Admiral Ushakov: Coast Defense Battleship (1892/1895)

The Ushakov and Senyavin steaming in line ahead

Ship Histories    |    Specifications    |    Photos

Above, the Admiral Ushakov followed by her near-sister Admiral Senyavin, on maneuvers with the Russian Baltic Fleet in 1902. These top-heavy monsters, armed with 10" guns, were meant for coastal defense and bombardment and built in the 1890s for service in the Baltic and Gulf of Finland. The ships were quite well protected and capable of 16 kts., but never intended for prolonged ocean voyaging or for standing in the line of battle. When the Tsar ordered them to Asia to fight the Japanese, they complied and served with dignity.

Plan and Specifications


Profile of Admiral Ushakov stresses the sheer verticality of the ship. Utilitarian design is more reminiscent of tugs and workboats than most battleships.

Specifications for the Admiral Ushakov:
Dimensions: 286'6" x 52' x 19'6" Displacement: 4,971 tons std. Armament: (4) 10", (4) 4.7" guns; (6) 3-pdrs; (10) 1-pdrs. (4) 15" torpedo tubes. Armor: 10" belt; 8" conning tower; 8" turrets; 2.7" deck. Fuel capacity: 450 tons of coal. Propulsion: 8 cylindrical coal-fired boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 5,750 shp, shafted to twin screw. Speed: 16 knots. Crew: 404.

Metric Specifications:
Dimensions: 87.3m x 15.85m x 5.9m. Displacement: 4,971 tons std. Armament: (4) 255 mm and (4) 120 mm guns; (6) 3-pdrs; (10) 1-pdrs; (4) 380 mm torpedo tubes. Armor: 254 mm belt; 203 mm conning tower; 203 mm turrets; 69 mm deck. Fuel capacity: 450 tons of coal. Propulsion: 8 cylindrical coal-fired boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 4,288 kW, shafted to twin screw. Speed: 29.6 km/hr. Crew: 404.

Ship Histories

ADM APRAKSIN run agroundAt left, the Apraksin aground on Gogland Island in the Baltic in 1900. Her salvage was one of the exploits that made the career of Adm. Zinovy Rozhdestvensky. After lightening the battleship, Rozhdestvensky hired a mining company to blast away the ledge on which the ship had lodged. The ship was refloated and repaired. Five years later she become a unit in Rozhdestvensky's last command -- the nightmare expedition to Tsushima. Designed only as seagoing coast-defense batteries, all three Admirals made the long ocean voyage to Asia along with the scrapings of the Baltic Fleet. Everything that could steam was sent off to fight the Japanese -- tugs, torpedo boats, royal yachts. So ill-assorted was the aggregation it was dubbed "old flatirons and galoshes" by Lt. Vladimir Semyenov, a member of the C-in-C's staff. No matter that the Admirals were not meant for prolonged cruising and their small fuel capacity constantly slowed up progress of the fleet. Though technically obsolete, and by no stretch of the imagination battle fleet units, Ushakov and her sisters, Admiral Senyavin and General-Admiral Apraksin, were far from the oldest or least likely members of the "Third Pacific Fleet" despatched to China under Adm. Nebogatoff. Their trip lay through the Mediterranean and Suez Canal. With their jovial admiral smoothing the way, their journey contrasted with the harsh discipline and ill-temper which Adm. Rozhdestvenky brought to the "Second Pacific Fleet" on its long haul around Africa.

The two squadrons finally united at Cam Ranh Bay in present-day Vietnam, and began the final leg of their voyage, which they hoped would lead them to Vladivostok and victory. Moving at 10.5 kts. -- the speed of the slowest ship (though the new battleship Orel could only make 12) -- they inched up the coast to the Tsushima Strait between Kyushu and Korea, where they met their fate. Although the entire cruiser division under Adm. Enqvist turned and ran, the old cruiser Dmitri Donskoi which had taken the character of clown of the squadron, fought to the last shell. So there was no real predictor of behavior. On the Orel, the incredulous Japanese boarding to take her surrender found some 900 unharmed crewmen hiding below decks on a relatively intact vessel. Not so the Ushakov. She got separated from her division early in the action. Hopelessly outmatched, she fought bravely until she was no longer tenable. Into the twilight and evening of May 27th her gun crews loaded, aimed and fired until, having nearly exhausted his ammunition, her commander ordered her scuttled. Ablaze from stem to stern, she was still firing a few guns when she toppled over into the sea, her Tsarist battle flags yet waving. Of her crew of more than 400, there were no survivors.

The Admiral Senyavin and General-Admiral Apraksin surrendered to the Japanese on the morning of May 28th, without firing a shot. They were taken into the Japanese navy where they served in coastal defense until the mid-20s: the Senyavin as Mishima, the Apraksin as Okinoshima. But it was only a temporary reprieve. Both vessels were scrapped: the Mishima in 1928, the Okinoshima in 1926.

An Admiral Class Album

The Admiral Senyavin on maneuvers, 1901
Admiral Apraksin in the Atlantic in the early stages of the fateful voyage.

Coastal battlleship SENYAVIN stern completing in shipyard, showing props & rudder
The Senyavin under construction in 1894. The ship's screws, rudder, and stern eagle are well seen here.

SENYAVIN under construction, after launch
Senyavin fitting out at Petersburg. Only the first 10" gun has been installed in the forward turret.

The Admiral Senyavin on maneuvers, 1901
The finished result: Admiral Senyavin on maneuvers with the Baltic Fleet in 1901.

The Admirals before transiting the Suez Canal

In a rare photo from the fatal voyage, the Admirals line up at Port Said to go through the Suez Canal. After shooting up the Gamecock Fishing Fleet on the Dogger Bank, Rozhdestvensky's fleet was denied access to the Canal and had to steam all the way around Africa; but tempers had cooled a few months later when Nebogatoff's division departed. The two Russian divisions hooked up later in a remote corner of French Indochina for the final sprint to the theatre of war -- and annihilation.

ADMIRAL USHAKOV on fire and sinking

Admiral Ushakov's fiery doom could stand for the agony of the Russian fleet at Tsushima. The ship was still defiantly firing a few guns just before she turned turtle and sank.

ADMIRAL USHAKOV on fire and sinking
Another rendition of the Ushakov's demise, this time an evocative watercolor by Vladimir Emyshev. Enlarge

Romanov eagle