Cruiser Aurora in St. Petersburg, detailed description

Cruiser Aurora in St. Petersburg, detailed description

Every year on May 18, Russia celebrates the oldest naval association in the Navy – the Baltic Fleet. Its most famous ship is the cruiser. RIA Novosti, May 18, 2021

MOSCOW, May 18 – RIA Novosti. Every year on May 18, Russia celebrates the oldest naval unit in the Russian Navy – the Baltic Fleet. The most famous of its ships is the cruiser Aurora, which has covered over 100,000 miles during its service, taken part in three wars, and underwent numerous refits and inevitable repairs. Today, the ship is an integral part of guidebooks on St. Petersburg, along with the famous bridges and lions.A lesson in maritime historyThe ship was laid May 23, 1897 at the shipyard “New Admiralty” in St. Petersburg. According to the tradition since Peter I, the right to name large ships belonged to the Tsar, so Nicholas II was reported to select a name for the cruiser under construction in 6630 tons of displacement: “Aurora”, “Nayada”, “Heliona”, “Junona”, “Psyche”, “Boyarin”, “Polkan”, “Neptune”. The list underlined the name “Aurora” and in pencil on the margin is written: “Aurora”. Petersburg, in the New Admiralty cruiser 6630 tons of displacement called “Aurora” and enter it in the list of ships of the Baltic Fleet, “- was announced in the order of the Naval Department on April 6, 1897 for № 64.Already three years later the cruiser” Aurora “came into operation. The total tonnage of the ship was 6731 tons, length – 126.8 m, width – 16.8 m, the average draft – 6.4 m. During the Tsushima battle, the Aurora came under heavy fire from 16 Japanese ships, received 18 hits of medium and small caliber shells, which caused considerable damage to the cruiser. Particularly significant damage was sustained by the ship’s artillery. The crew lost 15 men killed and 82 wounded. The cruiser’s commander, captain 1st rank Eugene Yegor’ev died, fatally wounded in the head by a fragment of an enemy shell at the post in the wheelhouse. From the heroic death of “Aurora” saved by Russian battleships, which drove away the enemy. Nevertheless the rather tattered ships could not make it to Vladivostok and left to the south, to the Philippine port of Manila, where they were interned till the end of the war by the US authorities, under whose protectorate the Philippines were at that time. On October 11th 1914 the German U-26 submarine on the approach to the Gulf of Finland detected two Russian cruisers – “Aurora” and “Pallada”, the new cruiser, built after the Russian-Japanese war. The commander of the submarine Lieutenant-Captain von Berkheim assessed the situation and preferred to torpedo the more tidbit target – “Pallada”. The new cruiser sank with the entire crew, and the veteran managed to find shelter in the skerries. In 1917 the imperial command of the Baltic Fleet had prepared an order to sink the cruiser in the fairway of the Gulf of Finland, on the approaches to Kronstadt, so that the German squadrons could not reach Petrograd. In 1941 the Baltic Fleet command planned to remove the Aurora from the Fleet and “let it go to the needles”, but was prevented by the Great Patriotic War, which caught the Aurora in Oranienbaum. For combat operations the cruiser was no longer suitable, but it could still serve the homeland with guns and people. In July 1941 nine of 10 guns of the main caliber (130 mm) were removed from the “Aurora” and set on the outskirts of Leningrad.

These nine guns stretched in a chain on a stretch of 7-8 km from the Voronye Mountain to the Kiev highway, forming the famous single artillery battery A of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet”. The letter A stood for “Aurora”. Each gun of the battery A was served by 15-17 people. In September 1941 during one week the battery was fighting against German tanks and motorized columns. The Germans directed dozens of planes and heavy long-range artillery at guns of “Aurora”, but the battery lived, shot back and continued to defeat the enemy. The enemy did not manage to take the battery in head-on, it was flanked and surrounded. When gun No.1 ran out of shells the crew blew it up. The Germans broke into the position and found only six seriously wounded sailors. Sailors of gun No.2 blew up the gun together with themselves and fascists, who burst into the position. Last gun was blown up in the evening of September 13th and only on September 14th, on the ninth day of fighting, fascists took the whole territory, where the Battery A was located, but there was not a single gun or one sailor alive there. Most of them died a heroic death, and 26 survivors, one by one, went to the Pulkovo heights and joined the crews of the Baltic Battery. The last 130 mm gun was taken off the cruiser in January 1942 and after the repair was installed on the armoured train “Baltiez”, which acted at that time on the Oranienbaum spot. At the end of September the cruiser got some hits, as a result of which it went down on the ground with the roll of 3° to the starboard side. In late November life on the ship became impossible, and the crew was transferred to shore.Aurora shelling stopped only when the blockade of Leningrad was lifted.The Great Patriotic War was not over, but soon after the enemy was repulsed from Leningrad, the question of the cruiser Aurora was raised. The fate of this historic ship worried many sailors, whose lives were somehow associated with it. Many naval officers expressed their suggestions. In spring 1944, the deputy People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR, fleet admiral I.S.Isakov summarized them and made a specific proposal, proving its feasibility. It was on his initiative in August 1944, the executive committee of the Leningrad City Council of Workers’ Deputies adopted a resolution to keep the cruiser forever and to install it near Petrogradskaya embankment on the Bolshaya Nevka river, against the building of the Leningrad Nakhimov Naval Academy. Reconstruction of the cruiserIn the late 1970s the hull of the cruiser “Aurora” fell into disrepair. In the autumn of 1980, Chief of the Soviet Navy S.G. Gorshkov convened an interdepartmental commission, and after six months of work to Soviet Defense Minister D.F. Ustinov was presented a conclusion about the technical condition of the hull, shares the historical record press service shipyard “Northern Shipyard”.In 1984 the USSR Council of Ministers decided to overhaul the legendary cruiser to the 70 th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By that time the underwater part of the ship was simply rotten and looked like a solid sieve. They pumped water out of the holds day and night. Even pouring a layer of concrete into the bottom did not help. A serious reconstruction of the lower part of the hull was required.

But the time for the shipbuilders of the Zhdanov Shipyard, now the Severnaya Verf shipyard, was too short. And then Deputy Minister of Shipbuilding Industry Igor Belousov came up with a life-saving idea: to cut off the old underwater part, make the same new one and put the old above-water part on top of it. On August 18th 1984 Aurora was moored with its stern first to the wall of the shipyard, and all the works began with dismantling armament and equipment of the cruiser. The top-deck structures, superstructures, masts and chimneys were removed. Mechanisms, heating boilers and electric generators were unloaded. The following year the cruiser was put into floating dock, its main transverse bulkheads were reinforced and then the whole underwater part of the cruiser’s hull was detached. By April 1987, after completing the work in the shed, the fins with bronze pins were welded to the cruiser, to which pieces of the original hull were attached, and the superstructures, pipes and masts were fitted. Interestingly, to reduce the loss of speed cruiser because of fouling underwater part of the hull, she was lined with wood and copper sheets. The wooden planking consisted of one layer of carefully fitted and caulked teak planks 102 mm thick and from 254 to 381 mm wide. They were fastened to the hull with through bronze bolts in the total quantity of 19,600 pieces. Over the wood, sheets of copper plating, 1 mm thick, were nailed with copper nails over the thickly resin-impregnated paper. The weight of the copper plating with nails was 27.06 tons. The wooden plating with copper sheets as well as bronze bolts and bronze pins were used “to ensure cleanliness of the copper plating and to position her with the least risk of contact with the iron, so that there would be no galvanic effect if water penetrated through the wooden plating”. Today the cruiser Aurora is a branch of the Peter the Great Central Naval Museum. After another reconstruction on the night of July 16, 2016, the cruiser returned to its eternal berth. Now it is a monument, not only to the great and tragic events of the XX century, but also to domestic shipbuilding.

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“Aurora” at the eternal berth.Obligatory tour of St. Petersburg.

Aurora is very nice, but I really wanted to see it with my own eyes. On my first visit to St. Petersburg it was not there, there was a reconstruction, and now it is here in all its glory, let’s go and see. Some photos I took from social networks, very much they liked me, I share them with you.

The cruiser Aurora in St. Petersburg is a legendary warship moored at Petrogradskaya embankment of the northern capital. On the ship constantly bear combat duty sailors of the Navy. Cruiser Aurora in St. Petersburg is one of the symbols of the northern capital.

However, the history of the ship includes many other events and military campaigns, without which the idea of the historical path of the cruiser would be incomplete.

Construction of the cruiser “Aurora” (Diana type ship) began in 1896. According to the previous shipbuilding program, this project was not in the Navy’s plans at all. However, at the end of the XIX century the foreign policy situation deteriorated markedly. An arms race with Germany began. Against this background, the state needed such new ships as the Aurora. The ship was the third among the cruisers of its class (the first two were Diana and Pallada). The ship was laid down at the New Admiralty. Its design belongs to the authorship of the naval design engineer Xaverius Ratnik. The draft was approved in the Naval technical committee, after which the preparation for the construction began. In spring 1897 the emperor Nikolay II was offered 12 ideas for the name of the future vessel. The tsar chose “Aurora,” a name borrowed from the ancient Roman goddess of the dawn. The laying ceremony was held on June 4. It was attended by the Admiral-General of the Navy, Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich. The other two cruisers were completed before the Aurora appeared. The ship was made belatedly due to the fact that the executor of the order for a long time could not agree on the delivery of a steam engine. At first, the Franco-Russian Works Company did not want to transfer the valuable drawings to the Baltic Shipyard. Finally the conflict was settled and the contract was signed (July 20).

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On May 24, 1900 the ship “Aurora” was launched. The ceremony took place in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, and his mother Maria Feodorovna. Symbolically, at the time of the launch there was a sailor on board, who had previously served on the Aurora frigate, which had participated in the defense of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky during the Crimean War. Installation of machinery and auxiliary mechanisms began the next day. The main technical specifications of the ship are as follows: length – 126 meters, width – 16 meters, draft – 6 meters. “Aurora” has a displacement of 6731 tons. As the engine, the designers chose Belleville water-tube boilers. With about 12,000 horsepower, the ship could reach speeds of up to 35 kilometers per hour (19 knots). The ship had a crew of 550 sailors and another 20 officers. For several years the ship was undergoing trials and then in 1903 it joined the detachment under the command of Rear Admiral Andrew Virenius. The further fate of the ship was connected with the Second Pacific Squadron, created because of the beginning of the Russian-Japanese War. It set out for Port Arthur to unblock the besieged port. The ships had a long journey ahead of them, which usually lasted at least a year.

While sailing in the Baltic Sea on October 22, 1904, a serious incident occurred. The ships of the squadron fired at a suspicious vessel unidentified in the fog. It turned out that they were English fishermen. Two of them were killed. The “Aurora” also came under friendly fire due to poor visibility. The ship was hit by five shells. Because of the wounds received, the hieromonk on the cruiser soon died. The event became known as the Gull incident. Because of the naval error, relations between Russia and Great Britain were seriously damaged. In order to clarify all the circumstances of the tragedy, the parties agreed to an arbitration court investigation. It was the first such case in world practice. In spite of what had happened, the squadron continued its voyage. What was the situation on the cruiser Aurora? The ship was quickly patched up, and its damage did not cause it to return home. On the island of Madagascar, while stationed, the sailors learned that Port Arthur had fallen and the First Pacific Squadron had perished.

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On May 14 or 27, 1905 on the new style, the ship “Aurora” took part in the famous Battle of Tsushima. For the Russian Navy it was a decisive battle and the last hope for the salvation of the entire military campaign. The Second Pacific Squadron suffered a crushing defeat. “Aurora” was lucky – the ship was damaged, but did not capitulate and was not sunk, unlike most of the other domestic vessels. After the battle the cruiser was found to have 18 hits. The anchor chain was broken and the fairlead was disabled. The rest of the damage was holes. On May 21, the ship, escorted by Americans, docked in the Philippine port of Manila. The ship was interned. The crew signed a nonparticipation in further hostilities with the Japanese. The “Aurora” remained anchored in Manila until the signing of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, which ended the war. The cruiser returned home on February 19, 1906. Anchored at Libava, she was abandoned 458 days after the ship set out on her expedition as part of the Second Pacific Squadron. Immediately after the outbreak of World War I, the cruiser Aurora arrived in the port of Revel to await new orders. On August 26, 1914, the “Magdeburg” ran aground in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. “The Aurora set out to intercept the German vessel. Russian sailors were able to capture the ship. Later it was disassembled for scrap metal. This was followed by a long stay in the port of Helsingfors. In 1916 the “Aurora” entered the Gulf of Riga and helped the land forces with dense artillery fire. In the fall the ship went to Kronstadt for repairs.

While anchored in Kronstadt, Captain Mikhail Nikolsky attempted to resist the political revolutionary agitation that flourished in the local factory where the ship was being repaired. Strikes broke out at the plants. The workers’ demands varied. Some wanted shorter working hours, others opposed the authorities altogether. In such a situation the captain rightly feared for the morale of his sailors. On February 27 the armed guards guarding the cruiser “Aurora” was strengthened. The history of the ship had already included dangerous naval battles, but if a riot broke out on the ship, the officers could not count on anything. In addition, agitators were spreading rumors that the Aurora would be made into a floating prison. On the eve of the February Revolution riots broke out on the ship. The sailors ceased to obey Nikolsky’s orders, after which the officers opened fire on them. Three men were wounded, one later died of complications. Meanwhile mass popular demonstrations were already taking place in Petrograd, and the authorities in the capital were virtually paralyzed. On the 28th a demonstration began in front of the Aurora. Workers crowded into the ship. When they learned that there had been a shooting on the ship the day before, there was outrage. The disgruntled detained Captain Nikolsky and another officer, Ogranovich. Their shoulder straps were torn off them. The two were ripped to death by the crowd in the growing chaos of the demonstration. Nikolsky was shot for his unwillingness to march into the Tavrichesky Palace with a red cloth in his hands. The officers failed to protect the ship from the agitators.

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In 1917, the Aurora model of the ship was still combat-ready and relatively modern. The cruiser, despite all the costs of war and revolution, could be used for its intended purpose. After the events of February and the overthrow of the monarchy, the sailors set up a ship’s committee. There were many representatives of the leftist parties, but not a single Bolshevik. However, already in the summer the situation changed radically. Lenin’s supporters worked carefully with the army and navy. Therefore, of course, they could not bypass such an important cruiser Aurora. The history of the ship was briefly known to all the inhabitants of the capital. If the Bolsheviks had succeeded in winning the ship’s crew to their side, it would have been an unqualified success. The most eloquent agitators of the Party (Mikhail Kalinin, for example) spoke on the Aurora, emphasizing its special attitude toward the docked ship. The result was not long in coming. By summer the committee already had 42 representatives of the RSDLP(b). The sailors began to actively participate in Bolshevik street actions. On July 4, during a mass demonstration in Petrograd, sailors came under machine-gun fire from the army, which remained loyal to the Provisional Government. Repression against the Bolsheviks soon began. Lenin fled to a hut in Razliv, and some particularly zealous Aurora sailors ended up under arrest.

In September another re-election of the ship committee took place. The Bolshevik Alexander Belyshev was elected chairman. Nikolai Erickson was made captain. Since the ship’s repairs were completed, it was soon to go to sea. However, on October 10 the Bolsheviks at a meeting of the Central Committee decided on an armed coup in Petrograd. “They needed the Aurora not only as a well-armed cruiser, but also as an important symbol. The Bolsheviks controlled not only the ship, but also the Petrograd Soviet. According to its decision on October 24, the sailors left the ship in St. Petersburg. “The Aurora was to bring down the Nicholas Bridge. The city authorities tried to block the crossings to stop the coup in the capital, and the rebels tried to prevent this. On the night of October 25 the ship entered the Neva. Captain Erickson resisted this decision at first, but nevertheless agreed. He feared that inexperienced sailors would simply run the ship aground. The Nikolayevsky Bridge was in the hands of the cadets. As the Aurora approached, they scattered, and the Bolshevik supporters were able to restore traffic across the river.

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By the morning of October 25, Lenin, from the Smolny, controlled all of Petrograd’s communications infrastructure – telegraph, post office, train station, etc. The Provisional Government still remained in the Winter Palace. The Bolsheviks were going to bombard it from the Peter and Paul Fortress, in case the ministers refused to surrender it. How could the Aurora help in the assault? The type of ship and its armament allowed for a signal shot. The Bolsheviks decided to take advantage of this opportunity. On the afternoon of the 25th Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, head of the field headquarters of Lenin’s supporters, arrived on the ship. He gave the order for the blank shot, which was planned to be fired after the signal from the Peter and Paul Tower. In addition, the Bolsheviks used the radio on the Aurora to transmit an appeal from the leader of the world proletariat. The blank shot was fired at 21:40. It was fired by Commodore Yevdokim Ognev. The shot served as a signal for the storming of the Winter Palace. It also panicked the Ministers of the Provisional Government, cowering in their last stronghold. Historians are still debating whether it was technically possible for the Aurora to field fire on the Winter Palace. Some scholars argue that there could not have been any field fire, if only because of the location of the ship. One way or another, no further firing was needed. The Winter Palace was in the hands of the rebels without the help of the Aurora.

The episode that took place during the October Revolution became the most famous for the Aurora cruiser. The story of the ship was immediately turned into an important image of the birth of Soviet power. Three days after the events at the Winter Palace, it returned for repairs. Soon the Aurora was again part of the active fleet. In the summer of 1918, the Bolshevik power was still fragile. Near Petrograd the offensive of the White Army of Yudenich was developing. The class of the ship “Aurora” could not help the fighting on the ground. Nevertheless, it was decided to use the cruiser somewhat differently. At the same time Petrograd faced the threat of foreign intervention. The Bolsheviks wanted to sink the Aurora and several other ships in order to block the path of enemy ships. However, such a need did not arise. During peacetime the Aurora, which during the October events in Petrograd was front-page news in many Russian and foreign newspapers, became a training ship. The cruiser participated in several overseas voyages. During these expeditions new sailors of the RKKF gained experience. On the tenth anniversary of the revolution in 1927, “Aurora” was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

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