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Russian battleship Imperatritsa Mariya
A grey ship with two masts, two funnels and draped with nets above the waterline
Imperatritsa Mariya at anchor in Sevastopol
Career Naval Ensign of Russia.svg
Name: Imperatritsa Mariya
Namesake: Maria Feodorovna
Operator: Imperial Russian Navy
Ordered: 13 April 1912[Note 1]
Builder: Russud Shipyard, Nikolayev
Laid down: 30 October 1911
Launched: 19 October 1913
In service: 10 June 1915
Out of service: Sunk by internal explosion 20 October 1916
Struck: 21 November 1925
Fate: scrapped beginning 1926
General characteristics
Class & type: Imperatritsa Mariya-class battleship
Displacement: 23,413 long tons (23,789 t)
Length: 168 m (551 ft)
Beam: 27.43 m (90.0 ft)
Draft: 8.36 m (27.4 ft)
Installed power: 26,000 shp (19,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4-shaft Brown-Curtiss steam turbines, 20 Yarrow water-tube boilers
Speed: 21 knots (24 mph; 39 km/h)
Range: 1,640 nautical miles (3,037 km) at 21 knots (24 mph; 39 km/h)
Complement: 1,213
Armament: 4 × 3 - 12-inch (305 mm)/52 guns
20 × 1 - 130-millimeter (5.1 in)/55 B7 Pattern 1913 guns
4 × 1 - 75-millimeter (3.0 in) AA guns
4 × 1 - 17.7-inch (450 mm) submerged torpedo tubes
Armor: Waterline belt: 125–262.5 mm (4.92–10.33 in)
Deck: 9–50 mm (0.35–1.97 in)
Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Barbettes: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Conning tower: 300 mm (11.8 in)

Imperatritsa Mariya ([Императрица Мария] Error: {{Lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help): Empress Maria) was an Imperatritsa Mariya-class dreadnought of the Imperial Russian Navy, lead ship of her class. Construction began before World War I and she saw service with the Black Sea Fleet during the war. She provided cover for older pre-dreadnought battleships as they bombarded Ottoman facilities, although she engaged the ex-German light cruiser Midilli several times without inflicting anything more serious than splinter damage. Imperatritsa Mariya was sunk at anchor in Sevastopol by a magazine explosion on 20 October 1916. She was subsequently raised, but her condition was very poor, and she was finally scrapped in 1926.


Imperatritsa Mariya on 24 June 1915; the structure on her bow is a mooring boom, not a bowsprit

Imperatritsa Mariya was 168 meters (551 ft 2 in) long at the waterline. She had a beam of 27.43 meters (90 ft 0 in) and a draft of 8.36 meters (27 ft 5 in). Her displacement was 23,600 long tons (23,979 t) at load, 1,000 long tons (1,016 t) more than her designed displacement of 22,600 long tons (22,963 t).[1] She proved to be very bow-heavy in service and tended to ship large amounts of water through her forward casemates.[2] The ammunition for the forward 12-inch (305 mm) guns was reduced from 100 to 70 rounds each while the 130-millimeter (5.1 in) ammunition was reduced from 245 to 100 rounds per gun in an attempt to compensate for her trim. This did not fully cure the problem, but Imperatritsa Mariya was lost before any other changes could be implemented.[3]

Imperatritsa Mariya was fitted with four Parsons-type steam turbines imported from John Brown & Company of the United Kingdom. They were designed for a total of 26,000 shaft horsepower (19,000 kW), but produced 33,200 shp (24,757 kW) on trials. 20 mixed-firing triangular Yarrow water-tube boilers powered the turbines with a working pressure of 17.5 atm (1,773 kPa; 257 psi). Designed speed was 21 knots (24 mph; 39 km/h). Her maximum coal capacity was 1,700 long tons (1,727 t) plus 500 long tons (510 t) of fuel oil which gave her a range of 1,640 nautical miles (3,037 km) at 21 knots (24 mph; 39 km/h). All of her electrical power was generated by three Curtis 360-kilowatt main turbo generators and two 200-kilowatt auxiliary units.[4]

Her main armament consisted of a dozen 12-inch Obukhovskii Pattern 1907 52-caliber guns mounted in four triple turrets distributed the length of the ship. Her secondary armament consisted of twenty 130 mm/55 B7 Pattern 1913 guns mounted in casemates. They were arranged in two groups, six guns per side from the forward turret to the rear funnel and the remaining four clustered around the rear turret. She was fitted with four 75-millimeter (3.0 in) anti-aircraft guns, one mounted on the roof of each turret. Four 17.7-inch (450 mm) submerged torpedo tubes were carried, two tubes on each broadside abaft the forward magazine.[5]


Imperatritsa Mariya was built by the Russud Shipyard at Nikolayev, Russian Empire. She was laid down on 30 October 1911 along with the Imperator Aleksander III and the Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya, but this was just a ceremonial event as the design had not yet been finalized or the contract signed. She was launched on 19 October 1913 and arrived in Sevastopol on 13 July 1915, where she completed her fitting out during the next few months and conducted sea trials. On 1 October she provided cover for the pre-dreadnoughts as they bombarded targets in Kozlu, Zonguldak and Karadeniz Ereğli. She did much the same when the older battleships bombarded targets in Bulgaria on 20–22 October and then Varna itself on 27 October. The light cruiser Midilli narrowly escaped from a running engagement with Imperatritsa Mariya on 4 April 1916 as the battleship narrowly missed her several times before she could disengage. Three months later both Imperatritsa Mariya and her half-sister Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya, alerted by intercepted radio transmissions, sortied from Sevastopol in an attempt to intercept the ex-German battlecruiser Yavuz as she returned from a bombardment of the Russian port of Tuapse on 4 July. Yavuz dodged north and avoided the Russians by paralleling the Bulgarian coastline back to the Bosphorus. Midilli mined the harbor of Novorossiysk on 21 July, but the Russians, again alerted by radio intercepts, attempted to catch her on her return journey. Midilli was lured into range of Imperatritsa Mariya's guns the next day when she pursued the Russian destroyer Schastlivy, but managed to escape with only splinter damage.[6]

A large ship upside-down and braced in a drydock

Hull of the Imperatritsa Mariya in 1919 after salvage

On the morning of 20 October 1916 a fire was discovered in the forward powder magazine while at anchor in Sevastopol, but it exploded before any efforts could be made to fight the fire.[7] However, sailors led by Engineer-Mechanic Michman Ignat'ev had flooded the forward shell magazine before the explosion at the cost of their own lives. Their action probably prevented a catastrophic detonation, but all of the other magazines were flooded as a precaution. About forty minutes after the first explosion a second explosion occurred in the vicinity of the torpedo flat that destroyed the watertight integrity of the rest of the forward bulkheads. Imperatritsa Mariya began to sink by the bow and listed to starboard. She capsized a few minutes later, taking 228 sailors with her. The subsequent investigation determined that the explosion was probably the result of spontaneous combustion of the ship's nitrocellulose-based propellant as it decomposed.[8]

Following a complex salvage operation, the ship was eventually refloated on 18 May 1918 and moved into Sevastopol's Northern Drydock on 31 May, still upside down. However, in the chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, no further repair work was done although her 130-mm guns were removed. By 1923 the wooden blocks supporting her in place were starting to rot and she was floated out and grounded in shallow water in 1923. She was approved for scrapping in June 1925 and officially stricken on 21 November 1925, although the work did not begin until 1926 when she was refloated and moved back into the drydock. Her gun turrets, which had fallen out of the ship when she capsized, were later salvaged. Two of them were used as the 30th Coast Defense Battery defending the city during the Siege of Sevastopol during World War II.[9]


  1. All dates used in this article are New Style


  1. McLaughlin, p. 228
  2. Gardner; Gray (eds), p. 303
  3. McLaughlin, p. 237
  4. McLaughlin, pp. 229, 235–37
  5. McLaughlin, pp. 233–34
  6. McLaughlin, pp. 231, 242, 304–06
  7. McLaughlin, p. 306
  8. McLaughlin, pp. 242, 306–07
  9. McLaughlin, pp. 242, 310


  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906-1922. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 
  • McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-481-4. 

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