Sverdlov-class cruiser

The Sverdlov-class cruisers, Soviet designation Project 68bis, were the last conventional gun cruisers built for the Soviet Navy. They were built in the 1950s and were based on Russian, German, and Italian designs and concepts developed prior to the Second World War. They were modified to improve their sea keeping capabilities, allowing them to run at high speed in the rough waters of the North Atlantic. The basic hull was more modern and had better armor protection than the vast majority of the post World War Two gun cruiser designs built and deployed by peer nations. They also carried an extensive suite of modern radar equipment and anti-aircraft artillery. The Soviets originally planned to build 40 ships in the class, which would be supported by the Stalingrad-class battlecruisers and aircraft carriers.

Sverdlov-class cruiser Admiral Ushakov in 1981
Class overview
Name: Sverdlov class
Preceded by: Chapayev class
Succeeded by: Kynda class
Built: 1949–1955
In commission: 1952–2000
Planned: 30
Completed: 14
Cancelled: 16
Retired: 13
Preserved: 1 (Mikhail Kutuzov)
General characteristics
Type: Cruiser
  • 13,600 tons standard,
  • 16,640 tons full load
  • 210 m (689 ft 0 in) overall
  • 205 m (672 ft 7 in) waterline
Beam: 22 m (72 ft 2 in)
Draught: 6.9 m (22 ft 8 in)
Installed power: 6 boilers, 118,100 shp (88,100 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shaft geared steam turbines
Speed: 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph)
Range: 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement: 1,250
  • 12 × 152 mm (6 in)/57 cal B-38 guns in four triple Mk5-bis turrets
  • 12 × 100 mm (3.9 in)/56 cal Model 1934 guns in 6 twin SM-5-1 mounts
  • 32 × 37 mm (1.5 in) anti-aircraft guns
  • 10 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes

This class of cruiser satisfied the desire of Stalin, and of the leadership within the Soviet Navy, for a ship that was in keeping with a Naval doctrine focused on three priorities: supporting the defense of the Russian coastline, operating out of naval bases worldwide, and protecting Arctic, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea interests. Secondary missions envisioned for this class of ship were commerce raiding, and political presence in the third world. But they were considered obsolete, for the missile age in which defensive and anti submarine resources were the priority, by Soviet Premier Khrushchev and the Soviet Defence staff, which only grudgingly conceded some cruisers for limited roles as flagships in strategic and tactical naval operations. Within the Soviet Navy, leading Admirals still believed in 1959 that more big cruisers would be useful in the sort of operations planned in Cuba and in support of Indonesia. The Sverdlovs were also a threat to the British and Dutch Navies, which lacked 24 hour day/night carrier capability before satellite surveillance.

The big ship threat to the Royal Navy was real, and was useful to it in justifying conventional fleet and carrier construction, especially in the North Atlantic.[1] The response was to introduce the Blackburn Buccaneer, a carrier-based strike aircraft that had the performance required to approach and attack Sverdlov class ships at ultra low level, using toss bombing attacks to deliver nuclear ordnance, while remaining outside the 5 km lethal range of the Russian 100mm and 37mm guns. When the building program was cut back and the battlecruisers and carriers were cancelled, the Sverdlovs were left dangerously unprotected when operating in areas outside the cover of land-based aircraft. Their secondary mission, operating on their own as commerce raiders, was also compromised as they would be extremely vulnerable, in good weather, to USN Carrier Battle Groups equipped with modern strike aircraft and to the remaining Baltimore- and Des Moines-class cruisers equipped with 8 inch guns. (The Royal Navy's last, Colony and Tiger class gun cruisers, and the USN's Gearing and Forrest Sherman class destroyers, lacked armour, range[2] and speed required to counter the Sverdlovs.)

In 1954 Sverdlov class construction was cancelled by Khrushchev after 14 hulls had been completed. Two additional hulls were scrapped on the slip and four partially complete Sverdlovs launched in 1954 were scrapped in 1959. The remaining ships in the Soviet Fleet remained in service through the 1970s, when they underwent a limited modernization program before finally leaving service in the late 1980s.

Only the Mikhail Kutuzov is still preserved, in Novorossiysk.


The project to build the Sverdlov-class cruisers was formally approved on 27 May 1947. The first three ships of the class were named after cancelled ships of the Chapayev class. Thirty ships were originally ordered; however, upon Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, this order was cut to 21 in 1954. Once the first fifteen hulls were laid down, orders for a second group of 6 ships was modified to include provisions for protection against nuclear fallout, but none were completed. Plans were developed and drawings were created to upgrade the ships to support a cruise missile capability; however, these plans were dropped and new construction was cancelled in 1959; incomplete ships were all scrapped by 1961.[3]

Reductions in cruiser force levels was contrary to the views of Soviet Navy leadership, who insisted cruisers still provided a valuable capability to act as command ships for naval gunfire support of amphibious operations. They also thought they would provide a political presence in contested areas of the third world, e.g. Cuba and Indonesia. Had more Sverdlovs been available at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, they would certainly have been deployed. The Soviet Navy intended to base several older Chapayev class cruisers at Cuban ports, had the operation succeeded.

These ships were outclassed as surface combatants, due to their lack of an anti-ship cruise missile capability. The limited modernization of those ships still in service in the 1970s relegated them to service as naval gunfire support platforms.[4]

The standard Soviet practice was to pass the cruisers in and out of reserve status. Most were relegated to a reserve status by the early 1980s.

Today, only one of the ships remains: the Mikhail Kutuzov. It is a museum ship in Novorossiysk.


The Sverdlov-class cruisers were improved and slightly enlarged versions of the Chapayev class. They had the same main armament, machinery and side protection as the earlier ships, but had increased fuel capacity for greater range, an all welded hull, improved underwater protection, increased anti-aircraft artillery and radar.

The Sverdlov class displaced 13,600 tons standard and 16,640 tons at full load. They were 210 metres (689 ft 0 in) long overall and 205 metres (672 ft 7 in) long at the waterline. They had a beam of 22 metres (72 ft 2 in) and draught of 6.9 metres (22 ft 8 in) and typically had a complement of 1,250. The hull was a completely welded new design and the ships had a double bottom for over 75% of their length. The ship also had twenty-three watertight bulkheads. The Sverdlovs had 6 boilers providing steam to two shaft geared steam turbines generating 118,100 shaft horsepower (88,100 kW). This gave the ships a maximum speed of 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph). The cruisers had a range of 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).[3]

Sverdlov-class cruisers main armament included twelve 152 mm (6 in)/57 cal B-38 guns mounted in four triple Mk5-bis turrets. They also had twelve 100 mm (3.9 in)/56 cal Model 1934 guns in six twin SM-5-1 mounts. For anti-aircraft weaponry, the cruisers had thirty-two 37 mm (1.5 in) anti-aircraft guns in sixteen twin mounts and were also equipped with ten 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes in two mountings of five each.[3]

The Sverdlovs had 100 mm (3.9 in) belt armor and had a 50 mm (2.0 in) armored deck. The turrets were shielded by 175 mm (6.9 in) armor and the conning tower, by 150 mm (5.9 in) armor.[3]

The cruisers' ultimate radar suite included one 'Big Net' or 'Top Trough' air search radar, one 'High Sieve' or 'Low Sieve' air search radar, one 'Knife Rest' air search radar and one 'Slim Net' air search radar. For navigational radar they had one 'Don-2' or 'Neptune' model. For fire control purposes the ships were equipped with two 'Sun Visor' radars, two 'Top Bow' 152 mm gun radars and eight 'Egg Cup' gun radars. For electronic countermeasures the ships were equipped with two 'Watch Dog' ECM systems.[3]


By the early 1960s, the torpedo tubes were removed from all ships of the class. In 1957 the Admiral Nakhimov had a KSShch (NATO reporting name: SS-N-1 "Scrubber") anti-ship missile launcher installed to replace "A" and "B" turrets. The modification was designated Project 68ER. This trial installation was not successful and the ship was rapidly decommissioned and used as a target ship in 1961.[3]

Dzerzhinsky had a SAM launcher for the M-2 Volkhov-M missile (SA-N-2 "Guideline"), which replaced the aft turrets in 1960-62, with the designation Project 70E. This conversion was also considered to be unsuccessful and no further ships were converted. As the entire missile installation was above the armored deck and the missile itself, based on the S-75 Dvina (SA-2 "Guideline"), was liquid-fueled (acid/kerosene), it would have represented a serious hazard to the ship in action.[3]

Zhdanov and Senyavin were converted to command ships in 1971 by replacing the "X" turret with extra accommodation and electronics, four twin AK-230 30 mm guns, and a 4K33 "Osa-M" (SA-N-4 "Gecko") Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system. Senyavin also had the "Y" turret removed to make room for a helicopter deck and hangar, and four additional AK-230 mounts installed atop the Osa-M missile system. Zhdanov and Senyavin were respectively designated Project 68U1 and Project 68U2.[3]

Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsia was refitted with an enlarged bridge in 1977, with Admiral Ushakov and Aleksandr Suvorov receiving the same modification in 1979, and later, Mikhail Kutusov. These ships had four of their 37 mm twin mounts removed, and eight 30 mm AK-230 mounts were added. These ships were designated Project 68A.[3]


Sverdlov-class cruisers (Project 68bis)[3]
Name Russian name Builder Laid down Launched Completed Fate Notes
Sverdlov Свердлов Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 15 October 1949 5 July 1950 15 May 1952 Stricken 1989 Named after Yakov Sverdlov. On 14 February 1978 it was relegated to the reserve and stationed at Liepaya. On 30 May 1989 it was decommissioned, and in 1990 towed to Kronshtadt. In early 1991 it was sold to an Indian company for scrap, and in October 1993 towed to India and scrapped.[5]
Zhdanov Жданов Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 11 February 1950 27 December 1950 31 December 1951 Stricken 1991 Named after Andrei Zhdanov. It was converted into a command ship with the "X" turret removed, replaced by office space and extra electronics added. It was then scrapped in 1991.
Admiral Ushakov Адмирал Ушаков Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 31 August 1950 29 September 1951 8 September 1953 Stricken 1987 Named after Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov. Scrapped 1987
Aleksandr Suvorov Александр Суворов Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 26 February 1951 15 May 1952 31 December 1953 Stricken 1990 Named after Alexander Suvorov. Scrapped 1990.
Admiral Senyavin Адмирал Сенявин Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 31 October 1951 22 December 1952 30 November 1954 Stricken 1991 Named after Dmitry Senyavin. Converted into a command ship with after turrets removed and replaced by helicopter hangar and office space, Scrapped 1991
Dmitry Pozharsky Дмитрий Пожарский Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 31 March 1952 25 June 1953 31 December 1954 Stricken 1987 Named after patriot Dmitry Pozharsky. Scrapped 1987.
Kronstadt Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad October 1953 11 September 1954 N/A Broken up, 1961
Tallinn Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad 1953 11 September 1954 N/A Broken up, 1961
Varyag Варя́г Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad December 1952 5 June 1956 N/A Broken up, 1961
Ordzhonikidze Орджоникидзе Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad 19 October 1949 17 September 1950 30 June 1952 Broken up, 1972 Named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze. Sold to Indonesia 1962, recommissioned KRI Irian in 1963. Sold for scrap to Taiwan in 1972. British frogman Lionel Crabb disappeared in 1956 when secretly inspecting this ship for MI6 when it was docked in Portsmouth Harbour.
Aleksandr Nevsky Александр Невский Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad 30 May 1950 7 June 1951 31 December 1952 Stricken 1989 Named after Alexander Nevsky. Scrapped 1989
Admiral Lazarev Адмирал Лазарев Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad 6 February 1951 29 June 1952 30 December 1952 Stricken 1986 Named after Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev. Scrapped 1986
Shcherbakov Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad June 1951 17 March 1954 N/A Broken up, 1961
Dzerzhinsky Дзержинский Nikolayev 31 December 1948 31 August 1950 18 August 1952 Stricken 1989 Named after Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. On 19 February 1980 she was relegated to the reserve and stationed in Sevastopol; Decommissioned 12 October 1988; 1988-1989 scrapped at Inkerman.[5]
Admiral Nakhimov Адмирал Нахимов Nikolayev 27 June 1950 29 June 1951 27 March 1953 Stricken 1961 Named after Admiral Pavel Nakhimov. Rearmed as a guided missile trials ship in late 1950s, target ship 1961
Mikhail Kutuzov Михаил Кутузов Nikolayev 23 February 1951 29 November 1952 30 February 1954 Museum ship Named after Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov. Museum ship at Novorossiysk
Admiral Kornilov Nikolayev 6 November 1951 17 March 1954 N/A Hulk PKZ 130, 1957
Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsia (ex-Molotovsk) Октябрьская Революция Severodvinsk 15 July 1952 25 May 1954 30 November 1954 Stricken 1987 Named after the October Revolution. Scrapped 1987
Murmansk Мурманск Severodvinsk 28 January 1953 24 April 1955 22 September 1955 Stricken 1992 Named after city of Murmansk. Decommissioned late 1980s. She ran aground in December 1994 at Hasvik, Norway on her way to India for scrapping
Arkhangelsk Severodvinsk 1954 N/A N/A Broken up, 1961
Vladivostok Severodvinsk 1955 N/A N/A Broken up, 1961

See also



  1. Gibson, Chris (2015). Nimrod's Genesis. Hikoki Publications. pp. 17, 41–42. ISBN 978-190210947-3.
  2. D.K Brown.Rebuilding the RN. Warship Design since 1945. Seaforth (2012), p 48 & A. Clarke. 'Sverdlov Cruisers and the RN Response'. British Naval History, 12-5-2015
  3. Gardiner and Chumbley, p. 378
  4. Chris Bishop and Tony Cullen (1988). The Encyclopedia of World Sea Power. Crescent Books. p. 81. ISBN 0517653427.
  5. Michael Holm, Sverdlov class, accessed May 2014.


  • Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen; Budzbon, Przemysław, eds. (1995). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-132-7.
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