Czar Paul I’s Army I

Military Parade of Emperor Paul in front of Mikhailovsky Castle painting by Alexandre Benois

Paul made several idiosyncratic and deeply unpopular attempts to reform the army. Under Catherine’s reign, Grigori Potemkin introduced new uniforms that were cheap, comfortable, and practical, and designed in a distinctly Russian style. Paul decided to fulfil his predecessor Peter III’s intention of introducing Prussian uniforms. Impractical for active duty, these were deeply unpopular with the men, as was the effort required to maintain them. His love of parades and ceremony was not well-liked either. He ordered that Wachtparad (“Watch parades”) take place early every morning in the parade ground of the palace, regardless of the weather conditions. He would personally sentence soldiers to be flogged if they made a mistake, and on one occasion ordered a Guards regiment to march literally to Siberia after they became disordered during maneuvers, although he changed his mind after they had walked about 10 miles (16 km). He attempted to reform the organization of the army in 1796 by introducing The Infantry Codes, a series of guidelines for the army based largely upon show and glamour. But his greatest commander, Suvorov, completely ignored them, believing them to be worthless.

Paul strove to reshape the Russian army in the Prussian fashion, introducing strict discipline and ridiculous wigs for soldiers. These reforms fed discontent among officers and ordinary soldiers alike.

Among his first steps was the summoning of all guardsmen to their regiments, which brought several surprising details to light. Most officers had actually been in their country estates or villages deserting their regiments, where they had also enlisted their children, whose ages were often given as 18 when they were in fact not even 10. The widespread practise of enrolling the nobles’ infants into the army to provide them with a ‘deserved’ officer rank by the age of 16 – 17 was forbidden.

Paul also forbade army officers from coming to military exercises in their six or four horse driven carriages and wear fur coats or muffs, as this was not part of their uniform. To avoid freezing in cold weather (the average temperature in St. Petersburg in February 1799 was minus 37C) officers had to wear woolen sweaters beneath their jackets or line them with fur.

Russian soldiers were notorious for their fighting capacity and staying power: prior to the campaign of 1812 Napoleon’s worst experience on the battlefield had come at the hands of General Bennigsen at the battle of Eylau, whilst in the Seven Years’ War Frederick the Great had repeatedly been very roughly handled by the green-coated soldiers of the Empress Elizabeth, gaining an extremely pyrrhic victory over them at Zorndorf in 1758 and going down to ignominious defeat at Kunersdorf in 1759. Other Russian victories from the same war numbered Gross-Jägersdorf and Kay, whilst in 1799 General Suvorov’s invasion of Switzerland had seen Russian troops gain a series of dramatic successes: on 1 October, for example, 5000 troops under General Rosenberg had utterly defeated a column of more than twice as many Frenchmen under no less a figure than André Masséna, a general who is always rated as one of Napoleon’s greatest commanders. In all this the self-same factors generally identified as the mainspring of Russian patriotism in 1812 had made an appearance. Thus, throughout the eighteenth-century commanders such as Rumiantsev and Suvorov had made every effort to play on the devotion of the soldiery to the Orthodox faith and to instill love of the tsar. In this respect it is the opinion of some historians that they appear to have had at least some success.

Three months after the first battle of Zurich, a reinforced Marshal Massena’s found himself in another unenviable position of having to fend off vastly greater numbers of Russians under the legendary Field Marshal Suvarov. The French commander, however, acted with a Bonapartish style and, after sending a small force to slow Suvarov’s progress through the passes, rounded on the other Russian army under General Alexander Korsakov. He smashed into the Russians and scattered them, causing 8000 casualties and capturing supplies, baggage and cannons. Then, Massena turned on Suvarov and in a brilliant offensive operation drove him away – killing, wounding and capturing almost 14,000 Russians.

The Second Battle of Zürich (25-26 September 1799) was a French victory over an Austrian and Russian force near Zürich. It broke the stalemate that had resulted from the First Battle of Zürich three months earlier and led to the withdrawal of Russia from the Second Coalition.

The 1799 Campaign in Italy: General Suvorov’s Arrival in Italy (April 14, 1799)

Czar Paul I’s Army II

“A Long Road Home”: Russian Prisoners in France, 1799-1801

Eman M. Vovsi

There were several reasons – economic, practical and personal – why Russia participated in the Second Coalition. First, Bonaparte’s Egyptian expedition 1798-1801 threatened Russia’s exports at the Mediterranean to market in Europe and elsewhere. Second, Russia had been excluded from the Second Congress of Rastatt, opening in December 1797 (where Russia, since 1779, traditionally should have had a seat), which followed in the wake of the Treaty of Campo-Formio, 17 October 1797, regulating some territorial questions between France and Austria (as part of the Holy Roman Empire). Finally, the seizure of Malta by the French at the end of June 1798 – where Tsar Paul I had been the Protector of the Order of the Knights of the St. John since 1797 – was seen as an additional expansion of the French hegemony in the Mediterranean. Thus, Russian armies were sent to Europe – mainly to collaborate in the restoration of the old pre-Revolutionary order. 

According to the treaty with Austria – a major initiator of the Second Coalition against France’s encroachment in Italy – Russia sent her forces under overall command of Field Marshal Alexander V. Suvorov to support the Habsburgs. However, these troops did not come to Italy all at once. The corps under General of Infantry Diedrich Arend von Rosenberg (originally 21,976) arrived in mid-April 1799, while Lt.-General Maxim Woldemar von Rehbinder’s corps (10,489) – only in June. Additionally, a corps under Lt.-General Ivan Hermann von Fersen (17,736) was sent to assist the British in their invasion of Holland, where the French had established a satellite Batavian Republic. Finally, Lt.-General Alexander M. Rimsky-Korsakov’s corps (32,399) was sent to join the Austrian troops under Archduke Karl against the French army commanded by General André Masséna operating in Switzerland.

While the victories of Field Marshal Suvorov’s in North Italy over the French Republican armies of Generals Jacques Macdonald and Jean Victor Moreau are well known, the fate of the Russian soldiers who fell into captivity during the unsuccessful operations in Switzerland and Holland, remains little known and therefore merits an in-depth look. The following article will try to consider the following three basic questions: how many Russian prisoners were there? what was their experience of captivity, and did this captivity correspond with the existing norms of international law? finally, what was the fate of these prisoners in the wake of France’s First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte’s sudden rapprochement with the Russian Emperor, Paul I, who agreed to reestablish Franco-Russian diplomatic relations?

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of documents and studies on this topic. French archival documents dealing specifically with the Russian prisoners are yet to be discovered. By far the most comprehensive source on the subject is Istoria voiny Rossii s Franciei v tzarstvovanie Imperatora Pavla I v 1799 [History of Russia’s War against France during the Reign of Emperor Paul I in 1799], a vast multi-volume study undertaken by the Russian general officer and historian, Dmitry Milyutin, in 1852-53 and 1857. Utilizing Russia and some French archival documents, this work offers detailed analysis of military operations but has only a brief discussion of the fate of the Russian prisoners taken in Switzerland and Holland. By contrast, General Frédéric Koch’s Mémoires de Masséna (1849) provides only general observations and imprecise numbers on operations of General André Masséna in Switzerland in 1799. Equally disappointing are British sources assembled by Edward Walsh in his The Expedition to Holland in the Autumn of the Year 1799 (1800), which concentrates primarily on military operations, the aftermath and following Anglo-French-Dutch (Batavian) peace negotiations.

However, with the help of an integral approach and ‘microhistory,’ we may glean sufficient information from existing primary and secondary sources to allow for a reconstruction of the experiences of the Russian POWs and the subsequent work of the Russian and French governments towards their release.

In September 1799, according to the new war plan, Field Marshal Suvorov – fresh from his great victory over the French at Novi in North Italy (15 August) – advanced through the St. Gothard Pass with some 28,000 men into Southern Switzerland to relieve the army of Archduke Karl which was supported by the Russian troops under Lt.-General Rimsky-Korsakov (about 27,000 men). Suvorov ordered Rismky-Korsakov to block French troops under General Masséna (over 35,000 in close proximity) by attacking them frontally between Zurich and Glarus – until the main Russian army could properly deploy and take the French in rear. However, Massena anticipated this maneuver and, on 25 September, he attacked Rimsky-Korsakov in strength and routed his force. 

The two-day battle had cost the Russian army nearly 3,000 killed and wounded; 26 guns, 51 artillery wagons and 9 colors were also lost. 

Many Russian wounded found a shelter at a nearby monastery and the farm houses of Einsiedeln (north of modern Schwyz), where monks and local farmers, hostile to the French soldiers, attended to their needs until victorious French entered the city and declared all wounded as prisoners of war. 

Meanwhile, some eight hundred kilometers northwest of Zurich, the Russian corps under Lt.-General Hermann von Fersen supported the British expeditionary force commanded by the Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, in a joint invasion of North Holland. After two indecisive battles at Bergen (19 and 21 September 1799), the Allies went on the offensive, on 6 October 1799, against the Franco-Batavian army, commanded by General Guillaume Brune, at Castricum. After several unsuccessful assaults, the Allies were forced to retreat losing over 3,400 men. Disheartened by this setback, the Duke of York informed General Brune of his readiness to negotiate an armistice. By the convention signed on 18 October at Alkmaar, the Allied forces returned the French and Dutch prisoners and evacuated Holland, the Russian contingent being taken aboard the British vessels to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. 

As of April 1800, there were 11,238 Russian soldiers and officers on those British islands, all that remained of the 17,736 soldiers and officers who had originally set off on this Dutch misadventure.

The defeat in Holland, which had a profound effect on Emperor Paul I, was blamed on the British failure to cooperate, just as the Russian setbacks in Switzerland was explained by the “treacherous” behavior of Austria. Field Marshal Suvorov personally wrote to the Austrian Emperor Francis II requesting the proper exchange of prisoners, including the Russians taken by the French in Italy and Switzerland. Yet, responding on behalf of his master, the Austrian Director of Foreign Affairs, Baron Johann Amadeus Franz de Paula von Thugut, had refused to take part in it. He wrote that the Russian troops in Switzerland were acting while placed under British financial subsidies and that therefore Britain should shoulder responsibility for these prisoners. Further discussions between Russian and Austrian officials proved to be in vain. 

On 22 October 1799, Emperor Paul I, incensed by the Austrian behavior, announced his decision to withdraw from the coalition and ordered his armies to return to Russia. 

But for Russian soldiers and officers who had been captured in Switzerland and Holland, the road home soon took an unusual turn.

The precise number of the Russian prisoners of war remains debated. Field Marshal Suvorov’s report stated that “no more than 300 men were taken prisoners in Italy and about 1,000 in Switzerland” but this document is most definitely incomplete. 

Dictating his reminiscences during his exile on St.-Helena, Napoleon claimed that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 Russian military personnel of various ranks taken prisoner during the Italian, Switzerland and Holland campaigns in summer-autumn 1799. 

More reliable are Russian archival documents that list Russian prisoners being held in France (along with wounded and those who died in captivity), as of January 1801:

    Lt.-General Fabian Gottlieb von der Osten-Sacken; five Major-Generals: Markov, Likoshin, Nechaev, Garin and Kharlamov (died in prison);

    16 staff officers (4 of which died in prison) and 150 company grade officers (14 died in prison);

    6,628 NCOs and rank-and-file, including 2,459 wounded

Thus, the total number was 6,800 general officers, officers, NCOs and soldiers. 

To this should be added Lt.-General Hermann von Fersen, who was taken prisoner along with his staff, and some 1,500-2,000 Russian POWs taken after the two battles of Bergen in September 1799 (total losses killed, wounded and missing in action estimated at over 4,000). Furthermore, an unknown number of Russian soldiers and officers were also taken prisoner after the final Anglo-Russian defeat at the Battle of Castricum, 6 October 1799. At a local town –now Egmond aan Zee – the Russians left 216 of their wounded who, most likely, were also declared prisoners by victorious Franco-Batavian soldiers. 

The majority of them was imprisoned on the territory of the Batavian republic. Therefore, the total number of the Russian prisoners including wounded could be estimated well over 8,000 men of all ranks.

How did the French treat their prisoners of wars during the numerous campaigns against the forces of European monarchies? If toward the last decades of the Old Regime the treatment of prisoners among the major European countries was more or less civilized – albeit captured officers were often treated more “nobly” than the rank-and-file – that the outbreak of the war in April 1792 changed the French attitude towards the first prisoners, such as Austrians, Prussians, Croatians, etc. Attempting to apply ideals of the Enlightenment to the harsh reality of war, the French government called for humane treatment of prisoners. One of the first regulations, issued in early May 1792, called for gathering prisoners in specially organized localities some thirty miles from the frontier under “the safeguard of the nation against violence and rigorous treatment.”  

Furthermore, the law of 25 May 1793 established modes of the prisoner exchanges, excluding from it all émigrés and deserters. Another document, issued a year later, organized the first special depots, which were to receive, organize and manage prisoners. Finally, on 3 May 1799, the Directory issued a decree regarding treatment of enemy prisoners detained in France: each soldier and NCO was to receive a food ration and a monetary stipend according to his rank as if he was on the active duty; officers were to receive payments in the amount equivalent to an inactive French officer’s payment of corresponding rank. Additionally, this decision called for establishment of a commission on exchanging prisoners, though it was limited to the Austrian prisoners only. 

Where were the Russian POWs detained? By 1800, all French field forces – and all French field forces – and their prisoners, taken in numerous campaigns – were dispersed amongst twenty-six divisions militaires (military districts) that stretched from Brussels to the Eastern Pyrenees, and from Paris to Marseilles – and soon, beyond. Since March 1790, the entire French territory was divided, administratively, into départements (102 by 1800/1801) presided over by civil officials; the military districts, which usually covered from two to five départements, were commanded by experienced general officers and members of military administration appointed directly by the Consular government. They were to act as liaisons between the civil and military authorities, a task that included observation of territorial administration and postal services, supervision of conscription and military command in towns and fortresses, controlling units either stationed in or marching through the territory; they were also responsible for prisoners detained in their respective districts in special depots (soldiers) or under house arrest (officers). 

Commanders of military districts corresponded directly with the Bureau of Prisoners and Foreign Deserters at the War Ministry in Paris, which oversaw the situation by furnishing necessary funds, selecting depots and residences, organizing exchanges of POWs or administering the parolees. 

Regarding the Russian prisoners detained in France, the Fourth Military District, led by sixty-six year old General of Division Joseph Gilot, bore the brunt of responsibility. 

With its headquarters in Nancy, his district included north-eastern départements of Meurthe and Vosges where most of the POWs were gathered as a result of military campaigns in Italy and Switzerland. Additionally, Lt.-General Hermann and some of his officers were imprisoned at the Lille fortress (modern département Nord). Being desperate, he requested from General Brune’s permission to leave on parole; the French commander, in turn, forwarded Hermann’s request to First Consul Bonaparte. In response, Bonaparte’s Minister of War, General Alexander Berthier demanded the release of general officers Emmanuel de Grouchy, Catherine Dominique Pérignon, Louis de Colli-Ricci and others, all taken prisoner during Suvorov’s Italian campaign in 1799. 

The formal exchange of prisoners began in summer 1800 when First Consul Bonaparte firmly secured his position after victory at Marengo, 14 June; the French General of Brigade Joseph Julhien, in the service of the Cisalpine Republic (Milan), was put in charge of this mission, but his authority was limited to Franco-Austrian exchanges. After the armistice, Austria was neutralized and the First Consul, feeling the change of political climate and, no doubt, planning to enforce the Franco-Russian rapprochement – one of the foundations of his early foreign policy – took this issue further. Thus, in a letter to the commander of the Fourth Military District, General Gilot, dated 24 June 1800, the new French War Minister Lazar Carnot, writing on behalf of the First Consul, outlined the following instructions regarding the Russian officers in captivity:

    “The intention of the First Consul is that all Russians, who felt victims by the destiny of our arms, shall be looked after for their unfortunate fate and courage. You shall personally seek to uphold the French conduct in this regard. The officers of this nation now are coming under special consideration of the First Consul. Their bravery, loyalty and delicate situation, which they undertook while in detention, shall be held in high esteem.

    He does not make distinction [between the French and Russian officers – E.V.] by allowing them to settle in Paris and hoping that they would find it pleasant; he also would like to grant an audience to those of them who wish to request so.

    You shall deliver contents of this letter to the Russian officers who are detained within the borders of your military district and order the issuance of traveling documents to those who would request it.” 

Soon, as an ice-breaker, Lt.-General Osten-Sacken received a personal letter form the War Minister Carnot on a free lodging in Paris while on parole, which confirmed First Consul’s good will and a hope that “the French people would express their trust and good intentions toward the Russian officer.” 

More overtures followed. Since Russian foreign ministers were forbidden from directly engaging with Republican France’s representatives, French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice Talleyrand used his alternative diplomatic channels in Hamburg to deliver, on 18 July 1800, an official letter to Russian Vice-Chancellor Nikita Panin. This letter, besides placing blame on both Britain and Austria for the previous conflicts, served as a chivalrous gesture. First Consul Bonaparte offered, without any compensation, to return all Russian prisoners held in France. At the same time, the Russian mission in Berlin received a proposal from the Batavian Republic in which its government expressed willingness to release Russian prisoners captured during the Holland expedition. 

This offer of prisoner exchanges marked not only a formal end of the War of the Second Coalition but, as far as Russia was concerned, it led to a veritable diplomatic revolution. Tsar Paul I, who felt embittered towards his erstwhile allies, was won over by this sudden show of empathy from his former enemy. Starting in August 1800, Berlin was chosen as a place for negotiations between French and Russian representatives whereas the Prussian Foreign Minister Christian August Heinrich Curt von Haugwitz acted as a general mediator. During its sessions, the French minister plenipotentiary in Berlin, General of Division Pierre Riel Beurnonville confirmed that since both Austria and Britan refused to exchange the Russian POWs, First Consul Bonaparte was willing “while paying respect to the brave Russian troops,” to release them without any conditions or obligations from the Russian Tsar.

At first, Bonaparte’s original offer to release the Russian POWs was met with a rather cool response from the Russian tsar who replied that he could only accept it on the understanding that these troops would swear not to fight against France. He wanted to avoid any imputation of an unconditional gift. 

However, this response marked a good start for the negotiations; the Tsar soon communicated, through his minister in Berlin, Baron Burghard-Alexis Krüdner, that he was grateful for the French offer and that he would send Göran Magnus Sprengtporten, a Russian general of mixed Finnish-Swedish origins who was well known for his pro-French sympathies. Sprengtporten’s mission to Paris was not limited to just negotiating the return of the Russian prisoners; Sprengtporten was, in fact, instructed to try to improve Franco-Russian relations, as well. The Russian Tsar’s state of mind is well illustrated in the instructions which were given to Sprengtporten:

    “… [T]he [Russian] Emperor participated in the coalition with the aim of giving tranquility to the whole of Europe. He withdrew when he saw the powers were aiming at aggrandizements which his loyalty and disinterestedness could not allow, and as the two states of France and of Russia are not in position, owing to the distance [separating them], to do each other any harm, they could by uniting and maintaining harmonious relations between themselves, hinder the other powers from adversely affecting their interests through their envy or desire to aggrandize and dominate.”  

Besides technicalities regarding the Russian POWs, General Sprengtporten was also told to to form two infantry regiments out of the prisoners of war; it was generally understood that in the event that Malta fell to the English, the island would be occupied by Russian, English and Neapolitan troops. But when British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson took Malta on 4 September 1800, he announced that he intended to hold the island until a peace conference could determine its future. A senior Russian officer was dispatched to take over the newly formed regiments who, freshly armed and accounted, were to be used to garrison Malta once the island had been recovered from the British. 

This, however, did not happen, and Malta remained the apple of discord which eventually led to the rupture of the Peace of Amiens and the formation of the Third Coalition.

Meanwhile, Tsar Paul issued new instructions to General Sprengtporten, who was told to lead former Russian POWs back to Russia; all generals, staff and company-grade officers were to be reassigned to their respective units while preserving their previous ranks and seniority. While in exile on St. Helena, Napoleon reminisced that all Russian officers received their swords back; Russian prisoners were reunited at Aix-la-Chapelle/Aachen where they supposedly received new uniforms, equipment and armament made at local manufactures. 

However, until today, no precise information has been retrieved from the French archives that such new uniforms (subject to Tsar Paul I regulation issued in mid-December 1796) along with new elements of equipment and flags had been, in fact, made. Furthermore, there is no information regarding the exact departure of the Russian POWs from France. General Sprengtporten’s diary, which he submitted to the Topographical Department of the War Ministry, stops after the 6 March 1801 entry when the column was probably already on the march to Russia. Some of these soldiers and officers would eventually return to France – either as new prisoners of the 1805-07 campaigns or as victors, such as general officers Osten-Sacken and Markov, in 1814. They certainly remembered the humane treatment by the French inhabitants and officials during their days of misfortune and tried to pass these good memories on to their soldiers.


Karl Andreevich Shilder

Engineer-General Karl Andreevich Schilder is credited with having constructed the first submarine in Russia with an iron hull. Built at the Alexandrovsky Works plant in St. Petersburg and completed in May 1834. The boat had an egg-shaped form, two towers with access hatches and was equipped with an optical viewing tube, one of the first periscope devices for submersibles. An armament of mines and two triple-tube mountings for launching rocket projectiles was to be provided. To defeat an enemy vessel by using the mine it was necessary to stick a core of the mine in a hull, to move away to a safe distance and to blow up the mine by electric fuse.

Trails took place in September 1834 on the Neva River and the nearby island of Kronshtadt in the Gulf of Finland. The craft demonstrated an ability to submerge and was judged quite successful. An improvement version, equipped with diving plane to help control the craft underwater, was constructed in 1835, and with this second boat Schilder successfully destroyed a target ship with a mine in July 1838.

Trails with this boat were regularly conducted near Kronshtadt through 1841, but after some unexplained failure during trails in the fall of that year, Schilder was ordered to halt further experiments-as the boat was recognized unable for combat purposes. Lieutenants Zhmelev and Adamopulo were the first submarine commanders in Russia.

Specifications Schilder’s design (1834):

Displacement (srf/sub tons): un known

Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 19’8*4’11*6’6

Propulsion: man-powered “vanes”, akin to fish fins

Speed (srf/sub knots): un known /1.5

Range (srf/sub n/miles@knots): un known

Diving depth (feet): 40

Complement: 1 crew member

Torpedo: none

Mines: several

Armament: 2  triple-tube mountings for launching rocket projectiles

Karl Andreevich Schilder

Born Dec. 27, 1785 (Jan. 7, 1786), in the village of Simanovo, in what is now Nevel’ Raion, Pskov Oblast; died June 11 (23), 1854, in Călărasi, Rumania. Russian military engineer. General of the engineers (1852); adjutant general.

Shilder graduated from a school for column leaders in 1806 and served in the engineer troops as commander of a sapper company and a battalion and as chief of engineers of a corps and of an army. He fought in the battle of Austerlitz (1805), the defense of Bobruisk (1812), the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29, and the Crimean War of 1853–56. He distinguished himself in action during the siege of Varna in 1828, the sieges of Silistra and Sumla in 1829, and the forcing of the Danube in 1854. Shilder died of wounds received at Silistra during the Crimean War of 1853–56.

Shilder developed a new and more effective system of countermining, using horizontal and inclined passages rather than vertical shafts. He also devised antipersonnel mines, stone fougas-ses, and canister mines. He produced an original design for a suspended rope bridge in 1828 and a “wineskin bridge” of quickly assembled, portable pontoons made of rubberized canvas in 1836. Between 1832 and 1836, Shilder and P. L. Shilling developed a method of setting off powder charges electrically. Between 1838 and 1848, Shilder and B. S. Iakobi built electrochemical and electrochemical-contact naval mines. Shilder provided the designs for the world’s first all-metal submarine, built in 1834, and the Otvazhnost’, built in 1846; the world’s first steamship armed with artillery and rockets, the Otvazhnost’ was a prototype of the destroyer. Among Shilder’s students were the talented engineers E. I. Totleben and M. M. Boreskov.


Maziukevich, M. N. Zhizn’ i sluzhba general-ad”iutanta K. A. Shildera. St. Petersburg, 1876.

Iakovlev, V. V. Kratkii ocherk istoriipodzemnoi minnoi voiny. Moscow, 1938.

Zubr-class LCAC

Mordovia and Yevgeniy Kocheshkov landing in Kaliningrad Oblast.

The Russian Navy will get an additional 16 warships, according to the country’s United Shipbuilding Corporation that has been contracted by the defence department to deliver the vessels – although they will not all be new.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Navy was to get seven new combat ships, including four submarines and seven repaired ones. Among the repair projects, at the Yantar Shipyard on the Baltic coast, the world’s largest air-cushion amphibious assault ship Mordovia. The Project 12322 `Zubr’ air-cushion small amphibious assault ship Mordovia entered service with the Baltic Fleet in October 1991. The ship’s role is to provide heavy sealift support to amphibious operations.

The warship can also transport and deploy sea mines. The air-cushion design allows the ship to move over the ground. The warship can transport three tanks or ten armoured personnel carriers or eight infantry fighting vehicles.  But the huge radar signature of the Zubr makes them unsuitable for covert operations and they require significant logistical support in fuel and maintenance.

The Zubr class (Project 1232.2, NATO reporting name “Pomornik”) is a class of air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC). This class of military hovercraft is, as of 2012, the world’s largest, with a standard full load displacement of 555 tons. The hovercraft is designed to sealift amphibious assault units (such as marines and tanks) from equipped/non-equipped vessels to non-equipped shores, as well as transport and plant naval mines.

There are ten Zubr-class hovercraft in service. There are two vessels in the Russian Navy and four with the Hellenic Navy. In 2009, China placed an order for four vessels from Ukraine [order transferred to Russia now] as part of a deal worth 315 million USD. Two updated versions of the vessels were built by Crimea’s Feodosia Shipbuilding Company, followed by two advanced models of the surface warship.

The purchase of HS Cephalonia (L 180) for the Hellenic Navy marked the first time a Soviet-designed naval craft had been built for a NATO member.

In June 2017, Russia announced it was restarting production of the Zubr-class craft. Representatives from the Russian shipbuilding industry soon after responded by stating production could not possibly resume in 2018 and would only be possible by 2019–2021, refuting the government position. Representatives cited the lack of availability of and inability to mass-produce components, notably gas turbine engines and reduction gears as the main obstacles.

NPO Saturn (ODK GT) and Turboros developed marine gas turbine M70FRU (D090), FR RU, M70FRU2 (DP/DM71) along M90FR, M75RU, E70RD8 and Elektrosila, AO Zvezda, Metallist, Samara and others developed reductors and gears. Fan and Turboprop provided by NK Kuznetsov, Aerosila, among others (perhaps some like Aviadvigatel, Salut, AMNTK, UMPO, KMPO, having high and long experience and production).

The Zubr-class landing craft has a cargo area of 400 square metres (4,300 sq ft) and a fuel capacity of 56 tons. It can carry three main battle tanks (up to 150 tonnes), or ten armoured vehicles with 140 troops (up to 131 tonnes), or 8 armoured personnel carriers of total mass up to 115 tonnes, or 8 amphibious tanks or up to 500 troops (with 360 troops in the cargo compartment).

At full displacement the ship is capable of negotiating up to 5-degree gradients on non-equipped shores and 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)-high vertical walls. The Zubr class remains seaworthy in conditions up to Sea State 4. The vessel has a cruising speed of 30–40 knots (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph).

Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs I

The Object 19 is a Russian prototype wheel-cum-track IFV. The Object 19, Object 764, Object 911, Object 914, and Object 1200, were all tested for the position for BMP-1. Object 19 did not surpass the competition, whereas the Object 764 was selected and improved upon, to become the Object 765 – the BMP-1.

Russian APC/IFV Design Overview

Armored Personnel Carriers became common during World War II, originally introduced by the German army to rapidly transport troops along the battlefield front. Capable of transport under conditions that regular trucks could not traverse, this provided tactical mobility to support the Blitzkrieg (lighting war) form of war. The Infantry Fighting Vehicle, essentially an APC styled vehicle with enhanced armor and armaments, was introduced during the 1960s by the Soviet Union. Its role was to provide fire support to dismounts and to engage lighted armored vehicles.

A weakness of APCs and IFVs is that they could not be armored sufficiently to protect against RPGs and ATGMs. Therefore modern warfare techniques rely heavily upon mobility, with tanks, IFVs and APCs advancing quickly upon enemy units. Supported by artillery and infantry to suppress the deployment of shaped-charged warhead equipped weapons, the armored vehicle are expected to overwhelm the enemy before they can effectively deploy their RPGs and ATGMs. This method of rapid mobile combat, known as maneuver warfare, was designed to engage in a successful full-scale conventional confrontation, as combat in Europe might unfold.

Modern warfare however has tended toward descending into asymmetric warfare and urban combat, with Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) often operating from isolated or stationary positions. This once again left them vulnerable to attack by infantry armed with RPGs and man-portable ATGMs. As Russians incurred heavy losses in the insurgent warfare experienced in their Afghanistan War and in Grozny during the 1st and 2nd Chechen Wars, they painfully came to recognize these vulnerabilities. Many Russian IFVs and APCs were destroyed by poorly trained but well-motivated infantry armed with relatively simple and inexpensive RPGs, ironically typically of Russian origin.

Multiple approaches were devised to overcome these vulnerabilities. These included having infantry outside the vehicle as it moved through cities to provide it protection, positioning troops at the vehicle front to operate defensive weapons, increasing the firepower available to the vehicle crew to destroy hostile enemy before they could deploy their weapons, installing lighter versions of ERA on these vehicles (the heavy tank versions of ERA damage the thin skinned IFVs and APCs) and to develop softkill and hardkill APS systems. The other approach is simply to provide APCs and IFVs with the same level of protection provided to MBTs (i.e., use tank chassis as APC/IFV chassis). Though the light-weight aspect of these vehicles is sacrificed by this approach, their survivability in insurgent and urban warfare is significantly improved. This has resulted for example in the development of the T-15 from the T-14. The Israelis are also taking this approach, developing the heavily armored Namer from the Merkava (discussed in detail later).

Soviet and Russian IFVs and APCs share regularities in their design approach, reflective of their military encounters, with designs evolving to meet the challenges presented by emerging technologies and tactics. Much like their Western counterparts, the Soviets field both wheeled and tracked APCs and IFVs that can be produced as a ‘Family of Vehicles’. Similar to the West, Soviet/Russian IFVs tend to be more heavily armored than their APCs. The IFVs ALSO tend to be tracked, permitting them the ability to maintain pace with MBTs, which their principal role is to support. For APCs however the Russians has long shown a preference for wheeled vehicles, with the West only absorbing the long established Russian approach in the 1990s. The Russians also have a strong preference for building APCs and IFVs that can ‘swim’, able to traverse rivers they encounter during an advance. While Western vehicles tend to stress higher armor levels, and therefore greater weight, the Russians keep their vehicle light enough to permit swim capabilities.

Until recently the Soviets in general have shown less interest in protecting their crews and providing for their comfort than their Western counterparts, focusing more on keeping their vehicles small, mobile and fast. Where Western vehicles tend to be taller and larger, providing more space for the occupants, Russian APCs and IFVs tend to be very low and flat by comparison, minimizing both the silhouette and vehicle weight. They also tend to be wider, and have wider tracks or wheels. Combining these features provides for optimized vehicle mobility, making them fast, able to traverse steep banks (low Center of Gravity) and able to navigate mud and snow.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the vehicle crew and dismounts (transported troops) have to operate is very cramped conditions. Therefore crews become exhausted more quickly, have more difficulty operating equipment and suffer higher casualties when the vehicle armor is breached due to slow and difficult vehicle egress. To counter these restrictions the Soviets have actually devised some rather novel innovations to improve the conditions for the crew and dismounts, and to improve overall vehicle performance.

Where older models of Russian APCs and IFVs have the transported troops enter and exit the vehicle from highly constrictive side doors, newer designs provide troops access through large doors and folding roofs at the vehicle rear. And where the loading rate of the main weapon was often only a quarter of that achievable on the more open spaced Western vehicles, integrated autoloaders has provided Soviets vehicles reload rates equal to or better than those achieved by their Western counterparts.

Another novel feature devised by the Soviets was to place the engine of their IFVs in the rear of the vehicle, providing it greater protection, similar to MBTs (IFVs and APCs more often place the engine at the vehicle front, to the right of the driver). By placing the engine low in the vehicle, troops are able to enter the vehicle over the rear mounted engine. This also permits the driver to be positioned in the center of the front of the vehicle, also similar to typical MBT design. The Soviets then place a soldier on either side of the driver, each operating as a machine gunner or grenade launcher operator. Similar to some WWII tanks, in which a weapons operator sat alongside the vehicle driver, this approach provides substantially greater firepower that can be directed at infantry to protect the vehicle from attack by RPGs and ATGMs.

Much like Western vehicles the Soviets fabricate their vehicle hulls from welded ballistic aluminum and/or ballistic steel, providing all around 360 degree protection to lower calibre threats. The vehicles possess highly sloped frontal glacis plates as well as sloped sidewalls, the oblique surfaces more effectively deflecting incoming rounds. While this reduces space availability for crew and troops, it does enhance vehicle overall survivability. With their low vehicle profile, Soviet APCs and IFVs are also more challenging to hit than their higher standing Western counterparts.

The Soviet approach to increasing the protection on their vehicles beyond the inherent capabilities of the hull have historically been more progressive than Western thinking. In many ways the Soviets have led the way in innovative armor developments, with the West later duplicating their advancements. Having led the way in developing ATGMs, the Soviets foresaw a need to counter such weapons, and so were first to develop ceramic armor solutions. As well the Soviets led the way in the development of ERA, electronic countermeasures (soft kill dazzlers and jammers) and hardkill Active Protection Systems. They also remain the only military to have integrated ERA directly into hull designs, and have APS as a standard system on their AFVs.

The Soviets also tend to more heavily arm their IFVs than equivalent Western vehicles. This includes deployment of multiple guns installed on a single turret, such as the dual 100 mm gun / 30 mm autocannon on the BMP-3 and BMD-4. Their main weapons also tend to be more multi-functional in terms of ammunition that can be fired than Western vehicles, often able to fire ATGMs as well as the standard KE and/or HE-I rounds. This provides them greater firepower and an extended maximum effective combat range. Additionally most modern Russian IFVs can be armed with various turret mounted ATGM systems. Vehicle protection is enhanced by offering firing ports to troops and positioning soldiers at the front of the vehicle to operate machine guns and grenade launchers. This set-up is particularly effective in suppressing infantry units trying to engage the vehicle.

Perhaps the most defining aspect of Soviet/Russian APC and IFV design, similar to their MBTs, is low cost and simple design. Soviet experiences in World War II convinced them that to defend their nation and to overwhelm and invader, they must be able to produce huge numbers of armored vehicles. This necessitates that the vehicles be inexpensive and fast to build. Where Western vehicles are built to a high quality standard and utilizes expensive components and advanced technologies, Soviet experience recognizes that armed forces are expended rapidly once conflicts erupt and must be able to be rapidly replaced. Therefore the fabrication quality of Soviet armored vehicles tends to be poor compared to Western vehicles and the use of sophisticated technologies is generally restricted.

A negative result of this approach has been that the Soviets fell behind significantly in the advancement of integrated computerised systems and sensor technologies. While this lack of sophistication was not disadvantageous is the early cold-war period, computerised capabilities and advanced sensors have become critical in modern AFVs, as they are essential for operating the Fire Control Systems that permit cannon to accurate fire on the move, for providing night fighting capabilities through use of thermal imaging, and for the guidance of advanced munitions.

Recognizing that in a modern ultra high-tech environment that an overly simplified AFV will not survive for long, and that replacing lost vehicle with more low quality units won’t suffice to win a battle anymore, the most recent generation of Russian designed vehicles, the T-14 and T-15, are making a clean break with traditional Soviet design. A new emphasis is being placed on crew and troop survivability, and inclusion of high tech equipment and capabilities. However, due to the relative distance that the Soviets have fallen behind in these aspects, they are actually reliant on Chinese and French computers and sensors to equip their latest generation of vehicles until they are able to catch up and develop these components within Russia.


The BTR-80 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) that is a continued development of the BTR legacy vehicles, the BTR-60 and the BTR-70. Introduced into Soviet inventories in 1986 and with over 5000 built the vehicle has become the backbone of Soviet rapid tactical mobility efforts and has been involved in extensive combat situations, with the Soviet war in Afghanistan being its initial baptism by fire. The vehicle is used by almost 40 countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.

The BTR-80 is a 30,000 pound (13.6 tonne) 8×8 wheeled APC which is approximately 25 feet (7.7 meters) long, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) wide and 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. Operated by a crew of three with a driver, commander and gunner the vehicle also transport 7 infantry troops. The driver and commander are situated to the forward of the vehicle while the gunner is positioned in a roof mounted seat beneath the main weapon. Two of the troops are located forward of the driver and commander, while the other five sit on bench style seats in the back of the vehicle. The troops are provided with firing ports. The rear positioned troops enter and exit the vehicle through side doors that are split. The upper door swings to the side and the lower half descends downward, thereby acting as a stepping surface. This approach is supposed to let troops exit the vehicle while it is in motion, with the side of the vehicle having the doorway oriented away from enemy fire.

The BTR-80 is powered by a 260 hp V-8 turbocharged diesel engine which provides a power-to-weight ratio of 17 hp/ton. This is a significant improvement over the dual gasoline engines that powered the earlier BTR-60 and BTR-70. Able to attain road speeds of up to 55 mph (90 km/hr) and having an operational range of 370 miles (600 kms) with on-board fuel the vehicle is also fully amphibious with a water speed of 6.2 mph (10 km/hr). The vehicle is powered through the water through hydrojets. The vehicle is able to navigate a gradient of 60% and climb a vertical step of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters).

A large number of variants of the BTR-80 have been produced to meet various operational needs and customer requirements. The more common of these are noted below:

• BTR-80 – standard Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) produced in 1986.

• BTR-80M – enhanced version available in 1993 with improved engine and tires.

• BTR-82 – further enhanced version available in 2009 with increased armor, addition of spall liner, improved night vision equipment and a 300 hp engine.

• 2S23 – a fire support version of the vehicle, mounting a 120 mm mortar rifled gun.

• BTR-80A – An Infantry Fighting Vehicle version introduced in 1994 and equipped with the remotely operated 2A72 30 mm auto-cannon in the turret and provided with 300 rounds of ammunition.

• BTR-82AM – A Naval Infantry (Marines) version of the BTR-82A.

• BTR-82A – Further enhanced IFV introduced in 2009 that has been well received by Russian troops battling in Ukraine. Weapon system has a FCS and improved night vision optics. Includes increased armor, addition of spall liner to the vehicle interior, GLONASS navigation system and a 300 hp engine. The vehicle is also able to accommodate 8 dismounts.

The basic APC version of the BTR-80 is fitted with a turret that accommodates a 14.5 mm KPVT heavy machine gun and a 7.62 mm PKT co-axial machine gun. It is also equipped with a number of firing ports located along the front and sides of the vehicle that permit the dismounts to fire their personal weapons from inside the vehicle. The BTR-80 main weapon system is of a relatively simple design, in many ways antiquated for a current front-line vehicles. The main weapon is not stabilized and therefore can only be fired accurately while the vehicle is stationary. And the mechanism for rotating the turret is manually operated. The gunner sits under the turret in a roof mounted chair that provides reasonable space claim, which is not typical for Russian vehicles. The gunner is provided a daytime optical sight and an infrared night sight. The weapon can be elevated up to 60 degrees, providing the ability to engage low flying aircraft and targets situated on top of hills or located in high buildings (i.e., urban warfare).

The BTR-80 is of a welded ballistic steel construction which provides 14.5 mm ballistic protection along the front arc and small arms fire along the vehicle sides, rear and roofline. The dismounts sit in simple bench style seats which do not provide any Energy Attenuation in the event of a mine blast. The vehicle is equipped with six 81 mm smoke grenade launchers.

The BTR-80 has seen extensive combat in a number of theatres of war. These include the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Georgian Civil War, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the Transnistria War, the Tajikistan Civil War, the First and Second Chechen Wars, the War of Dagestan, the 2008 South Ossetian War, the Iraqi insurgency and the War in Donbass.

During these conflicts the BTR-80 performed reasonably well considering its relatively light protection levels and lack of armor specific to protecting the vehicle from IEDs, RPGs, EFPs, heavy calibre ammunition, and underbelly blast events.

Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs II


The BTR-90 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC). Based on its predecessor, the BTR-80, the vehicle dimensions were enlarged, it was fitted with the turret from the BMP-2 to increase firepower and the vehicle was in general equipped with upgraded equipment as compared to the BTR-80. Likes it predecessor the BTR-90 is fully amphibious. The vehicle was unveiled in 1994 and saw limited production between 2004 and 2011.

The BTR-90 is an 8×8 wheeled APC that weighs 46,000 pounds (21 tonnes), is approximately 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, 10.5 feet (3.2 meters) wide and 10 feet (3 meters) in height. The vehicle is operated by a crew of 3 and can transport up to 7 troops. The crew consists of a driver who is located at the front of the vehicle and a gunner and commander who are located in the turret. The crew ingress and egress the vehicle through a side mounted door, typical of the Russian BTR series of APCs. The vehicle is powered by a turbocharged 510 hp diesel engine which is located at the rear of the vehicle. This provides a power to weight ratio of 22 hp per tonne. The 8×8 wheeled vehicle can attain 60 mph (100 km/h) on roads and has an operational range of 500 miles (800 kms) with internal fuel. The BTR-90 is also fully amphibious. Powered by water jets the vehicle can attain speeds up to 5 miles (9 km/hr) in water. The vehicle is able to cross 7.5 feet (2 meter) wide trenches, climb 3 foot (0.8 meter) high vertical steps and traverse 60% gradients and 30% side slopes.

While designed as a chassis that could be configured to fulfill a wide range of roles within the Russian Army and Russian Navy (Marines) by offering the superior tactical mobility implicit to wheeled vehicles, the BTR-90 has only seen low volume production runs, with Russian Ministry of Defense only incorporating limited numbers of the vehicles into its forces. This decision is in-line with current Russian procurement philosophy, which is to not incorporate any further vehicles into the Russian military forces which are based on older Soviet designs. New procurements are being based solely upon platforms based on new Russian vehicles designs such as the T-14 and T-15.

This procurement strategy has halted development and procurement of the BTR-90 as well as other Russian vehicle programs including the 2S25 Self-propelled Amphibious Tank Destroyer, the BMD-4 and the BMPT “Terminator”. The 2S25 and BMD-4 are reviewed in this volume as a number of these vehicle are in service with the Russian military, while the BMPT is not. Based on the T-72 platform and tailored specifically for asymmetric urban combat to meet needs identified during the Soviet/Russian experiences from the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the First Chechen War, the Terminator was never manufactured beyond the proto-type stage.

The BTR-90 is equipped with the BMP-2 turret which fits the 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 autocannon. 500 rounds of ammunition are carried on-board for the weapon. Secondary armaments consist of a 7.62 mm coaxial PKT machine gun with 2000 rounds of ammo and a 30 mm grenade launcher with 400 rounds of ammo. Firing ports are also provided for the crew. The vehicle can also be configured with an AT-5 Spandrel (Konkurs) ATGM launching system. The missiles appear to be able to be attached to the vehicle singularly, in dual pairs, or as a set of four. Supposedly the missiles can also be detached from the vehicle and launched by dismounts.

The turret comes equipped standard with a gunner’s day/night sight and a commander’s optical sight. A thermal imaging sight can also be installed as an option. A Fire Control System (FCS) is used to aim the main weapon and the ATGM unit when installed. The 30 mm autocannon is able to be elevated to 75 degrees, permitting it to be used against low flying aircraft. The autocannon can engage targets to a range of 2500 meters, while the ATGM can engage targets out to 4000 meters.

The BTR-90 is fabricated from welded ballistic plate. The baseline armor offers frontal arc protection against 14.5 mm rounds and all-around protection against small arms fire. The baseline vehicle armor can be upgraded with add-on armored plating and/or ERA, though this would adversely affect the swim capability of the vehicle. The vehicle has an automated fire suppression system (AFSS) and a smoke grenade system. The vehicle can be fit with a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) detection and filter system.

BTR Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers


The BTR-152 6×6 was developed after the Second World War as the Soviet Union’s very first purpose-built APC. It was manufactured in large numbers from 1950 and saw service with African and Asian armies. The all-welded steel hull showed close similarities with American and German wartime designs. Notably, significant numbers of the M3A1 4×4 scout car and M2 and M5 series of American half-tracks were supplied to the Red Army under Lend-Lease arrangements. Likewise the Soviets captured large numbers of the Hanomag-built range of German half-tracks.

As with these earlier vehicles, the BTR had a front-mounted engine and an open top crew compartment for the driver and troop compartment for up to seventeen soldiers. The driver and commander had separate glass windscreens that could be protected by steel hatches with vision blocks. The infantry entered and exited the vehicle either via the open roof or through a single door in the rear plate of the hull. For defensive purposes the vehicle had six firing ports, three either side and two in the rear plate either side of the door.

Initially the ZIS-1512½-ton 6×6 chassis was used as the basis for the BTR-152, though later models utilised the ZIS-157. The six-cylinder, inline model ZIS-123 was a water-cooled petrol engine generating 110hp at 2,900rpm. The BTR-152’s transmission layout was that of a conventional 6×6 commercial truck with the drive shafts leading to differentials on ‘solid’ axles. The gearbox had five forward speeds and there was a two-speed transfer box. The tyres had a pressure system regulated by the driver to suit the ground conditions. Some BTR-152s also featured a front-mounted winch.

Some versions were fully enclosed, such as the BTR-152U command variant, which has much higher sides to allow staff officers to stand up inside. The normal armament comprised the standard 7.62mm machine gun or the heavier 12.7mm or 14.5mm mounted on the hull top. The BTR-152A-ZPU was an anti-aircraft variant armed with twin 14.5mm KPV machine guns in a rotating turret. Against aerial targets, these were only effective to 1,400m. They also carried AP rounds for use against light armoured vehicles, which could penetrate 32mm of armour at 500m, though the guns had a range of 2,000m against ground targets. Other anti-aircraft variants included the BTR-152D and the BTR-152E.

Some of those supplied to the Egyptian Army were armed with the Czech quad 12.7mm M53 anti-aircraft system. This comprised four Soviet 12.7mm DShKM machine guns on a Czech-designed two-wheel mount. A number of these ended up in service with the Afghan Army. Likewise, in 1982 the Israeli Army encountered BTR-152s being operated by the Syrian-backed Palestinian Liberation Army that were fitted with a twin 23mm automatic anti-aircraft gun in the rear of the troop compartment.


The BTR-152’s smaller cousin was the BTR-40, introduced in 1951. This was essentially a redesigned version of the American-supplied M3A scout car. It was based on the GAZ-63 truck chassis, but with a shorter wheelbase and was a conventional four-wheel drive armoured truck with a frontal engine layout. In the event of chemical warfare one variant of this vehicle was designed for a chemical decontamination role, which included placing flag markers to warn of contaminated areas. A more conventional version was the BTR-40A/ZPU; this had an anti-aircraft role mounting twin 14.5mm KPV heavy machine guns. These were mounted in a manually-operated open turret with a 360-degree traverse and an effective rate of fire of 150 rounds per minute.


The requirement to replace the non-amphibious BTR-152 was issued in the late 1950s, and the heavy eight-wheeled amphibious BTR-60P entered service with the Soviet Army in 1961. Since then it has been supplied to armies throughout the world and was built in Romania as the TAB-72. The BTR-60P was powered by two GAZ-49B six-cylinder, water-cooled, in-line petrol engines, developing a total of 180hp. These were mounted in the rear of the welded steel hull and drove all eight wheels, the front four of which were steerable. The BTR-60 series was fully amphibious, propelled through the water by a hydrojet system with a single controllable outlet at the rear. This gave a calm-water speed of 10km/h compared to 80km/h on land. During deployment in water a bilge pump was available, together with a trim vane that was normally carried flat on the nose plate.

The troop compartment (initially for fourteen men but reduced in later models) occupied the centre of the vehicle with the driver on the left and the commander on the right at the front. The troop compartment had no overhead protection but this was remedied with the BTR-60PA or BTR-60PK, which was fully-enclosed with roof hatches, installed to supplement access through two small hatches on each side.

The final model, the BTR-60PB, was fitted with a small turret on the hull roof near the front, mounting a 14.5mm machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. It is identical to that fitted to the Soviet BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle and the Czech OT-64 APC. While the BTR-60PB was built under licence in Romania as the TAB-71, the lack of easy access resulted in the Czech and Polish governments developing the SKOT (OT-64) series for their armies. Production of the BTR-60 series ended in 1976, resulting in around 25,000 vehicles.


The follow-on BTR-70 first appeared during the November 1980 military parade in Moscow. The hull was of all-welded steel armour with improved protection over its front arc compared to the BTR-60. In addition the nose was wider and the front gave added protection to the front wheels. While the BTR-70 was fitted with the same turret as its predecessor, some were fitted with the BTR-80 turret. Initial models of the BTR-70 were fitted with the same wheels and tyres as the BTR-60.

The two GAZ-49B engines were replaced by two ZMZ-4905 petrol engines, which developed 120hp each compared to just 90hp each in the BTR-60. Both engines had their own transmission with the right engine supplying power to the first and third axles, while the left powered the second and fourth axles. This meant if one engine was out of action the vehicle could still move, albeit at a slower speed. The exhausts were less boxy than on the BTR-60. Whereas the BTR-60 could carry up to sixteen men, the BTR-70’s capacity was two crew and nine passengers. Again Romania produced its own version, dubbed the TAB-77.

Although the BTR-70 was an improvement over the earlier BTR-60, it still had its problems, not least the inadequate means of entry and exit for the troops and the two petrol engines which were inefficient and could catch fire. The Soviet Army first took delivery of the improved BTR-80 in 1984.

The Russian Navy during the Eighteenth Century


The provenance of this draught is conundrum: on the one hand it is decidedly English in style, calligraphy and even ink colours, but on the other, it is annotated with information that could only have come from Russian sources – the launching draughts of water are quoted in Russian units and a note describes the lower green line as ‘Light Draught of water with 2000 poods of Ballast (a pood is 36 lbs English)’. The ship was in British waters with Admiral Crown’s squadron in 1812–1814 and may have had the lines taken off then, or this may have been copied from a Russian original and annotated in English. A noteworthy feature of the structure is the system of substantial diagonal braces in the hull; this is not the full trussed frame as developed by Seppings, but a less effective fore-runner, and when considered alongside the numerous top-riders may suggest the ship was lightly framed. This reinforcing may have been required by the ship’s heavy armament of twenty-six short 36pdrs, twenty-eight short 24pdrs and fourteen guns on the upperworks (a mix of long 8pdrs and 24pdr carronades). The ‘lightweight’ guns were supposedly inspired by Swedish models, but there were many other experiments around this time with weapons mid-way between carronades and traditional long guns, like the proposals of Sadler, Gover and Congreve in Britain.


This is actually a Russian draught whose provenance is unknown, although it may be associated with Samuel Bentham, who was well-connected in Russia, having served there before the war – indeed, Bentham was in Russia from 1805 to 1807 trying to arrange for the construction of British ships on the White Sea. Built at St Petersburg and launched in 1808, Venera was a big ship, measuring 162ft 6in between perpendiculars, with a 42ft beam, and a calculation on the draught puts her displacement at 1693 tons (although the conventional figure for burthen would be less). The absence of barricading on the forecastle looks backwards, but the hull form, with its rising floors and wall sides, is more reminiscent of the 1820s and ’30s than the first decade of the century. The armament was originally thirty 24pdrs and eighteen 6pdrs, but in 1810 she was converted to a flush two-decker and two 24pdrs and all the 6pdrs were replaced by twenty-eight 24pdr carronades, giving the ship a one-calibre weapons-fit and anticipating the ‘double-banked frigate’ of the post-war decades.

The ‘edinorog’ was a uniquely Russian artillery piece, designed to fire either solid shot or an explosive round. This is a 1780 Model gun of ‘1/2-pood’ calibre – roughly equivalent to a British 24pdr when firing round shot (the explosive shell weighed less at about 20 pounds). On line of battle ships, it was usual to mount one per deck on each broadside, alongside the solid-shot guns of the nearest calibre. This very limited employment suggest that their advantages were more theoretical than real – they are known to have suffered from massive recoil, and the dangers of handling explosives aboard wooden ships deterred other navies from pursuing similar experiments, so their use in the Russian service may well have been limited.

The Russian navy was no better understood in the West during the eighteenth century than its Soviet successor was in the twentieth. Distance, the Cyrillic alphabet, and a Tsarist penchant for secrecy conspired to keep information to a minimum, yet the Russian navy in 1790 was a major force: at about 142,000 tons the Baltic fleet alone was larger than all Dutch naval forces combined, while a further 40,000 tons in the Black Sea was approximately the same size as the Swedish navy. Depending on the precise date chosen, together they constituted the world’s third or fourth largest navy. In 1798 the Baltic fleet’s official establishment comprised nine 100-gun ships, twenty-seven 74s, nine 66s, nine 44s, one 40 and nine 32s; for the Black Sea in 1797 it was three 100s, nine 74s, three 66s, six 50s and four 3 6s. These figures, however, were aspirations – the first 100-guns ships for Black Sea were not launched until 1801–2 – but they do indicate the magnitude of the Russian navy.

It was also a successful force, having won significant victories over Sweden in 1788–90 and the Ottoman Empire in 1787–92. Although Peter the Great is regarded as the father of Russian seapower, it was Catherine II (1762–96) who was responsible for the development of a European-standard battlefleet that was employed with so much strategic impact. This period also saw much technical improvement, with considerable effort expended keeping up with British, and to a lesser extent French, naval technology. A decline in numbers set in during the reign of Alexander I after 1801 and thereafter the navy did not recover its relative position until the mid-1820s.

For much of the struggle with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, Russia was Britain’s ally. Elements of the Baltic fleet co-operated with Duncan in the blockade of Dutch ports, and made a major contribution of fifteen sail of the line to the Helder expedition in 1799. Catherine had experienced some success in attracting British officers into the Russian fleet, but its general state of efficiency did not impress the Royal Navy nor the officials of the Dockyards who had to refit and maintain the Russian ships. They were regarded as poorly built of inferior timber, and a list of the Baltic Fleet in 1805 gives an average age of ten years for thirty-two ships of the line.

In 1798 the Russians deployed some of the Black Sea fleet to the Mediterranean, where a squadron under Vice-Admiral Ushakov occupied the Ionian Islands and after a long siege captured Corfu. The force was withdrawn in 1800, but a more significant development was the formation of a Mediterranean fleet by the dispatch of a squadron from Cronstadt, a long voyage by Russian standards, to join elements from the Black Sea at Corfu. Commanded by Vice-Admiral Seniavin, who had served six years in the Royal Navy, this fleet of ten sail of the line was active against both the French in the Adriatic and later the Turks, where it successfully blockaded the Dardanelles and won a crushing victory over the Ottoman fleet at Lemnos on 19 June 1807.

The events leading up to the Tilsit agreement between Napoleon and the Tsar rapidly turned the Russian fleet from ally via neutral to enemy in a matter of weeks. Having given up Corfu to the French, the Russians were forced to leave the Mediterranean, but in the face of a hostile British fleet took shelter in the Tagus, where they were promptly blockaded. Eventually, in September 1808 Seniavin agreed to the internment of his fleet in Britain and the repatriation of its crews. Eventually, eight two-deckers and two frigates were turned over. While laid up they gradually deteriorated and only two ships returned to Russia in 1813.

In the 1790s the Baltic fleet could boast eight 100-gun three-deckers of the Chesma class (supposedly inspired by, or even copied from, Slade’s Victory), but they were poorly constructed and by 1801 none was fit for active service. A huge 130-gun ship, the Blagodat, was launched in 1800, again modelled on a famous western prototype, in this case the Spanish Santisíma Trinidad. Armament was usually 3 6pdrs on the lower deck with 18s and 8s respectively on the higher gundecks, and 6pdrs on the upperworks. Contrasting with this investment in concentrated firepower, the majority of the Russian battlefleet was made up of small two-deckers in the 66-gun class, which were built in large numbers down to 1797. Even with 24pdr main batteries, they proved perfectly adequate against their usual opponent, the Swedes (which was equally true for the Black Sea fleet and the Turks). The 74-gun ship came late to the Russian navy, the first pair being launched in 1772, and although they carried 30pdrs on the lower deck they were still relatively small ships, comparing in size with the British ‘Common Class’. By 1800 the Baltic fleet’s two-deckers comprised twenty 74s and twenty-four 66s.

A unique feature of Russian naval weaponry was the edinorog, a large calibre lighweight gun capable of firing a wide range of ammunition including explosive shells. Generally known by the French term licorne (‘unicorn’), they usually filled a pair of ports on the two lower gun-decks of battleships (and two pairs on 100-gun ships), but they were regarded as a dangerous and doubtful asset by other navies. Eventually the Russian navy came to agree and the gun establishment of 1805 abolished them. It also introduced a homogeneous armament for all two-deckers of new lightweight-pattern 36pdrs and 24s, and added the first carronades (24pdrs) to the upperworks.

The Black Sea fleet was a recent venture, established in 1770, but growing from seven ships of the line in 1790 to thirteen in 1800. Although an equivalent of a First Rate was not laid down until 1799, the average size of its ships tended to be greater than those of the Baltic fleet, where navigational conditions and the restricted dimensions of the opposing Swedish warships constrained growth. The Black Sea squadron, in fact, introduced both the two-decker 80 and the 24pdr-armed big frigate to Russian service – in the latter case, what were termed ‘battle frigates’ stood in the battle line when required. The first was launched in 1785 and thus pre-dated the better-known 24pdr frigates of either the French or US navies. However, even this was later than the Swedish Bellona class designed by af Chapman, although these usually cruised with 18pdrs and were designed to ship light 24pdrs only when war threatened so that they could reinforce the outnumbered Swedish battlefleet. As counters to these vessels, Russia’s Baltic fleet built five 24pdr frigates in the 1790s, and more after 1801, thus becoming one of the first major sponsors of the type – and as potential oceanic commerce-raiders, as much a concern to the Royal Navy after 1815 as US big frigates. This was in marked contrast to Russia’s earlier conservatism in cruiser design, being slow to adopt the frigate-form (in either 12pdr or 18pdr calibres), and persevering with small two-deckers until the late 1780s. Not having the same requirement as the Atlantic navies for long-distance, all-weather cruisers, the advantages of a high battery freeboard combined with a low topside height were less compelling. Nevertheless, the Baltic fleet built nine 18pdr frigates before 1800, when they were eclipsed in construction programmes by the 24pdr type.

Although the Russian navy list included sloops, brigs and many of the small craft familiar from other navies, these did not exist in very large numbers. Russia had little ocean-going commerce to protect, and fleet scouting and support duties usually fell to small frigate-like vessels. However, in both the Baltic and the Black Sea it invested heavily in specialist types for inshore warfare, usually craft that could be rowed – including traditional ‘Mediterranean’ galleys – and amphibious warfare vessels. These were not as ingenious as the special types devised by AF Chapman for the Swedish archipelago fleet, but were equally effective in their chosen environment. A significant contributor to this requirement was a force of large sea-going bomb vessels, making both Russian main fleets the only force outside the Royal Navy to employ such vessels on a regular basis. Four survived in the Baltic into the 1790s and two more were built in 1808; in the Black Sea fleet two were in service up to 1795, and another was built in 1806.

Cornelius Cruys

Cornelius Cruys (14 June 1655 – 14 June 1727) was a Norwegian–Dutch admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, and the first commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet.

When in the Netherlands, Peter the Great dined often with Giles Schey the leading Dutch admiral of the day, a pupil of de Ruyter’s, and tried to persuade the Admiral to come to Russia to supervise construction of the Russian fleet and to take command when it put to sea. He offered Schey all the titles he might want, a pension of 24,000 florins, more for his wife and children in case they preferred to remain behind in Holland, and promised to make the arrangements himself with William. Schey declined, which did not in any way diminish Peter’s respect for him, and proposed another admiral to Peter as a man capable of supervising and commanding a navy. This was Cornelius Cruys, born in Norway of Dutch parents. With the rank of rear admiral, he was Chief Inspector of Naval Stores and Equipment of the Dutch Admiralty at Amsterdam, and in this capacity had already been advising the Russians in their purchases of naval equipment. He was exactly the kind of man Peter wanted, but, like Schey, Cruys showed little enthusiasm for Peter’s offer. Only the united efforts of Schey, Witsen and other prominent persons who understood that Cruys in Russia would have a powerful influence on Russian trade persuaded the reluctant Admiral to accept.

More important, the Russian Great Embassy had recruited 640 Dutchmen, among them Rear Admiral Cruys and other naval officers (eventually, Cruys persuaded 200 Dutch naval officers to come to Russia), seamen, engineers, technicians, shipwrights, physicians and other specialists. To carry them and the equipment purchased back to Russia, ten ships had been chartered.

In 1698 at Voronezh, in the shipyards sprawling along the banks of the broad and shallow river, Peter found the carpenters sawing and hammering, and he found many problems. There were shortages and great wastage of both men and materials. In haste to comply with the Tsar’s commands, the shipwrights were using unseasoned timber, which would rot quickly in the water. On arriving from Holland, Vice Admiral Cruys inspected the vessels and ordered many hauled out to be rebuilt and strengthened. The foreign shipwrights, each following his own designs without guidance or control from above, quarreled frequently. The Dutch shipwrights, commanded by Peter’s orders from London to work only under the supervision of others, were sullen and sluggish. The Russian artisans were in no better mood. Summoned by decree to Voronezh to learn shipbuilding, they understood that if they showed aptitude, they would be sent to the West to perfect their skills. Accordingly, many preferred to do just enough work to get by, hoping somehow to be allowed to return home.

By spring, the fleet was ready. Eighty-six ships of all sizes, including eighteen sea-going men-of-war carrying from thirty-six to forty-six guns were in the water, in addition, 500 barges had been built for carrying men, provisions, ammunition and powder. On May 7, 1699, this fleet left Voronezh and the villagers along the Don saw a remarkable sight: a fleet of full-rigged ships sailing past them down the river. Admiral Golovin was in nominal command, with Vice Admiral Cruys in actual command of the fleet. Peter took the role of captain of the forty-four-gun frigate Apostle Peter.

In 1706, Peter himself, sailing far out in the gulf, sighted a Swedish squadron headed in his direction and returned immediately to report the news by agreed-on cannon signals to Vice Admiral Cruys, the Dutch officer in command of the Russian fleet. Cruys, however, refused to believe the Tsar’s report and was convinced only when he saw the Swedish ships with his own eyes. Some time after that, Peter touched on the episode with ironic humor. Cruys, reporting on naval matters, complained to Peter of the general ignorance and insubordination of his fleet officers, saying “His Majesty, with his skill, knows the importance of perfect ‘subordination.'” Peter responded warmly, “The Vice Admiral [Cruys] is himself to blame for the want of skill of the naval officers as he himself engaged nearly all of them. … As concerns my skill, this compliment is not on a very firm footing. Not long ago, when I went to sea and saw the enemy’s ships from my yacht and signaled according to custom the number of ships, it was thought only to be amusement or the salute for a toast, and even when I myself came on board to the Vice Admiral, he was unwilling to believe until his sailors had seen them from the masthead. I must therefore beg him either to omit my name from the list of those whom he judges skillful, or in future cease from such raillery.”

In the spring of 1710, Peter plucked the military fruits of Poltava. Russian armies, unopposed by any Swedish army in the field, swept irresistibly through Sweden’s Baltic Provinces. While Sheremetev with 30,000 men beseiged Riga to the south, Peter sent General-Admiral Fedor Apraxin, newly made a Count and a Privy Councilor, with 18,000 men to besiege Vyborg in the north. This town at the head of the Karelian Isthmus, seventy-five miles northwest of St. Petersburg, was an important fortress and an assembly point for Swedish offensive threats against St. Petersburg. A Russian attempt on Vyborg from the land side in 1706 had failed, but now there was something new in Peter’s favor. His growing Baltic fleet, consisting of frigates and numerous galleys, the latter craft propelled by a combination of sails and oars and ideally suited for maneuvering in the rocky waters of the Finnish coast, was available both to transport men and supplies and to keep Swedish naval squadrons at bay. As soon as the Neva was clear of ice, in April, Russian ships sailed from Kronstadt with Vice Admiral Cruys in command and Peter, in his new rank as rear admiral, as Cruys’ deputy. The ships made their way through the ice floes in the Gulf of Finland and arrived off Vyborg to find Apraxin’s besieging army cold and hungry. The fleet brought provisions and reinforcements, raising Apraxin’s strength to 23,000. Peter, after studying the siege plans and instructing Apraxin to take the town no matter what the cost, returned to St. Petersburg in a small vessel, narrowly escaping capture by a Swedish warship.

Cruys performed well in Russia and came be regarded as the architect of the Russian Navy. After his return to Russia the Tsar put his Azov Flotilla under the command of Admiral Fyodor Alexeyevich Golovin, a Russian nobleman who was the successor of the Swiss Franz Lefort. Golovin was assisted by Vice-Admiral Cruys and Rear-Admiral Jan van Rees. Cruys became the first “Russian” mayor of Taganrog from 1698 to 1702.

In 1711, he made the first maps of Azov Sea and Don River. He was commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet from 1705, and masterminded the construction of Kronstadt fortress, which was essential in the Great Northern War against Sweden and many years later against the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Cruys worked for the tsar for more than 25 years and reached the highest Russian naval rank of admiral in 1721. He died at Saint Petersburg in 1727.