The Evstafi Class (1904/1908)

Battleship Evstafi - old photo in harbor

Intro - Read on.     |     Specifications     |     Class History     |     Photos

This class of battleship, built at Nikolayev for service on the Black Sea, was based closely on Potemkin, the first full-size pre-dreadnought ever built for the Black Sea fleet. The Admiralty in Petersburg had upped the ante to significantly larger and heavier-armed semi-dreadnoughts with the Andrei Pervozvanny pair for Baltic service, but strongly armed pre-dreadnoughts were deemed sufficient to deal with the Turks and Bulgarians.

Bow view of the IOANN ZLATOUSTThe Evstafi class consisted of the name ship (tr. "St. Eustace") and Ioann Zlatoust ("St. John Chrysostom"), continuing the Romanovs' practice of cloaking their warlike state policies with the mantle of Orthodox Christianity by naming their ships for Christian heros and martyrs. Whatever the virtues of that practice, in this class of warships the régime made cautious improvements on a proven model, with good results. At left, bow view of the Evstafi; click here for a terrific enlarged view.

Very slightly larger than Potemkin (310 tons), the Evstafis also reshuffled their secondary armament. Most notably, they had four 8" guns and twelve 6", rather than the sixteen 6" in Potemkin. The 8" weapons were mounted in casemate mounts at the four outboard corners of the boat deck. Added to the dozen 6" QF guns, all mounted on the main deck below, this made an Evstafi a prickly customer if you had a beef with him. Rather under-powered by European standards, the ships were capable of the Black Sea's operating speed of 16 knots, and could cruise for nearly 2,000 nautical miles without refueling. Stylistically, they were built with a pillbox-like pilothouse that stood atop the armored conning station, bringing the day-to-day conning station and the battle conn both up one deck for better visibility. The swept-back bridge wings and oblique-angled superstructure ends of the preceding class were retained. The masts were cleared of fighting tops and platforms, the upper decks free of giant cranes. Otherwise -- in profile, size, and proportions -- they were a dead match for Potemkin.

Plans and Specifications

Profile plan of the Evstafi

Specifications for the Evstafi class:
Dimensions: 387'2" x 74' x 27' Displacement: 12,810 tons. Armament: (4) 12"/40 cal, (4) 8"/45, (12) 6"/45, and (6) 3" 12-pdr guns; (2) 18" torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp Cemented throughout. Belt: 8"; turrets: 10"; casemates: 5"; conning tower: 10"; deck 3"/1.5". Propulsion: 22 coal-fired Belleville boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 10,600 hp, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 16 kts. Endurance: 1,885 nm @ 10 kts. Fuel capacity: 1,100 tons of coal plus 2,900 gallons of bunker oil. Crew: 928.

Ships in class: Evstafi Ioann Zlatoust

NOTE: (2) 75 mm anti-aircraft guns were fitted on each ship during WWI.

Metric specifications:
Dimensions: 118m x 22.55m x 8.23m. Displacement: 12,810 tons. Armament: (4) 305 mm/40 cal; (4) 20 cm/45; (12) 15 cm/45, and (6) 75 mm 12-pdr guns; (2) 450 mm torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp Cemented throughout. Belt: 203 mm; turrets: 254 mm; casemates: 127 mm; conning tower: 254 mm; deck 76.2/38 mm. Propulsion: 22 coal-fired Belleville boilers; (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 7,905 kW, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 29.63 km/hr. Endurance: 3,401 km @ 18.5 km/hr. Fuel capacity: 1,100 tons of coal plus 13,184 liters of bunker oil. Crew: 928.

Class History

Virtually the only means of distinguishing the ships visually was their funnel bands. The Black Sea Fleet adopted a simple measure for recognition: since there were three nearly identical ships, each with three funnels, only one funnel was banded on each ship. The Evstafi had a band painted on her forward funnel, the Ioann Zlatoust on her middle funnel, and the Pantaleimon (ex-Potemkin) on her after funnel. For a detailed profile drawing of the Evstafi, click here.

Following the utter débacle of the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Admiralty had to pick up the pieces and find a formula that worked. Though the ships sunk at Port Arthur and Tsushima were still being paid for and budgets were not so free as before, a new strategy was groped for. One obvious place to start was with marksmanship. The "Second Pacific Fleet" of Adm. Rozhdestvensky had spent seven months at sea with only a single round of target practice despite having green crews; under the circumstances it is not surprising that most of the shells they fired at Tsushima flew wide of the mark. Though inadequate to win the Great War, the Russian Navy's renewed enthusiasm for gunnery took the Turks and Germans by surprise when the time came.

Prewar German postcard of the GOEBENAs noted above, the Russian Admiralty had become somewhat complacent about its lock on the Black Sea. This complacency was shattered by the arrival of the Goeben and Breslau at Constantinople in the first week of hostilities. By September 1914 these two powerful German warships were flying the Turkish banner and their highly disciplined crews (now wearing Turkish fezzes) were preparing to lay waste to the Russian cities on the Black Sea. This they did with a surprise bombardment of Sevastopol, Odessa and Novorossisk on October 29, precipitating hostilities between Russia and Turkey and forcing Turkey into the continental war on Germany's side. To meet this challenge, the Russians reorganized their Black Sea Fleet's heavy units, forming a bombardment squadron to concentrate their 12" firepower in fighting the ex-Germans. They used advanced director firing to coordinate the salvos of all four of the 12"-gunned ships; Evstafi acted as flagship, Zlatoust as gunnery director. The unit would also wage economic warfare on Turkey by bombarding shore facilities, disrupting coal shipments for the Turkish navy and railroads, and harassing and sinking Turkey's merchant shipping.

The core of this group was the two Evstafi class battleships, joined by Pantaleimon/Potemkin. These were the latest pre-dreadnoughts in the Russian Black Sea fleet and had the combined firepower of twelve 12" guns. They were joined by the smaller Tri Svyatitelya (another four 12") and Rostislav (four 10") -- a total of 20 big guns. The group soon showed its worth by raiding and disabling Turkey's chief coal port at Zonguldak, sinking 16 freighters and colliers. On Nov. 18, 1914 about 20 mi. south of Yalta, the five Russian battleships engaged the Goeben and Breslau -- the ex-Germans got the worst of it in this action, known as the Battle of Cape Sarych.

Chart of the Cape Sarych action, Nov. 1914

Evstafi did receive serious damage to her midships gunhouse in this affray, but inflicted most of the harm on Goeben, destroying one of her 4.1" mounts and causing a dangerous fire that forced emergency flooding of a secondary magazine. The Russians had the satisfaction of seeing the feared dreadnought run for home with 16 dead after only 14 minutes of "tough love" Russian style. Goeben/Yavuz was hit by 14 Russian shells of all sizes, and Breslau cowered in the battlecruiser's lee before they jointly broke off the fight. About a month later, the Goeben struck a mine and was forced into drydock for some months. The minelaying operation which wrought this havoc had been covered by the Russian battleship brigade the day before. Goeben had been off escorting troop transports while the mines were laid.

The bombardment fleet ships' job was to hold the line until the new dreadnoughts could sail forth. They did their duty splendidly, with more than two dozen sorties through early 1916, some of them in support of the new dreadnoughts.

EVSTAFI at sea in her WWI rigTwo of these new super-ships, mounting a dozen 12" guns each, were operational by 1915. Using their great guns in support of land operations, the battleships assisted in offensives against the Bulgarians and Turks, presaging the rôle battleships would play in WWII. Despite the loss of the new dreadnought Imperatritsa Mariya from a magazine explosion, the Russians maintained their control of the northern and eastern Black Sea shores when revolution engulfed Russia in 1917.

At right, the Zlatoust sallies forth in her WWI rig. Note canvas fire director top on foremast, pillbox pilothouse removed and rangefinder mounted in its stead atop conning tower; and net booms removed along the sides (although the ledge for stowing rolled-up nets remains). For a detailed enlargement of this wartime snap, click here.

The story of all Russia's Black Sea Fleet ships is a collective tragedy after the Bolsheviks took over in Petrograd. They ceased offensive operations and tied up at Sevastopol on hearing of the Revolution. The Soviets and Germany signed the Peace of Brest-Litovsk in early 1918, formally ending hostilities in return for substantial Russian territorial concessions. In brazen violation of the Treaty, Austro-German forces rampaged through Ukraine, looting and pillaging. The Germans reached Sevastopol in April 1918, only to be expelled after the Armistice that November. White troops backed by an Anglo-French expeditionary force siezed the city and its naval dockyard.

The following year, the Whites were driven out by Trotsky's Red Army. Before quitting the town, the British wrecked the engines of all the naval ships in port and scuttled them, rightly supposing that the new régime would lack the technical facilities and interest in sea power to ever repair them again. Ships disabled in this incident (April 25, 1919) included the battleships Potemkin, Evstafi, Ioann Zlatoust, and Tri Svyatitelya and the Bogatyr-class cruiser Pamiat Merkuriiya. The Civil War raged on until November 1920, when the Whites in Ukraine were finally defeated. Remnants of the White forces trickled out the Bosporus to become expatriates. The ruined battleships were gradually broken up between 1921 and 1925, although several of them got a last shot at glory in the filming of Eisenstein's classic Battleship Potemkin during 1924-25. Careful attention to the screen reveals that most of the Evstafi class ships were completely stationary while being filmed, although artful camera angles and spliced-in motion clips suggest they are under way.

An Evstafi Class Photo Album

The ZLATOUST at speed
Zlatoust bustling along at speed.

The EVSTAFI at speed
Evstafi at Sevastopol, 1910.   Enlarge

Quarterdeck of the IOANN ZLATOUST
Quarterdeck and aft turret on the Ioann Zlatoust, 1910.

Black Sea Fleet battleships dressed for inspection

The Evstafis and the Potemkin comprised a large part of the pre-WWI Russian strength on the Black Sea, as may be appreciated from this photo of a naval review.

Black Sea Fleet battleships on maneuvers circa 1913

Here the future bombardment fleet steams in line ahead during maneuvers on the Black Sea, circa 1913. Such was the state of the Russian Navy on the eve of world war. The Potemkin leads the Evstafis in this badly scratched photo, presented thanks to the restorative powers of BBB's resident Photoshop ace, Ross "Radar" Radetzky (he had hours of fun with this one). Destroyers steam in a parallel line to port of the battleships (a second destroyer may be glimpsed just beyond the Potemkin's taffrail). A fourth battleship (presumably the Rostislav) is just visible trailing these three in the original, cropped out to improve the size and clarity of the nearer ships.

Russian battleship EVSTAFI voyaging at speed
Evstafi bowling along with a bone in her teeth.

IOANN ZLATOUST and POTEMKIN in port - stern view

A handsome view of the Zlatoust dressed over all, her guns aligned with military precision, likely at Sevastopol. The layout of the secondary armament is very clear in this brightly lit shot: the 8" stand out at the corners of the superstructure on the upper deck; the three 3" guns poke from gunports sandwiched between the 8" mounts; and the six 6" on the main deck below them are swung out in broadside. For a truly superb enlarged view, click here.