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Russian battleship Poltava (1894)
Russian battleship Poltava.jpg
Career (Russia) Naval Ensign of Russia.svg
Name: Poltava
Namesake: Battle of Poltava
Builder: New Admiralty Shipyard, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Laid down: 19 May 1892[Note 1]
Launched: 6 November 1894
In service: 1899
Out of service: Captured by the Japanese after the Siege of Port Arthur
Renamed: Chesma in 1916
Struck: 1922
Reinstated: Bought, 4 April 1916
Career (Japan) Japanese Naval Ensign
Name: Tango
Acquired: 1905
Commissioned: 22 August 1905
Fate: Sold to Russia, 4 April 1916
Career (Soviet Union) Naval Ensign of the Soviet Union (1950–1991).svg
Name: Chesma
Acquired: October 1917
Struck: 3 July 1924
Captured: March 1919, by the British
Recaptured October 1919 by the Soviets
Fate: Scrapped, 1924
General characteristics
Class & type: Petropavlovsk-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 11,500 long tons (11,685 t)
Length: 376 ft (115 m)
Beam: 70 ft (21 m)
Draft: 28 ft 3 in (8.61 m)
Installed power: 10,600 shp (7,900 kW)
16 cylindrical coal-fired boilers
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Range: 3,750 nmi (6,940 km; 4,320 mi) @ 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 662
  • 4 × 305 mm (12 in) guns
  • 12 × 152 mm (6 in) guns
  • 10 × 47 mm (1.9 in) guns
  • 28 × 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
  • 6 × torpedo tubes
  • Harvey armor
  • Belt: 8–12 in (203–305 mm)
  • Turrets: 10 in (254 mm)
  • Secondary turrets: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Conning tower: 9 in (229 mm)
  • Deck: 3 in (76 mm)

The Russian battleship Poltava (Russian: Полтава) was a Petropavlovsk-class battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy. She was one of eight Russian pre-dreadnought battleships captured by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. Poltava was built at the Galernii Island shipyard, one of a three-ship class. She was the only Petropavlovsk-class battleship to survive the war. Her sister ships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol were both lost, Petropavlovsk sunk by a mine, and Sevastopol scuttled after the capitulation of Port Arthur. Poltava was sunk during the siege of Port Arthur in December 1904, but was raised by the Japanese soon after and renamed Tango (丹後).

She saw little combat service during her Japanese career, aside from the Siege of Tsingtao. As Japan and Imperial Russia were allies at the time, the Japanese government decided to transfer Tango back to Russia. Returned in 1916, she was renamed Chesma (Russian: Чесма). She joined the Russian revolutionary fleet in October 1917, but was captured by the British, who used her as a barracks hulk to house Bolshevik prisoners. Abandoned by the British and recaptured by the Bolsheviks, she was scrapped in 1924.


The first design for Poltava and her sister ships of the Petropavlovsk class was approved in January 1891. She was to be an improved version of the battleship Imperator Nikolai I, but with most of her armament in barbettes, including four 12-inch (305 mm) guns. The class was designed with a displacement of 10,960 long tons (11,136 t) at full load.[1] She had a full waterline belt, and the upper hull featured a tumblehome. Imperator Nikolai I was chosen as a starting point for the design because of her good seakeeping and seaworthiness. Some characteristics were also copied from the French battleship Brennus and the American Indiana-class battleships, such as the flush-deck hull and Brennus' high freeboard.[2]

Following a redesign of the class, Poltava ceased to resemble Imperator Nikolai I. The armor plating was changed before construction, and plans for the armament were modified while the ship was being built. The barbettes were replaced with turrets, including wing turrets for some of the secondary 6-inch (152 mm) guns, modeled after those on Brennus, with electric hoists.[3] The propulsion was based on the machinery present on Georgii Pobedonosets.[1] Poltava was the first Russian battleship to use Krupp armor; her sisters used Harvey nickel-steel armor. [2]


Poltava displaced 11,500 long tons (11,685 t) and was 376 feet (114.6 m) long overall. She had a beam of 70 feet (21.3 m) and a maximum draft of 28 feet 3 inches (8.6 m). She was powered by 16 cylindrical coal-burning boilers, and could carry 1,050 long tons (1,070 t) of coal. This gave her a range of 3,750 nautical miles (6,940 km; 4,320 mi) at a cruising speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[4] She had a crew of 662.[5]

The ship's main armament consisted of a battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns in two twin turrets. This was supplemented by a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (152 mm) guns. Poltava's armament was rounded out with ten 47-millimeter (1.9 in) guns, twenty-eight 37-millimeter (1.5 in) anti-torpedo boat guns, and six 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes, four of which were submerged.[6]

Service history

The Poltava at Kronstadt, Russia, in 1898

Poltava was laid down on 19 May 1892, at the Galernii Island shipyard, launched on 6 November 1894, and commissioned on 18 August 1896. Her trials lasted from 1898 to 1899. She was then assigned to the Baltic Fleet. As no conflicts were ongoing at this time, Poltava did not participate in any combat roles.[7]

On 3 October 1900, Poltava and her sister ship Sevastopol set sail to Port Arthur, where they arrived on 13 April 1901 and were incorporated into the First Pacific Squadron. As Russia was at peace at this time, Poltava did not participate in any combat roles.[8]

Russo-Japanese War

A black and white shot of three large ships near a hill-like background, with several small skiffs in the foreground.

Poltava (front right) and her sisters

On 8 February 1904, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Poltava was hit once on her aft hull, but sustained no casualties. In response to the attack, Poltava turned in pursuit along with other ships of the Russian fleet, all firing their forward guns, but she failed to score any hits.[9] She went back to port and remained there for the next six months with the rest of the fleet. The fleet attempted to breakout several times, but Poltava did not participate in any of efforts.[10]

On 9 August the Imperial Japanese Army, which had been slowly pushing south to Port Arthur, began an assault on the city's outer defenses. With their base now directly under attack, the First Pacific Squadron sortied from its base in an attempt to escape to Vladivostok in the morning, around 07:00.[11] They were intercepted by the Japanese fleet in what became the Battle of the Yellow Sea at 12:55.[11]

Poltava was sixth in the column of Russian ships when the Japanese engaged them, and from her position started to bombard the Asahi at around 14:45. Mikasa, the Japanese flagship, then fired several shots that hit Poltava, causing the Russian squadron to drop back to support her. The Russians scored several hits on Mikasa, including two from shots fired by Poltava. Poltava also scored one hit on the Nisshin. Owing to the damage Mikasa had sustained, the Japanese fleet broke off the attack at around 15:20 and turned to starboard, opening the range. By 17:35 the Japanese were again closing on the Russian tail end. Mikasa and three other battleships opened fire on Poltava and three armored cruisers, but problems with their turrets forced the Japanese battleships to break off the engagement. They returned at 18:30, with the Shikishima and Asahi firing on Poltava. As the Russian fleet began to slip away, two 12-inch shells from Asahi penetrated the conning tower of the Russian flagship Tsesarevich, killing Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft, the commander of the First Pacific Squadron, and the helmsman, severely wounding the captain, and causing the ship to come to a dead stop after executing a sharp turn. Thinking that this was a maneuver planned by Vitgeft, the Russian line started to execute the same turn, causing all of the ships directly behind Tsesarevich, including Poltava, to maneuver wildly to avoid hitting the stationary flagship. Second in command of the squadron, Prince Pavel Ukhtomski, who was on the Peresvet, signaled the other Russian ships via semaphore to steam back to Port Arthur. The signals were only gradually recognized by Pobeda, Sevastopol, Pallada and Poltava. The Poltava was hit by twelve 14-inch and eight 12-inch shells during the battle, killing 12 and wounding 43.[12]

Returning to Port Arthur on 10 August, the Russian squadron found the city still under siege by the Japanese Third Army led by Baron Nogi Maresuke. The squadron remained safely inside the port until 5 December, when the Third Army captured 203 Meter Hill, a crucial position overlooking the harbor. From there, the Japanese were able to fire on Poltava and other ships of the First Pacific Squadron that had survived the Battle of the Yellow Sea. The ships at that time were about 5.7 kilometers (3.5 mi) away from the hill, placing them within range of Japanese artillery. By 9 December 1904, the Japanese had sunk four battleships and two cruisers, including Poltava.[13]

A Japanese postcard showing Poltava partially submerged at Port Arthur

Japanese career

Following the capture of Port Arthur, Japanese engineers raised Poltava on 8 July 1905, repaired her, and commissioned her as the Tango, taking her name from the ancient Japanese province of Tango, now a part of Kyoto-fu.[7]She was the only ship of her class still afloat, as her sister ships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol were both lost, Petropavlovsk sunk by a mine, and Sevastopol scuttled after the capitulation of Port Arthur.[14] She was refitted at Maizuru Naval Arsenal from 1908–1909, and was re-classified as a 1st class Coastal Defence Vessel.[7] She saw little combat service during her Japanese career, aside from the Siege of Tsingtao against the Imperial German Navy. As Japan and Russia were allies in World War I, the Japanese government decided that Tango should be transferred back to Russia. [15]

Return to Russia

She was transferred in early 1916, arriving at Vladivostok on 21 March 1916, where she was renamed Chesma (her original name had been re-used for a dreadnought launched in 1911). She then set sail for the Mediterranean, arriving at Port Said on 6 September to join the Allied fleet off Salamis demanding the disarmament of the Greek fleet. Her machinery was overhauled at Birkenhead, an English port, on 22 November, and she arrived at Aleksandrovsk, a port in the Murmansk Oblast, on 3 January 1917. She joined the Revolutionary fleet in October of the same year.[7] After the Allied invasion in early 1918, the ship was captured by the Royal Navy, who described her as "aground and unseaworthy". She was used as a floating prison to house 40 Bolshevik prisoners. After the British withdrew, the ship was instated into the Bolshevik White Sea Military Flotilla. She was turned over to the port of Archangelsk on 16 June 1921 and stricken from the list of naval vessels on 3 July 1924, after which she was scrapped.[8]


  1. All dates used in this article are New Style


  1. 1.0 1.1 McLaughlin, p. 85.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Forczyk, pp. 15–16.
  3. Watts, p. 43.
  4. McLaughlin, pp. 84–85.
  5. Watts, p. 44.
  6. Hore, p. 116.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Taras, p. 24.
  8. 8.0 8.1 McLaughlin, p. 91.
  9. Balakin, p. 30.
  10. Taras, pp. 26–50.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Watts, p. 21.
  12. Forczyk, pp. 49–52.
  13. Forczyk, p. 54.
  14. McLaughlin, pp. 91–93.
  15. McLaughlin, p. 92.


  • Balakin, Sergey (2004) (in Russian). Морские сражения. Русско-японская война 1904–1905 [Naval Battles of the Russo-Japanese War]. Moscow: Maritime Collection. LCCN 2005429592. 
  • Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. London: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-330-8. 
  • Hore, Peter (2006). Battleships. London: Lorena Books. ISBN 978-0-7548-1407-8. 
  • McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-481-4. 
  • Taras, Alexander (2000) (in Russian). Корабли Российского императорского флота 1892–1917 гг. [Ships of the Imperial Russian Navy 1892–1917]. Library of Military History. Minsk: Kharvest. ISBN 978-985-433-888-0. 
  • Watts, Anthony (1990). The Imperial Russian Navy. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 978-0-85368-912-6. 

Further reading

  • Gibbons, Tony (1983). The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers : A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books. ISBN 978-0-86101-142-1. 
  • Burt, R. A (1989). Japanese Battleships, 1897–1945. London: Arms and Armour. ISBN 978-0-85368-758-0. 

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