The big game argument


After the Crimean War, the Russian fleet on the Black Sea was destroyed. In the Baltic, the handsome sailing ships have lost their military significance. And the problem of relations with England has not gone anywhere. A new fleet was needed – a steam one. And the new ships are steamers capable of cruising in the ocean for a long time, destroying British trade.

At the same time, for defense, it was necessary to build ships capable of defending the Gulf of Finland and the capital, Petersburg. And only battleships could become them.

We didn’t have our own technologies. And we had to build our firstborn (so called “Firstborn”) in England.

Founded in 1861, it came to Russia in 1863. As a result of a whole military operation:

“On May 6, 1863, the Firstborn was launched in London at the Thames Shipyard.

In connection with the aggravation of relations with England due to the unrest in the Vistula region, the admiral-general ordered to urgently take the unfinished ship to Russia.

In July 1863, the unfinished Firstborn, which had no weapons, was transferred to Kronstadt.

To protect it from a possible attack by British or French ships, the battery was escorted by the frigates General-Admiral and Oleg.

The way of buying ships in England showed its futility. And in 1863, another technology donor was found:

“The most serious pro-American step by Russia was the dispatch of two military squadrons to the United States in 1863.

One arrived in New York, the other in San Francisco.

Russian warships remained in the United States for a year. ”

The delivery of steam, but wooden cruisers, nevertheless, was of great importance for the USA (North American United States).

There was a Civil War. And England supported the South.

The possibility of Russian cruisers entering the communications of Britain from the ports of the North became a serious argument in favor of British neutrality. In return, Russia got the opportunity to buy.

“Captain 1st rank S.S. Lesovsky and the captain of the corps of naval engineers N.A. Artseulov, sent to the United States of America in 1862 to study the construction of armored ships, drew the attention of the Naval Ministry to the armored boats of the Swedish engineer Erickson’s system with a rotating turret, the prototype of which was the famous Monitor.
In this regard, the ministry developed the so-called “Monitor shipbuilding program” in 1863, which provided for the construction of 11 monitors (ten single-tower and one double-tower). “

And buy in the USA. Both technology and ships during the next crisis of 1878:

“For 400 thousand dollars, to outbid the building under construction for 365 thousand dollars at the shipyard“ V. Crump and Suns “in Philadelphia iron steamer” State of California “(cruiser No. 1, later” Europe “) …

The Columbus, built at Crump in 1873 and transporting sugar, coffee, etc. since 1874, was purchased from the V. P. Clyde & Co. in Philadelphia for $ 275,000;

another, “Saratoga”, – at the trading house “D. E. Ward & Co. “for 335 thousand dollars …

Design work on the fourth ship dates back to the first days of June 1878 …

The construction of the “Bully” began on June 19 (July 1, New Style), the official foundation was carried out on July 11 “.

“Bully” was killed already in the Russo-Japanese War, having served in the fleet for 26 years.

The result of the construction was a powerful monitor fleet, armed with Krupp’s artillery. The best in the world at the time. And the construction of a cruising fleet, both conventional and armored.

The first armored

The armored frigate “Prince Pozharsky” became the firstborn of the Russian armored cruisers.

A long-term ship, not the happiest fate. Nevertheless, he played his part. It was followed by Minin, Admiral General and Duke of Edinburgh, which allowed the formation of an armored cruising squadron capable of causing serious damage to British trade.

This four came in handy not only as a virtual threat. And also for quite real actions. True, against China, during the crisis of 1880.

Though there are different opinions:

“As the main potential enemy of Russia in 1880-1881. it was not China that was considered, but the UK that supported it.

This, in particular, is related to the urgent strengthening of Vladivostok from an attack from the sea, while the Chinese fleet at that time did not have the opportunity for such actions.

Thus, Lesovsky’s squadron had the traditional goal of Russian naval doctrine to create a threat to England of a cruising war on its communications.

Consequently, the Russian naval demonstration was directed not so much against China as against Great Britain.

In this regard, the Russians, perhaps for the first time, managed to create a naval grouping in the Far East comparable to the naval forces of their main rival.

Britain at that time had a squadron of 23 ships in Chinese waters against 26 Russians, including battleships. ”

But this is far from a fact.

In the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1978. to nominate the same “Pozharsky” in the Mediterranean, the Russian government did not dare. Although there were simply no rivals in the Turkish fleet for him. And in addition to the armored frigate, there was still a lot of things that could both reach and destroy the Turkish fleet. The fear of war with England played a role.

In any case, Alexander II managed to create his own weighty argument in a big game. Monitors, casemate battleships, four armored frigates made it possible to both defend and act on ocean communications.

Russia regained an ocean-going fleet. And she completely secured her capital. Moreover, in addition to purely military ships, the Volunteer Fleet was created in 1878, commercial, but whose ships were capable of becoming cruisers in wartime.

At the time of the emperor’s death, this fleet was at the peak of its power. Detailed plans were drawn up for a cruising war and for the defense of a mine-artillery position. Maneuvers were constantly conducted and new tactics were born.

The fleet passed the crises of 1863, 1878 and 1880 with flying colors.

Cruiser Alexander III

During the reign of the new emperor, there were changes in the fleet.

In addition to cruisers, battleships for operations in the ocean began to be built. It all began under the previous emperor, with a 20-year shipbuilding program in 1881.
Alexander III reduced it in 1885. But the general course for the creation of an ocean-going armored fleet was not changed. The course was not changed, but the trade fighters were built further, further developing the destroyer fleet.

As a result, Russia went in three directions at once – the creation of an armored fleet, cruising squadrons and a huge destroyer fleet according to the precepts of the young school.

Building was superimposed on it two fleets at the same time: in the Black Sea (to storm the straits) and in the Baltic (to confront Germany and send squadrons to the Pacific Ocean). We had no opportunity to maneuver between theaters: the straits were closed for Russia.

Special attention was paid to cruisers in these plans. The first armored frigates in the 80s were Donskoy and Monomakh. They were followed by “Memory of Azov”. And, finally, “Rurik”, founded in 1892.

They were complemented by armored corvettes (armored cruisers) “Vityaz” and “Rynda”.

A feature of these ships was their low suitability for squadron combat, both due to the location of the artillery and other characteristics. And fast obsolescence as raiders.

By 1895, the first two armored frigates and both armored corvettes were hopelessly outdated morally. Although in terms of age, 10 years is not enough for a ship.

However, in a secondary theater of operations in the ocean against England, they were quite suitable.

Be that as it may, the construction of the fleet in three directions at once led to a lack of strength in everything and everywhere. In the same 1892, there were three relatively modern armored raiders, against four 12 years earlier …

The bifurcation of Tsar Nicholas

Tsar Nicholas did not eliminate the duality in the development of the fleet.

On the contrary, under him, the oceanic armored raiders were built five, against four with his father and four with his grandfather. And they supplemented them with three cruisers – goddesses, armored, but quite suitable for ocean operations.

Considering that by the time the Russo-Japanese War began, none of the armored cruisers had been decommissioned, formally Russia had a huge fleet of armored cruisers: 10 units plus three battleship cruisers.

In fact, only six (3 + 3) could be released into the ocean. As a result, the war happened not with England, but with Japan. And it came out what came out.

The old men from the times of the Turkish war did not leave the Baltic. It is understandable. Due to dilapidation and meaninglessness. They were accompanied by “Memory of Azov” because of the renovation. But the armored frigates “Donskoy” and “Monomakh” were included in the squadron of Rozhdestvensky, where they died. Heroic, but pointless.

The battleships-cruisers did not work out either. Using them as squadron battleships in the line could not end well. And it didn’t end.

“Oslyabya” died. His sisterships became Japanese trophies …

But the “Ruriks” fought, brilliantly proving that the idea of ​​a cruising war was based on real calculation and real training.

The WOK raids were the only bright spot in that war. And it is not the fault of the cruisers (both armored and auxiliary) that they did little. What are the tasks and decisiveness of the command – such is the result …


The idea of ​​a cruising war, which had become a kind of lifesaver in Russian politics under Alexander II and his son, had now become an anachronism by the middle of the last decade of the 19th century.

The fleet needed cruisers suitable for squadron combat.

But attempts to prepare simultaneously for a war with the whole world led to the fact that in a real war we were not ready for either squadron battles or the blockade of Japan. The first was hampered by the composition of the fleet (out of eleven of our armored ships in the Pacific Ocean, five were raiders), and the second was due to a lack of strength.

Still, three cruisers in Vladivostok are extremely small. There they needed more “Peresveta”, goddesses and four or five raiders of the Volunteer Fleet.

However, decades of preparation were not in vain. And our cruisers inflicted losses on Japanese shipping. And no one would have done more in that place and with those forces.

Having a great tool, they didn’t use it. At the same time spending on it funds and resources, which were not enough for a classic naval war.

You can’t be strong in everything.

What Russia has proved on its own experience.

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