This class of four 7,000-ton medium cruisers, designed in Germany, offers a pleasant mix of turret- and casemate-mounted ordnance. They appear to have been handy ships and well-liked in the fleet. Like most other Russian warships of the era, they led adventurous lives, mostly ending in tragedy.
As was customary at the time, Russia purchased the prototype from a foreign builder and expanded the class with home-made copies, modified to suit their needs and observations on the performance of the original. In this case, the Russian navy was gearing up for combat with the Japanese, and gave its blessing to 4 copies, for a hefty 5-ship class. Bogatyr was built by Vulcan Werft, Stettin, Germany: laid down 1898, launched January 1901, and completed 1902. Bogatyr went out to the Far East soon after commissioning, becoming the light member of the Vladivostok Squadron. She was undergoing repairs when the squadron received orders for a hasty sortie in August 1904, and so missed the Battle of Ulsan in which 2 of her squadron-mates got badly shot up, and the third (the armored cruiser Rurik) was sunk. Bogatyr later sortied with the Rossiya, but both ships went hard aground and remained hors de combat for the remainder of the war.
In 1906, Bogatyr was recalled to Libau to beef up what was left of the Baltic fleet following the disaster at Tsushima. She later fought in WWI, and after the Revolution was part of the fleet turned over to the Bolsheviks by the radical Kronstadt Sailors' Soviet. During the foreign intervention that accompanied the Russian Civil War during 1919-22, she was sunk in Kronstadt harbor by a single torpedo on June 17, 1919. Britain's Coastal Motor Boat No. 4 took credit for the kill. The wreck was refloated and scrapped in 1922, but at the wrecker her machinery was salvaged and used to re-engine the Komintern (ex-Pamiat Merkuriya). A familiar member of the Reds' Black Sea fleet between the wars, Komintern relied on parts from her ruined sisters to keep her going until Luftwaffe planes put her out of commission in 1942.
Plans and Specifications
Specifications for the Bogatyr class:
Dimensions: 345'8" x 54'6" x 20'8" Displacement: 6,752 tons. Armament: (12) 6"/45 cal (2x2, 8x1), (12) 2.9"/50 M1892 11-pdr, (8) 3"/43 QF, and (2) 37 mm/23 guns (the last boat artillery for landing parties); (2) 15" torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp type throughout. 5" turrets; 5½" conning tower; 3.1" casemates and ammo hoists; 3.1" deck. Fuel capacity: 800 tons of coal std; 1,300 tons maximum. Propulsion: (16) coal-fired Normand boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 23,050 hp, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 23 kts. Crew: 589.
Ships in class: Bogatyr · Oleg · Kagul · Pamiat Merkuriya · Vityaz
Dimensions: 134m x 16.6m x 6.3m Displacement: 6,752 tons. Armament: (12) Obukhov 152 mm/45 M1892 (2x2, 8x1), (12) 75 mm/50 M1892 11-pdr, (8) 47 mm/43, and (2) 37 mm/23 guns (artillery for landing parties); (2) 381 mm torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp type throughout. 127 mm turrets; 140 mm conning tower; 80 mm casemates and ammo hoists; 80 mm deck. Fuel capacity: 800 tons of coal std; 1,300 tons maximum. Propulsion: (16) coal-fired Normand boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 17,188 kW, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 43 km/hr. Crew: 589.
GUNNERY NOTE: All ships in this class had their main armament replaced with 5.1" Pattern 1913 guns prior to or during the Great War; i.e., 152 mm guns were replaced with newer 130 mm weapons. The twin mounts were replaced by single turrets at that time, so the main armament became (10) 5.1"/55 (10x1).
Her second sister ship, Oleg, was built at the New Admiralty Yard, St. Petersburg: laid down 1901, launched August 1903, and completed 1904. The brand-new Oleg was assigned the fool's errand to retrieve Russia's fortune at Tsushima. She was R. Adm. Oskar Enkvist's First Cruiser Division flagship on the long, brutal voyage from Libau to Japan in Oct. 1904-May 1905. Enkvist was well-known in the service to be incompetent and perhaps a bit feeble-minded; certainly indecisive. Having received his appointment through nepotism, he had the habit of asking his officers to make all decisions of any importance for him. At the Battle of Tsushima, the cruiser force was ordered to guard the auxiliary vessels: a repair ship, colliers, transports, and 2 hospital ships. These vessels bunched together closely, resulting in a number of collisions. After a few hours under fire, Enkvist apparently panicked and ordered his entire cruiser division to turn tail and run. Abandoning the auxiliaries and their slower units -- the old belted cruisers Dmitri Donskoi and Monomakh -- the three newer ships -- the Aurora, Oleg, and Zhemchug -- shot their way clear and fled, escaping the disaster engulfing the Second Pacific Squadron. Four days later the trio arrived in neutral Manila, where the Americans disarmed their weapons and interned them for the duration. Afterwards they reverted to the Russian government, all to meet violent ends in later conflicts.
The only cruiser of the group that showed any gumption was the Izumrud, commanded by a flower of the Russian nobility. This fast cruiser stayed with Nebogatoff through the night: the proper placement, since the C-in-C had refused to grant Enkvist an independent command. When on the morning of the 28th Japanese warships encircled Nebogatoff's squadron, and surrender loomed, Baron Ferzen used his cruiser's 24-knot speed to sprint for Vladivostok. Japanese cruisers peeled off in hot pursuit. Izumrud might well have made it to her destination but for a navigational error that put her hard aground on a reef at the mouth of Vladimir Bay. There her crew landed safely while the baron and bo'sun remained behind to blow up the ship to prevent capture. The crew, including 10 wounded, reached Vladivostok overland on June 1, where Ferzen telegraphed his despatch to Petersburg.
It has been argued that Enkvist's desertion of the fleet amounted to cowardice in the face of the enemy. It could also be argued that he showed a shrewd sense of self-preservation, and that he saved three fighting ships in reasonable condition for the further use of the Empire once hostilities had ceased. Another possibility is that the incompetent admiral deferred the decision to his subordinates and the command to 'split the scene' reflected those officers' consensus, so any blame should not be laid entirely on Enkvist. At any rate, despite his inventive report to the Admiralty, he got away with it. And it seems quite the Aurora likely would never have survived to take her stellar rôle in subsequent Russian history had she not exited the fray with him. She might well have served the Empire of Japan beside her captured sister Pallada instead.
Meanwhile Oleg served several more years in the Pacific before being ordered back via the Mediterranean in 1908. She remained in service during the Great War and in its aftermath was torpedoed and laid up some time awaiting repairs. She was eventually put back in commission in the Baltic fleet, hulked in the 1930s, and sent back to the blast furnace in 1938, meekly sacrificing herself for the fulfillment of the Five Year Plan.
Kagul, originally named Ochakov, was built by the Sevastopol dockyard: laid down 1900, launched October 1902, and completed 1905. When still new she achieved fame as LT CDR Pyotr Schmidt's rebel flagship during the autumn 1905 fleet mutiny at Sevastopol. After a 90-minute battle with loyal forces led by the flagship Rostislav, the mariners' revolt was put down with difficulty on Nov. 28 - 29, 1905. Schmidt and other participants were punished with brutal severity. Like other ships involved in rebellion against the régime, she was renamed so the Tsar and his minions would never again have to utter her troubling name.
The renamed Kagul formed part of the salvage fleet that refloated the dreadnought Imperatritsa Mariyas in 1918. In the Russian Civil War she was seized in turn by Red and White forces; as she changed hands she was renamed Ochakov and later yet General Kornilov. After the defeat of the Whites, she joined Baron Wrangel's fleet in transporting the White remnants into the Mediterranean. The ship was interned in Bizerta in 1920 as part of the agreement with France. Rejected by Soviet surveyors who inspected the fleet at the invitation of the French government, Kagul was sold for scrap in 1933 and towed to Italy for demolition. Her original name lived on in Soviet propaganda through the 1980s.
Pamiat Merkuriya (later Komintern - right) was built at the Nikolayev Admiralty dockyard. Laid down in 1900, she was completed in 1907. The yard personnel mutinied during the stillborn 1905 revolution, delaying the ship's completion. Although her engines were smashed by British Navy interventionists in 1919, the ship otherwise survived the Russian Civil War largely intact. The relatively intact machinery of her torpedoed sister Bogatyr was shipped by railroad to Sevastopol; the ship was repaired and served in the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, renamed Komintern, beginning in 1923. She appears in Battleship Potemkin in the final scene where the Potemkin is chasing the fleet, as the 3-funnel cruiser with a large plume of black smoke (the 4-funnel ship is the Bayan class Makarov). She was modernized with replacement of her twin turrets by single mounts, conversion to oil fuel, and removal of the No. 3 funnel. Damaged by German bombers in World War II, she was sunk as a breakwater in Poti, Georgia on 10 October 1942, after her guns had been removed for use in shore batteries.
A fifth sister, Vityaz, was so badly damaged by a fire during her construction that she was abandoned in 1901 and her double bottom scrapped on the spot in St. Petersburg.
A Bogatyr Class Compilation
Bow view of Bogatyr in the Baltic before she joined her squadron at Vladivostok.
Stern quarter view of Bogatyr at Libau. The new ship has Bullivant system torpedo net booms neatly caddied along the sides. These cruisers came equipped with a miniature captain's walk, German style. Click here for beautiful enlarged view!
A peaceful afternoon washing and mending on the Oleg's foredeck. The barbette ring of the forward 6" turret does double duty as a clothesline. This is from the ship's time interned in Manila, approximately a year from June 2, 1905 into 1906.
Late-day light caresses the pleasingly varied starboard side of the Oleg. Enlarge
Pamiat Merkuriiya at sea early in her career. Enlarge
Longest lived of the Bogatyr class, Komintern (ex-Merkuriya) dressed for May Day 1934 with all the symbols of secular state power. She has been down-gunned to single mounted 130 mm weapons fore and aft and converted to burn oil; her bow torpedo tube has been removed; many of the original anti-TB weapons have been removed. Her pre-dreadnought cruiser lines are emphasized by the stripping away of clutter, as suits her rôle as a training vessel.
Kagul spent her career in the Black Sea fleet. When brand new, as the Ochakov, she was the flagship of the mutineer fleet at Sevastopol in October - November 1905. Much later, she was part of the salvage fleet that raised the wreck of the Imperatritsa Mariya in 1918. A fine stern view of her steaming through a lively sea, c. 1916.