The military history of the Slavic nations is one of vast, expansive land-based empires sustained by legendary formations of infantry and cavalry, from the Russian Streltsy to the Polish Hussars.
But does that mean that the Slavs are not a seafaring people? Absolutely not. Some of the most inventive naval ship designs have come from Slavic minds. Have a look at our top-5 Slavic warships and tell us what would make it onto your personal list.
This cruiser entered service in the Imperial Russian Navy in 1903. It’s classic turn-of-the-century design of lofty smokestacks and broadsides covered in gun emplacements evokes a sense of splendor from a time of expansion and excess. Aurora took part in the equally disastrous and famous Battle of Tsushima against the upstart Japanese fleet, but managed to get away relatively unscathed thanks to her three new triple-expansion steam engines.
Her main claim to fame, however was when her crew famously mutinied during the 1917 October Revolution; firing off the shot from one of her 152 mm guns that signaled the beginning of the assault on the St. Petersburg imperial palace. The ship survives today in St. Petersburg as a museum ship.
2. President Masaryk
The President Masaryk: Pride of the Czechoslovakian navy. Of course, lacking any ocean access, this navy was confined to rivers; and was tiny. The Masaryk could be classed as a monitor: a defensive type of warship that favored having lots of guns over anything else, making it a sort of (slightly) mobile floating fort.
With her four 66 mm guns and a ship-load of mines, she patrolled the Danube river out of her base in Bratislava. With the 1939 invasion, command of the Czechoslovak flagship passed to Germany and it underwent extensive modifications, eventually seeing action against soviet river gunboats in the Danube.
3. ORP Orzeł
The Polish submarine Orzeł is famed worldwide for the navigational masterpiece it pulled off in the opening days of World War II. In September 1939, after taking some light damage in defense of the Polish Coast from the German Navy, the 84-meter submarine quietly withdrew from the warzone, making its way to neutral Estonia for repairs. With Poland occupied, the plan was to then sail through hostile waters towards Britain to rejoin the fight on the side of the Royal Navy. Before she could begin the journey, Estonian authorities interned Orzeł and her crew, removing all weapons and navigational equipment from the submarine.
Eager to get back out to sea and bring the fight to the Germans, Orzeł’s crew planned their escape. On the night of September 17, Polish crewmembers snuck ashore, sabotaged the port’s searchlights, captured two guards, and cut the crippled submarine loose from its moorings. Orzeł and her crew then slipped out of the harbor under fire from coastal guns and headed back out to the Baltic. Lacking any maps, the sailors had only their memories and a list of lighthouses to reference in finding their way to British waters. Orzeł arrived nearly a month after its daring escape.
Another Imperial Russian invention comes from the early 1870s, when naval engineers’ imaginations ran wild with the wealth of new technology within their reach. Wanting to test bigger guns and thicker armor on warships, a circular hull was proposed to maximize the space on deck.
In her time, stories were told of Novgorod’s poor performance, with gunfire and rough seas causing her to spin like a dreidel. However, Novgorod was built as a static costal defense vessel and served well in that role until 1903.
With nine massive 406 mm/45 Model 1915 main battery guns, complement of twelve 152 mm/57 Mk3 secondary battery emplacements, and 370 mm-thick reinforced belt armor plating running down the sides of her monstrous 41,500-ton hull. This colossal battleship would surely have sent any man – Slav or not – running for cover in a dazed panic.
Truth be told, this ship never got past her design stage in 1930’s Soviet Russia. And it would have stayed this way if it weren’t for the popular naval MMO World of Warships.
Vladivostok has been faithfully recreated just as she would have looked. In this free to play game, you yourself can take command of not only Vladivostok, but over 200 ships that have been painstakingly modeled, including a whole host of other Slavic destroyers, cruisers and battleships.
Want to see what it’s like? Join us here on the Slavorum Facebook page this Friday at 18:00 CEST for a special Live Stream with the World of Warships Prague team to gain a unique naval insight straight from the mouth of real Slav warship connoisseurs.
Have you ever seen someone Slav squatting and sailing at the same time? 😱 Well buckle up, sailor, because you’re in time to see the Slavorum & World of Warships collaboration! 🛳 Smash that 🔥GET…