1873: Russian Round Armored Ships of Admiral Popov


In accordance with the 1856 Treaty of Paris, which formalized Russia's defeat in the Crimean War, Moscow was forbidden to deploy its fleet in the Black Sea. This did not fully suit the imperial government and by 1871 (the moment the agreement was denounced and Russia was given back its right to keep ships on the Black Sea) a program designed to create coastal defenses in Crimea, which would not be affected by the pact, was already in full swing.

"Thus, the authorities decided to build 'ships not from wood.' The draught of such a floating object had to be 3.3 meters and the guns had to have a caliber of at least 280 mm. One of the most important criteria of these ships was the armor - more than on the foreign vessels," explained former editor-in-chief of the Voenno-promyshlenny kurier newspaper Mikhail Khodaryonok.

The only vessels that met these criteria were the round battleships designed by Admiral Andrei Popov, hence the nickname Popovkas.


The existence of these two (yes, there were only two built... allegedly) round Russian armored ships in 1873 does not appear to be a widely known fact. As we came to find out, information is not really hidden, for it is publicly available for research. Yet, certain things are simply not being disseminated. Personally, I found these round ships significant enough to share on our forum. These two ships were:
  • Мonitor Novgorod
  • Мonitor Kiev (later Vice Admiral Popov)
To the above two monitors we will have to add one additional ship built between 1879 and 1880. It was called Levadia, and was an imperial yacht of the House of Romanov. The common denominator here is the below mentioned Admiral Popov, and its "Unconventional design".

Admiral Popov

This gentleman above was the one who designed the round ships. Before we briefly go over his bio, I wanted to remind, that he was one of the two Russian Imperial Navy commanders who "assisted" the United States during the Civil War. He commanded the Russia's Pacific Squadron which arrived in San Francisco on October 12, 1863.
Isn't it interesting how seemingly unrelated things could have a hidden meaning? Jumping ahead of myself, but considering the time frame, could it be that the design of these ships was acquired by the Admiral Popov during his San Francisco stay? Interesting that this idea of building "floating fortresses" in support of the Russian Black Sea defense forces is also being attributed to 1863.

So, who was this Admiral Popov. Here is how Wikipedia presents the narrative compliant version.
  • Synopsys: Andrei Popov (1821-1898) was an officer of the Imperial Russian Navy, who saw action during the Crimean War, and became a noted naval designer. Popov trained for the navy, and commanded ships before and during the Crimean War. He rose to the rank of rear-admiral and was assigned to supervise warship design and construction. He was in command of a squadron in the Pacific during the Polish Crisis that followed the January Uprising in 1863, and was sent to North America on a goodwill mission, and in order to raid colonial possessions should war break out between Russia and other European powers. Though there was no war, Popov spent a year in San Francisco, where the Russian presence had a distinct impact on life. Popov turned to warship design after his return to Russia, and proposed a series of warships to an unconventional circular design. Only two were built, one of which, Vice-admiral Popov, was named in honor of him. Their radical designs proved troublesome, and were not repeated.
  • Early Life: Popov was born in Russia on 21 September 1821, and attended the Naval School. He entered the navy after graduating. He commanded a steamship during the Crimean War and was appointed Manager of Artillery Supplies at Sevastopol. When the war ended Popov was appointed to supervise the construction of steamships for the Russian Navy, a post he held for the next 30 years. The period saw a large expansion in naval construction, with Popov overseeing new Russian warships being built at St Petersburg, such as the 9,000 ton battleship Petr Velikyy.
  • Unconventional Designs: Russia had been banned from maintaining a battlefleet in the Black Sea after the end of the Crimean War. Fearful of further naval incursions, Russia wanted a fleet of heavily armed shallow-draught coastal defence vessels to guard the Kerch Straits and the mouth of the Dniepr River. Popov built a 24-foot steamer and carried out tests in 1870, subsequently proposing a fleet of ten large circular coastal defence vessels. Their circular design would create a stable gun platform suitable for operations in the shallow water of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and they were armed with two 11-inch guns. The expense involved meant that only two were built, the Novgorod and the Kiev. The Kiev was renamed Vice-admiral Popov in honour of her designer after being laid down. The unconventional designs received support from the British naval architect Sir Edward Reed, but failed to live up to expectations. Though heavily armoured, they were too slow to operate in the Dniepr, and were difficult to steer. Firing their guns caused them to spin round, even with the rudder hard over and contra-rotating some of their six propellers. They could not cope with rough weather and were prone to rolling and pitching, which prevented the aiming and loading of the guns. Though they were judged failures, the circular hull design, tempered with a conventional bow and stern, was repeated in the design of the Russian imperial yacht Livadia with greater success. She proved to be comfortable and a good seakeeper. The two battleships and Livadia were christened 'Popovki', by Imperial decree.
Engineering Education
If there was anything suggesting that Admiral Popov received any formal engineering education, I totally missed it. But it appears to be the norm (when we talk about the 19th century) when people with no related education design and build objects of high complexity.

Small Inconsistencies
These small inconsistencies I'm talking about, pertain to the review of the capabilities of the ships. I will re-quote a portion of the above "Unconventional Designs" paragraph.
  • Though heavily armoured, they were too slow to operate in the Dniepr, and were difficult to steer. Firing their guns caused them to spin round, even with the rudder hard over and contra-rotating some of their six propellers. They could not cope with rough weather and were prone to rolling and pitching, which prevented the aiming and loading of the guns. Though they were judged failures, the circular hull design, tempered with a conventional bow and stern, was repeated in the design of the Russian imperial yacht Livadia with greater success.
To add to the above dismal review, we have the following verdict. In his book, The World's Worst Warships, naval historian Antony Preston characterized the popovkas like this:
  • But in other respects, they were a dismal failure. They were too slow to stem the current in the Dniepr, and proved very difficult to steer. In practice the discharge of even one gun caused them to turn out of control and even contra-rotating some of six propellers was unable to keep the ship on the correct heading. Nor could they cope with the rough weather which is frequently encountered in the Black Sea. They were prone to rapid rolling and pitching in anything more than a flat calm, and could not aim or load their guns under such circumstances.
I do not know who exactly to attribute the first of the above two reviews to. The design of these ships was very controversial while they were being built in the 1870s, with many articles being published in the newspapers of the day by supporters and detractors, and later picked up by historians. One such account, published in 1875, claimed that Novgorod made an uncontrollable turn while on the Dniepr. The second one belongs to Antony Preston, who was born in 1936. By then all of the ships covered in this article were scrapped.

But here we have a totally contradicting (the above two) review published by Sir Edward Reed, then Director of Naval Construction of the Royal Navy.
  • The circular form is so extremely favourable to this kind of handiness that the Novgorod can easily be revolved on her centre at a speed which quickly makes one giddy. She can, nevertheless, be promptly brought to rest, and, if, needed have her rotary motion reversed.
The above contradictions were explained like this:
  • It would seem probable that the two reports quoted above were combined into the story as given by Fred T. Jane: "On a trial cruise, they went up the Dniepr very nicely for some distance, till they turned to retire. Then the current caught them, and they were carried out to sea, whirled helplessly round and round, every soul on board helplessly incapacitated by vertigo."
Then we have this opinion of naval historian Stephen McLaughlin. The opinion is claimed by Wikipedia to be a reasonable assessment of these ships:
  • In the final analysis, the popovkas seem to have been relatively effective coast-defence vessels; certainly their combination of armament and armour could have only been carried by a conventional ship of much greater draught. Their faults – and they certainly had faults – were exaggerated by critics, both in Russia and abroad, and have left as a legacy stories of uncontrollable ships designed by incompetent men.
The "Popovka" Ships
The first ship, called Novgorod, was launched in the presence of the emperor on May 21, 1873. The second, which was named in honor of its creator, was launched on September 25, 1875. Unlike the "Novgorod," the new Popovka received a thicker, double layer of armor, a more powerful engine, and a larger superstructure over the deck. But the project was unsuccessful.
  • "The Popovkas were unable to navigate in the open sea and were slower than turtles. Moreover, the impact from the gunfire made the ship turn around. They could have played some minor role only as single means of coastal defense, but not even to a full extent," said former Supreme Commander of the Black Fleet Igor Kasatonov.
  • Consequently, Vice Admiral Popov and Novgorod spent the entire Russian-Turkish War in 1876-1877 docked at the harbor in Odessa, making only three expeditions without ever seeing battle.
  • All Andrei Popov's attempts to have the ships navigate the sea were met with counteraction from the Admiralty, which did not see any potential in them. Moreover, other shortcomings were discovered in the ships when they were used, such as the complete lack of autonomous navigation and poor conditions for the crew.
  • After the end of the war the Vice Admiral Popov was modernized, receiving a new ventilation system, new artillery machines, and a new engine. As a result, its stability on the waves significantly increased and its navigational qualities were improved. However, neither the Vice Admiral Popov nor the Novgorod participated in combat.
Monitor Novgorod
Novgorod was a monitor built for the Imperial Russian Navy in the 1870s. She was one of the most unusual warships ever constructed, and still survives in popular naval myth as one of the worst warships ever built. A more balanced assessment shows that she was relatively effective in her designed role as a coast-defence ship. The hull was circular to reduce draught while allowing the ship to carry much more armour and a heavier armament than other ships of the same size. Novgorod played a minor role in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 and was reclassified as a coast-defence ironclad in 1892.
  • The ship was decommissioned in 1903 and used as a storeship until she was sold for scrap in 1911.


  • Built: 1871–74
  • In service: 1874–1903
  • Type: Monitor
  • Displacement: 2,491 long tons (2,531 t)
  • Length: 101 ft (30.8 m)
  • Beam: 101 ft (30.8 m)
  • Draught: 13 ft 6 in (4.1 m)
  • Installed power:
    • 3,360 ihp (2,510 kW)
    • 8 cylindrical boilers
  • Propulsion: 6 shafts, 6 compound-expansion steam engines
  • Speed: 6.5 knots (12.0 km/h; 7.5 mph)
  • Range: 480 nautical miles (890 km; 550 mi) at full speed
  • Complement: 151 officers and crewmen
  • Armament: 2 × 11-inch (279 mm) rifled muzzle-loading guns
  • Armor:
    • Belt: 7–9 in (178–229 mm)
    • Barbette: 7–9 in (178–229 mm)
    • Deck: 2.75 in (70 mm)
Monitor Kiev aka Admiral Popov
Vice-admiral Popov was a monitor built for the Imperial Russian Navy in the 1870s. It was one of the most unusual warships ever constructed, and still survives in popular naval myth as one of the worst warships ever built. The hull was circular to reduce draught while allowing the ship to carry much more armour and a heavier armament than other ships of the same size. Vice-admiral Popov played a minor role in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 and was reclassified as a coast-defence ironclad in 1892.
  • The ship was decommissioned in 1903 and sold for scrap in 1911.

  • Built: 1872–1876
  • In service: 1876–1903
  • Type: Monitor
  • Displacement: 3,600 long tons (3,658 t)
  • Length: 126 ft 10 in (38.7 m)
  • Beam: 117 ft 8 in (35.9 m)
  • Draft: 19 ft (5.8 m)Installed power:
    • 4,480 ihp (3,340 kW)
    • 12 cylindrical boilers
  • Propulsion: 6 shafts, 8 compound-expansion steam engines
  • Speed: 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h; 9.8 mph)
  • Range: 540 nautical miles (1,000 km; 620 mi) at full speed
  • Complement: 19 officers and 187 crewmen
  • Armament:
    • 2 × 12-inch (305 mm) rifled muzzle-loading guns
    • 4 × 4-pounder, 3.4-inch (86 mm) guns
  • Armor:
    • Belt: 16 in (406 mm)
    • Barbette: 16 in (406 mm)
    • Deck: 2.75 in (70 mm)
Imperial Yacht Livadia
The above two ships were so unsuccessful that out of their "unsuccess" was born an Imperial Yacht called Levadia. Let us see what definition Wikipedia assigns to Imperial Yachts.
  • A royal yacht is a ship used by a monarch or a royal family. If the monarch is an emperor the proper term is imperial yacht. Most of them are financed by the government of the country of which the monarch is head. The royal yacht is most often manned by personnel from the navy and used by the monarch and his/her family on both private and official travels.

The Livadia was an imperial yacht of the House of Romanov built in 1879–1880 to replace a yacht of the same name that had sunk off the coast of Crimea in 1878. The new Livadia, intended for service on the Black Sea, was a radically novel ship conceived by Vice Admiral Andrey Popov, designed by naval architect Erast Gulyaev and built by John Elder & Co. of Govan on the Clyde. The Livadia continued Popov's line of circular ships although this time Popov sacrificed geometrical perfection for seagoing capabilities. She had a beam of 153 ft (47 m) against overall length of only 259 ft (79 m). An extreme example of tumblehome architecture, she sported a conventionally shaped superstructure mounted on a wide, flat-bottomed, turbot-shaped submerged hull or pontoon.


Construction of the Livadia, "a gigantic life-size experiment" and a prototype for next-generation battleships, was supervised by William Pearce. Bruno Tideman and Edward James Reed acted as consultants, William Leiper and William De Morgan designed luxurious interiors. The Livadia turned out a surprisingly maneuverable and stable ship with a respectable maximum speed of 15.7 knots and her efficiency was comparable to conventional ships. Her performance at sea trials surprised most naval architects and was attributed to the favorable placement of the propellers.


The maiden voyage of the Livadia revealed that her wide flat bottom was highly prone to damage by wave slamming. She spent her brief career as a yacht in the docks and was used for her intended purpose only once, carrying Grand Dukes Constantine and Mikhail across the Black Sea. Alexander III had no interest in resurrecting an inherently flawed ship, and in August 1881 Livadia was moored in Nikolaev and then hulked and stripped of her former luxuries. Her engines were removed and reused on the Russian cruisers. The rusty hulk saw some use during World War I and was finally decommissioned in 1926.

So if the Yacht sucked that much (according to 2019 Wikipedia), then why in 1880 the following was published?




And then we have opinions like this Google translated one:
  • The design of the lower hull of the yacht (the sailors called it "pancake") was unique. Designed taking into account the construction experience of Novgorod, it provided an unprecedented, for that time, level of unsinkability. The entire length stretched the second bottom, separated from the skin to a height of 1.07 m in the middle, and 0.76 m in the extremities and divided into 40 waterproof compartments; Two longitudinal vertical bulkheads passed along the entire side, the space between them and the side was also divided by transverse bulkheads into 40 compartments. Covered with a convex, in the shape of an inverted saucer, the deck pontoon served as a solid ring-shaped base for the upper part of the yacht, where all the living quarters and royal apartments were located, and the second bottom was the foundation for three vertical steam engines of double steam expansion with a design capacity of 3,500 liters each. with. each and 10 cylindrical boilers.
KD: To be honest, I do not know what to make out of the existence of these ships. Kinda getting that feeling when you are being told to move on, because there is nothing interesting to see here. To a certain degree, it looks like we are being forcefully convinced that these ships were terrible. At the same time several instances mentioned above make me question the narrative.

We do not appear to have any high resolution images of these ships, to take a good enough of a look. I was unable to find any serious construction documentation. On one hand it is understandable when time taken into consideration. On the other hand this is the same old story - nothing survived.

After reading the below wikipedia articles (which contain way more info), it becomes apparent that these ships were something more important comparing to what we are lead to believe. The description of their construction alone demonstrates their importance.

Judging by the general appearance of these ships sitting in the water, it's almost like they were redesigned for other purposes. May be, I don't know.

Circular Vessels of War
And as it often happens in the process of looking into something, additional things start popping up. Sometimes in great quantities. Round, or circular ships of this type were not as uncommon as it seems. But... it is not being advertised, and our school teachers prefer other "more important" issues. Who cares that the First Emperor Napoleon used to design ships?

Anyways, if you have any thoughts on the matter, please feel free to share.



Well-known member
Searching gibiru only one single entry came up for the search string Адмирал андрей попов поповкас in english "Admiral Andrei Popov popovkas" and it was wikiliar!

Russian ships in San Francisco


The ships of the squadron of Rear Admiral A.A. Popova on the roads of San Francisco. From left to right: the corvettes "Rynda", "Bogatyr" and "Kalevala" (from the album "Remembering the Russian Imperial Fleet" M., 2001).

Monitor history in San Francisco

Went there just to see if popov would have seen one. popov was there 1863-4 we are told and the comanche was assembled in 1863 so it is highly likely popov witnessed the asseembly process himself and highly likely he had engineers in his ships capble of recording the process.Given the reason for the russian ships presence it is not unreasonable to argue the russians would have had full access to the assembly process of the comanche.

Monitor Comanche at SF.png

The USS Comanche (above), a single turret Monitor was constructed, then disassembled to be shipped to San Francisco aboard the cargo vessel Aquila; she was the first Monitor to arrive on the Bay. Upon arrival in November 1863 the Aquila sunk, and the Comanche had to be retrieved from the waters of the Bay before assembly. She went into commission in May 1865, just after the end of the Civil War. This ship carried two 15 inch Dahlgren muzzle-loading smoothbore cannons in one turret.

Then the question arose why send this specific russian admiral?

This site has some clues. Translation by google translate.

Legendary shipbuilder Admiral Andrei Popov was born on September 22, 1821 in St. Petersburg into the family of a nobleman, manager of the Okhta shipyard, a famous shipbuilder, Major General Alexander A. Popov.
Since childhood, Andrew stood out among other boys unusual curiosity and perseverance. In addition, the boy spent days on end in the attic, where he read out old books, especially about the sea. Leafing through the dilapidated pages, the future shipbuilder mentally went to the Around the World and made arctic campaigns. Interest in the history of the Russian fleet at an early age led Popov to the Naval Cadet Corps, which he successfully completed in 1838.Seventeen-year-old Andrei Popov was sent to the 32nd naval crew in the Black Sea Fleet. As part of this compound, midshipman Popov participated in hostilities in the Caucasus, and after that, with the rank of lieutenant, he served on ships of the Black Sea. Soon an experienced officer was authorized to command his first ship. So Popov became commander of the auxiliary cruiser "Meteor".

In 1853, before the beginning of the Crimean War, Lieutenant Commander Popov received an important order. He was seconded to Constantinople to collect data on the fortifications of the Bosphorus, but in May of that year provocation by the British led to the rupture of diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkey and on October 11, 1853 the war began.
In September 1854, in the period of the heroic defense of Sevastopol, Lieutenant Commander Popov was appointed special commission officer under Admiral Nakhimov and Admiral Kornilov. From that moment on, both renowned naval commanders became the role model for the young officer. And then Popov made his first feat. One September night, the frigate Taman left the besieged Sevastopol under the command of Popov without signal lights. Skillfully maneuvering between the invaders' ships, he arrived safely at the port of Odessa. Having received a secret cargo for the besieged city, Popov successfully delivered him to his destination. For the brilliant execution of the order, Andrei Popov was given the extraordinary rank of Captain 2 ranks.

During the Crimean War, Popov, on the frigates "Elbrus", "Andiya" and "Turk", carried out raids on the Black Sea, defeated six Turkish transports.

During the defense of Sevastopol in 1855, dismantled naval guns were installed at the coastal bastions. It was Popov who led the installation of naval cannons at the fortifications of Sevastopol, and soon he was already in charge of artillery ammunition in the entire defensive line of the city. So the officer had the opportunity to show his character as an engineer and inventor. To block the enemy’s entry into the Sevastopol raid, Popov equipped two firefighters and adapted naval artillery to ground defenses. For innovation and courage, the engineer was awarded the Order and the weapon of name. Starting the company captain-lieutenant, Popov finished her in the rank of captain 1 rank.

In 1856, Popov was appointed to the post of chief of staff of the port of Kronstadt, where he remained until 1858. In the same period, Andrei Alexandrovich was in the shipbuilding committee and under his patronage new military ships were built at the Arkhangelsk shipyard. Under his command, including ship designs, 14 screw corvettes and 12 clippers were built, and in the era of the development of the steam fleet, Popov made a huge contribution to its creation. Combining the skills of the commander and shipbuilder Popov, together with Makarov, developed the first samples of ship mines - a formidable and completely new weapon of the time.

In the period from 1858 to 1861, a detachment consisting of two corvettes and one clipper, under the command of Popov, made the transition from Kronstadt to the Sea of Japan, where he conducted research off the coast of Russian Primorye. At the end of the campaign, the naval commander was promoted to rear admirals. Later, Popov was elected a full member of the Marine Scientific Committee and was engaged in converting sailing ships into screw clippers. In the same year, the shipbuilder was appointed commander of the Pacific Squadron, which made a number of successful campaigns to the shores of Great Britain and the United States.

Strangely enough, but the sea voyage to the shores of America had an enormous political significance, both for Russia and for the USA. The fact is that at the height of the American civil war, the arrival of the Russian squadron formulated open assistance to the federal government of President Lincoln in the struggle against the “southerners” and possible intervention by Britain and France. In addition, when the Russian Empire itself was on the verge of another military conflict with England and France, the march of Russian ships to the shores of North America showed the power of the reviving Russian military fleet after the defeat in the Crimean campaign.

Admiral Popov commanded the Pacific squadron until 1864, and after a long voyage, returning to the port of Kronstadt, he took up the problem of shipbuilding closely, for which he often went abroad to gain experience in military shipbuilding. The result of hard work was the laying in 1869 of the paramilitary battleship "Cruiser" at the shipyard of the Galerny Island in St. Petersburg. In 1867, Admiral Popov became the representative of the Shipbuilding Department of the Marine Technical Committee, and actively promoted the need to build a Russian steam armored military fleet. At this time, he personally developed a number of original ship projects, including the famous battleship Cruiser, later renamed Peter the Great. Its distinctive feature was the hydraulic system for lifting the guns and turning the towers. Later, Admiral Popov put forward the idea of creating armored cruisers, which subsequently received the classification "rank 1 cruisers". This idea was immediately picked up by many foreign maritime powers.

In the period from 1869 to 1870, Admiral Popov led the construction of armored frigates, which marked the beginning of the creation of a new class of ships — an armored cruiser, the first of which was the General-Admiral, launched in 1872.

At this time, Popov was promoted to vice admirals. Then he became a member of the Admiralty. The famous shipbuilder here creates completely new types of ships. Admiral Popov proposed the construction of round armored ships with a large displacement and low draft. His firstborn was the ship "Novgorod". This was followed by a series of round courts, which were comically called “popovka” in honor of their creator.

So he was in America not just San Francisco an experienced and successful sailor who was born into shipbuilding and engineering. The perfect man to have a round when the comanche was being assembled.

Missed this bit from the bottom of the page.

Until 1891, when Popov was promoted to full admirals, he headed the design of the first Russian destroyers, oversaw the conversion of the “Europe”, “Asia” and “Africa” merchant ships into cruisers, and also directed the design of the semi-lightweight frigates “Dmitry Donskoy” and “ Vladimir Monomakh ”, the construction of which was completed in 1899 after the death of the admiral. Andrei Alexandrovich Popov died in 1898 and was buried at the Smolensk Orthodox cemetery in St. Petersburg.

Admiral Andrei Alexandrovich Popov was a talented and highly educated man who devoted his entire life to shipbuilding. Though they called him an eccentric admiral for round ships, the contribution of this gifted person and remarkable naval commander to the creation of an armored and cruising fleet of Russia is undoubtedly.

All about the round royal yacht. Livejournal wouldn't work properly for me so it wouldn't display the page in any language other than Russian.
I tried using the web page google translate and its crap. Too much to do manually but here's the ship later in life and the last paragraph translated.


In April 1883 the yacht turned into the steamer "Experience". For several years the ship stood idle: MTK intended to use it as a unique vehicle in terms of capacity, draft and speed for transporting troops and equipment; two side steam engines were planned to be left, and the middle one to be used on the new Baltic battleship. It was indeed removed, but installed on the Minin cruiser, during its repair. The rest of the machines at the end of the century were also sent to the Baltic for the cruisers “General-Admiral” and “Herzog Edinburgh”. When unloading machines, part of the wooden superstructures was dismantled; huge rooms on the upper deck disappeared in the mid-80s. The steamer turned into a blockhouse "Experience", used both as a barracks and as a warehouse ... At the beginning of the XX century it was handed over to the port of Sevastopol, but in 1913 it was again included in the fleet lists as "Block No. 7". He stood in Sevastopol until 1926, when he was written off completely. Black Sea veterans recalled that they had seen its unusual body in the late 30s.

Interesting account of Popov's third visit to Sanfrancisco The Russian Fleet and the Civil War
Last edited:


Well-known member
Having met Mr. Louis Mitchell, the Indian member of the legislature in Maine, one day in Eastport, I asked him to occupy the few minutes which would pass before I should take the steamboat for Calais by telling me a story. He complied by narrating the foregoing. It is very remarkable that the Indian
story-tellers of ancient days should have taken it into their heads to satirize an idea which has been of late carried out completely by the Russian Admiral Popoff, in his celebrated circular war steamer. The story and all the Indian words in it are Passarnaquoddy.
Last edited:


Well-known member
Page this traanslation comes from Круглые суда адмирала Попова. Часть 2. Закладка «Новгорода»

On October 12, 1870, the “highest” selection of a typical popovka took place, and on October 31 a general discussion took place of the project in the shipbuilding department of the Marine Technical Committee. On November 6, the project was signed by the ministry manager. In addition to financial and technical considerations, when choosing a round vessel, it was the diameter of 29.26 meters that was based on the possibilities of further repair of this ship in the Sevastopol ROPiT slipway.

Preparation for the construction of the first popovka in St. Petersburg was launched at full speed in early 1871. In the New Admiralty built a temporary stocks.
Metal for two ships was distributed at once between five enterprises: St. Petersburg plants - the Russian Society of Mechanical and Mining Plants and the Baltic Foundry and Shipbuilding; Volga - Kama and Sormovsky; The largest in quantity metal was supplied by the Rayvolovsky plant located in Finland. Armored iron plates were commissioned to roll Izhora plant. In the competition for the construction of boilers and steam engines, preference was given to the St. Petersburg plant Byrd. This is the oldest company engaged in the manufacture of power plants for the Russian fleet, pledged to put mechanisms for the first popovki to 01.07.1872.

The port of St. Petersburg organized all this cooperation quite effectively. April 1, shipbuilders started to assemble the hull on bolts; it was conducted non-stop, in two shifts, day and night.
For the convenience of work, sluices with ladders of drawing in large masses were attached to the platform. In the autumn, a canopy with side walls was equipped above the construction site. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on December 17th. The ship was given the name "Novgorod". On this day, Alexander II was shown an almost assembled corps.
The ship engineer, lieutenant-in-chief, Glazyrin N.K., supervised the works. By the new year, the hull was dismantled and began preparing parts of the ships for shipment to the south.

By this time, in Nikolaevsky port they were able, basically, to prepare for the assembly of ships. On the northern bank of Ingul, stocks were arranged, and nearby, directly on the ground, equipment and machines of the future armored workshop were installed. In the last ten days of January 1872, the first sheets of the corps of the second popovka, which was given the name "Kiev", were installed on the stocks. At first, Lieutenant von Chemnitz was in charge of the construction of this ship.

Due to the lack of technical and financial resources in 1872, the laying of the remaining popovok was initially postponed for the next year, and then indefinitely. In addition, the novelty of the type of vessel, the haste of its development, the constant improvements that were made by the author directly on the slipway, led ultimately to the consistent construction of two vessels of different technical elements.
In March, Popov A.A. persuaded the ministry to buy new, more compact and lightweight vertical steam engines for “Kiev”, then offered to increase the caliber of the guns and the thickness of the armor ... I had to stop the construction of “Kiev” before the end of the Novgorod test.

To Nikolaev the first batch of parts of the popovka was delivered on March 21. Transportation was carried out under an agreement with the Druzhina transport society and the Russian shipping. Before the railway branch was put into operation on Nikolaev, the cargo was sent to Odessa, after which it was delivered to the Admiralty by steamers and barges. Even after the opening of the direct railway link, the heavy and oversized parts of the backfill had to be wound up due to the weakness of the track. In winter, when Ingul and the Bug were covered with ice, transportation was suspended. Parts of machines and boilers were delivered by sea from St. Petersburg, around Europe.

The assembly of Novgorod in the Nikolaevsk Admiralty was started on March 29, 1872 under the direction of Mordvinov A.V. and it dragged on for a year. Disturbed schedules of traffic from the Volga region and St. Petersburg. Workers gathered throughout Russia proved to be inexperienced. There was a shortage of metalworking machines and hand tools, which were again delivered from England.
Also in England, we had to order a part of the construction forest - the contractors asked for such a material that it was cheaper to purchase and deliver Russian logs from there. The period of readiness of boilers and steam engines was delayed by more than 3 months: the installation of the first machine began only on October 27. After long negotiations with the authorities, it was possible to postpone the date of the descent of the ship, now with the installed, tested mechanisms. Moreover, due to the desire of the General-Admiral to be present during the descent and trials, Novgorod’s readiness dates had to be tied to the date of his arrival!

The rush in the admiralty in the first couple months of 1873 was going on unimaginable: about 2,000 workers every day, regardless of the holidays, assembled around the clock. The Grand Duke in March had mercy on the builders, postponing the date of arrival to the end of May. In the next three months, work was calmer. "Novgorod" on May 21 solemnly went on the water. The first Black Sea battleship also became the first large Russian ship, which was lowered with armor and all mechanisms.

The hull set of Novgorod was carried out using a bracelet check system. It consisted of identical radial frames and stringers - "circular inner fins". Closed with outer and inner iron skins, they formed a double waterproof bottom, and with a circular inner bulkhead - the same board. Thus, a high, for that time, level of the ship's unsinkability was ensured. Part of a specially enhanced set was the foundation for boilers and machinery. Belts of inner lining were located across, and outer - along the vessel, which allowed the assembly to use the usual standard narrow sheets, without resorting to cutting "of large expensive sheets." The side armor plates were installed in two belts: 178-millimeter plates were used for the lower, 229-millimeter plates for the upper one. In order to simplify the fit of the plates along the contour of the hull, which had a double die, they were installed vertically, with the same curvature and sheathed outside with wooden gulls. The armor was attached to the metal channel bars and teak lining, equivalent to 51-mm plates by “resistance force”.

The round frame of the hull, having a single ledge in the stern, was covered with a convex deck, which consisted of three layers of iron sheets. The thickness of the inner sheets is 19 millimeters, the rest is 25.4 millimeters. Outer sheets of the deck for the convenience of movement received a special notch. A circular barbet was installed in the center, which in all documents was called the “fixed open tower”. For its booking the same sheets were used as for the upper side belt. There were installed two 280-mm Krupp rifled guns weighing 26 tons. Each artillery installation was induced and fired independently. Ammunition was fed through a central hatch ("pipe") made in the center of the barbet. Machines moved on special platforms around the hatch.

In the nose of the popovka there was an iron elliptical superstructure, which played the role of an unarmored freeboard. The commander’s cabin, cabin and living quarters for the crew were in it, the rest of the sailors were located under the superstructure on the hinged deck. Right under the tower staged cabins mechanics. Popovka had no conning tower. The compass and the steering wheel were placed behind a barbet on light stages, and the “battle wheel” was placed behind the shaft of the skylight, below the deck. The small freeboard and formations of the deck made it possible to do without davs. Steam boats, four and six yachles, were raised on the deck with the help of a sled, equipped with wheels. Yaly were installed in the stern of the ship on folding iron blocks.

The ship’s propulsion system consisted of six horizontal Wulff steam engines and eight cylindrical fire tube boilers installed symmetrically with the center plane in two engine rooms and two boiler rooms. Each machine set in motion a separate four-bladed screw of the Griffith design. Between the double side and boiler rooms were coal pits. The skylight of the engine room and the base of the chimneys were reserved with 152 mm plates.

Ventilation of the premises was carried out, according to the designer, in the best way. In the boiler rooms there were two air ducts each, the sockets of which were brought out in pairs about the chimneys, while the machine chambers had a skylight made in the stern. Natural ventilation was carried out through a hatch in a barbet, artificial ventilation was carried out with the help of two fan machines.

All the metal and most of the mechanisms were domestic production. In England, only steam windlass was purchased, as well as a fire pump serving the drainage system of impermeable sections of the vessel, proposed by Lieutenant S.O. Makarov. (the system included a main pipeline passing over the second bottom and connected to all compartments with separate hoses).

Popovka during construction increased in diameter by 1500 mm. This happened in connection with the vertical production of armor plates, which caused the hull widening during its subsequent plating with the gulls, and then with the wooden plating. To make a similar covering and then to cover the underwater part with copper sheets was suggested by Vice-Admiral Arkas N.А. The chief commander of the Black Sea Fleet and ports. All this is done on the stocks. Cast iron screws ordered Byrd had to be replaced with bronze ones. To protect against damage to the flat bottom, with a possible grounding, as well as to reduce the pitches, the popovka was supplied with longitudinal outer keels. According to the draft, there were seven of them, and during construction the number increased to twelve. Height is 200 millimeters. The displacement as a result of the "improvements" has increased by 400 tons, and the draft by 300 mm.

After descent in three days the battleship dispersed the pairs and went on its own. With an inexperienced machine team and half-revolutions of machines (instead of 100-120 rpm 62), the popovka developed a speed of 6 knots - “not worse than the Baltic monitors”, Popov A.A. At the official tests, which were conducted at the very beginning of August, at 104 revolutions per minute, the ship reached a speed of 7 knots. At the same time, the consumption of coal, depending on its quality, reached 1.6-2 tons per hour. The tests in full have not been completed, hurrying to prepare for the royal show "Novgorod"; they did not even determine the indicator power of the machines, the commission in its haste recognized it as satisfactory.

In early September, Popovka moved to Sevastopol, where Alexander II and Milutin DA visited her on the 11th.

The creators and crew of the amazing vessel fell awards, and the Minister of War in his diary skeptically wrote: "I can not believe that this circular machine is in fact a seagoing ship." Apparently, Arkas N.A. didn’t believe in this, putting a schooner-escort in the first voyages to Novgorod, without which the popovka wasn’t released into the sea. After solemn examinations of the ship, both guns were finally loaded. The artillery system was tested and adjusted by the end of the month.
During test shooting, the main attention was paid to machines and platforms developed by Major General Pestich FB, first installed in a barbet. The tests were conducted under the guidance of the designer. When the first tests revealed the weakness of the machine stops, which caused turning when fired. The design was immediately strengthened, but the legend of circling the popovka during the shooting remained ...
Before the Russian-Turkish war, new aiming devices were installed, and later rifle control devices (“Davydov guides”) were installed. The guns of Novgorod, according to gunners, could pierce armor, which was equal to their caliber, at a distance of up to 4 cables, so most of the shooting was carried out at short distances. However, at an elevation angle of 14.5 degrees, the range of the projectile was 23 cables. The rate of fire was extremely low: if the turn by 180 degrees took only 2-3 minutes, then manual charging required at least 10 minutes.
In October, Popov A.A. started experimenting with screws, changing their pitch. With the help of pontoons of his own invention, he could lift the stern and rearrange the blades. At the same time, the behavior of the vessel at sea was found. Once the admiral got carried away with fresh weather so much that he almost drowned his own child: the water, which easily ran up to the deck through the canvas, which replaced the top layer of armor plates and the barbet hatch began to flood the interior of the vessel. With difficulty went to Sevastopol. All winter and part of the spring of 1874, the popovka spent in the workshops ROPiT. Here it was first raised to a boathouse: the propeller blades were finally installed (their pitch, counting from the nearest ones in the center plane, was 3.05, 3.35, and 3.66 meters). In the nose, through the double side, a special “secret” pipe was installed to extend the pole with a mine. Adapting the ship for sea crossings, superstructures were created on the deck: from the stern to the barbet, two cabins were built, and on the roofs of these cabins there was a bridge, where the compass and steering wheel, protected by light fellings from bad weather, were moved. A new skylight was put on the new deck, and davits for working boats were installed. Clues of anchors were raised on the roof of the bow superstructure, the wings of the navigating bridge spread along its sides. A year later, the ropitovs moved these wings to the chimneys, connecting them to the stern bridge. A large ventilation pipe was installed on the central hatch of the barbet, and the mast-pole was moved to the front wall of the navigational cabin. At the same time, “as unnecessary”, the ventilation machines were removed.

Captain of the first rank Vogak IK, the first commander of Novgorod, was transferred to Peter the Great in early 1874. His place was taken by Lieutenant Commander Bistrom KR, who was a senior officer on the parrot. In the summer of 1874, Novgorod was able to develop a course of 7.5 knots. Later, due to poor quality and imperfect power plant, the ship’s speed was much lower, and after 2 years steam pressure restrictions were introduced. In 1875, the long-term tests of the ship at sea began, conducted according to a special program compiled by A. Popov.
"Novgorod" was in the sea for a long time, mastering the theater of future military operations: the ship made a flight to the Caucasian coast, then to the Sea of Azov, reaching Taganrog. The ship on the move burrowed into the wave, forming a large breaker in the bow, and even with strong agitation it had a smooth and even roll with amplitudes of up to 7-10 degrees. In fresh weather, otherwise the wind, the battleship was losing heavily in the course, and the waves were going to be tuned. The current and the wind "Novgorod" demolished off course, had to be controlled only by machines. In the spring of 1877, during the exercises at Ochakov, Novgorod, having withdrawn from the anchor, practically did not move with an oncoming current and an 8-point wind ... The commander of the detachment of vessels reported “In such conditions, it is necessary to act at anchor.”






As for the royal yacht of the black sea. Круглые суда адмирала Попова. Часть 6. Судьба поповок

The era of experiments of Admiral Popov A.A. ended after the Russian throne was occupied by Alexander III, who had long disliked General Admiral Konstantin Nikolaevich, and, accordingly, the leadership of the maritime department with the “troubled admiral” Popov, who was engaged, as the emperor himself said, “rounding the national ship architecture” . The ministry was immediately led by the emperor's brother. Popova A.A. replaced Shestakov IA, who in 1882 became the head of the Marine Ministry. However, Andrei Alexandrovich continued to defend a new type of round vessel. According to Gulyaev E.E. he even developed drawings of the “strongest unsinkable battleship” of the “Livadia” form; in the elliptical single-hull structure with vertical sides, eight 305-mm guns were installed, the displacement of the new vessel was 11250 tons, the draft was 4.1 meters. The new manager in his diary sarcasticly noted: "... everything carries in its utopias ships of round shape and standard docks ...".

A.A. Popov, trying to save the yacht, addressed Konstantin Nikolayevich, who was in disgrace, and I.A. Shestakov: “... the lack of special purpose of the yacht does not constitute anything significant, since to destroy the blows you can simply change course or not go to sea at all. "Livadia" does not have to chase the enemy ships, it is not intended for sailing in the oceans, it does not need to be in hurricanes ... "But, according to IA Shestakova," The Sovereign agreed with the yacht to get rid of It was. Even when I said that a prison is required in Sevastopol, he expressed his willingness to give “Livadia” for this use. ” As a result, new running tests could not be completed in 1882, although they could be useful for the future design of new power plants. In addition, Popov A.A. they offered to cover the sum of personal funds granted to English builders, allegedly she was appointed without the knowledge of the ministry’s leadership!
Only after four years of litigation, the treasury assumed the loss.

In April 1883, the yacht was turned into the ship "Experience". The vessel stood idle for several years: the Maritime Technical Committee proposed to use it as a unique transport, in terms of capacity, speed and draft, for transporting equipment and troops; it was planned to leave two side steam engines, and to install the middle one on the new Baltic battleship. She was indeed removed, but she was mounted on the Minin cruiser while it was being repaired. At the end of the century, the remaining vehicles were also transferred to the Baltic and used for the Herzog Edinburgh and General-Admiral cruisers. Part of the wooden superstructures when unloading machines dismantled; huge upper deck spaces disappeared in the mid-1880s. The steamer became the blocking “Experience”, which was used both as a warehouse and as a barracks ... At the beginning of the 20th century, “Experience” was handed over to the port of Sevastopol, but in 1913 it was again included in the fleet lists under the name “Block-7” Until 1926, he stood in Sevastopol, and was finally written off. Black Sea veterans recalled that its unusual skeleton was seen in the late 1930s ...

The fate of the “backwaters”, that is how they were officially called in the “Ship's List” (and, since 1892, “the battleships of coastal defense”), was different.
Before the appearance of the series of ships of the "Catherine II" type, they were the only armadillos of the Black Sea Fleet, and each year were assigned to the campaign. Even carried out repairs.
So, in 1883, new boilers were made for Vice Admiral Popov, and the old ones were transferred to Novgorod. Popovka based on Sevastopol, in the South Bay there were their permanent parking.
Here at the Novgorod in 1882 a sad event occurred that caused a lot of noise: a quarter-time mine exploded in the hands of the quartermaster on board - 3 sailors and 2 officers died. There were a lot of rumors, even a trial took place.
Commander, Captain Second Rank Balk A.O. was transferred to the coastal position. The ship itself was practically not damaged. In the early 1880s, both ships equipped with electric lighting, however, imperfect. The main armament remained unchanged, only on the “Vice-Admiral Popov” two more 87-mm guns were installed.

After the appearance in the Black Sea fleet of "Catherine II", "Sinop" and "Chesma" there was no need for the backs and, although they remained in the first rank of ships until 1893, they were no longer sent to sea voyages, except for occasional transitions for routine repairs to Nikolaev.
In 1893, the last time there was a question about sending back to practical swimming. It immediately became known that the Novgorod corps was in need of major repairs, and the Vice Admiral Popov’s 305-mm guns were not able to make more than 20 shots; the machine installations of both ships also needed to be put in order.

In 1894, Vice-Admiral N. Kopytov, Commander-in-Chief of the Black Sea Fleet and Ports, wrote to the Main Naval Headquarters: “I did not consider Popovki to be fully legitimate fighting ships even at the beginning of their existence; they could only be entrusted with protecting the mouths of the Danube ... but without major corrections ... they cannot even perform this task ... ” Further, the admiral offered not to spend money and, having removed the mechanisms, “hand them over to the port”.
The admiral general quite unexpectedly recognized the proposed measure as untimely and suggested "supporting the vessels in such a degree of readiness that, if necessary, they could serve for combat purposes in the areas closest to our ports ...". Correspondence about the repair was delayed for almost 10 years ... Only in 1903, completely aged popovki surrendered to the Nikolaev port, two months later they were excluded from the fleet lists. In late 1911 - early 1912, ships were scrapped to private individuals.

In many ways, critical assessment of the activities of Popov A.A. on the "rounding of ship architecture" are fair. But at the same time, a whole cascade of new technical solutions and ideas implemented during the creation of these curious ships found application in shipbuilding. Suffice to say about the “constructive protection” of the hull of the vessel using a system of waterproof compartments formed along the entire side and in the bottom of the bottom.
In the maximum volume it was used by E.E. Gulyaev. in the draft of the “non-tiltable and unsinkable battleship”, submitted in 1906 for the competition, and, subsequently, was widely used on heavy artillery ships of all maritime powers. The principle of a broader, in comparison with the freeboard, underwater part, which made it possible to use the same protection more fully, led to the creation of bulls - protruding side board accessories.



Post automatically merged:

The size of the russian navy in 1863 and its apparent lack of shipbuilding infrastructure belies the presumption that russia the country was a world power playing on the world stage..
Look at the info from that pdf https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1835544.pdf

"The fleet was very weak, even weaker than it appeared on paper. It was made up of a small squadron in the Pacific, seven war vessels of various descriptions at Cronstadt, and a frigate in the Mediterranean."

"Your fleet is to consist of three frigates, three clippers, and two
Rear-Admiral Popov, with his squadron, consisting of the cor-
vettes Bogatir, Kalevala, Rinda, and Novik, the clippers Abrek and

So just 14 waarships of all seagoing sizes.
Makes no sense unless one considers that even as late as 1863 most of the landmass we call today Russia was still under the tararian empire or its broken parts control.

for comparison 1862foreignnavies

civil war era royal navy Merely a name list of the British navy's vessels in 1860 would be sufficient to make the point that their fleet was an overwhelming force. In specifics, the inventory included fifty-three steam ships of the line (60 to 131 guns and 2400 to 4200 tons), plus twenty-one on the ineffective list. There were 128 steam cruising vessels -- corvettes, sloops and frigates -- plus ten sailing ships of the line and an equal number of sailing frigates and sloops. Screw and paddle-wheel gunboats of 2 to 6 guns numbered 197. During the years of the Civil War, twelve new ironclads were commissioned, totalling approximately 212 guns. These were oceangoing ships with broadside batteries.

civil war era french navy
In France, the fleet numbered thirty-seven screw liners of up to 130 guns each; fifteen screw frigates and eighty-four steam corvettes and sloops, plus at least twenty-five gunboats. The sailing fleet included eight ships of the line, twenty-seven frigates, and thirty-four corvettes and brigs.

Beginning with Gloire (1860), the French would have eleven ironclads in commission by 1865. Additionally, there would be seven new coastal defense floating batteries, over and above the five batteries constructed for the Crimean War. Finally, during the Civil War years, some thirteen new screw cruisers would be commissioned.

And yet acccoding to the author of that page russia had many more ships.
There were ten screw line-of-battle ships, nine screw frigates, and twenty-six screw sloops and corvettes. Between 1862 and 1865, four ironclads were built, two of which were coastal vessels. It is noteworthy that ten monitors based on John Ericsson's design were begun in 1863 and completed three years later.
Last edited:


Well-known member
it looks like the black see was lower than today.
those round battleships look like moving sinkable forts especially with those gun mounds, if they where of the popup style.
and that yacht looks like an ideal LANDING SHIP TANK, that was being rebuilt into a yacht.
and finished using wood and not strong steel.
they found in the Thames and it probably was in front of something, so it was used to transport troops to the front at the black where someone shot at it with cannon.


Well-known member
These things are mind-blowing! They make our modern ships look primitive.


New member
Great article, very interesting. Are we sure that kind of amazing ship had steam engines? It looks electric and faster... in fact I don' t believe in that two steam pipes (looks out of place) because that design is very modern.


Well-known member
The Russian circular ironclad Novgorod at sea.

Wood engraving after J.R. Wells 1877