Technical data of the heavy cruiser designs and the battlecruiser
On 5 September 1938 the Soviet government had informed the British, in accordance with the ‘Anglo-Soviet Qualitative Naval Agreement’ of 1937, about the dates of new ships of 44,190t stdd.63 Of the 15 battleships of projekt 23, planned in the August 1938 programme, the revision of August 1939 now planned to build eight ships in the first part up to 1942, and six in the second part up to 1947. The first two vessels, the Sovetskii Soyuz and Sovetskaya Ukraina were meantime laid down on 31 July 1938 and 28 November 1938 at the Ordzhonikidze yard at Leningrad and the Marti yard at Nikolaev respectively. The third and fourth ship, the Sovetskaya Belorossiya and the Sovetskaya Rossiya were planned to be laid down in autumn 1939 and 1940 at the new yard at Molotovsk.
Even more interesting is the development of the battlecruiser of projekt 69 from its start as an ‘anti-Washington’ cruiser, based on some different designs to become the projekt 22 Tyazhely krejser and then a replacement for the cancelled battleship projekts 25 and 64. As mentioned – there were in 1935–36 several pre-designs of Bol’shogo krejsera, first the cruiser X, and the design of V.P. Rimskii-Korsakov of TsKB-1, and of variants of a Linejnyi krejser design by the Italian Ansaldo yard, culminating in the Tyazhely krejser of projekt 22, which was then redesigned into the first version of projekt 69, only to be considered inadequate in a session of the STO under Stalin’s chairmanship against the new German fast battleships of the Scharnhorst-class. The designers of the earlier projects, Bzhezinskii and Rimskii-Korsakov, were purged and a commission under Flagman 2 Ranga S.P. Stavitskii was installed to consider the situation. Based on Stalin’s recommendations the renamed TsKB-17 under V.A. Nikitin and F.E. Bespolov was ordered to construct in place of the first version of projekt 69 and the cancelled projekts 25/64, a real battlecruiser superior to the German ships. These were to become Stalin’s beloved favourite ships, on which he kept close watch.
This intervention by Stalin into the building of battlecruisers, which was not welcomed by the naval experts, had its parallel in Hitler’s cancelling of the 12 planned new Panzerschiffe of 22,145t stdd. with six 280mm guns of the Z-Plan of 1939 for three battlecruisers of 28,900t stdd. with six 380mm guns. While it was planned in 1938 to add one unit of projekt 69 to a class of 16, in August 1939 the revised plan called for five in the first part up to 1942, and six in the second part up to 1947. The first two ships, the Kronshtadt and Sevastopol’, were laid down in November 1939 before the plan was finally approved at the Marti yard at Leningrad and the No. 61 Kommunar yard at Nikolaev respectively. A third ship, possibly to be called Stalingrad, was never started.