Navarino, 1827 Part I

A European coalition united by the cause of Greek liberty defeats the Turkish navy to create an independent Greek state and further weaken the grip of the Ottoman Empire in Europe

Early on a bright Saturday morning in October 1827, a combined fleet of British, French and Russian warships was slowly manoeuvring into line a few miles out from the entrance to Navarino Bay in the western Peloponnese. In the van were the British ships under Admiral Codrington, who, as the senior ranking officer, it had been agreed should assume overall command. Some 5 miles to the rear were the French and Russians. Bottled up inside the bay, a large Ottoman fleet made up of Egyptian, Turkish and Tunisian vessels lay at anchor. What was to happen next hung delicately in the balance and to a large extent would be determined by events out of the immediate control of the supreme commanders.

Although officially the fleets were not at war, the ships of the western allies were intent on entering the bay at the ready. Charles McPherson, a sailor aboard the British frigate Genoa recalled that the ‘tubs were filled with shot and everything else prepared’. The men were at battle stations, and at six bells in the forenoon watch (11.00) they mustered into position encouraged by their officers; Lieutenant Broke with the words:

Now, my men, you see we are going into the harbour today. I know you’ll be right glad of it; at least, I suppose you would be as much against cruising off here all winter as I am. So, I say, let’s in today, and fight it out like British seamen, and if we fall, why there’s an end to our cruise. I hope, when the guns are to man, you’ll all be at your stations.

Many of the men had been up most of the night, so if they could they took the opportunity to grab some sleep between the guns as the ships advanced towards an unknown outcome.

If the two fleets were not at war, the question was, why were they so primed for action, for the Ottomans, led by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, too were at the ready. The European allies, as was to become more common practice in recent times, were acting as mediators in a bloody conflict between Greek revolutionaries or freedom fighters and their Turkish over-lords. The Greeks had raised their banner of liberty on 25 March 1821 in a bid to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire, and with their supporters had swiftly taken control of much of the Peloponnese. In the following euphoria a revolutionary government was installed in Nafplion, but its continuing survival was heavily dependent on aid and money from abroad. If the mood of the people throughout Europe and America might be moving in favour of ideas of national liberation encouraged by the French Revolution, their governments were more cautious, and the nascent Greek government had to put all its diplomatic efforts into achieving official international recognition as the revolt dragged on. In a mismatch of resources with the Turks, the Greeks had one advantage, their skill as sailors. The rebels’ initial success had been largely due to their makeshift navy, whose efforts had prevented the Turks from reinforcing their troops from the sea. Initially caught on the back-foot and bottled up in their few remaining strongholds, when the Turks finally reacted, they did so in strength and with ruthless ferocity. To quell the revolt, in 1822 Sultan Mahmud II turned to his semi-autonomous Egyptian vassal, Mehmed (Muhammad) Ali Pasha. Mehmed Ali and his son Ibrahim had spent the years since Napoleon’s invasion reforming and modernizing Egypt with the help of European expertise, and as a result he possessed a modern, disciplined army and navy, trained in the main by French officers. Mehmed and Ibrahim were also ambitious and the Sultan was wary of their growing power. As an inducement for them to commit to helping the Ottoman cause, the Sultan offered the Pashliks of Crete to Mehmed and the Morea (the Peloponnese) to Ibrahim if they would re-conquer the Empire’s lost territories.

Crete had never been totally lost to the Turks but it still took two years for Mehmed’s Egyptian troops to finally bring the island to heel. With Crete subdued, the Sultan’s plan was to use it as a stepping-stone to bring the Greek islands back under control and to invade the Peloponnese. In the meantime, an army coming overland from the north would have the Greeks squeezed within a pincer movement. The Sultan’s plans were delayed when the Greek navy managed to thwart the Turks’ attempts to take the important islands of Samos, Spetses and Hydra, stalling their invasion of the Peloponnese and forcing the Turkish fleet to withdraw to Bodrum, where they waited to be joined by an Egyptian fleet out from Alexandria. Ibrahim had decided to concentrate his efforts on the Peloponnese and a vast armada of 400 ships, including 54 warships and transports carrying 14,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 500 artillerymen plus their 150 cannon, the largest seen in the eastern Mediterranean since Napoleon’s invasion, set off for its rendezvous.

The planned invasion got no further when a Greek fleet of up to 75 ships engaged 100 of the Ottoman fighting ships in open water off Cape Gerondas close to the island of Leros. Using their favourite weapon, the fireship, the Greeks managed to destroy six enemy warships, but at considerable cost. Nevertheless, the Turks were obliged to delay again and winter in Crete until, in February 1825 on French advice Ibrahim decided it would be to his advantage not to wait for the calms of summer that suited the lighter Greek ships but to launch his invasion now.

On the 23rd and 24th Ibrahim landed the advance party of his army at the Turkish-held former Venetian stronghold of Modon (Methoni). Having taken his opponents by surprise he was soon making good the Turkish losses, aided in part by civil war and dissention between the Greek factions. He set about ravishing the countryside, securing Turkish positions and besieging Greek strongholds. The harbour and forts at Navarino were taken in early 1825 and followed by Argos within striking distance of Nafplion. In the meantime, the Turkish army under Reshid Pasha had advanced on Missolonghi, where the poet Lord Byron had died (1824), from the north. After a prolonged siege the town eventually fell in 1826 after it was starved into submission with Ibrahim’s aid. Next June Reshid was in Athens, the last major stronghold in central Greece. After six years of brutal warfare the Greek revolt was floundering.

While many Philhellenes across Europe and America had been galvanised by Byron’s death and the devastation of the Morea to continue the fight for Greek liberty, their governments were still sitting on the fence, wary of their rivals and the consequences of intervention on the international balance of power and the established order. Without official foreign backing, the revolt looked doomed. However, reports that Ibrahim intended to make the Peloponnese into a wasteland and then people it with immigrants from Egypt, coupled with the courage of the beleaguered fighters, played into the Philhellenes’ hands and enough public support was mobilized to finally persuade the British, French and Russian governments to act. The Russians were already committed to helping their Christian Orthodox brethren, and perhaps gain a little territory at Turkish expense for themselves, and with the sympathetic George Canning replacing Castlereagh as Britain’s Foreign Secretary the policy of non-intervention brokered by Prince Metternich, his Austrian counterpart, at the conclusion of the Napoleonic War began to unravel. To pre-empt Russian unilateral action, in July 1827, Canning, now Prime Minister, persuaded France and Russia to sign the Treaty of London whereby the three powers agreed to induce an armistice between the belligerents and start peace negotiations. The terms of the Treaty urged the Sultan to recognize the independence of Greece while remaining its supreme ruler. The Porte, the Ottoman government in Constantinople, was understandably unwilling to make such concessions from a winning position, while the hard-pressed Greek provisional government at Nafplion was happier to accept the terms.

As the diplomatic posturing got underway, the Greek government were quite willing to talk, but this did not put an end to the fighting, which continued, in part encouraged by Western volunteers leading groups of irregulars. Particularly responsible were Sir Richard Church and Lord Thomas Cochrane, an army and a naval commander, who had so wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the Greek cause that although they were theoretically acting on behalf of the government they were independently waging their own war against the Turks. Their activities led to the Turks protesting that they could not negotiate while hostilities were continuing. Back in Egypt, Mehmed Pasha was tiring of the lack of progress in bringing the war to a conclusion and vacillating in his commitment to the Sultan. Thrust into this volatile situation with the task of keeping the peace and promoting the peace negotiations was the recently-appointed Commander-in-chief of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Codrington. How the Treaty was to be enforced had been left unclear, so in the knowledge that the Turks were reluctant to accept mediation, the British government had issued a clarification to Codrington setting out a specific course of action for him to pursue going forward:

In the event anticipated of the refusal of the Porte to admit the mediation and to consent to an armistice, you will then, in the first place, have to enter on friendly relations with the Greeks, and next to intercept every supply sent by sea of men, arms, destined against Greece and coming either from Turkey or Africa in general.

Further instructions from Canning emphasised that the desire of the Allies was to enforce the armistice without recourse to military intervention, but in the event of all other means being exhausted, Codrington was free to resort to military force. It was with the purpose of maintaining the armistice that Codrington had arrived with a squadron of ships at Navarino in October 1827 in the wake of a large fleet of Ottoman reinforcements.

Codrington was a bluff, highly experienced navy man. He had joined at the age of 14 and gone on to distinguish himself as captain of HMS Orion at the Battle of Trafalgar under Nelson over twenty years previously. Courageous in action, he was conscientious and naturally cautious in his planning, and his devotion to his officers and crew was rewarded with their loyalty. It might be thought that his direct manner, which had brought him into conflict with his superiors when speaking up on behalf of his men, would make him unsuitable for the delicate role of mediator and leader of an uneasy alliance. Even if he was not a natural diplomat, Codrington took his task seriously, scrupulously attempting to maintain an air of impartiality and acting out his peacekeeping orders, as he saw them, in good faith; but his membership of the London Philhellenic Committee reveals where his true sympathies lay. His fellow admirals were not necessarily so restrained in their judgement. Also veterans of the Napoleonic wars, as were many of the lesser ranks on both sides, the admirals were united in their sympathy to the Greek cause. Marie Henri Daniel Gauthier, Comte de Rigny, had fought with courage against the British during the blockades of Cherbourg and Le Havre in 1811, and the commander of the Russian fleet, Count Lodewijk van Heiden, was a Dutchman who had offered his services to the Tsar’s navy during the complicated period of shifting alliances that pitted him against the French and then with the French against the British. With the recent history of the allies so fresh in the minds of many of the participants, it was only to be expected that Codrington had misgivings about how collaboration between such recent enemies might be effected. Even Ibrahim Pasha had fought during the recent wars, taking on the British in Alexandria in 1807 and forcing them to retreat out of Egypt.

Unlike Codrington, who had not served in the Mediterranean for over forty years and had only just over six months to get acquainted with the region, de Rigny had been sailing these waters for the last five years and was experienced in local sensibilities and on good terms with the Egyptians. With a tactful, easy-going nature, he was prepared to take things as they came, even by force if necessary. The two commanders were initially wary of one another and with the overall command of the fleet falling to Codrington there was naturally some unease on the part of de Rigny at first. They had first met in Smyrna at the beginning of August after Codrington had completed a familiarisation tour starting out from the British base at Malta that took in Nafplion, where he was required to restore some order between rival political factions. It was there that he had learned of the Treaty of London and he travelled on to Smyrna to receive instructions from Stratford Canning, cousin of George and the British Ambassador in Constantinople. Although Codrington and de Rigny both wanted to alleviate Greek suffering, they also found common cause in the need to stamp out indiscriminate piracy, something the Greek sailors were engaged in to supplement their meagre livelihoods. Because the Treaty had been drawn up by politicians far from the events unfolding on the ground, it was vague enough to offer some differences of interpretation, but both were of the view it would eventually lead to Greek independence. Austria’s non-signatory of the Treaty left possible areas of disagreement as to how to deal with its neutrality, especially as in reality the Austrian captains tended to interpret the terms of their neutrality in favour of the Turks.

It was as the British and French admirals were getting acquainted in Smyrna that they received the news that Mehmed Ali Pasha had had another change of heart and a large Turco-Egyptian fleet of around a hundred ships had left Alexandria on 5 August to support to Ibrahim’s campaign in the Peloponnese. Under the command of Ibrahim’s brother-in-law Moharrem Bey, the Egyptian fleet of three frigates, nine corvettes, four brigs and six sloops had been supplemented by an Imperial squadron from Constantinople under Tahir Pasha comprising of two ships-of-the-line, five frigates and nine corvettes, and a Tunisian squadron of three frigates, a brig, six fireships and forty transports manned in all by 30,000 sailors, carrying 3,500 guns and over 4,500 men including 600 Albanian irregulars. Five of the warships had been built in France, and assisting the Turks were six former French naval officers under the leadership of Captain Jean-Marie Letellier, all of whom had served under Napoleon. In Mehmed’s words to his son, ‘It is not the sort of fleet you have seen hitherto. It is now a brilliant fleet in the modern style, and such as has never been seen before in the Muslim world.’ Ibrahim would assume overall command of the fleet as well as the land army when it arrived in the Peloponnese and it would be with Ibrahim that the allied commanders would have to deal.

Prime Minister Canning had warned Mehmed Pasha not to get further involved in the conflict on the side of Turkey as it might provoke a ‘hostile collision’ despite the best endeavours to avoid it. Disregarding Canning’s attempted intervention, the fleet arrived at Navarino Bay on 7 September. The bay offered a deep natural harbour just over 3 miles (5km) long by nearly 2 miles (3km) wide, protected along its length from the open sea by the small thin island of Sphakteria, leaving access to the bay by two narrow channels to the north and the south. The shallow northern channel is narrowed further by the presence of a sandbank that prohibits the passage of larger vessels. The southern wider channel, flanked by rocks, is just over half a mile (1,000m) wide, leaving enough room to pass through safely. Within the enclosed area of the bay, slightly to the north of the centre, lies the tiny island of Chelonisi. The town, which sits by a promontory at the southern end, is known by its ancient name of Pylos today and is mainly remembered as the home of the legendary wise King Nestor who supplied ships in support of the Greek cause in the Trojan War. A fort built in 425BC by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War on the northern promontory became the site of a castle after the Frankish conquest in the 13th century, and the settlement became known as Navarin in French or Navarino in Italian. The fortress and harbour then changed hands several times, having been fought over by the Venetians and Genoese, been held by the Spanish Navarrese Company and again by Venice before falling into the hands of the Turks in 1501 who used it as a base for piracy and their naval operations in the Ionian and Adriatic seas. In the aftermath of the Battle of Lepanto, Turkish naval vessels were scuttled near the northern entrance making access hazardous, so in 1572 the Turks replaced the Frankish castle, now known as the Old Castle (Palaiokastro), with a new fortress (Neokastro) to guard the wider southern entrance. Navarino continued to be a desired possession and during the Morean War of 1685 Neokastro fell to the Venetians before coming back under Ottoman rule when the Turks retook the Peloponnese in 1715. Navarino was then made the centre of a new Sanjak of the Morea and resumed its role as a base for the Ottoman navy. During the early success of their uprising, the Greeks took Neokastro, slaughtering the garrison before the Turks were able to react and attempts to send reinforcements were kept at bay by the Greek navy. Navarino fell back into Turkish hands in 1825 only when Ibrahim launched his brutal counter-offensive.

At first, the departure of the Turco-Egyptian fleet from Alexandria drew a different response from the two allied admirals. At this stage, as neither of their squadrons was as yet at full strength and the Russians were still on their way from the Baltic to join the allies, they were heavily out-numbered. As soon as Codrington learned that the ships had arrived at Navarino where Ibrahim was camped, he left Nafplion and four days later he had positioned his squadron outside the Bay with the intent of bottling up the Ottoman fleet where it could do no harm. In contrast de Rigny, reading Ibrahim’s intended strategy correctly, had decided to cruise off Kythera in the hope that the Turks would break out from Navarino and make for Hydra in an attempt to knock out the Greek navy’s main base, and he could then engage them at sea. In reality, neither the French nor British, with only 28 fighting ships between them, were really in a position to push for an encounter. Furthermore, the diplomatic message from home was to continue to encourage negotiation, even though the deployment of the Ottoman fleet in the Peloponnese was seen as an infringement of the terms of the Treaty that the powers had laid out.

Contact having been made between Codrington and Ibrahim, the niceties of diplomacy through intermediaries began to prove difficult for men more used to action rather than talking. Codrington’s negotiating position was made more difficult by his awareness of the continued activities of Cochrane and Church. This meant he had to try to keep them on a leash while at the same time holding Ibrahim back from any retaliation. Ibrahim protested, again with some justification, that he was being asked to uphold a ceasefire and engage in talks as the Greeks carried on operations regardless. Indeed, at that very moment Church was eyeing up Patras and Cochrane planning a revolt behind Turkish lines in Epirus, beyond the agreed combat zone. If Ibrahim was to pull back, the Turks wanted guarantees, but as things stood they felt they were free to interpret matters in their own interest. So, on 21 September, while the talks continued and despite the warnings against any hostile action, a part of the Turco-Egyptian fleet slipped out of Navarino, apparently making for Hydra as de Rigny had anticipated. Codrington was now forced in the circumstances to prepare for a possible battle even though he was heavily outnumbered. Luckily for the British, it was then that de Rigny and the French squadron made a timely appearance at Navarino, putting a halt to the Turks’ plans. The more aggressive de Rigny added his own warnings to the Turks with the result that Ibrahim now felt it prudent to invite Codrington and de Rigny for a face-to-face meeting on 25 September.

The face-to-face conference took place in Ibrahim’s tent outside the town walls from where, seated on his sofa, he had a fine view of the bay. The meeting was carried out within an atmosphere of the utmost politeness and protocol. Important matters were only to be discussed after coffee and the smoking of a chibouque, a Turkish tobacco pipe with a ten-foot long stem. When it was time to get down to business, Codrington and de Rigny frankly pointed out to Ibrahim that under the terms of the Treaty it was their duty to intercept any reinforcements being sent to him for use against Greece. In return, Ibrahim politely pointed out that he was a soldier and under orders from the Sultan to attack Hydra. The admirals acknowledged his own sense of duty but warned him that if he put to sea they would be forced to act, and it would be an ‘act of madness that the Sultan could not applaud’ for him to engage with them as the destruction of his fleet would surely follow. They added that although his obstinacy would offer them the opportunity as military men to distinguish themselves, their priority was the maintenance of good relations between their respective countries. Ibrahim in response declared that as his government had not foreseen such a situation of confrontation between the two fleets, he promised he would suspend operations until he received further instruction from Constantinople. The admirals on their part said that the Greeks had accepted the mediation of the Allies and Codrington would put a stop to the activities of Church and Cochrane.

On 13 October, the Russians finally arrived to rendezvous with the British south of Zakynthos, followed closely by the French, bringing the three squadrons together for the first time. Codrington met Heiden and de Rigny aboard his flagship the Asia, but not together. Insisting that he needed to head for Zakynthos for provisions, de Rigny excused himself before the Russian admiral came on board. The Allies were by no means fully ready for action and their combined force was still outnumbered by the Turco-Egyptian fleet. Although Heiden’s complement was complete, comprising his flagship, the Azov, three other ships-of-the-line (Gangout, Ezekiel and Alexander Nevsky) and four frigates (Constantine, Povernoy, Elena and Castor), the British lacked two ships-of-the-line, the Genoa and Albion, both undergoing repairs at Malta, while Captain Hamilton in the frigate Cambrian had been sent off to track Ibrahim’s progress to Kalamata and ensure the safety of the Greek population. There were only four French ships present, two ships-of-the-line, Trident and Breslau, and two frigates, Sirène and Amide.

Codrington informed his fellow commanders of his latest orders and intelligence from Constantinople and the three were in general agreement that pressure should be put on the squadrons of Ibrahim’s fleet to return to their respective home ports. De Rigny acknowledged this might entail the Allies’ entering Navarino bay, so he would be obliged to abandon his surveillance of Hydra. He returned the next day from Zakynthos just as the third French ship-of-the-line, Scipion, joined the fleet from Kythera having been refitted with a new mast. Once the Allies had taken up position outside Navarino, de Rigny made contact with the renagadoes, the French naval officers employed by Ibrahim to help in the preparation of his defensive line. Through them de Rigny may have been able to gain inside knowledge as to the Turks’ activities and then it only remained to persuade them not to fight their fellow countrymen. With their work done all left Navarino on 17 October aboard an Austrian ship, except for Letellier, who was sick.

Codrington met Heiden aboard his flagship on 16 October, where he was made aware of Heiden’s opinion that the Tsar had probably already declared war. Heiden and Codrington got on well, but for his part Codrington continued to stick by his orders, insisting that war was not inevitable. Even so his patience was running out. His squadron was nearing battle ready, with every man at his post, and the talk amongst the ratings was, as Charles McPherson of the Genoa put it, of ‘the impending conflict’. On 18 October the three admirals met aboard Codrington’s flagship Asia. The Allies were faced with a dilemma, and it was forcing their hand. They could continue the blockade through the winter – this would be difficult, expensive and ineffective in curtailing Ibrahim’s activities on land – they could move into the bay in the hope that their mere presence would impede the enemy fleet and bring about a change of heart on his part, something they thought unlikely, or they could enter the Bay to actively impress on Ibrahim that he must obey the treaty.

The admirals unanimously chose the latter course. For Codrington it was the only option that could bring a halt to Ibrahim’s ‘brutal war of extermination’ and end the suffering of the Greek population. Both de Rigny and Heiden were of the opinion this would inevitably lead to bloodshed, but Codrington still misread the Turkish mind. He assumed Ibrahim would see the futility of the situation and relent, not understanding the overriding Ottoman sense of honour and fatalism. To safeguard themselves from criticism the three drew up a protocol outlining their reasons for taking independent action in view of the vague nature of their instructions.

The next day the Genoa and Albion arrived from Malta accompanied by the brig Mosquito bringing the fleet nearly up to full strength. In the meantime, Captain Hamilton had reported in person that Ibrahim’s troops were carrying out a brutal scorched earth policy that was reducing the population of Messenia to starvation. Codrington sent Hamilton back to Kalamata, accompanied by the sloop Philomel and the Russian frigate Constantine to add weight. Hamilton’s mission was to contact the Greeks and make whatever effort to protect them from the ‘barbarities’ of Ibrahim’s army, and to push the Ottomans back within the confines of Navarino. At the same time, he sent a letter signed by the three admirals to Ibrahim, who he assumed was in Navarino, via Colonel Craddock aboard the cruiser Dartmouth. The letter accused Ibrahim once again of violating the armistice, something that Ibrahim would defiantly have rejected if he had seen it, but he was actually at Modon preparing to lead his army in person. It was now too late to deter Ibrahim and the various ships returned to the fleet. Whatever Ibrahim’s misgivings about taking on the Allied fleet, the mood in Constantinople was not conciliatory and instructions had been sent to him the same day to continue with the plan to attack Hydra regardless of the consequences. Events were rapidly moving towards an inevitable showdown.

By now the die was cast and Admiral Codrington gathered his senior commanders together aboard the Asia to give them their operational orders, orders based on sound intelligence. He was well informed on the size of Ibrahim’s fleet and its disposition, backed up by the topographical survey written by Captain Leake that would be published in his Travels in the Morea in 1830, and the local knowledge of Greek pilots and fishermen. In addition, as a keen historian, his reading included Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War and the description of the encounter that took place at Navarino during which a combined Athenian naval and military force overcame the Spartans encamped on Sphakteria island. Thucydides gave a detailed topographical description and the problems the Athenians encountered with the weather. Captain Leake too reported that the exposed area outside the southern entrance was problematic to maintaining a position, especially during winter. Codrington noted that the Athenians had sailed around the island through the passage by ancient Pylos, an option no longer practical due to the increased size of the ships. There was a similarity with the present situation, as the Turks had a gun battery guarding the bay on the island. The Spartan fleet was also drawn up in the confined space of the bay blocking both entrances, and it was here that the Athenians took them on, after failing to entice them into open waters.

Navarino, 1827 Part II

The Naval Battle of Navarino, Ambroise Louis Garneray

Unlike the Spartans, the Ottomans only had to guard the southern entrance. Almost daily reconnaissance reports meant that Codrington was aware that their fleet numbered just over a hundred ships, forty of which were non-combatant. Letellier had positioned the warships at anchor in order of battle; a horseshoe facing the entrance to the bay with the island of Sphakteria on the right, the tiny island of Chelonisi behind the centre of the crescent and Neokastro at the left. It had taken over three days for the French naval advisors to get the fleet into position and as they were no longer present, matters were left in the less experienced hands of the Ottoman captains. To break the formation would be difficult, and with Ibrahim away the responsibility of taking decisive action, either to withdraw or to embark on an offensive course, possibly for Hydra, would be beyond the safe remit of the admirals. Their only course was to wait.

The exact number and size of the combined Ottoman warships is a matter of some debate, ranging from sixty-five to an effective strength of around thirty-six. According to the anonymous Précis de la Bataille Navale de Navarin (Paris, 1829) compiled from the recollections of the French officers present, the Turco-Egyptian fleet consisted of three 74-gun ships-of-the-line, twenty frigates, thirty-two corvettes, seven brigs or sloops and five fireships, drawn up in three lines, the ships-of-the-line and the more powerful frigates at the front about two cables apart (about 600ft/183m), with the frigates and corvettes in the second line placed so as they could fire between the gaps, reinforced at the rear by a last line of smaller ships. The horseshoe was protected at the flanks by the fireships, three to the right and two to the left. For further protection, the left flank was overlooked by the fortress of Neokastro, while the right flank was within range of a gun battery on Sphakteria. The secretary to the Kapudan Bey, the Ottoman Vice-Admiral, assessed the size of the Turco-Egyptian force differently: two Turkish 84-gun battleships, one 76-gun ship, fifteen 48-gun frigates, eighteen corvettes, and four brigs, supported by the Egyptians’ four double-banked 64-gun frigates, eight corvettes of between 18 and 24 guns, eight brigs, and five fire-vessels; sixty-five vessels in total under sail.

In the absence of Ibrahim, the left wing of the horseshoe was under the command of Moharrem Bey in the French-built 60-gun frigate, Guerrière, renamed Murchid-i-Djihad (Warrior). Heading the line to the fore of Guerrière were the frigates, Hassan Bey’s 64-gun Ibsana (Ihsanya), followed by the 56-gun Souria and two 44-gunners. Behind Guerrière to the north came the two battleships, the 84-gun Ghiuh Rewan, flagship of the Imperial Admiral Tahir Pasha, and the 74-gun Fahti Bahri, which was said to be in poor condition and not well manned, but surprisingly this was the ship chosen to carry the flag of the Kapudan Bey. These were followed by the 64-gun double-decked frigate Leone (Lion), another 74-gunner Burj Zafer, and another double-decked frigate.

Heading the weaker right wing sheltering in the lee of Sphakteria were two 56-gun frigates, one of which was referred to in Western sources as the powerful Beautiful Sultana, followed by two Tunisian frigates, two 56-gun Turkish frigates and a smaller Tunisian frigate. Then came another Turkish frigate, commonly reported to be carrying the flag of Tahir Bey, but as the naval historian Roger Anderson argued it is more likely that Tahir was aboard the battleship Ghiuh Rewan, as he was able to see Codrigton during the encounter that was to follow. It is probable that the flag was mistaken for that of the Padrona Bey, the Vice-Admiral of the squadron. Two more Turkish 54-gun frigates completed the array. In the centre of the crescent sheltering behind Chelonisi were a number of brigs and sloops guarding thirty armed transport vessels.

The weather during the night of 19 October was poor, so any decisive activity by the Allies was on hold until conditions improved, but by morning the clouds had dispersed and Saturday 20 October dawned fine with a light breeze. By 4.00am the crews were already employed in last minute feverish preparation as the squadrons manoeuvred into formation. The British ships were in the vanguard near the bay’s entrance, waiting for the French and Russians to make up ground to join them. The operation took some time. It was 11.35 when the fleet was brought up to number with the addition of some latecomers, the brig Mastiff, the cutter Hind and the frigate Glasgow, which had been sent to hasten the return of the Cambrian and the Constantine from Kalamata. The allied squadrons were made up of twelve British ships (total 456 guns), eight Russian (490 guns) and seven French (352 guns). The British squadron included Codrington’s 84-gun flagship Asia, launched in 1824 and captained by another Napoleonic War veteran Edward Curzon, the 76-gun Genoa (which had been captured from the French) under Walter Bathurst, and the 74-gun Albion under John Acworth Omnanney, supported by the frigates Glasgow, Cambrian (launched in 1797), Dartmouth and the more modern small 28-gun Talbot. In addition, there were the sloops Rose, Mosquito, Brisk and Philomel, with between eighteen and ten guns each, and the Hind. The French were led by Admiral de Rigny’s 60-gun Sirène, the most modern of their ships commissioned in 1823, followed by the 74-gun Scipion, Trident and Breslau, which had all seen action in the Napoleonic Wars, supported by the 44-gun frigate Armide and the schooners Alcyon and Daphné. In the rear came the Russian squadron, which though fewer in number than the British possessed newer ships with more firepower, that included the one year-old 74-gun flagship Asov under Rear-Admiral Heiden, supported by the still-new 74-gun Gangout, Ezekiel and Alexander Nevsky, plus the frigates Constantine, Povernoy, Elena and Castor. With twenty-seven ships in all, whatever the reckoning, the Allies were considerably outnumbered by the Ottoman ships, but what was to their advantage was the superior seamanship of their crews.

Once the fleet had been mustered, it set its sails and led by the Asia made its way toward the bay’s entrance in two lines, with the French to starboard of the British and closest to the town, followed by the Russians to port abreast but slightly behind. They were embarking on a risky strategy, because, with the wind at their backs, retreat would be difficult. At mid-day the crews took one last dinner together and at 1.30 were ordered to prepare for action. Half an hour later the flagship entered the bay to a greeting blank round fired from one of the forts. The ships were passing within easy range of the Turkish gun-batteries and there was every expectation on the British crews’ part that they could soon be on the receiving end of a heavy barrage. As the men were drummed to quarters and the guns hurriedly manned and primed with double-shot, such fears were put to rest when they noticed that most of the Turks appeared unperturbed. They seemed to be happily watching the ships enter in a relaxed attitude, leaning on their guns or sitting on the battlements smoking their pipes. At the same moment, according to Codrington’s friend and apologist, Sir John Gore, a small boat appeared, dispatched from the Guerrière, with a message from Moharrem Bey requesting that the Allied fleet stop its progress. Codrington replied that he came to give the orders not receive them, and proceeded to take the Asia close up to the Guerrière and the Fahti Bahri and dropped anchor. The Asia was followed by the Genoa and Albion, which took up similar positions in line to the north, each within range of a principal enemy warship to starboard, and the Dartmouth took up its planned position covering the fireships nearest to the shore. They were all at anchor within five minutes of the Asia, by 2.15pm. In the meantime, the Turkish messenger had not returned to Moharrem Bey but had made for the shore, where he conferred with a number of chiefs and ran swiftly to a tent. After a short delay a red flag was raised and another blank fired, a signal for a boat to be sent from the Kapudan Bey south to the next in line, the Guerrière, and on to the fireship next to the Dartmouth. Charles McPherson on the Genoa saw events slightly differently. The messenger, an officer, came from the fortress shore, not from Moharrem Bey, and after barely two minutes’ parley aboard the Asia returned to shore, threw down his turban and ran to the fortress gate where he was met and immediately the red flag was waved and a gun fired. The British gunners straight away made ready and awaited the order to fire.

Codrington always insisted that his intentions were not hostile; he had even mustered a marine band on the poop deck of the Asia. In his communication to the Admiralty written the next day he stated:

I gave orders that no guns should be fired unless guns were first fired by the Turks; and those orders were strictly observed. The three English ships were accordingly permitted to pass the batteries and to moor, as they did with great rapidity, without any act of open hostility, although there was evident preparation for it in all the Turkish ships . . .

As he said afterwards, if he had intended to take on the enemy he would not have sailed into the centre of the horseshoe but have gone around to take them from behind. He had made the assumption from previous experience that a show of force would be enough. In addition, the fleet had not fully entered into the bay – the Russians in fact were still outside – when a disastrous event took place that would precipitate the battle. Who was to blame for the spark that caused the bloody encounter that followed became a matter of grave diplomatic concern. Although many logs were kept at the time, much of the evidence relied on reports written after the event. According to Captain Fellows aboard the Dartmouth, whose report was written nearly two months later, he had just taken up position between the fireship and the first frigate when a messenger, presumably the one dispatched from the Kapudan Bey, boarded and apparently began to prepare to set the fireship alight. In response to what he perceived as an immediate threat to the fleet, Captain Fellows sent First Lieutenant Smyth in the Dartmouth’s pinnace (a small rowing boat with a sail) to instruct the Turks to desist and leave the boat or move further away towards the shore, promising if they did so no harm would come to them.

As the pinnace made off Fellows called out to Lieutenant Smyth that ‘no act of hostility’ should be attempted by them ‘on any account’. Despite Smyth’s attempts to indicate that their intentions were peaceful, as the pinnace came alongside the fireship the coxswain was killed by a musket shot. Smyth repeated that they intended no harm, but more shots rang out, killing or wounding other members of the crew, and it could be seen that the fires were already being lit. Captain Fellows then dispatched Lieutenant Fitzroy in the cutter to tow the pinnace to safety. The cutter itself came under heavy musket fire from a boat carrying the Turks from the burning ship, and Fitzroy was killed. In response, Fellows ordered the marines to lay down covering fire for the retreating vessels.

It was now 2.25 and events were escalating rapidly. An Egyptian corvette, inshore, fired two shots, one of which passed over the Dartmouth. The other hit Admiral de Rigny’s Sirène just as it was in the act of laying anchor nearby, at the eastern point of the Ottoman horseshoe. This was perhaps the decisive act; for now, even if it was not the intention of the Turkish or Egyptian commanders to precipitate some form of aggressive action (in fact Tahir Pasha’s orders for the day said that he would ‘never raise the signal for combat, but . . . in case of attack each ship should defend itself individually’) there was no turning back from all-out conflict. In turn Codrington felt that if the Ottomans had intended to take on the allies, they would have waited until all the ships were at anchor, engaged in lengthy discussion throughout the day, and then attack at night with fireships. The way events unfolded instead bore all the hallmarks of an accident or misjudgement, and one with dire consequences. As a result, the battle unfolded with no plan or strategy as a chain reaction, individual ships taking on one another as an act of self-preservation or to aid their comrades. Any sense of how the engagement unfolded had to be reconstructed by the protagonists afterwards.

First, the Dartmouth returned the enemy fire, but initially de Rigny held back from fear of hitting his British ally. Opposite de Rigny was the Egyptian frigate Ibsania. Taking a speaking trumpet, de Rigny hailed the Egyptian saying that if she did not fire he would not, but to no avail. The Ibsania replied immediately by firing on both the Dartmouth and the Sirène. De Rigny now had no choice but to engage, upon which the shore batteries opened up on the Trident, the third of the French ships just entering the harbour. A general mêlée ensued on all sides with the Sirène the main target. The Scipion, the second French ship, had become vulnerable having reduced sail too quickly, and was also soon under fire from the shore as well as from Egyptian frigates on both sides, added to which a fireship quickly attached itself to its bow. As the flames from the fireship, urged on by a strong breeze, spread towards the gun batteries, sailors scorched themselves plunging into the flames in a frantic effort to put them out, or were wounded as the powder kegs went up. To avert disaster, Captain Milius took the drastic action of letting out the anchor-chain holding the ship, and setting the main-sail and top-sail to turn before the wind in an attempt to divert the flames from reaching the forward powder magazine.

The blazing Scipion was impeding the passage of the Trident and Breslau, and although Milius praised the immense bravery of the crew, their salvation came at the hands of a small boat sent out from the Trident that managed to tow the fireship away just as he was attempting his manoeuvre. The small boat, not large enough in itself to complete the task, was aided by the Dartmouth, the Rose and the Philomel, who attached tow-ropes to bring the fireship clear, after which it was destroyed by the French schooners Aleyone and Daphné. That it took so much effort to take care of one fireship was a mark of how dangerous a weapon it could be.

Once it was clear, the Scipion and the Trident made to lend their support to the Sirène, still bludgeoning it out with the Ibsania. After an hour and a half of punishment from the combined French guns the Ibsania, by now a total wreck, exploded into flames, leaving the French to turn their attention to the fort.

Towards the centre of the eastern wing, the Kapudan Bey aboard the Fahti Bahri took the exchange of fire between the Turks and the Dartmouth as his immediate cue to open fire on the Asia, a response not matched by the Guerrière. In fact, despite the battle having begun, Moharrem Bey sent an officer with a message to Codrington saying that he would hold fire and, in reply, Codrington assured him that he would not open fire first. This left the Asia free to divert all his attention onto the Fahti Bahri, which it had little difficulty in destroying. The lack of unanimity of purpose on the part of the Ottoman commanders was something that would cost the Turco-Egyptian fleet dear. After around three-quarters of an hour, Codrington felt obliged to make sure of the Egyptian commander’s continued neutrality. He sent an officer under a flag of truce with a young Greek interpreter, Petros Mikelis, known as Peter Mitchell to his British shipmates, to board the Guerrière. Unfortunately for Mikelis, an enemy officer looking out from a porthole for some reason, who may have recognised him, shot him dead. Codrington’s report leaves the motive in doubt. As he put it, the deed was done ‘with or without his [Moharrem’s] orders, I know not’. Although there were other Greeks employed by the allies, like Petros Mikelis particularly as pilots, he achieved the honour of being the only named Greek who died in the decisive battle for Greek liberty. There were Greeks serving on the Ottoman side too, but these were manacled hand and foot, their nameless bodies washed ashore in the days after the battle. The foolhardy shooting of Mikelis had the unfortunate repercussion of precipitating a general outburst of gunfire that brought the Guerrière into the battle. Codrington, who had until then been wary that with the ships in such close proximity the allies might be in danger of harming one another, saw any further attempt to broker a ceasefire as futile.

To the fore of the Asia, the Genoa had drawn up alongside the Ghiuh Rewan, where Captain Bathurst had followed Codrington’s command to only open fire when fired upon: but to no avail, for now his ship was under a heavy barrage from the Turkish flagship, another ship-of-the-line, and a 60-gun frigate. From the Ghiuh Rewan, the tall Codrington was clearly visible in his Admiral’s uniform, and Tahir Pasha ordered his snipers to target him. They were successful, and he was wounded several times, but they failed to remove him from his position on deck. His son Henry, who was serving with him as a Midshipman, was severely wounded in the leg by a fragment of iron railing and a musket ball; he only just avoided having it amputated. The Asia and the Genoa were outnumbered, and the Genoa in particular took a pounding. It suffered more fatalities than any other allied ship (26), including Captain Bathurst.

Despite their problems, when a fireship approached the Asia’s stern members of the Genoa’s crew manned one of the ship’s boats and dragged it out of the way, and then on their way back they still found time to pick up enemy sailors clinging to the wreckage of their destroyed ships. The men may have shown outstanding bravery, but Codrington was not happy with the conduct of Captain Bathurst or his replacement Captain Dickinson after Bathurst was killed. He complained that the Genoa had been incorrectly anchored, meaning that it presented its broadside guns to its own ships rather than to the enemy, which it could only fire upon successfully from the stern. Codrington’s accusations of misconduct against Captain Dickinson were quashed in a court-marshal two years later.

Of the British ships, the Albion had penetrated furthest into the bay, where it was attacked by a Turkish frigate, which it swiftly dealt with, only to be confronted by the three ships-of-the-line. Luckily for the Albion, the Breslau was near at hand. On his own initiative, Captain de la Bretonnière had taken the Breslau, the fourth French ship, into the centre of the enemy horseshoe, beyond the hard-pressed British ships, to fill the gap between the Albion and the newly arrived Russian flagship, the Azov, which was still manoeuvring into position. Bretonnière’s move was recognized by both his allies as decisive and courageous. The Breslau went on to help destroy the Ghiuh Rewan, three other frigates, and a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, an action acknowledged as playing a vital role in saving the Asov and the Albion from destruction. Together they completely destroyed the three battleships before the Breslau turned its attention to helping the arriving Russian squadron.

The Russians carried out their orders to the letter, taking up their positions with exemplary skill while under fire from the shore battery on Sphakteria and the ships on the Ottoman right flank. The Asov, Heiden’s flagship, was at the apex of the horseshoe near the Breslau and opposite the Tunisian squadron, who at first were reluctant to engage in the fighting. When battle did commence, the Asov found itself taking on five opposing battleships, and as a result suffered more casualties than any other allied ship; twenty-four dead and sixty-seven wounded. With the Breslau on hand to even up the odds, Heiden saw an opportunity to assist the Asia by transferring some of his guns to fire on the Guerrière, with the result that the Guerrière became a blazing wreck under the combined fire of the Russian and British ships. It had only taken twenty minutes for the Egyptian flag-ship to be driven ashore in flames, where Moharrem Bey managed to escape unharmed, before it exploded. As the larger enemy ships were put out of action, the allies became painfully aware of the skilful formation designed by Letellier when the smaller ships of the second line were able to open-up through the gaps in the front line, causing great damage, especially to the flagships of the allied admirals.

The Asov continued to take the fight to the enemy, dismasting a 60-gun ship, which then ran aground and blew up, and sinking two large frigates and a corvette. It was involved with the burning of the double-decked frigate said to be flying the flag of Tahir Pasha: the loss of life was severe, with 500 of its 600 crew being killed or wounded. On the left flank, to the southwest of the Russian ships, the frigates Cambrian, Glasgow and Talbot and the French frigate Armide had been given the task of dealing with the Ottoman right flank and the Sphakteria shore battery. As the Glasgow and Cambrian were late arrivals, the burden fell on the Talbot and Armide until they were supported by the Russian frigates. The smaller ships, Dartmouth, Rose and Brisk, with the French schooners Daphné and Aleyone on the east flank and Philomel and Mosquito on the west, had been given the job of destroying the fireships. They were so successful in carrying out their instructions that no fireship attack succeeded. Despite its size, the cutter Hind took up position with distinction alongside the Asia, right under the guns of the Guerrière, while in the midst of the mayhem on board the Mosquito a young artist named G.P. Reingle painted and illustrated the battle from first-hand observation.

The battle was over by nightfall, around 6.00pm, and throughout the night the sky was illumined by the explosions of the Turkish ships, some fired deliberately as an act of honour, even if there were men still aboard. It was an Ottoman defeat, but none of their ships struck their colours in surrender. The next day, Tahir Pasha boarded the Asia, where he received a tirade from Codrington accusing Ibrahim of a breach of faith and the advice to desist from hostilities or else the remaining ships and the fort would be destroyed. Afterwards it became clear that Tahir was in no way sympathetic towards the Egyptian Pasha and years later, as governor of Aidin, the district in which Smyrna was then situated, Tahir befriended Codrington’s son and expressed to him his warmest admiration of his father. The battle had been such a one-sided affair that it left the Ottomans totally defeated. The allies lost no ships, although several suffered significant damage, and suffered relatively few casualties: 174 killed and 475 wounded (the British 75 and 197, the French 40 and 141 and the Russians 59 and 137). As at the Battle of the Nile, there were wives aboard the British ships. Charles McPherson tells us that nine petty officers’ wives tended the wounded in the ‘cockpit’ (the area in the aft lower deck where the wounded were taken) of the Genoa. On the other hand, the Turco-Egyptian fleet was decimated; sixty ships destroyed with heavy losses, exacerbated by their poor facilities for treating the wounded, many of whom were chained to their posts. The battle was such a mortal blow to Turkish pride that, during the night or the day after, they fatalistically destroyed even those ships not beyond repair. According to Letellier the only fighting ships left afloat the day after were a dismasted frigate, four corvettes, six brigs and four schooners. Codrington estimated that there were 6,000 killed and 4,000 wounded, many of whom were not Turks or Egyptians but impressed Arabs, Greeks, North Africans, Slavs and even some captured British and American sailors.

The battle was fought while the enemy fleet and the larger part of allied ships were at anchor, leaving little room for manoeuvre. This reduced the contest to a slugging match. Only by hauling on the springs attached to the anchors could a ship adjust its position to get out of the line of fire or bring its guns to bear on the enemy. With the ships so close together, the orders given were for the use of double-shot, when two cannon balls were fired from the same gun; less accurate but more destructive at close range. This was sometimes ignored, as the sailors took to throwing everything at the Turks, including grape-shot and canister, even all piled in together. Heiden alone amongst the allied admirals was able to keep his ships together in a compact group, allowing him more control over his command, and with the frigates staying close to their ships-of-the-line they suffered fewer casualties as a result. Codrington had feared there might be animosity between the Russian and French ships, and it is possible that Codrington kept Heiden and de Rigny, who had only recently met, on opposite wings for that reason. There was talk of Russian ships firing on their own side, but with the difficulties of recognition and communication between foreign navies fighting together amid the general confusion it was inevitable that some shots would go astray. Codrington even blamed the Genoa for carelessly firing on the Asia. In no time the smoke from cannon fire and burning ships had become so thick that, despite the noise of battle, he had to resort to bellowing his orders through a loud hailer because his signals could not be seen. Even at close quarters the opposing ships were barely visible and the gunners on the Asia at one point took aim at the masthead of the Fahti Bahri as the only discernible target. In the event each squadron did its duty, and in addition to their superior skill and experience, displayed complete togetherness in their actions, coming to one another’s aid without hesitation. After the battle, there was agreement between the allied leaders that, unlike the enemy, their men had acted as one, eagerly defending one another against the common enemy. The display of naval virtues and the bravery of the men impressed de Rigny so much that when he wrote to his sister afterwards he wondered at the effect of an ‘English squadron and a French squadron side by side firing on the same target – poor target!’ He further went on to say that the victory was due to the plan agreed between the three commanders being well executed. In truth, Navarino was one of the least planned battles. The British admired the Russians’ precision and discipline, arriving as they did late to the action but to considerable effect, like the Prussian General Blücher at Waterloo. For his part Heiden thought the allied squadrons acted in such harmony that it was as though they came from one nation.

Ibrahim Pasha returned to Navarino on the afternoon of 21 October to witness what was left of his fleet, and the Allies remained for a further four days. He still held most of the Peloponnese but he was cut off from his supply routes, and when 13,000 French veterans landed at Navarino in 1828 Mehmed Ali’s enthusiasm for the venture waned. The victory at Navarino signalled the end of the Turkish re-conquest of Greece. The initial reaction within the government circles of Britain, France and Russia was one of delight and Codrington was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath by the Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Clarence. But as is often the way with politics, the change of administration that followed the death of Canning in August brought in a new Foreign Secretary, Lord Dudley, and a month after the battle Codrington found he had some questions to answer to the politicians back home in regard to his conduct. At first it was felt that he had overstepped the mark, and then that he had done too little. Codrington was forced to answer his critics in a lengthy report; to explain why he had not remained neutral and then when he stated that the retreating Ibrahim had taken Greek women and children to be sold as slaves in Alexandria, he was castigated for not intervening, even though this would have been against his orders and may have precipitated further hostilities. The next summer, the Duke of Wellington, as Prime Minister, relieved him of his command. Codrington entered parliament himself as member for Devonport, using his position to fight for compensation from the Admiralty for the losses incurred by his men at their own expense. The Admiralty argued that as the nation was not at war, such expenses did not count. Codrington eventually won his case in 1834.

By then Greece, or at least a part of it, was free. Although Navarino did not bring about an immediate capitulation by the Turkish government, it was a turning point in the war, bringing European forces into play on the ground. With the Ottomans’ Albanian and Egyptian mercenaries putting up little resistance to the battle hardened French veterans of Napoleon’s army, Mehmed ordered his son to return home, leaving the Greeks and their allies to push the remaining Turks out of the peninsula. Sultan Mahmud’s provocation of war with Russia in retaliation to Navarino only brought the Tsar’s army across the Danube towards Constantinople and Ottoman capitulation. The 1829 Treaty of Adrianople recognized Greek autonomy, followed in 1830 by the Porte’s acceptance of an independent Greek state in the Protocol of London. The Kingdom of Greece was established in 1832. Ibrahim Pasha, for his part, suffered no lasting damage. He succeeded his father in Egypt and took on the Ottomans, as was always their intention, leading his country to independence.

The Poseidon Torpedo

The Poseidon drone is estimated to be between 20-25 meters long and might weigh about 100 tons. Screenshot from Vesti Pomoriye by Covert Shores

In his annual public speech in February this year, Norway’s Chief of the military intelligence, Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde, showed the slide with the Poseidon drone onboard “Akademik Aleksandrov”. Lunde said he feared more accidents involving reactor-powered weapons systems in Russia.

“We should expect development and testing of new, advanced weapons systems in the areas east of Norway. Several of these will have nuclear propulsion systems,” he stressed.

Wether or not this summer’s Arctic voyage included work on the Poseidon drone or affiliated subsea installations is not known to the public. The Northern Fleet’s press service is not allowed to talk directly to foreign journalists.

The Poseidon (“Poseidon”, NATO reporting name Kanyon), previously known by Russian codename Status-6, is an autonomous, nuclear-powered, and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle under development by Rubin Design Bureau, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear payloads.

The Poseidon is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.

The bus-sized Poseidon is designed to destroy coastal targets with a multi-megaton warhead.

    Russia’s giant nuclear-tipped Poseidon torpedo will undergo more tests this year.

    With almost an unlimited range, the Poseidon would speed toward targets on America’s coastline, exploding a 2-megaton warhead next to them.

    The Poseidon will be launched from a class of specialized submarines.

Russia’s intimidating nuclear-powered torpedo is running toward new key tests this year, with a planned deployment for later this decade. The “tsunami apocalypse torpedo,” the first of its kind, is designed to travel across the world’s oceans to deliver a knockout thermonuclear blow against a coastal target or city.

Russian state television accidentally leaked the existence of the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo, originally named Status-6, in 2015. A Russian Ministry of Defense document showed the weapon and described it as achieving:

    “[T]he defeat of the important economic facilities of the enemy in the vicinity of the coast and causing assured unacceptable damage to the country through the establishment of zones of extensive radioactive contamination, unsuitable for implementation in these areas of military, economic, business or other activity for a long time.”

The Truth About Russia’s Apocalypse Torpedo

Initial leaks described the nuclear-powered Poseidon as a giant torpedo—or a large uncrewed submarine, take your pick—that measures 6.5 feet wide and 65 feet long and travels at speed of up to 70 knots. Nuclear power also gives the torpedo plenty of range, and experts believe the Poseidon can travel across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans on its own to deliver its payload. The torpedo’s high speed will make it difficult for U.S. forces to intercept.

Early reports also suggested the Poseidon carried a 100-megaton thermonuclear warhead, which would pack twice the punch of Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. When detonated near an enemy coastline, such a large warhead would inundate a coastal city or enemy port with a radioactive tsunami, contaminating the area and rendering it uninhabitable for decades to come.

Recent estimates, however, have revised Poseidon’s payload down to a (relatively) paltry 2 megatons. That may not trigger a radioactive tsunami, but it’s still powerful enough to do serious damage to a coastal target. Two megatons is the equivalent of 2,000 kilotons, while the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a mere 15 kilotons. (A kiloton is the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.)

Western officials are reportedly concerned about the Poseidon, per CNN, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked his defense minister for an update on the weapon’s recent “key stage” tests. According to Russian state media, the Poseidon will undergo further testing later this year.

Russia is reportedly building 30 Poseidon torpedoes, and will deploy them on four specially fitted submarines. Two submarines will reportedly serve with the Atlantic-facing Northern Fleet, while two others will serve with the Pacific Fleet. Each Belgorod-class submarine will carry six Poseidon torpedoes. Russia could also deploy the torpedoes in special capsules, where they would be activated remotely.

Russia launched the first Belgorod-class sub in 2019, and is preparing to launch another this year. In February, a commercial imaging satellite detected the sub at the port of Severodinsk, with its bow-mounted Poseidon launch tubes wide open.

While critics initially derided the Poseidon as a myth or a bluff, it’s clear now that Russia is deadly serious about putting this apocalyptic weapon into action. But will the country ultimately build 30 torpedoes and the four subs needed to carry them? That’s a good question.


Fri 22 February 2019 By H I Sutton


Hetman of Zaporizhian Host


(c. 1639-1709), Hetman (Cossack military leader) of Left-Bank Ukraine, 1687 to 1708.

Hetman Ivan Mazepa was raised in Poland and educated in the West, returning to Ukraine in 1663 to enter the service of the Polish-sponsored hetman Peter Doroshenko during the turbulent period of Ukrainian history known as the Ruin. In 1674 he transferred his allegiance to the Moscow-appointed hetman Ivan Samoilovich, whom he replaced when the latter fell from favor during Russia’s campaign against the Crimean Tatars in 1687. He owed his promotion partly to the patronage of Prince Vasily Golitsyn.

In the 1680s to 1700s Mazepa remained loyal to Russia. In 1700 he became one of the first recipients of Peter I’s new Order of St. Andrew. But he did not regard himself as permanently bound, as he governed in princely style and conducted a semi-independent foreign policy. In 1704, during the Great Northern War against Sweden, he occupied part of right-bank (Polish) Ukraine with Peter I’s permission. However, Mazepa was under constant pressure at home to defend Cossack rights and to allay fears about Cossack regiments being reorganized on European lines. The final straw seems to have been Peter’s failure to defend Ukraine against a possible attack by the Swedish-sponsored king of Poland, Stanislas Leszczynski. Mazepa clearly believed that his obligations to the tsar were at an end: “We, having voluntarily acquiesced to the authority of his Tsarist Majesty for the sake of the unified Eastern Faith, now, being a free people, wish to withdraw, with expressions of our gratitude for the tsar’s protection and not wishing to raise our hands in the shedding of Christian blood” (Subtelny).

At some point in 1707 or 1708, Mazepa made a secret agreement to help Charles XII of Sweden invade Russia and to establish a Swedish protectorate over Ukraine. In October 1708 he fled to Charles’s side. Alexander Menshikov responded by storming and burning the hetman’s headquarters at Baturin, a drastic action which deprived both Mazepa and the Swedes of men and supplies. Mazepa brought only 3,000 to 4,000 men to aid the Swedes, who were defeated at Poltava in July 1709. Mazepa fled with Charles to Turkey and died there.

Peter I regarded the defection of his “loyal subject” as a personal insult. Mazepa was “a new Judas,” whom he (unjustly) accused of plans to hand over Orthodox monasteries and churches to the Catholics and Uniates. In his absence, Mazepa was excommunicated, and his effigy was stripped of the St. Andrew cross and hanged. He remains a controversial figure in Ukraine, while elsewhere he is best known from romanticized versions of his life in fiction and opera.


The Cossack Hetmanate, which survived under the suzerainty of the Muscovite tsars only on the Left Bank of the Dnieper, served as a construction site for a number of nation-building projects. One of them, closely associated with the name “Ukraine” and a view of the Hetmanate as a distinct Cossack polity and fatherland, became the foundation for the development of modern Ukrainian identity. Another, associated with the official Russian name of the Hetmanate, “Little Russia,” laid the basis for what would later become known as “Little Russianism,” the tradition of treating Ukraine as “Lesser Russia” and the Ukrainians as part of a larger Russian nation.

Both intellectual traditions coexisted in the Hetmanate before the last major Cossack revolt, led by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in 1708. Mazepa’s revolt targeted Muscovy and the official founder of the Russian Empire, Tsar Peter I. It ended in defeat as the Russians overcame the Swedish army, which Charles XII led into Ukraine. The Battle of Poltava in 1709 profoundly changed the fate of the Cossack Hetmanate and Ukraine as a whole. The loss for Charles was a double loss for Mazepa and his vision of Ukraine as an entity separate from Russia. In subsequent years, the Little Russian interpretation of Ukrainian history and culture as closely linked to Russia would become dominant in the official discourse of the Hetmanate. The idea of Ukraine as a separate polity, fatherland, and indeed nation did not disappear entirely but shifted out of the center of Ukrainian discourse for more than a century.

In the last decades of the seventeenth century, the Muscovites kept Left-Bank Ukraine under their control thanks not only to their superior military force but also because they turned out to be much more flexible than their competitors. While the tsars used the election of every new hetman to whittle away at the rights and privileges given to the Hetmanate under Bohdan Khmelnytsky, they also knew when to relent. In 1669, in the midst of the revolt led by Petro Doroshenko, Moscow agreed to return to conditions close to those granted to Khmelnytsky. It did so at a time when the Poles were reducing the much less substantial body of Cossack privileges in effect on their side of the river. The result was not hard to predict. The Left Bank attracted new settlers from the Cossack lands under Polish rule and kept growing economically, while the Right Bank turned into a virtual desert. The tsars allowed their Cossacks more rights, but they also got to keep them as subjects.

In relatively short order, the Left-Bank economic expansion led to the economic and cultural revival of Kyiv. Classes resumed at the Kyivan College. The professors who had fled the city in the 1650s now welcomed a new generation of students. New subjects were taught, new poetry written, and new plays performed. Ukrainian baroque literature, initiated in the early seventeenth century by Meletii Smotrytsky, reached its peak in the writings of poets such as Ivan Velychkovsky and in the prose of Lazar Baranovych, a former professor at the college who became archbishop of Chernihiv. His student Simeon Polotsky brought the Kyiv baroque literary style to Moscow, where he helped lay the foundations for the emergence of Russian secular literature. The introduction of Kyivan texts, practices, and ideas into Muscovy in the second half of the seventeenth century would cause a split in that country’s Orthodox Church. While the tsar and the patriarch backed Peter Mohyla–style reforms, conservatives rebelled and united around the leaders of the Old Belief. It was no accident that the name applied to them by the official church, raskol’niki, or schismatics, came from Ukraine.

But cultural influence flowed in both directions. While Kyivan clerics brought Western cultural models from Ukraine to Muscovy, they also borrowed from the arsenal of Muscovite political ideology. Key to that ideology was the notion of the Orthodox tsar as the linchpin of a new political and religious universe. The Orthodox intellectuals of the commonwealth, long without a king of their own, embraced the opportunity to enter an idealized Orthodox world inspired by the Byzantine vision of symphony between an autocratic ruler and the one true church. In the end, however, practical considerations outweighed idealism. As early as the 1620s, the newly consecrated Orthodox bishops, hard pressed by Warsaw, had turned to Muscovy as a source of support and a possible place of exile. The desire for the tsar’s protection only increased after the Pereiaslav agreement (1654) and reached its peak after the Truce of Andrusovo (1667), which divided Cossack Ukraine in half.

According to the conditions of the truce, Kyiv, located on the Right Bank of the Dnieper, was supposed to become a Polish possession after a two-year grace period. But the prospect of submitting once again to the rule of a Catholic king terrified the Kyivan clergy. They summoned all the powers of persuasive rhetoric they had acquired at the Kyivan College and the Jesuit schools of Europe to convince the tsar that the city of Kyiv should stay under his control. They succeeded only too well. Inokentii Gizel, the archimandrite of the Kyivan Cave Monastery and one of the leading figures in the campaign to “persuade the tsar,” wanted to keep Kyiv under tsarist rule while maintaining the independence of the Kyiv metropolitanate. Things worked out otherwise. In the 1670s, the tsar retained his control over the city, but in the next decade Muscovite officials and their supporters in Ukraine succeeded in transferring the Kyiv metropolitanate from the jurisdiction of Constantinople to that of Moscow. The transfer took place in 1685, and so the Kyivan clergy received the tsar’s protection at the cost of their independence.

The battles over the fate of Kyiv gave birth to one of the most influential texts of the premodern Russian Empire, the first printed “textbook” of Rus’ history, published at the Cave Monastery under Gizel’s supervision. The book had a long, baroque title: Synopsis, or a Brief Compendium of Various Chronicles About the Origin of the Slavo-Rossian Nation and the First Princes of the Divinely Protected City of Kyiv and the Life of the Holy, Pious Grand Prince of Kyiv and All Rus’, the First Autocrat, Volodymyr. It appeared in 1674, when Kyiv was preparing for an Ottoman attack and the Poles were demanding it back from Muscovy. In the Synopsis, Kyiv figured as the first capital of the Muscovite tsars and the birthplace of Muscovite Orthodoxy—a city that simply could not be abandoned to infidels or Catholics. References to the Slavo-Rossian nation, which, according to the authors of the Synopsis, united Muscovy and the Cossack Hetmanate in one political body, further supported this argument. This was the foundation of the myth still accepted by most Russians today about the Kyivan origins of their nation. In the seventeenth century, however, the Muscovite elites were not yet thinking in terms of national affinity. Russian empire builders would fully appreciate the innovation of the Kyivan monks, who treated the inhabitants of Muscovy and Ukraine as one nation, only in the nineteenth century.

The crisis caused by the partition of Ukraine between Muscovy and Poland forced not only the Kyivan clergy but also the Cossack officer stratum to come up with a new model of identity. The Cossack elite no longer had to defer to the clergy in that regard: the Kyivan College listed among its alumni not only priests and bishops but also Cossack officers, including a number of hetmans. If the clergy could not envision their homeland without an Orthodox tsar, the Cossack officers needed no tsar at all. They pledged their allegiance to a common Cossack “fatherland” embracing both sides of the Dnieper.

Until 1663, when the first de facto partition of Ukraine took place, the Cossack officers used the term “fatherland” to refer either to the entire commonwealth or to the Kingdom of Poland. At the time of the Union of Hadiach (1658), they were lured back to the suzerainty of the Polish king by appeals to return to their Polish fatherland. But things changed after the partition. First one hetman and then another began to argue in their circular letters or universals for the unity of their Ukrainian fatherland—the Hetmanate on both sides of the river. After the Truce of Andrusovo all of them, including Petro Doroshenko and Yurii Khmelnytsky, referred to the interests of the Ukrainian fatherland as their supreme object of loyalty, superseding any other allegiances or commitments. The Cossack fatherland was more than the Zaporozhian Host—a much more traditional object of Cossack loyalty. It included not just the Cossack Host but also the territory and inhabitants of the Hetmanate. They called that fatherland Ukraine. After 1667, the Cossacks began to refer to it as Ukraine on both sides of the Dnieper.

The last Cossack hetman who tried to unite the Left and Right Banks under his rule was Ivan Mazepa (1639–1709). The banknotes of independent Ukraine depict only two of all the Ukrainian hetmans. The first is Bohdan Khmelnytsky, whose image appears on the five-hryvnia note, and the second is Ivan Mazepa, depicted on the ten-hryvnia bill. Mazepa is arguably better known outside Ukraine, especially in the West, than Khmelnytsky: Voltaire, Lord Byron, Aleksandr Pushkin, and Victor Hugo all wrote about Mazepa’s life and exploits. He came to figure in European operas and North American theatrical shows, gaining literary and cultural fame as both a ruler and a lover under the French spelling of his name—Mazeppa. During Mazepa’s hetmancy the notions of fatherland, Ukraine, and Little Russia became contested once again. The outcome of Mazepa’s rule was the formation of a new type of Little Russian identity.

Mazepa ruled the Hetmanate longer than any of his predecessors, for more than two decades (1687–1709), and died a natural death. That was an achievement in its own right. Two of his predecessors had been either killed or executed. The two hetmans who ruled immediately before Mazepa were accused of “treason,” arrested by Muscovite voevodas, and sent to Siberia. Members of their families were also persecuted. To lose the hetman’s office, personal freedom, or life itself, one did not have to conspire against the tsar or try to join the Poles, Ottomans, or Swedes. It was enough to fall out of favor with the Moscow courtiers.

Mazepa’s life trajectory reflected the general fate of Cossackdom in the last decades of the seventeenth century. A native of Left-Bank Ukraine, the future hetman came from a noble Orthodox family. Educated at the Kyiv Mohyla College and a Jesuit school in Warsaw, he studied the craft of artillery in western Europe. After coming back, the young Mazepa began his diplomatic and military career at the court of the Polish king. He later joined Hetman Petro Doroshenko, but the Zaporozhian Cossacks allied with Muscovy captured him. According to the story first related to western European readers by Voltaire and then repeated by others, Mazepa ended up with the Zaporozhians as a result of an affair that turned catastrophic. He allegedly became the lover of the young wife of a prominent Polish official who, upon learning of this, ordered that Mazepa be stripped naked and bound to a horse that was released into the wild steppes. According to that story, Zaporozhian Cossacks found Mazepa half dead and nursed him back to health. Whatever the truth of the story, the Zaporozhians certainly gave a boost to Mazepa’s career with the Cossacks. They sent their catch to Hetman Ivan Samoilovych, who enlisted the highly educated and well-traveled officer into his service.

Mazepa was part of a large group of Cossack notables, rank-and-file Cossacks, townsfolk, and peasants who migrated from the Right Bank to the Russian-controlled Left Bank of Ukraine in the last decades of the seventeenth century. The political stability of the region, coupled with the relatively broad autonomy granted to the Hetmanate by the tsars, helped revive the economy and cultural life, which, as in the times of Peter Mohyla, centered on Kyiv, the metropolitan see, the Cave Monastery, and the Kyivan College. After assuming the hetmancy, Mazepa did his best to promote the continuing economic revival of the Hetmanate and the flourishing of its religious and cultural life.


The Battle of Poltava (8 July 1709) was the decisive victory of Peter the Great (Peter I of Russia) over the Swedish Empire forces under Field Marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld, in one of the battles of the Great Northern War.

It was the beginning of the Swedish Empire’s decline as a European great power, while the Tsardom of Russia took its place as the leading nation of north-eastern Europe. The battle also bears major importance in Ukrainian national history, as Hetman of Zaporizhian Host Ivan Mazepa sided with the Swedes, seeking to create an uprising in Ukraine against the tsardom.

Hetman Mazepa commissioned the restoration of churches that had fallen into disrepair during the long Cossack wars. Among them was the St. Sophia Cathedral, first restored by Mohyla, as well as the Dormition Cathedral and the Holy Trinity Church in the Cave Monastery—all parts of the architectural legacy of the Kyivan Rus’ era. He also commissioned the construction of new churches, including the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in the Cave Monastery and numerous churches in Kyiv and in his capital, the town of Baturyn in the northeastern corner of the Hetmanate, close to the Muscovite border. Most of the churches outside the Cave Monastery did not survive the 1930s: demolition crews destroyed them one after another as the Bolsheviks tried to turn Kyiv into a truly socialist capital. But those within the monastery built by Mazepa, as well as part of its walls, still stand and attest not only to the generosity but also to the wealth of the hetman. It was the first commissioning of new buildings in Kyiv since Mohyla. The style of the architectural monuments of that era became known as Cossack or Mazepa baroque.

Unlike any previous hetman, Mazepa was able to concentrate in his hands both economic and political power. This was due to the unprecedented support he was getting from the very top of the imperial pyramid. Tsar Peter I considered Mazepa his loyal servant. During Peter’s contest for power with his half-sister, Princess Sofia, Mazepa took the side of the future tsar. Subsequently, Peter made him the first recipient of the Order of St. Andrew, a prestigious award created by the tsar himself. When the Cossack officers complained to the tsar about their hetman and customarily accused him of treason, Peter sent the denunciations back to Mazepa, contrary to the well-established tradition of Muscovite rulers using such denunciations to undermine the Cossack hetmans. Peter showed even more trust in Mazepa by allowing him to execute his accusers among the ranks of the Cossack elite.

The Peter-Mazepa alliance came to a sudden end in the autumn of 1708, at the height of the Great Northern War (1700–1721) fought by Muscovy and Sweden, assisted by their respective allies, in the Baltics. At the start of the war, Sweden appeared to have the upper hand. After defeating Muscovy’s ally Augustus the Strong of Poland and forcing him to step down, the young and ambitious king of Sweden, Charles XII, began his march on Moscow. Peter was in retreat, using scorched-earth tactics to slow his enemy’s advance.

Such destructive measures exacerbated the old grievances of the Cossack elites, pushing them away from Peter and toward Charles. The Cossack colonels had complained for years to Mazepa about Peter’s use of Cossack regiments outside the Hetmanate, especially to dig canals in and around St. Petersburg, the future capital of the Russian Empire, which the tsar had founded in 1702. There the Cossacks died like flies from cold and disease. Moreover, Peter’s introduction of new taxes and administrative reforms threatened to turn the Hetmanate into a regular province of the Muscovite state, not its privileged enclave. All that, argued the colonels, violated the protectorate agreement concluded by Bohdan Khmelnytsky with Muscovy.

Mazepa corresponded with the Polish allies of Charles XII and explored his foreign-policy options but refused to act. Only when the Swedish king decided to make a detour to Ukraine on his way to Moscow, and the tsar refused to help with any troops—Mazepa was supposed to defend the Hetmanate on his own and burn the towns and villages in Charles’s path—did the hetman yield to the demands of the colonels and switch sides. Muscovy was not performing its primary function—the defense of the Hetmanate—under the numerous agreements with the Cossack hetmans. It was time to think of another option even in Left-Bank Ukraine. The Cossack officers began to study the conditions of the fifty-year-old Union of Hadiach. In November 1708, with a group of trusted courtiers and a small detachment of Cossacks, Mazepa left his capital of Baturyn and joined the advancing army of Charles XII.

For the sake of secrecy, Mazepa conducted no anti-Peter agitation in the Hetmanate before his sudden departure from Baturyn. That was a prudent decision with regard to Mazepa’s personal security, but it was a major problem for the revolt. Upon learning of Mazepa’s defection, Peter sent a corps to Ukraine under the command of his right-hand man, Aleksandr Menshikov, but no Cossack forces had been mobilized to stop him. The Muscovite troops were able to take the hetman’s capital of Baturyn by surprise, seizing military supplies and provisions that Mazepa had prepared for his own army and the Swedes. Even more damaging was the effect of the capture of Baturyn on Ukrainian society in general. Menshikov not only took the town but also ordered the massacre of its population. More than 10,000 defenders and citizens of Baturyn, including women and children, died at the hands of their captors. Archaeologists working there today (Baturyn is a major tourist attraction as well as an excavation site) keep finding skeletons of those who perished. Menshikov’s message was loud and clear: the tsar would not tolerate defections.

The battle for the loyalty of the Cossacks and the inhabitants of the Hetmanate had begun. It was carried on mainly through proclamations issued by Peter, to which Mazepa responded in kind. The so-called war of manifestos lasted from the fall of 1708 to the spring of 1709. The tsar accused Mazepa of treason, calling him a Judas and even ordering that a mock order of St. Judas be prepared for awarding to Mazepa once he was captured. Mazepa rejected the accusations. Like Vyhovsky before him, he regarded relations between the tsar and the hetman as contractual. As far as he was concerned, the tsar had violated the Cossack rights and freedoms guaranteed to Bohdan Khmelnytsky and his successors. His loyalty, argued the hetman, was not to the sovereign but to the Cossack Host and the Ukrainian fatherland. Mazepa also pledged his loyalty to his nation. “Moscow, that is, the Great Russian nation, has always been hateful to our Little Russian nation; in its malicious intentions it has long resolved to drive our nation to perdition,” wrote Mazepa in December 1708.

The war of manifestos, along with the decisive actions of the Muscovite troops and the election of a new hetman on Peter’s orders, caused another split in Mazepa’s ranks. Terrified by the prospect of retributions, the Cossack colonels who had earlier pressured Mazepa to rebel failed to bring their troops to him. Many joined the Muscovite side. There was little support for Mazepa on the part of rank-and-file Cossacks, townspeople, and peasants. The populace preferred the Orthodox tsar over the Catholic, Muslim, or, in this case, Protestant ruler. When the time came for a showdown between Charles and Peter, there were more Cossacks on the Muscovite side than on the Swedish one.

In early July 1709, a Swedish corps of 25,000 faced a Muscovite army twice as large in the fields near the city of Poltava. Cossacks fought on both sides as auxiliaries—a reflection not only of the fact that their loyalty was suspect but also that they were no match for regular European armies: the once formidable Cossack fighting force was a thing of the past. Between 3,000 and 7,000 Cossacks backed Mazepa and the Swedes; at least three times as many flocked to the Muscovite side. The enemy’s numerical superiority was never an issue for Charles XII, who had defeated much more numerous Russian and Polish forces in the past. But this battle was different. A winter spent in hostile territory had weakened his army. Charles XII, who usually led his troops into battle in person, had been wounded a few days earlier and delegated his duties not to one commander but to a number of officers, creating confusion in the Swedish ranks at the time of the battle.

The outcome was a decisive victory for Muscovite arms. Charles XII and Mazepa had to flee Ukraine and seek refuge in Ottoman Moldavia. Ivan Mazepa died in exile in the Moldavian town of Bender in the fall of 1709. It took Charles five years to get back to his kingdom. Historians often consider the Battle of Poltava a turning point in the Great Northern War. By a strange turn of fate, the military conflict for control of the Baltics was decided on a Ukrainian battleground, undermining Sweden’s hegemony in northern Europe and launching Russia on its career as a great European power. But the consequences of Poltava were nowhere as dramatic as in the lands where the battle was fought.

The Muscovite victory opened a new stage in relations between the Kyivan clergy and the tsarist authorities. In the fall of 1708, the tsar had forced the metropolitan of Kyiv to condemn Mazepa as a traitor and declare an anathema against him. After the battle, the rector of the Kyivan College, Teofan Prokopovych, who had earlier compared Mazepa to Prince Volodymyr, delivered a long sermon before the tsar condemning his former benefactor. What Mazepa would have considered treason was a declaration of loyalty in Peter’s eyes. Prokopovych would later become the chief ideologue of Peter’s reforms. He would support the tsar’s drive for absolute power and develop an argument for his right to pass on his throne outside the normal line of succession from father to son: Peter tried his only male heir for treason and caused his death in imprisonment. Prokopovych was the primary author of the Spiritual Regulation, which replaced patriarchal rule in the Orthodox Church with the rule of the Holy Synod, chaired by a secular official. He was also behind the idea of calling Peter the “father of the fatherland,” a new designation brought to Muscovy by Prokopovych and other Kyivan clerics. They had earlier used it to glorify Mazepa.

The spectacular imperial career of Teofan Prokopovych reflected a larger phenomenon—the recruitment into the imperial service of westernized alumni of the Kyivan College, whom Peter needed to reform Muscovite church culture and society along Western lines. Dozens and later hundreds of alumni of the Kyivan College moved to Muscovy and made their careers there. They assumed positions ranging from acting head of the Orthodox Church to bishop and military chaplain. One of the Kyivans, Metropolitan Dymytrii Tuptalo of Rostov, was even raised to sainthood for his struggle against the Old Belief. They helped Peter not only to westernize Muscovy but also to turn it into a modern polity by promoting the idea of a new Russian fatherland and, indeed, a new Russian nation, of which Ukrainians or Little Russians were considered an integral part.

If Peter’s policies intended to strengthen his authoritarian rule and centralize state institutions offered new and exciting opportunities to ecclesiastical leaders, they were nothing short of a disaster for the Cossack officers. Mazepa’s defection added urgency to the tsar’s desire to integrate the Hetmanate into the institutional and administrative structures of the empire. A Russian resident now supervised the new hetman, Ivan Skoropadsky. His capital was moved closer to the Muscovite border, from the destroyed Baturyn to the town of Hlukhiv. Muscovite troops were stationed in the Hetmanate on a permanent basis. Family members of Cossack officers who had followed Mazepa into exile were arrested and their properties confiscated. More followed once the Northern War ended with a Muscovite victory in 1721. Tsar Peter changed the name of the Tsardom of Muscovy to the Russian Empire and had himself proclaimed its first emperor. In the following year, the tsar used the death of Skoropadsky to liquidate the office of hetman altogether. He placed the Hetmanate under the jurisdiction of the so-called Little Russian College, led by an imperial officer appointed by Peter. The Cossacks protested and sent a delegation to St. Petersburg to fight for their rights—to no avail. The tsar ordered the arrest of the leader of the Cossack opposition, Colonel Pavlo Polubotok, who would die in a cell of the St. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

Mazepa had gambled and lost. So did the state he tried to protect. We do not know what the fate of the Hetmanate might have been if Charles XII had not been wounded before the battle and the Cossacks had supported Mazepa in larger numbers. We can say, however, what kind of country Mazepa’s successors wanted to build and live in. Our knowledge comes from a document called Pacta et conditiones presented to Pylyp Orlyk, the hetman elected by the Cossack exiles in Moldavia after Mazepa’s death. Needless to say, they did not recognize Skoropadsky, elected on Peter’s orders, as their legitimate leader. The Pacta, known in Ukraine today as the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, is often regarded as the country’s first constitution, adopted, many say with pride, even before the American one. In reality, the closest parallel to the Pacta would be the conditions on which the Polish Diets elected their kings. The document tried to limit the hetman’s powers by guaranteeing the rights of the Cossack officers and the rank-and-file Cossacks, especially the Zaporozhians, many of whom had followed Mazepa into exile.

The Pacta presented a unique vision of the Hetmanate’s past, present, and future. The Cossack officers gathered around Orlyk, who had been Mazepa’s general chancellor, traced their origins not to Kyiv and Prince Volodymyr—a foundational myth already claimed by Kyivan supporters of the tsar—but to the Khazars, who were among the nomadic predecessors of Kyivan Rus’. The argument was linguistic rather than historical, and, while laughable today, it was quite solid by the standards of early modern philology: “Cossack” and “Khazar” sounded quite similar, if not identical, in Ukrainian. At stake was a claim to the existence of a Cossack nation separate and independent from that of Moscow. Orlyk and his officers described it as Cossack, Ruthenian, or Little Russian, depending on circumstances. Most of Orlyk’s ideas remained unknown or unclaimed by his compatriots. At home, in Ukraine, the Cossacks were fighting hard to preserve whatever was left of their autonomy.

The Cossacks in the Hetmanate regarded the death of Peter I in February 1725, a few weeks after the demise of the imprisoned Cossack colonel Polubotok, as divine punishment for the tsar’s mistreatment of them. They also viewed it as an opportunity to recover some of the privileges usurped by the tsar. The restoration of the office of hetman topped the Cossack agenda. In 1727 the Cossack officers achieved their goal by electing one of Peter’s early opponents, Colonel Danylo Apostol, to the newly reinstated hetmancy. They celebrated this restoration of one of the privileges given to Bohdan Khmelnytsky by rediscovering a portrait of the old hetman and reviving his cult not only as the liberator of Ukraine from Polish oppression but also as a guarantor of Cossack rights and freedoms. In his new incarnation, Khmelnytsky became the symbol of the Hetmanate elite’s Little Russian identity, which entailed the preservation of special status and particular rights in return for political loyalty.

What exactly was that new identity? It was a rough-and-ready amalgam of the pro-Russian rhetoric of the clergy and the autonomist aspirations of the Cossack officer class. The main distinguishing feature of the Little Russian idea was loyalty to the Russian tsars. At the same time, Little Russian identity stressed the rights and privileges of the Cossack nation within the empire. The Little Russia of the Cossack elite remained limited to Left-Bank Ukraine, distinct in political, social, and cultural terms from the Belarusian territories to the north and the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper. The DNA of the new polity and identity bore clear markers of earlier nation-building projects. The Cossack texts of the period (the early eighteenth century saw the appearance of a new literary phenomenon, Cossack historical writing) used such terms as Rus’/Ruthenia, Little Russia, and Ukraine interchangeably. There was logic in such usage, as the terms reflected closely interconnected political entities and related identities.

In defining the relationship between these terms and the phenomena they represented, the best analogy is a nesting doll. The biggest doll would be the Little Russian identity of the post-Poltava era; within it would be the doll of the Cossack Ukrainian fatherland on both banks of the Dnieper; and inside that would be the doll of the Rus’ or Ruthenian identity of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At its core, Little Russian identity preserved the memory of the old commonwealth Rus’ and the more recent Cossack Ukraine. No one could know, in the aftermath of the Battle of Poltava, that it was only a matter of time before the Ukrainian core emerged from the shell of the Little Russian doll and reclaimed the territories once owned or coveted by the Cossacks of the past.

Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker Lider

By TASS Russian news agency

The icebreaker has to become operational in 2027 when the economic crisis is likely to end and the competition of the global players for Polar resources and the shortest Northern Sea Route from the Pacific to the Atlantic would resume.

Historically, Russia enjoys a priority in the Arctic development, but other countries may ignore it if there is nothing to back the claim. The Russian Defense Ministry copes with the task and is rebuilding military infrastructure in the Arctic. Another argument is a powerful icebreaker fleet to ensure full-scale activities in the Arctic in conditions of global warming.

An unequalled group of icebreakers has ensured Russian economic interests in Arctic latitudes until recently. The United States and China announced the construction of icebreakers and ice-class vessels, including warships for Arctic operations.

Iceberg Design Bureau produced the project of a new Russian nuclear icebreaker. It will be powered by RITM-400 reactor created by OKBM Africantov bureau in Nizhny Novgorod. It is a leading enterprise of Rosatom nuclear corporation.

Project 10510 icebreaker will lead big-displacement vessels with a deadweight of over 100000 tons and a width of over 50 meters along the Northern Sea Route year-round. The propulsion is provided by four four-blade fixed-pitch propellers. The Leader can break 4.3-meter thick ice at the minimal stable speed of 1.5-2 knots. The speed in 2-meter thick ice is 12 knots. The food stocks allow the icebreaker to sail for eight months. The crew comprises 127 men. The life cycle is 40 years, the displacement is close to 71380 tons.

The Leader is the first icebreaker in the world capable of operating in the Northern Sea Route year-round. Rosatom plans to build three icebreakers by 2033. The Industry and Trade Ministry estimated the first Leader to cost 127.5 billion rubles. The construction of two other icebreakers is to be jointly financed by the federal budget and Rosatom. Concession is another option, as all Arctic developers, including private enterprise, are interested in the protection of their Arctic interests, expert Vasily Dandykin said.

The lead nuclear icebreaker “Arktika”, project 22220 (LK-60Ya), built at Baltic Shipyard JSC (part of United Shipbuilding Corporation JSC) for Atomflot FSUE, is entering the first stage of sea trials. St. Petersburg, 12.12.2019 (c) JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation

The Leader is to be the most powerful vessel of the class in the world. Besides, three icebreakers of project 22220 are being built in St. Petersburg and the lead one is undergoing trials. They belong to the third generation. The fourth-generation Leader does not fear 4-meter thick ice along the whole Northern Sea Route which will be in demand after the crisis. It is the shortest and cheapest way from Asia to Europe.

“It is clear that the Leader and other icebreakers will lead not only tankers and container carriers along the Northern Sea Route. The year-round navigation gives the Defense Ministry an opportunity to redeploy forces from the west to the east and back in a period of threat. It is important on the background of growing military ambitions of the United States and NATO. The Leader icebreaker is thus a major argument for Arctic claims,” Dandykin said.

Much depends on the shipbuilding industry which lost a lot after the Soviet collapse and is experiencing hard times. However, the revival trend has shaped out. The Arktika icebreaker has to begin operations shortly followed by the Sibir and the Ural icebreakers which have been floated. The Yamal and the 50 Years of Victory icebreakers operate in Arctic latitudes. The Ilya Muromets diesel-electric icebreaker of project 21180 and the Ivan Papanin ice-class escort ship of project 23550 were built for the Navy.

The construction of the Leader icebreaker by Zvezda Shipyard means the enterprise is capable of building supertankers and aircraft carriers, the Zvezda said.

Class overview
Builders:Zvezda shipyard (planned)
Operators:FSUE Atomflot (planned)
Preceded by:Project 22220
Cost:RUB 125.57 billion
Built:2020– (planned)
In service:2027– (planned)
General characteristics
Displacement:69,700 tonnes (68,600 long tons)
Length:209 m (686 ft)
Beam:47.7 m (156 ft)
Draft:13 m (43 ft)
Depth:20.3 m (67 ft)
Installed power:Two RITM-400 nuclear reactors (2 × 315 MWt) Four turbogenerators (4 × 37 MWe)
Propulsion:Nuclear-turbo-electric Four shafts (4 × 30 MW)
Speed:24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Endurance:8 months


Russian Heavy Frigates

Capturing of Swedish 44-gun frigate Venus by Russian 22-gun cutter Merkuriy of June 1, 1789.

Captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus.

The spring of 1789 was marked by two single-ship actions on the part of a young Irish-born Lieutenant, Commander Roman Crown, that were to have long-term consequences for Russian naval history. As commander of the 22-gun two-masted cutter Merkurii, Brown captured a 12-gun Swedish tender, ironically named Snapupp, on 29 April (10 May), a useful but unremarkable feat. He then performed the remarkable feat of surprising, engaging and capturing the much more powerful Swedish heavy frigate, the 40-gun Venus, on 21 May (1 June) of the same year. Crown would rise to become a Russian admiral in the coming years, with a record of proven valour and high accomplishment that extended into the 1820s. The captured Venus would be taken into the Russian navy under the command of the heroic young officer who had captured her. In Russian service under Crown’s command, she would accomplish great deeds against her nation of origin, fighting at Revel’ in 1789 and Vyborg in 1790 and then assisting in the capture of the Swedish 64-gun Rättvisan in the immediate aftermath of the battle. Her stout construction and excellent design characteristics would be incorporated into the designs of nearly two score Russian heavy frigates built during the nineteenth century. As for Lieutenant Commander Crown’s first command, the Merkurii, she lent her name to a 20-gun brig built in 1820 and destined for even greater fame than her name-ship by single-handedly engaging a Turkish 120 and a 74 in a four-hour battle in 1829 and emerging heavily damaged but intact.

Although the Greek Ionian Islands had been granted formal independence after the withdrawal of Russia from the war with France, they remained de facto Russian colonies. A small squadron of Russian warships made up of two ships of the line, a single battle frigate, three corvettes and two brigs remained stationed at Corfu after Ushakov’s departure. The heavy ships were veterans of Ushakov’s campaign and the small craft were all captured or converted vessels picked up in and about the Adriatic. In order to reinforce this squadron in the face of growing problems with the French, a moderately sized squadron was dispatched from the Baltic in 1804 under the command of Commodore Aleksei Greig, son of Samuel Greig. Greig’s squadron was comprised of a single Russian-built 74 and three elderly Swedish veterans of the 1788–92 war, the 62-gun Retvizan, the 44-gun Venus and the 24-gun rowing frigate Avtroil. It is unclear whether these Swedish veterans were sent because of their excellent and sturdy construction or because they were simply odd numbers in the Russian Baltic fleet. Regardless of their advancing age, they all served with distinction through the coming campaigns, with Venus acquiring the highest honours and suffering the most unusual fate.

Venus 44/50 Karlskrona

Constructor         F. Chapman

Laid down             31.3.1783 Launched 19.7.1783 Captured 21.5.1789

Dimensions          156 ft x 40 ft x 17 ft 6 in (Swedish measurement)

151 ft 6 in x 38 ft 10 in x 15 ft 9 in (Russian measurement)

Armament            Captured 26/30 x 24pdrs, 14 x 6pdrs (Veselago)

Swedish heavy frigate captured on 21.5.1789 by Russian cutter Merkurii. Attached to Vice-Adm. Kozlyaninov’s squadron at Copenhagen in 1789. Fought at Revel’ on 2.5.1790 with 1 killed and 2 wounded and 737 rounds fired. Fought at Vyborg on 22.6.1790, capturing 2 Swedish galleys. On 3.5.1790, assisted by Iziaslav (66), she captured the Swedish Rättvisan (64). Cruised in the Baltic in 1791, 1793–4, 1795–7 and 1798. To England in 1799–00. Cruised in the Baltic with naval cadets in 1801. Repaired in 1804. To the Mediterranean as flag to Commodore Greig (Adm. Greig’s son) in 1804. Involved in the capture of Tenedos in 1807. Engaged in the pursuit of Turkish squadron on 9.5.1807, leading the Russian attack and engaging a Turkish line of battle ship. Dispatched by Adm. Seniavin on 9.11.1807 in search of Commodore Baratynskiy’s division. Damaged, repaired at Palermo, blockaded by the British, and placed in Neapolitan custody to avoid bloodshed. Crew evacuated to Trieste.

Heavy frigates

A term applied to large and heavily armed 24-, 30- and 36pdr frigates found in significant numbers in both the Baltic and the Black Sea fleets. These larger ships were more numerous in both theatres than the smaller standard 18pdr frigates; but their respective popularity in the Baltic and the Black Seas arose from rather different tactical requirements and emphases. In the Black Sea, where the type was first introduced, heavy frigates were not regarded as traditional cruisers suited for scouting and raiding, but were rather the direct descendants of the previously described battle frigates and were intended to supplement the line of battle against similar Turkish ships. In the Baltic, on the other hand, heavy frigates were quite ironically the direct design descendants of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus, specifically designed by Fredrik Henrik af Chapman to take its place in the line of battle, and captured by the Russians during the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–91. Russian heavy frigates built along the lines of the Venus were utilized in traditional frigate roles and not as battle line adjuncts as was the case with the Black Sea heavies.

During the period between 1770 and 1860, a total of 85 heavy and battle frigates joined the two Russian fleets, almost all of them armed with 24pdr cannon and ranging between 141 ft and 174 ft in length.

Arkhangel Mikhail class (3 ships)

Arkhangel Mikhail 44 Arkhangel’sk

Constructor         M. D. Portnov

Laid down             14.7.1790 Launched 24.5.1791

Dimensions          151 ft 6 in × 38 ft 10 in × 15 ft 9 in

Armament            LD 28 × 24pdrs (short frigate guns)

FC & QD 16 × 6pdrs + carrs

398 men

Arkhangel Mikhail class. Based on the design of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus. Departed Arkhangel’sk on 8.7.1792. Damaged and forced to winter at Bergen. Joined Adm. Kruz’s squadron in the summer of 1793 and cruised in the North Sea. Arrived at Kronshtadt on 15.9.1793. To England in 1795–6. Wrecked while returning home on 25.10.1796 off Porkkala-udd on the coast of Finland. No casualties.

Arkhangel Rafail 44 Arkhangel’sk

Constructor         M. D. Portnov

Laid down             14.7.1790 Launched 24.5.1791

Dimensions          151 ft 6 in × 38 ft 10 in × 15 ft 9 in

Armament            LD 28 × 24pdrs (short frigate guns)

FC & QD 16 × 6pdrs + carrs

398 men

Arkhangel Mikhail class. Based on the design of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus. Sailed to Kronshtadt in 1794. To England in 1795–6. Operated off Holstein in 1797. Repaired in 1798. To Holland with troops with Rear-Adm. Chichagov’s squadron in 1799. Returned to Kronshtadt on 26.9.1800. Carried cargo between Baltic ports in 1802–3. Broken up in 1804.

Schastlivyi 44 Arkhangel’sk

Constructor         G. Ignatyev

Laid down             19.12.1796 Launched 19.5.1798

Dimensions          151 ft 6 in × 38 ft 10 in × 15 ft 9 in

Armament            LD 28 × 24pdrs (short frigate guns)

FC & QD 16 × 6pdrs + carrs

256/398 men

Arkhangel Mikhail class. Based on the design of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus. To England with Vice-Adm. Thate’s 2nd Division on 3.7.1798, arriving at the Nore on 8.8.1798. Operated in the North Sea 1798–1800. Returned to Kronshtadt on 21.7.1800. Cruised in the Baltic with naval cadets in 1801–3. Cruised to Dogger Bank with Rear-Adm. Lomen’s squadron in 1804. Participated in Vice-Adm. Thate’s landing of over 20,000 troops on the German coast in 1805. Training duties in Kronshtadt Roads in 1806. Cruised with Adm. Khanykov’s squadron in 1808 and returned to Kronshtadt in 10.1808. Stationed in Kronshtadt Roads as a guard ship in 1809. Blockship in Kronshtadt Roads in 1810–12.

Feodosii Totemskii class (2 ships)

Feodosii Totemskii 44 Arkhangel’sk

Constructor         G. Ignatyev

Laid down             9.8.1798 Launched 24.9.1798

Dimensions          150 ft × 39 ft × 16 ft

Armament            LD 28 × 24pdrs (short frigate guns)

FC & QD 16 × 6pdrs + carrs

Feodosii Totemskii class. Based on an amended design of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus. Departed Arkhangel’sk for England with Vice-Adm. Baratynskiy’s squadron in 9.1799. Returned to Revel’ in 9.1800. Cruised in the Baltic in 1803–4. Landed troops on the German coast with Adm. Thate’s squadron in 1805. Cruised in the Baltic with Adm. Khanykov’s squadron in 1808 and returned to Kronshtadt in 10.1808. Floating battery in Kronshtadt Roads in 1809–11. Broken up in 1819.

Tikhvinskaya Bogoroditsa 44 Arkhangel’sk

Constructor         G. Ignatyev

Laid down             19.8.1798 Launched 22.7.1799

Dimensions          150 ft × 39 ft × 16 ft

Armament            LD 28 × 24pdrs (short frigate guns)

FC & QD 16 × 6pdrs + carrs

Feodosii Totemskii class. Based on an amended design of the captured Swedish heavy frigate Venus. Departed Arkhangel’sk for England with Vice-Adm. Baratynskiy’s squadron in 9.1799. Returned to Kronshtadt in 9.1800. Cruised in the Baltic with naval cadets in 1801–3. Cruised to Dogger Bank in 1804. Landed troops on the German coast with Adm. Thate’s squadron in 1805. Fire watch ship at Revel’ in 1807. Cruised with Adm. Khanykov’s squadron in 1808. Returned to Kronshtadt in 10.1808. Stationed in Kronshtadt Roads in 1809. Fire watch ship at Riga in 1812. Broken up in 1819.

Crimean War: Naval Operations in the Pacific, 1854–5

The Russian Frigate Pallad.Pallada (Russian: Паллада) was a sail frigate of the Imperial Russian Navy , most noted for its service as flagship of Vice Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin during his visit to Japan in 1853, which later resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda of 1855, establishing formal relations between the two countries. In addition to her diplomatic mission, her crew also conducted numerous geographical and natural studies in the Far East. She was scuttled by her own crew in the Crimean War due to the poor condition of her hull in 1855.

At a time when Russian imperial expansion eastwards across Siberia was still in its infancy, there were few major Russian settlements on the Pacific coast that might merit the attention of the allied fleets. The only sizeable Russian towns in the region were Okhotsk and Petropavlovsk, along with the fur and fish trading port of Sitka in Alaska. Smaller fishing and trading settlements hardly merited attention, as did the local communities on Sakhalin Island or around the estuary of the River Amur, former Chinese territory which had only recently been brought under Russian control. The port of Petropavlovsk, situated on the Kamchatka Peninsula and sheltered in Avocha Bay, was the largest Russian settlement on the Pacific coast. Founded as recently as 1740 by the Danish explorer Vitus Behring (1681–1741), after whom the Behring Sea and Strait were named, the port recalled his two ships, St Peter and St Paul. It was developing as an important fishing and whaling port, a base for voyages into the Arctic seas to the north and as a link with Russian trading settlements in Alaska. In 1854, it was also an anchorage of the Russian Pacific squadron, the Okhotsk flotilla.

Had it not been for the fact of a Russian naval presence in the northern Pacific the region might well have been left alone by the allies, since it was so remote and of little economic significance. Added to that, British (and presumably French) knowledge of the region was minimal and sea charts just about non-existent. Nevertheless, a Russian naval squadron did exist, though its exact size and location were unknown, and would have to be dealt with, since there was some concern that if unmolested Russian warships might ‘injure’ British whalers or traders operating in the Pacific or moving to and from the USA, China and Australia. It was therefore decided in the summer of 1854 that Anglo-French naval forces would indeed operate against Russian interests in the region. The aim, as in the other naval theatres, was to seek out and destroy Russian warships (in this case the small Okhotsk squadron), to attack shore-based military targets and to disrupt trade, which largely meant the fishing and whaling industry and trade with Russian Alaska.

The Russian naval presence in the northwestern Pacific was, not surprisingly, very small. Her fleet in the China and Japan seas in 1854 was commanded by Rear Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin, a highly experienced explorer, diplomat and naval officer who had under his immediate command only the aged 60-gun frigate Pallada (or Pallas), the frigate Aurora and the armed transport Dvina. The last named had only recently refitted in Portsmouth! Putyatin knew very well that his enemy could deploy a far greater force against him and wisely sought to avoid a naval engagement. The frigate Pallada he sent for safety far up the River Amur, whilst the Aurora and Dvina were dispatched to the shelter of Petropavlovsk where they could not only find a refuge but also help in the defence of the port if required.

The allied squadron deployed to operate in the north Pacific was drawn from warships usually on the China Station or patrolling the American Pacific coast, which could be rapidly diverted for active operations against Russian interests. The chosen ships gradually assembled in the Marquesas in May and June and finally concentrated at Honolulu late in July 1854, where in a leisurely manner they completed their repairs and took on water and provisions. The combined force comprised:


President (flagship), a 50-gun frigate under Captain Richard Burridge. Pique, a fifth-rate frigate under Captain Sir F.W.E. Nicolson, Bart. Trincomalee, a Leda-class frigate under Captain Wallace Houstoun.7 Amphitrite, a Leda-class frigate, under Captain Charles Fredericks. Virago, a paddle-steamer under Commander Edward Marshal.


La Forte (flagship), frigate under Captain de Miniac. L’Eurydice, frigate under Captain de la Grandie`re. L’Artemise, corvette under Captain L’Eveque. L’Obligado, brig under Captain Rosenavat.

The French contingent was under Rear Admiral Auguste Febvrier- Despointes (1796–1855) but overall command lay with the British Rear Admiral David Price commanding the British squadron in the Pacific. Having duly received his orders from the Admiralty, on 9 May Price issued instructions from President, then at Callao in Peru, to his subordinate commanders requiring that ‘we should forthwith commence and execute all such hostile measures as may be in our power . . . against Russia and against ships belonging to the Emperor of Russia or to his subjects or others inhabiting within any of his countries, territories or domains’. Having detached the Amphitrite, Trincomalee and Artemise to cruise for commerce protection off the coast of California, the allied squadron still mounted over 200 guns, with 2,000 men and was what one writer called ‘a very respectable force of ships to meet the Russians with’. Setting off from Honolulu on 25 July in search of enemy warships, the allies headed first for the Russian fur-trading port of Sitka in Alaska, hoping to locate the Russian squadron there. When nothing was found, the combined fleet turned for the Kamchatka Peninsula and on 28 August 1854 arrived in Avocha Bay.

Such is the distance between St Petersburg and Petropavlovsk that the military governor of Kamchatka in 1854, Rear Admiral Vasili Zavoyko, had only heard that a state of war existed between Russian, Britain and France in mid-July. Although Petropavlovsk already had some established fortifications, the Admiral lost no time in strengthening its defences, realising that the port would be an obvious target for a naval attack. He ordered the construction of new entrenchments, batteries, banks and ditches and enrolled local men into a form of ‘town guard’. Merchant ships already in the bay were dispersed and the only Russian warships in the port, the recently arrived Aurora and Dvina, were withdrawn deeper into the bay, moored in such a way that their guns would serve as additional batteries defending the approaches to the port. The Aurora took shelter behind a large sand spit, additionally defended by an 11-gun shore battery and both ships’ crews were landed to join the defenders. Nevertheless, Zavoyko had only 67 heavy guns and less than 1,000 armed men (including the naval contingent) to defend the entire town. He could then do no more than wait for an enemy to appear.

Having found no worthy targets in Alaska or at sea over the past five weeks, Admiral Price arrived off Petropavlovsk on 29 August and went aboard the steamer Virago to reconnoitre the port. He found it defended by four small batteries and a larger work, Fort Schakoff, mounting five heavy guns and itself defended by flank batteries, each of twelve 36-pounders. Holding a council of war aboard President, Price decided to attack the port on 30 August. Early that morning, the ships were cleared for action and the President, Pique, La Forte, L’Eurydice and L’Obligado entered the harbour. But after only a few rounds had been fired at the Russian defences, a disaster occurred. Just after the firing began, Admiral Price retired to his cabin below decks on the President and shot himself in the heart; he died some hours later. Whether it was the accidental discharge of his own pistol, as was tactfully suggested at the time, or the suicide attempt of an officer overwhelmed by his responsibilities and sense of inadequacy will never be known. On 1 September his body was taken by Virago to be buried on the nearby island of Tarinski.

The unfortunate Rear Admiral Price (1790–1854) was typical of the gerontocracy which dominated the Royal Navy in the 1850s and whose employment in the Baltic and elsewhere was to cause such comment. Universally regarded with respect as a courteous and tactful man, Price was quite out of his depth as the commander of a combined squadron on active service. He was then 64 years old, had been a post captain for nearly forty years before his recent promotion to rear admiral and had seen no service at sea for over a generation. Operations in the Pacific, 1854–5 91 a brave and resourceful officer, seeing extensive action during the Napoleonic Wars, from Copenhagen in 1801, through numerous naval clashes with the French and during the American War in 1814. But thereafter he had led a quiet life, with six years in retirement (1838–44) as JP for Brecon. Returned to service, from 1846 to 1850 he was superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard, being promoted rear admiral in November 1850, and then for some unaccountable reason, apart from the merit of his long service, given active command of British naval forces in the Pacific in August 1853. The tragedy of his sudden death at Petropavlovsk naturally caused the complete disruption of the planned attack. As next senior British naval officer, overall command of the British ships was quickly transferred to Captain Sir Frederick Nicolson of the Pique, who postponed the attack and ordered the immediate withdrawal of the squadron. Thereafter, the French Admiral Auguste Febvrier-Despointes directed operations; he too was to die aboard his flagship La Forte in 1855.

At 8.00am on 31 August, the allied squadron once again sailed into the harbour and began the bombardment of Petropavlovsk in earnest. But indecision ruined any chance of success. Fearful of serious damage to the ships, the French Admiral kept them at long range – in fact too far to do any serious damage to well-defended batteries. The main target was the large 11-gun battery, which was actually silenced by fire from La Forte and President. The Russian ship Aurora returned a damaging fire from behind her defended position, though she suffered quite severely from the allied response. Finally, a landing party from Virago under Captain Charles A. Parker, RM actually captured one 3-gun shore battery and spiked its guns before withdrawing. But by nightfall little had been achieved and the squadron again withdrew; overnight, the Russians repaired the damage to their batteries ready for the next onslaught.

In council with his officers, Febvrier-Despointes decided to launch a combined land and sea assault on 4 September. Whilst the warships bombarded the Russian defences, a Naval Brigade of 700 sailors and 100 marines drawn from the Pique and the Eurydice, nearly half of the entire manpower of the allied squadron, would be landed to seize gun positions north of the port prior to an attack on the town itself. This force was placed under the command of Captain de la Grandie`re of L’Eurydice, with Captain Burridge of the President and the marine contingent again under Captain Parker. The three warships President, Virago and La Forte would occupy the attention of the shore batteries (which incidentally did a great deal of damage to the ships’ masts and rigging), whilst the shore parties carried aboard Virago dealt with the guns at close quarters and would then attack the town. The main landing beyond the town initially went well, though the site was badly chosen, overlooked as it was by a hill which turned out to be well defended. Gunfire from President and Virago silenced two shore batteries and the immediate land objective, the Russian Battery No. 4, was quickly taken. However, it was found simply to have been abandoned by its small crew under Lieutenant Popoff, who withdrew to No. 2 battery, having spiked its three guns. The warships maintained their previous long-range barrage, especially at the Aurora and at the large No. 2 battery under Lieutenant Prince Maksutoff but the shore party soon got into difficulties and the entire attack collapsed. In face of the strong enemy landing, Russian defenders had been positioned on a wooded hill overlooking the route of the advance and in concealed positions in thick brushland. As the Naval Brigade and marines pushed inland towards No. 2 battery, impeded by dense brambles and undergrowth, they were met with heavy and accurate fire from concealed positions, followed by a counter-attack by Russian sailors. Captain Parker and two French officers, including Captain Lefebvre of L’Eurydice, were amongst the first killed and nine other British and French officers were quickly wounded. With these losses amongst their leaders and under heavy and concentrated fire, the rest fell back and a retreat to the shore was ordered. By the time the fighting stopped, 107 British and 101 French sailors and marines had been killed or wounded in what was an ignominious repulse. The survivors regained the ships by 10.45am and although a desultory firing continued until nightfall, nothing significant was achieved. The ships withdrew beyond range in the evening to repair and to treat the wounded and overnight the Russians again re-occupied or repaired their damaged gun positions.

Needless to say, this setback in the Far East was greeted with a mixture of amazement and derision in Britain, where the failure to achieve anything concrete against so remote an enemy was scarcely credited. The reputation of the Russians as defenders and as opponents capable of supplying and holding on to even the most remote Imperial outpost was greatly enhanced and greatly admired. There is no doubting the bravery of the officers and men on both sides – the casualties amongst the allied officers perhaps indicating a rather reckless disregard for their own safety – but it is equally clear that the landing was badly thought-out, with little accurate information on the nature and strength of the enemy positions they were attacking. The Russians proved to be determined and effective defenders – apparently much to the surprise of the officers of the allied fleet, who seem to have expected a complete collapse and withdrawal by the Russians.

The fleet withdrew to repair and after the allied dead were buried on Tarinski Island on the 5, 6 and 7 September the squadron simply left the area, its commanders considering it too weakened to renew the attack. The Russians reported 115 casualties – 40 killed and 75 wounded, amongst whom was Lieutenant Prince Maksutoff, mortally wounded – and damage to the town’s fish warehouse and 13 other buildings from the naval bombardment. Although Virago and President managed to capture the Russian trading schooner Anadis and the 10-gun transport Sitka on 7 September, these were slender rewards achieved at great cost. The British element sailed for winter stations in Vancouver and the French to San Francisco.

There were no further naval operations in the Pacific that year. The debacle in August and September forced a complete restructuring of the allied squadron made available for operations in the Russian Pacific and the deployment of new warships to the theatre. Rear Admiral Henry William Bruce, commanding Britain’s Pacific Squadron, was appointed to the command in November 1854 but nothing was done until the better weather of the spring of 1855. There were two British squadrons available to provide ships to tackle the Russian presence in the Pacific. The Pacific Squadron generally patrolled the western coasts of the Americas whilst the other was the established China Squadron under Admiral Sir James Stirling. Between them, they would provide a larger force for operations against the Russians and initially put under Admiral Bruce the President, flagship, the Pique, Trincomalee, Dido, Amphitrite, Brisk, screw, Encounter and Barracouta. The French element, commanded by Rear Admiral Martin Fourichon after the death of Febvrier-Despointes, comprised, as in 1854, La Forte, L’Eurydice and L’Obligado with L’Alceste.

In April 1855, Admiral Bruce ordered the Encounter and the Barracouta simply to watch Petropavlovsk and report the movement of Russian ships, if any. The city had in fact been heavily re-fortified in the early months of 1855 but the allied plans for a renewed and successful attack were suddenly rendered obsolete. The defenders of the city, under Admiral Vasili Zavoyko, were well aware of the danger they faced from a renewed onslaught by a much more powerful force. In a remarkably audacious and resourceful move, they cut passages through the ice to release their trapped ships and under cover of snow and dense fog on 17 April 1855, the entire Russian garrison of about 800 was withdrawn from the town and carried southwards to safety in the estuary of the Amur River in the Aurora and Dvina and any other available merchant ship. The remaining civil population to the number of about 1,300 people fled overland to take refuge in the inland village of Avatcha, far from the danger of naval gunnery. The town’s guns were spiked, removed or buried. It was all swiftly, efficiently and effectively carried out, without the allied observers even being aware of the movement.

When in May 1855, the new allied squadron under Bruce sailed into the harbour of Petropavlovsk, it was immediately clear that the town was deserted – apart from two American traders who hoisted the ‘Stars and Stripes’ as a friendly signal. Landing parties destroyed the remaining batteries and gun platforms and burned the arsenal and magazines, but did no damage to private property – unlike the fate of the unfortunate town of Kola in the White Sea. A stranded Russian whaler found in the inner harbour was burned but no attempt was made at any stage to follow the Russian ships into the Amur, since they were reported to be very well protected. Having nothing else to achieve at Petropavlovsk, Bruce and Fourichon directed their ships to Sitka but since it was found to be undefended and with no Russian shipping in port, it was left unharmed. The British press later leveled special criticism against the commanders of the Encounter and the Barracouta for allowing the entire garrison of Petropavlovsk to escape by ship along channels that were not even marked on the Admiralty charts. They did not, however, face any investigation by the authorities.

Despite the change of commanders and an increase in strength, the allied Pacific campaign of 1855 was to be another depressing failure, characterised by a round of seemingly pointless (and certainly ineffective) patrols in largely unknown waters. They simply could not find the Russian Pacific Squadron – or at least, could not close with it – and unlike allied ships in the Baltic and Azoff seas made little attempt to damage the largely insignificant local trade or local communities. Sporadic naval operations by various ships drawn off the China station continued throughout the year. In April, HMS Spartan was detached to patrol the Kuril Islands, with no result, and ships cruised in Japanese and Korean waters searching for Russian vessels. Allied warships visited the Japanese port of Hakodate and from there sailed north, examining largely insignificant settlements on scattered islands; at Urup in the Kuril Islands, they seized the possessions of the Russian-American Company. More alarmingly, Commodore Elliott, with the 40-gun Sybille, the screw Hornet and the Bittern, reported sighting a Russian squadron in Castries Bay on 20 May. They were identified as the ships Aurora, Dvina (both recently escaped from the Amur), Oltenitza, the 6-gun Vostok, and two other unidentified armed vessels. With his three small ships – and no charts or knowledge of the those waters – Elliott did not feel strong enough to enter the bay to try to ‘cut out’ the enemy vessels and apart from Hornet lobbing a few long-range shells at the Dvina, nothing could be done. Having failed to frighten or induce the Russian ships out of the bay to fight in the open sea, Elliott dispatched the Bittern to bring up reinforcements and spent a fruitless week cruising with Hornet and Sybille trying to watch the Russians in Castries Bay. By the time Bittern returned with part of the China Squadron under its Admiral, Sir James Stirling, the Russian vessels had escaped back into the Amur, simply bypassing Commodore Elliott’s slight blockade – a fact that caused some caustic comment in London. The Pique, Barracouta and Amphitrite, joined by the French vessels Sibylle and Constantine, were then detached under Elliott to patrol the Sea of Okhotsk, unsuccessfully searching for the vanished Russian ships.

Admiral Bruce’s squadron, having cruised to no great effect in the estuary of the Amur and then amongst the Kuril Islands in August and September, simply dispersed as winter set in; most of the British vessels headed once more for the dockyards on Vancouver Island, Britain’s nearest Pacific port, whilst the French again sailed for San Francisco. The last act of the Pacific campaign, if it can be called such, was the seizure by Barracouta of the brig Greta, out of Bremen but under US colours, which was found to have on board most of the crew of the Russian frigate Diana. The 50-gun Diana had had an exciting time. Laden with ammunition and other supplies intended to re-supply Petropavlovsk, she had come all the way from Cronstadt in 1854, eluding the allied blockade of the Baltic in its early days. After an epic journey around the world, she was eventually wrecked off the coast of Japan in November 1854 and her non-arrival at Petropavlovsk was another other reason for the town’s abandonment in May 1855. Greta was sent under Lieutenant R. Gibson to Hong Kong and claimed as a prize.

The operations in 1855 were as limited and as unsuccessful – though less costly in lives – as those in 1854 and again caused an outburst of indignation in England. That such large, expensive and powerful fleets could do so little was beyond conception in Britain. The naval authorities on the spot were accused of ‘knight-errantry’ in pointlessly cruising distant, largely uncharted seas with no apparent goal, in dividing their forces up into squadrons too small to tackle any sizeable Russian force that remained and especially in allowing the flight of the Russian squadron in Castries Bay. A correspondent of The Times summed up the whole operation in October 1855:

The result of the expedition was most unsatisfactory and indeed, its commencement was of the same character. Petropavlovski, which was found 14 or 15 months back defended in such a manner as justified a hostile attack, actually repelled the allied forces; and this year when visited, it was disarmed and of course spared. The Russian settlements in the Amoor River turn out to be a mere myth. Finally, the Russian Pacific Squadron appears before our officers just to disappoint their hopes and, when the British Admiral is ready, eludes all pursuit. The Russian ships are, no doubt, at this moment snugly ensconced behind some choice sandbanks in the Sea of Okhotsk.

Unsurprisingly, there were no significant allied naval operations in the Pacific in 1856.