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Russian armoured cruiser Dmitrii Donskoi
Dmitrii Donskoi
Career Russian Navy Ensign
Name: Dmitrii Donskoi
Namesake: Dmitry Donskoy
Builder: New Admiralty Shipyard, Saint Petersburg
Cost: 3,421,468 rubles
Laid down: 21 May 1881
Launched: 30 August 1883
Completed: Early 1885
Struck: 28 September 1905
Fate: Scuttled after the Battle of Tsushima, 29 May 1905
General characteristics (as built)
Type: Armoured cruiser
Displacement: 5,882 long tons (5,976 t)
Length: 306 ft 5 in (93.4 m)
Beam: 58 ft 1 in (17.7 m)
Draught: 25 ft 10 in (7.88 m)
Installed power: 7,000 ihp (5,200 kW)
Propulsion: 1 shaft
2 Compound steam engines
8 boilers
Sail plan: ship rigged
Speed: about 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph)
Range: 7,000 nmi (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 591
Armament: 2 × 8 in (203 mm) guns
14 × 6 in (152 mm) guns
4 × 381 mm (15 in) torpedo tubes
Armour: Compound armour
Belt: 9–4.5 in (230–110 mm)
Deck: .5 in (13 mm)
Barbettes: 12 in (305 mm)

Dmitrii Donskoi (Russian: Дмитрий Донской) was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in the early 1880s. She was designed as a commerce raider and equipped with a full suite of sails to economize on coal consumption. The ship spent the bulk of her career abroad, either in the Far East or in the Mediterranean. Dmitrii Donskoi was assigned to the Second Pacific Squadron after the Japanese destroyed the Russian ships deployed in the Far East during the early stages of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. The squadron was intercepted by the Japanese fleet in May 1905 in the Battle of Tsushima after a lengthy voyage from the Baltic. The cruiser was not seriously damaged during the initial fighting and tried to continue on to Vladivostok after the first day's fighting. She was spotted by several groups of Japanese warships the following day and was badly damaged in the resulting combat. Her captain ordered the crew ashore off Ulleungdo Island and had Dmitrii Donskoi scuttled offshore.

Design and description

Dmitrii Donskoi was classified as a semi-armoured frigate and was an improved version of her half-sister Vladimir Monomakh. The ship was designed with long endurance and high speed to facilitate her role as a commerce raider. She was laid out as a central battery ironclad with her armament concentrated amidships. The iron-hulled ship was fitted with a ram and was sheathed in wood and copper to reduce fouling. Her crew numbered approximately 550 officers and men.[1]

The ship was 306 feet 5 inches (93.4 m) long overall. She had a beam of 58 feet 1 inch (17.7 m) and a draught of 25 feet 7 inches (7.8 m).[2] The ship displaced 5,593 long tons (5,683 t) at deep load. Dmitrii Donskoi had two three-cylinder compound steam engines driving a single propeller shaft. Steam was provided by eight cylindrical boilers.[3] The engines were designed to produce 7,000 indicated horsepower (5,200 kW), but produced 6,609 ihp (4,928 kW) during sea trials which gave the ship a maximum speed around 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph). The ship normally carried 900 long tons (910 t) of coal which gave her an economical range of 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), but she is known to have loaded 1,625 long tons (1,651 t) in May 1889.[4] She was ship rigged with three masts[5] and had a total sail area of 26,000 square feet (2,400 m2). To reduce drag while under sail, her funnels were retractable. The highest speed that she made solely under sail was 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph).[4]

Dmitrii Donskoi was armed with two 30-calibre 8-inch (203 mm) Model 1877 guns, on sponsons on the upper deck between the funnels. The fourteen 28-calibre Model 1877 6-inch (152 mm) guns were mounted in casemates on the main deck. Anti-torpedo boat defence was provided by a number of nine-pounder (42 mm (1.7 in)), four-pounder (34 mm (1.3 in)) and 37 mm (1.5 in) five-barreled revolver Hotchkiss guns.[Note 1] The ship was also equipped with four above-water 15-inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes.[4][6][7]

The ship's waterline belt was composed of compound armour and extended the full length of the ship. It was six inches thick amidships, but reduced to 4.5 inches (114 mm) at the ship's ends. It extended 2 feet (0.6 m) above the waterline and 5 feet (1.5 m) below.[2] Transverse bulkheads 3–4 inches (76–102 mm) thick protected the guns in the battery from raking fire. The sponsons of the 8-inch guns were equally thick.[3] The protective deck was 0.5-inch (13 mm) thick.[2]


Dmitrii Donskoi at the Columbian Exposition, 1893

Construction began on Dmitrii Donskoi on 22 September 1880[Note 2] at the New Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, although the formal keel-laying ceremony was not held until 21 May 1881. She was launched on 30 August 1882 and completed in early 1885. The ship's total cost was 3,421,468 rubles. The ship was named after Dmitry Donskoy, Grand Duke of Moscow.[8]

She sailed to the Mediterranean on 8 August 1885 and remained there until she arrived at Port Said on 6 March 1887 en route to the Far East. Dmitrii Donskoi reached Nagasaki, Japan, on 19 May and remained in Japanese waters for several months. The ship arrived at Vladivostok on 20 July and accidentally grounded on 12 October whilst conducting torpedo practice. Only lightly damaged, she was refloated the following day. Dmitrii Donskoi wintered in Japan that year and made port visits to Chefoo and Shanghai in February 1888. She was refitted in Yokohama before she began her return to the Baltic on 20 January 1889. The ship was inspected by Tsar Alexander III after her arrival at Kronstadt on 12 June. She began a lengthy overhaul in preparation for her next foreign cruise shortly afterwards.[9]

Dmitrii Donskoi began her second foreign cruise on 3 October 1891 when she sailed for the Mediterranean, visiting Brest, France en route. She was reclassified as a cruiser of the first rank on 13 February 1892 and remained in the Mediterranean for another month or so. The ship reached Vladivostok on 29 June, stopping at Aden, Singapore, and Hong Kong en route. Dmitrii Donskoi served as the flagship of Rear Admiral Tirtov several times during the year. She spent the winter in Yokosuka and Nagasaki before she sailed in early 1893 to America for a goodwill visit to mark the 400 anniversary of America's discovery. In Algiers in March, the ship picked up Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia and became flagship of Rear Admiral Kaznakov who commanded all the Russian ships at the exhibition. Dmitrii Donskoi reached New York City on 25 April and participated in the Presidential Review two days later. She made port visits to Philadelphia, Boston and Newport, Rhode Island before she arrived back at Kronstadt in early September.[9]

During the ship's lengthy 1893–95 refit, she was rearmed with six 45-calibre six-inch guns, ten 45-calibre 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns, and six 47-millimetre (1.9 in) guns.[5] Her boilers may have been replaced at this time and her sailing rig was replaced by three pole masts.[2] Wilgelm Vitgeft was appointed as the ship's captain in late 1895 and Dmitrii Donskoi began her voyage to the Far East on 10 November. She was one of the Russian ships that occupied Port Arthur in March 1898 and participated in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion in mid-1900. The ship was ordered home in late 1901.[10] Dmitrii Donskoi was refitted again upon her arrival and six of her 4.7-inch guns were replaced by six 75-millimetre (3.0 in) guns and two additional 47 mm guns.[5]

After the completion of her refit, she escorted a group of seven destroyers and five torpedo boats to the Mediterranean in October 1903 where they were assigned to the Mediterranean Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Virenius. The Naval Staff decided to reinforce the Pacific Squadron with the Mediterranean Squadron in December, but its departure was delayed by repairs to the battleship Oslyabya after it had grounded. When the Russo-Japanese War began in February, the squadron was in the Red Sea and was recalled to the Baltic lest it be caught and destroyed en route by the Japanese.[11]

Dmitrii Donskoi was assigned to the cruiser force of the Second Pacific Squadron and departed Libau on 15 October 1904 bound for Vladivostok with Captain 1st Rank Lebedev in command. The ship passed the Cape of Good Hope on 20 December. Whilst approaching the Strait of Tsushima on 27 May 1905, the Russian force was intercepted by the Japanese in the Battle of Tsushima. The cruiser was assigned to defend the transport ships at the rear of the Russian formation and was not seriously engaged during the day. She became separated from the rest of the fleet during the early evening and attempted to sail north to Vladivostok through the Japanese fleet. Dmitrii Donskoi was unsuccessfully attacked by Japanese destroyers and torpedo boats during the night. The following morning, she helped to transfer the badly wounded squadron commander, Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, from the destroyer Buini to the destroyer Biedovi and then was forced to scuttle Buini when the destroyer's machinery broke down. The destroyer's crew as well as some 205 survivors from Oslyabya were transferred to the cruiser before Buini was scuttled. As the ship sailed northward, she was spotted late in the day by several groups of Japanese ships and badly damaged in the ensuing combat. Captain Lebedev decided to run his ship aground on Ulleungdo Island, but the ship anchored instead and all of the men aboard were taken to the island. Roughly 60 men of the ship's crew had been killed and another 120 wounded during the fighting. The next morning, 29 May, Dmitrii Donskoi was scuttled about a mile and a half (2.4 km) offshore, approximately at 37°30′N 130°57′E / 37.5°N 130.95°E / 37.5; 130.95Coordinates: 37°30′N 130°57′E / 37.5°N 130.95°E / 37.5; 130.95. The survivors were taken prisoner that afternoon by landing parties from the Japanese destroyer Fubuki and the armed merchant cruiser Kasugu Maru.[12]


  1. Sources disagree on the numbers of each weapon at any time.
  2. All dates used in this article are New Style


  1. Wright, pp. 123–24, 127
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Wright, p. 127
  3. 3.0 3.1 Watts, p. 79
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wright, pp. 127–28
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Silverstone, p. 362
  6. Wright, pp. 127, 129
  7. Chesneau and Kolesnik, p. 187
  8. Wright, pp. 124, 127, 129
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wright, p. 139
  10. Wright, pp. 139, 142
  11. Wright, p. 142
  12. Wright, pp. 142, 144


  • Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4. }
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World's Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-88254-979-0. 
  • Watts, Anthony J. (1990). The Imperial Russian Navy. London: Arms and Armour. ISBN 0-85368-912-1. 
  • Wright, Christopher C. (1976). "Imperial Russian Cruisers, Part 3". Toledo, Ohio: International Naval Research Organization. pp. 123–47. 

Further reading

  • Alliluev, A. A. (2006) (in Russian). Polubronenosnye fregaty tipa "Dmitriĭ Donskoĭ", 1881–1905. Saint Petersburg: Izdatelʹ R.R. Munirov. 

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