The warship Novgorod (1874-1911). Her 1:100 scale model is part of our exhibition on modern naval warfare on deck 5 of the museum.
When you think of experimental ship designs from the Industrial Revolution era, almost none can beat the Russian Monitor – the name given to a rather small warship with heavy guns in one or more turrets – „Novgorod“ for strangeness. Although considered by some to be the worst battleship of all time, its practical use was not so disastrous and there were reasons why it would look like a „steampunk UFO“ to some modern-day observers.
The „Novgorod“ was built in 1870 to designs by Rear Admiral Andrei Alexandrovich Popov. Popov designed a circular ship based on a study by the Scottish naval architect John Elder („Circular Ships of War, with immersed motive power“) from 1868. The reason for building such a ship was the Treaty of Paris, which had been dictated by the victorious powers after the Crimean War (1854-1856), which Russia had lost. In it, Russia was subject to very strict limitations on the size of its fleet in the Black Sea. The Admiralty was bound by this not to have any larger ships built, and its budget was also limited. However, Russia felt that heavier guns were needed to protect its ports.
The „Novgorod“ was first built in St Petersburg, then transported to the Black Sea in individual parts and assembled there. The ship was commissioned in 1874 and took part in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, in which, however, it played a minor role. The „Novgorod“ continued to play a role in coastal and harbour defence until 1903, when she was decommissioned and used for storage. She was finally scrapped in 1911.
She and the other ships built to her design, nicknamed “Popovka”, were not a successful experiment. But their reputation is far worse than they were. This is largely to do with the propaganda of the 1870s, with which Russia’s opponents at the time aimed to ridicule the design, either by exaggerating the problems of the construction or simply inventing negative news stories about the ships.
Her 1:100 scale model is part of our exhibition on modern naval warfare on deck 5 of the museum.