruisers and having saved five sailors from "Strashnij" returned to the Port Arthur. At 7.00, Admiral Makarov led the battleships " Petropavlovsk", "Poltava" and four cruisers to the sight of "Strashnij's" wreck. The squadron successfully sailed over the mines. The "Petropavlovsk" opened fire and the Japanese ships turned to the East where their main forces stood. The Russian ships turned back to Port Authur, however this course set the Russians on a course right in to the minefield.

At 9:30 am, the "Petropavlovsk"'s approached Port Arthur, when an explosion rocked the ship. By the force of the explosion, the 305-mm turret and smokestacks were thrown overboard. In a minute the "Petropavlovsk" sink to the water by its foreship. After 15 minutes another explosion occurred and the battleship broke up into two parts while sinking to the bottom. The striking of the mine caused the explosion of ammunition and the boilers.

Lifeboats from other ships rushed to rescue the crew swimming in the water. About 80 were saved, including captain Yakovlev and Cyril Vladimirovich who was the cousin of Nicholas II). Admiral Makarov, was not found, he is believed to have died with ten other personnel from the command staff. A total of 18 officers and 620 sailors were lost, this included the famous artist Vasily Vereshchagin who was famous for making sketches for paintings.

The wreck of the "Petropavlovsk" had a very negative impact on morale and potency of the East Asia Squadron(becoming the "First Pacific Squadron" on April 17). The fleet lost not only one of the best battleships but also a talented leader and organiser vice-admiral Stephan Makarov who was respected and loved by the Russians officers and sailors. There was no adequate change for him until the end of the war. [cite web|last =| first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Военная литература (Militera project)| work = Russia and Japan. The history of war conflicts| publisher =| date = | url =| format =| doi = | accessdate = 2008-06-09]

Investigation of the wreck

In 1909, a Japanese businessman Sakuraya Tserinosuke bought the hull of the sunk battleship in the hope of finding money or other valuables. In October, 1911, the first news about the discovery of the remains of sailors reached the Russians, however, this was later denied. In 1913, the remains of four of the Russian crew were found, but only one of them was identified; the chief of staff of the First Pacific Squadron, Mihail Molas. His remains were taken to Saint Petersburg and re-buried there. Five other Russians were buried by the Japanese with military honors in the Russian war cemetry in Port Authur on June 24, 1913.


On June 24, 1913 at the presence of tsar Nicholas II a monument to Stepan Makarov was opened in Kronshtadt. One of its pedestals has an illustration of the wreck of the "Petropavlovsk".

After the hundred years, a commemorative plaque with the names of 635 mariners and Stephan Makarov was blessed in Saint Petersburg. The Brass plaque was placed in the chapel of Saint Nicholas church "Spas na Vodah".

The "Petropavlovsk" in popular culture

* The battleship can be seen in strategy game "Distant Guns: The Russo-Japanese War at Sea".

* Cardboard model of the "Petropavlovsk" on a scale of 1:200 is produced by the Polish company Modelik.



* Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905, 1979

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