At the close of the first decade of the 20th Century, the naval powers of the world were in a battleship building race. They had been in the race for over 20 years but now the battleships were all big gun dreadnoughts, built in ever increasing numbers and supplemented by the previously built predreadnoughts. However, with Imperial Russia there were very few predreadnoughts in the fleet. The Russian Fleet had been gutted as a result of the catastrophic Russo-Japanese War. It was not until 1909 that the Russian Admiralty received the financing from the Duma that would allow construction of Russia’s first dreadnoughts.

Throughout 1908 the Admiralty had solicited designs from shipyards in Russia and abroad. Four dreadnoughts were to be constructed and named after traditional Russian capital ship names, Sevastopol, Petropavlovsk, Poltava and Gangut, allthe first three of which had been used by a predreadnought class lost at Port Arthur and Gangut, which had been used by a Russian predreadnought lost through an accident in the Baltic. Although other capital ship designs were laid down and even launched, the four ships of the Sevastopol Class were the only Tsarist dreadnoughts to be completed for the Baltic Fleet. A similar but smaller design, the Imperatritsa Maria, was used for three Black Sea predreadnoughts.

When I was about eight years old, I had already been building plastic warship models for some time. In the United States, this meant Revell, Monogram, Renwall, Hawk and Aurora. Only Aurora was producing non-USN subjects. My parents bought a set of encyclopedias entitled the American Peoples Encyclopedia. When the set came in, I naturally had to look up battleship to see what photographs were there. There were two, one of an Iowa Class, nothing new there, and one of the strangest looking ships that I had yet seen, a modernized Sevastopol Class Soviet battleship. The four turrets on the flush deck, towering superstructure and strongly canted forward funnel, all gave a very exotic look to the design that mesmerized me. Over the years the class has not received the print of Western European designs, at least not outside of Russia, and Russian publications on the class were not readily available. Of course that has now all changed. Although, there are no injection plastic kits of the class, three different companies, Combrig, WSW and H-P Models, make resin models of battleships of the class.

With the publication of The Russian Battleships: Sevastopol Class there is now exhaustive, graphically intensive, study on this class of battleship. This title is the subject of the 15th volume in the Polish series Okrety Swiata/Warships of the World, written in Polish but is 1st volume in the publisher’s Famous Warships Monographs series to be written entirely in English. Written by Maciej S. Sobanski and translated into English by Jaroslaw Palasek and Iwona Grzyb, the volume comprises 88 pages, plus covers and separate plans and provides the most extensive study of the class available in English.


Color Plates
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I will admit that I am very partial to this volume, as I had a very small part to play in the English version. The publisher, Jaroslaw Malinowski, graciously inquired if I would proof the English translation and I was honored to do so. Basically this involved looking at the syntax and smoothing the flow of sentences. I see now where I could have done a better job but I think you will find that the text is easily read. The text provides a wealth of extremely detailed information about the design, construction, modifications, operational histories and fates of the four battleships of the Sevastopol Class. The contents of the text by itself is of great value but Okrety Wojenne, the publishing company, provides a treasure trove of rare photographs, drawings, color plates, as well as six 1:400 scale separate plans and profiles, to make this volume of great value to the historian and modeler alike. The Russian Battleships: Sevastopol Class is broken into three broad chapters, Creation, Technical Data and Operational History of the Ships.

Creation
Nine pages are devoted to the history behind the design and initial creation of the Sevastopol Class. The author goes into detail into the design, financial and industrial constraints, faced by Imperial Russia in the rebuilding of her battleship fleet. The 12 photographs found in this section concentrate on predreadnought forerunners, construction photographs, and photographs of launching, fitting out and trials of the battleships. The photographs, as is true with all of the photographs in this volume, are of extremely high quality of reproduction. Many are full page and all include captions.


Creation
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Technical Data
This chapter of 10 pages presents the "nuts and bolts" of the design. With subsections on hull, armor, propulsion plant, and armament, all of the systems characteristics are examined in detail. Included is all of the hard data on these systems that could be reasonably desired. The eight photographs in this section look at on board photographs of systems and fittings. Also included are three schematic drawings and two tables, one on main armament and the other on secondary armament.


Technical Data
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The Operational History of the Ships
This chapter of 67 pages forms the bulk of the title. The operational lives of each of the four battleships is covered in detail, from laying down to final fate, or in the case of Poltava, present situation of her main gun armament, as it is still in existence. The chapter is subdivided into six areas, history of the Sevastopol, history of the Petropavlovsk, history of the Gangut, history of the Poltava, conclusions and bibliography.


Sevastopol - Parizhskaya Kommuna
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Sevastopol
The section on the Sevastopol is 27 pages in length. The text covers all of the events that occurred in the operational life of the battleship from the laying of her keel on June 3, 1909 to her scrapping in 1956/1957. During World War One the history of the four battleships had a great deal of commonality, since they were part of the same squadron. However, the history of each diverged in the Soviet era. As is true with all four battleships, Sevastopol was renamed by Soviet government in the 1920s to a more revolutionary name and then renamed to her former name during World War Two. On March 31, 1921 Sevastopol was renamed Parizhskaya Kommuna to recognize the revolutionary Paris Commune of the 19th Century. Since all members of the Imperatritsa Maria Class dreadnought had been lost as a result of the World War One or the Russian Civil War, with one winding up in French North Africa, Soviet Russia had no dreadnought on the Black Sea and yet Turkey still had the Yavuz Ex-Goeben. 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. Parizhskaya Kommuna had to put into Brest for emergency repairs. The Soviet government was embarrassed by the incident, so repairs were made solely by the crew. Threedays later Parizhskaya Kommuna left Brest to be greeted by 35 foot seas. The condition in the ship deteriorated to worse than before and again Parizhskaya Kommuna put into Brest for repairs but this time the Soviet government contracted with a French shipyard for repairs. On January 18, 1930 Parizhskaya Kommuna reached Sevastopol and spent the rest of her career in the Black Sea. When the Crimea fell to the Germans in 1942, Parizhskaya Kommuna had to move her base of operations to the ports of the Caucuses. Throughout World War Two she was very active in supporting the Red Army along the Black Sea Coasts. On May 31, 1943 she was renamed with her original name, Sevastopol. The Sevastopol was given the Order of the Red Banner in July 1945 for her war time record. This subchapter contains 40 photographs and three drawings.


Petropavlovsk - Marat
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Petropavlovsk
The subchapter on Petropavlovsk contains 15 pages, 18 photographs and three drawings. Her early history was similar with other members of the class. However, Petropavlovsk was attacked by British MTBs during the Interventionist portion of the Russian Civil War and participated in the Kronshtadt Rebellion against the Communist government of March 1921, involving 27 thousand mutineers from the fleet and army. The rebellion was put down with significant losses and resulted in a heavy purge. On March 31, 1921 her name was changed to Marat after the one of the firebrands of the French Revolution. She received a refit and became the most photographed member of the class in the west as she represented the Soviet Union in the Coronation Review for King George VI in June 1937. Based at Kronshtadt when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, she immediately became the target of German aircraft. On September 23, 1941 she was attacked by Ju-87 Stukas. One bomb detonated her forward magazine. In an explosion similar to that experienced by USS Arizona about two and a half months later, the catastrophic magazine explosion destroyed the bow area of the ship, disintegrated A turret, and threw the bridge superstructure through the air onto a nearby quay. The ship settled to the bottom. However, as the German Army drew closer the remaining three turrets continued to support ground operations. On May 31, 1943 she was renamed to Petropavlovsk. There were plans for her reconstruction but they were never acted upon. The hull minus the bow was refloated and became an artillery training ship. Renamed yet again to Volkov in November 1950, she was not scrapped until 1954.


Gangut - Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia
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Gangut
This sub-chapter is 17 pages in length with 24 photographs. Gangut had a similar World War One history with the other members of the class, including the infamous "Ice March" of 12-17 March 1917 when the fleet was forced to steam through the ice choked Gulf of Finland from Helsingfors (Helsinki) to Kronshtadt on the south coast. Out of commission for five years, she was recommissioned on July 2, 1925 as the Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia, October Revolution after the name for the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. In 1931 Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia received the most significant of the refits of the class, giving her the most "built up" appearance. Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia was active in the "Winter War" against Finland November 1939 to March 1940, she shelled Finnish coastal positions until January 1940. With the German invasion Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia was under constant air attack. She was forced to move from Kronshtadt to Leningrad, where she was integrated into the defensive network during the horrific siege of that city. Given the Order of the Red Banner in July 1944, she was given British radar sets at the end of the year. Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia does not seem to have reverted to her prior name, at least it is not mentioned in the text. Nicknamed by her crew with the affectionate diminutive "Oktabrina" she served the Soviet Union until February 1956 when she was stricken and was broken up in 1957 and 1958.


Poltava - Frunze
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Poltava
This sub-chapter is 7 pages in length with six photographs and one drawing. The history of Poltava has the shortest length because she had the shortest operational history as a battleship. Ironically, she has the longest history in that her artillery exists to this day. Poltava had a similar history to the rest of her sisters in World War One. In November 1918 she was sent to then Petersburg for a refit. At the yard on November 24, 1918 an oil fire ignited aboard Poltava due to crew inexperience. The fire lasted 15 hours, greatly damaging the ship. The forward boiler room, artillery control as well as electrical systems were gutted or severely damaged. Repairs proceeded slowly but then in 1923, Poltava was victim of another fire. She was still floating but she was then used as a parts store for the other ships in the class and was cannibalized in the process. On January 7, 1926 she was renamed Frunze in honor of People’s Military and Navy Commissar Mikhail V. Frunze. Plans were drawn up to convert Frunze to a battlecruiser but they never came to fruition. The hulk of Frunze was also subject to German air attack in World War Twoand sunk in the fall of 1941. At one point in 1943 it was decided to use the bow of Frunze to replace the destroyed bow of Marat but it was decided that the result would not be worth the time or money involved. Unlike her sisters, which have disappeared, Poltava/Frunze continues to live on. The four triple 12-inch/52 (305mm) turrets had been removed from the battleship in 1925. Two turrets were transported by the Trans-Siberian railroad in parts to the Soviet far east, where they were reassembled as coastal batteries on Russky Island in Novik Bay, guarding Vladivostok. The other two were kept in Leningrad until 1948, when they were sent to the Crimea to replace the Maxim Gorky Shore Battery #35, which had been destroyed during the war. Given modernized turrets in 1954, they guarded the Black Sea Fleet base at Sevastopol. Both the Vladavostok guns and the Sevastopol guns of Poltava/Frunze are still in existence as the last remnants of the long line of battleships of Imperial Russia.


1:400 Scale Plans & Profiles
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Graphic Arts
In addition to the text and plentiful photographs, tables and drawings, The Russian Battleships: Sevastopol Class contains other treats for the modeler. Four color plans and profiles are provided on the inside covers. The ships and time periods covered are Petropavlovsk in winter 1915/16; Parizhskaya Kommuna in 1930; Parizhskaya Kommuna in 1937 and Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia in 1950. In the back inside cover, there is a pocket for three back printed sheets of plans and profiles. These separate drawings are in 1:400 scale and provide the plans and profiles for Poltava in 1914; Parizhskaya Kommuna in 1930; Marat in 1934; Parizhskaya Kommuna in 1937; Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia in 1939; and Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia in 1950. Both the 1:400 plan and profile and the color plate of the 1950 design, refer to the Oktyabrskaya Revolutsia under her former name of Gangut, although the text never mentions that she ever received her former name.

Verdict
I am very much biased in favor of this volume. However, being as objective as I can about this title, I believe this to be the best reference source available in English on the largest Russian battleships in size and number in the class. Built, starting in 1909, with artillery of Poltava still in existence, their history is still not over. This volume should be of great value to the historian and modeler alike. If you have any interest in the history of the battleship or the Russian Navy in particular, The Russian Battleships: Sevastopol Class should be in your library.

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