No one could deny that the Russo-Japanese War was an unmitigated disaster for Imperial Russia. In many respects it was a watershed moment that started the
Romanov family on the road to ruin that would result in revolution. The Imperial Army was humbled but it was the Imperial Navy that suffered even worse. The Battle
of Tsushima and the fall of Port Arthur resulted in more than half of the battleship force being lost. Other types of warships had losses as well but not to the extent of
the Russian battleships. After the war had ended, Russia had to absorb the lessons of the war and start design of new ships to replace the losses. Of course the Russian
priority was on battleship design. What funds were available for new construction went primarily for new battleships. Years passed before the Imperial Navy
considered new cruiser designs. The first tentative look was in 1907, which came up with requirements for a cruiser of 4,500-tons, one 8-inch and six 4.7-inch guns
with a top speed of 28-knots. However, these were only preliminary studies and no orders were placed.
In 1911 another design looked at a cruiser armed with twelve 6-inch guns in four triple turrets with a silhouette that resembled the Gangut battleships but again no
orders were placed because ships of this design would be around 10,000-tons.  Finely in 1912 new cruisers were authorized to a scaled down version of the 1911
design. Eight were planned with four to be built in Baltic yards and four to be built in Black Sea yards. The first six were authorized in the 1912 Programme. The
design would come in at 6,500-tons, which was a large cruiser when one considers contemporary British and German cruiser designs at 5,400-tons. The Russian
design called for twelve 5.1-inch/55 (130mm) guns, singly mounted with gun shields and a maximum speed to 30-knots. However, unlike British and German designs,
the new cruiser would have an armored belt with a 3-inch belt from the lower deck to three feet below the waterline and a light 1-inch belt from the upper deck to the
lower deck. To reduce cost maximum speed was lowered to 29.5-knots and on February 14, 1913 the ships were ordered with four for Baltic yards and two for Black
Sea yards. The Baltic ships were called the
Svetlana class with Svetlana and Admiral Grieg to be built at the Russo-Baltic yard in Reval and Admiral Butakov and
Admiral Spiridov at the Putilov yard in St. Petersburg. The final design came in at 6,750-tons, fifteen 5.1-inch/55 (130mm), four 63mm guns, two submerged 18-inch
torpedo tubes and 100 mines, which were launched from railing on the quarterdeck. Dimensions came in at 519-feet 8-inches overall 158.4m), 507-feet 10-inches
waterline (154.8m), 50-feet 2-inches (15.3m) bean and 18-feet 3-inches draught (5.6m). The two Putilov ships were laid down November 29, 1913 and the two
Russo-Baltic ships laid down on December 7, 1913.
Two of the four Black Sea cruisers were ordered in 1912 with the other two in 1914. Originally they were to be of the same design as the Baltic Sea Svetlana Class
but the Russian Admiralty consulted with the British firm of John Brown for their critical appraisal of the
Svetlana design. As a result of this consultation the
Svetlana design was enlarged. The Black Sea cruisers were called the Admiral Nakhimov Class with Admiral Nakhimov and Admiral Lazarev laid down on
October 31, 1913,
Nakhimov at the Russud Yard in Nikolayev and Lazarev at the Nikolayev Naval Yard. Displacement was 7,600-tons. Dimensions were 546-feet
9-inches (166.7m) overall, 535-feet 6-inches (163.2m) waterline, 51-feet 6-inches (15.7m) beam and 18-feet 3-inches (5.6m) draught. The other two were laid down
in July 1914, a month before the outbreak of World War One with
Admiral Kornilov at Russud and Admiral Istomin at Nikolayev. Armament and armor were the
same as the
Svetlana Class but the Black Sea cruisers were also designed to carry one seaplane. With the outbreak of the war construction dramatically slowed.
Inefficiency of the government and the yards was rife. The Russian government accused the British of stopping delivery of the John Brown turbines but nine months
later they were discovered in a warehouse in St. Petersburg.
Admiral Nakhimov was launched November 6, 1915 and Admiral Lazarev on June 21, 1916. The other
two were never launched. In 1917 the Admiralty added a second seaplane and crane. With the Bolshevik Revolution all work stopped and the Germans seized the
cruiser in 1918. With the German surrender in November 1918, they were handed over to the Allies who in turn handed they over to Admiral Wrangel of the White
Russian faction in 1919. The cruiser was 80% complete at this time. As the Russian Civil War grew increasingly in favor of the Red Army, the Whites decided to
Admiral Nakhimov with them in 1920 but before this happened the Red Army seized the ship at Odessa after the Whites had beached it.
Having gained possession of Admiral Nakhihov as well as Admiral Lazarev, the new Soviet Union did not have the funds to complete the cruisers for another six
years. On December 27, 1922
Admiral Nakhimov was renamed Chervona Ukrainia and was completed on February 2, 1927. It took Admiral Lazarev another five
years. Under the new name of
Krasnyi Kavkaz, she was not completed until January 25, 1932 to a design modified from the Chervona Ukrainia. As completed,
there were a few changes from the original armament suite. The submerged torpedo tubes were removed and the cruiser was given three mounts of three tubes
18-inch torpedoes mounted on the quarterdeck. Secondary guns were four old 4-inch and two 3-inch HA guns. When completed the
Chervona Ukrainia operated an
Avro 504 seaplane given the Russian designation of MU-1. The cruiser was modernized in the early 1930s with removal of the quarterdeck 18-inch torpedo mount
and given four triple tube 21-inch torpedo mounts located amidship. In 1936 three twin gun 3.9-inch HA gun mounts were fitted, one on the forecastle and two aft.
On August 26, 1939
Chervona Ukrainia went in for another refit. She was to get modern 5.1-inch guns but this never materialized. She did get seven 45mm
anti-aircraft guns and some .50 machine guns. Additionally her former mixed coal and oil fuel arrangement was replaced by solely oil fired. She returned to service
on May 1, 1941.
A month later Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Chervona Ukrainia started operations in using her minelaying capability to mine the approaches to Sevastopol and
then in August was assigned the defense of Odessa. The cruiser alternated in bombarding German positions and transporting troops. As the situation grew worse for
the Soviets under the impact of the German Blitzkrieg, the cruiser started evacuating personnel from the ports of Tendra Island and then Odessa. Operating from
Chervona Ukrainia shuttled personnel, troops and supplies between Sevastopol and Caucasus coast. As the Germans started their attack on Sevastopol
she bombarded German artillery and formations. While engaged in a bombardment mission on November 12, 1941 a formation of twenty-eight Ju-87 Stuka dive
bombers caught
Chervona Ukrainia. She was hit be several 100kg and 250kg bombs, which started fires and she sank in shallow water. Since the Soviets could
still raise the cruiser, the Germans attacked the cruiser hulk again on April 2, 1942 to eliminate the possibility of future Soviet use. This attack did finish her and after
the war the wreck was raised in January 1946 and broken up in November 1947.
Combrig produces a resin and brass photo-etch model of Chervona Ukrainia in 1:700 scale. It has the profile of a World War One cruiser but with a high tripod
foremast and tall pole mainmast. The dimensions of the hull casting reflects that it to all intents spot on in scale. The waterline measured 233mm, which when you
multiply by 700 comes out to 163.1m. The actual
Chervona Ukrainia was 163.2m in length. Combrig uses a hard dark gray resin, which produces a crisp and clean
hull. Another feature of
Combrig kits is the lack of resin defects. Sometimes you’ll get broken parts caused during shipping but resin pour errors, voids or pinholes
are very rare with
Combrig. This is certainly true with the Combrig Chervona Ukrainia. The hull casting reflects enough design quirks to interest any modeler who
is interested in naval architecture.
Combrig went overboard with this kit in that there are alternate parts to build one of five different fits; 1928, 1930, 1935, 1937 or
1941. My preference is for 1941when the ship was loaded with guns, fought the Germans and was lost to Stukas. The hull profile reflects the unique ice-breaking
bow and cutaway square stern. Side detail consists of anchor hawse, lines of port holes, deck overhangs for the amidship guns and three hull casemates on each side,
two forward and one at the stern. The casemates lack barrel locater holes. Another architectural treat are the cut-in decks below the bow casemates. There is a
plethora of deck detail as well. At the bow deck anchor chain hawse, deck chain plates, chain locker fittings. open chocks and twin bollard fittings. The deck wooden
panels are well engraved but lack butt end detail.
Combrig provides wells and outlines to ease attachment of the superstructure, funnels and conning tower. Detail on
the deck amidship includes large stack houses, smaller deck houses, deck access coamings and lockers. Aft deck detail includes raised platforms for AA guns, more
deck houses, ventilators, lockers, access coamings, bollard fittings and mine discharge chutes. You won’t find any mine launch railing because these are on the brass
photo-etch fret.
In accordance with the standard Combrig presentation, smaller resin parts are on a extremely thin resin casting sheet or on numerous resin runners. The sheet normally
has the thinner parts like decks and platforms. For the
Chervona Ukrainia the parts on the sheet are for the superstructure decks, searchlight platforms, stack platform,
boat deck, mast observation platforms and navigation platform. There are 28 resin runners providing a host of smaller, cleanly cast parts. No resin flash was present.
Five of the runners have only one part per runner. These are the three stacks, which have cap aprons and hollow openings, and the two motor launches. The different
armament is found on ten runners: 5.1-inch guns; 3.9-inch guns; 45mm guns, open back gun shields for both the 5.1-inch and 3.9-inch guns and triple torpedo tube
mounts. The guns are well done with extremely fine barrels. The barrels are cast so finely that they are susceptible to transit breakage. In my sample two of the 45mm
gun barrels were broken. All replace these with thin stretched plastic sprue. The gun shields have front face detail. The casemate 5.1-inch gun barrels are on a runner
shared with cable reels and drum ventilators. The runner with the detailed torpedo mounts also has gun directors and anchors. The last armament runner appears to be
the .50 caliber machine guns. One runner has the four largest parts with an extremely large J-shape ventilator cowling with a triangular opening, large louvered square
ventilator and two levels of the conning tower with vision slits. More louvered square ventilation towers in four patterns are found another fret with foretop and a smaller
triangular open J cowling. Fittings runners are found for the searchlights, boat davits, small cable reels, and deck edge bulkheads. A final equipment runner has the
smallest mushroom ventilators, capstans and binnacles. Three runners have two open boats on each runner. One of the biggest treats are the optional floatplanes that
Combrig provides with this kit. With the option of five different fits from 1927 to 1941, Combrig provides the parts for three different floatplanes, the MU-1 (Avro-
504) initially carried, the KP-1 (Heinkel HD-15), and the M-9 (Grigorovich).

A very large relief-etched brass photo-etch fret is included with the
Chervona Ukrainia. The largest brass part is the aviation deck with relief-etched ordnance elevators.
I love the fact that
Combrig produced the mine rail tracks on the photo-etch fret instead of cast on detail. It is certainly more complex but it will give you a crisper
finished appearance and certainly easier to paint the metal railing without running over to the wooden deck. Other brass aviation associated parts are the cranes, seaplane
wings and tails, block and tackle, seaplane struts and propellers. Other brass parts are platforms, clinker grates, boat chocks, deck supports, inclined ladders and vertical
ladders. However, you will need railing as none is provided in the kit. The instructions for
Chervona Ukrainia are significantly better than instructions in past Combrig
kits. There are five sheets of instructions, four of which are back-printed. Page one is the standard profile and plane, ship’s specifications and history in Russian. Page
two has the resin and brass part laydown. Page three has alternate bridge assembly, one from 1927 to 1934 and the other from 1934 to 1941. It also has assembly
instructions for all three seaplanes. Page four has the basic assembly with mine rails and other parts found in common on all fits. Page five shows assembly for the 1928
fit, page six the 1930 fit, page seven the 1935 fit, page eight the 1937 fit and page nine the 1941 fit.
The Combrig Chervona Ukrainia in 1:700 scale is very impressive. With parts for five different fits from 1927 through 1941 this Soviet light cruiser, designed for the
Tsar’s navy but sunk by Stukas, comes with a very large relief-etched brass fret and a host of fine resin parts.
Steve Backer