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The Demise of the Battleship Novorossiysk: Five Theories

On October 29, 1955, the flagship of the Black Sea squadron of the Soviet Navy, battleship Novorossiysk, sank in the Northern Bay of Sevastopol. More than 600 sailors died. According to the official version, an old German ground mine had exploded under the ship’s bottom. However, other theories exist, unofficial but very popular ones, claiming the Italian, English, or even Soviet sabotage to be responsible for the demise of the Novorossiysk.

The Giulio Cesare

At the time of its destruction, the battleship Novorossiysk was 44 years old, a venerable age for a ship. Most of its life the battleship carried a different name, Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), sailing under the flag of the Italian Naval Forces. Its construction began in Genoa in the summer of 1910, and in 1915 it was set afloat. The battleship did not take part in the First World War; in the 1920s it was used as a training ship for training naval artillerists.

In the middle of 1930s the Giulio Cesare underwent a major overhaul. The ship’s tonnage reached 24,000 metric tons and it was able to gain considerable speeds of 22 knots. The battleship was well armed: two three-barreled and three turret guns, three torpedo launchers, antiaircraft mounts, and large caliber machine guns. During the Second World War, the battleship’s main role was escorting convoys, but in 1942 the Navy’s leadership deemed it outdated and transferred it into the training ship category.

In 1943, Italy capitulated. Until 1948, the Giulio Cesare was stationed, while not preserved, with a minimal crew and with no appropriate technical maintenance.

According to a special agreement, the Italian fleet was supposed to be divided among the anti-Hitler coalition allies. The battleship, a light cruiser, 9 destroyers, and 4 submarines, not counting the small ships, made up the USSR’s share. On January 10, 1947, the allied nations’ Council of Foreign Ministers reached an agreement for distributing the transferred Italian ships between the USSR, the US, Great Britain, and other countries who suffered from Italy’s aggression. Thus, for instance, France was allotted four cruisers, four destroyers, and two submarines, and Greece was given one cruiser. Battleships were included in groups “A”, “B,” and “C” intended for the three principal powers.

The Soviet side laid claim to one of the two new battleships, in their prowess superior even to the German ships of the Bismark class. However, since by that time the Cold War was already beginning between the recent allies, neither the US, nor England was rushing to strengthen the Soviet Navy with powerful ships.

Lots were cast and the USSR got group “C." New battleships went to the US and England (later on, these battleships were returned to Italy under the NATO partnership). By the 1948 decision of the Tripartite Commission, the USSR got the battleship Giulio Cesare, the light cruiser Emmanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta, destroyers Artigliere and Fuciliere, torpedo boats Animoso, Ardimentoso, and Fortunale, and submarines Marea and Nichelio.

On December 9, 1948, Giulio Cesare left the Taranto Port and on December 15 arrived in the Albanian port Vlera. In this port, the battleship was handed over to the Soviet committee, headed by the Rear Admiral Levchenko, on February 3, 1949. On February 6, the Soviet Navy flag was raised over the ship, and in two more weeks it sailed for Sevastopol, arriving at its new base on February 26. By the order of the Black Sea Fleet of March 5, 1949, the battleship was named Novorossiysk.

The Novorossiysk

As practically all the analysts agree, the condition of the ship handed over from the Italians to the Soviet seamen was poor. The bulk of the armament, the principal power generating system, and the main hull constructions, such as the plating, framing, and the main transverse bulkhead below the armored deck, were in relatively acceptable condition. But the general ship systems, such as the pipelines, the fittings, the accessory mechanisms, required serious repair or replacement. The ship had no radar aids at all, no small caliber antiaircraft artillery, and the collection of the radio communication facilities was poor. It must be noted that right before being transferred to the USSR, the battleship underwent minor repairs, mainly of its electromechanical parts.

After the Novorossiysk had settled down in Sevastopol, the Black Sea Fleet leadership gave an order to transform the ship into a full-fledged combat unit in the shortest possible time. The affair was complicated by the fact that part of the documentation was missing, and, on top of that, there were practically no naval experts in the USSR who knew Italian.

In August of 1949, the Novorossiysk took part in squadron maneuvers as the flagship. However, its participation was rather nominal, since the three months allotted were not sufficient (and could not possibly be sufficient) to set the battleship in order. However, the political situation called for a demonstration of successful mastering of the Italian ships by the Soviet seamen. As a result, the squadron put out to sea and the NATO intelligence received evidence that the Novorossiysk was in operation.

From 1949 to 1955, the battleship had been in yard repairs eight times. 24 twin mounts of the Soviet 37-mm antiaircraft autocannons, new radar stations, and radio and internal ship communication facilities were mounted on the ship. The Italian turbines were also replaced with new ones, manufactured at the Kharkov Factory. In May of 1955, the Novorossiysk joined the Black Sea Fleet, and by the end of October it put out to sea several times, working the combat training drills.

On October 28, 1955, the battleship returned from the last campaign and assumed its place at the Northern Bay’s “battleship moorings,” in the area of the Marine Hospital, approximately 110 meters from the shore. The depth there was 17 meters of water and about 30 more meters of viscous ooze.

The Explosion

At the time of the explosion, the battleship commander, Captain of the 1st Rank Kukhta, was on leave. His responsibilities were taken over by the chief mate, Captain of the 2nd Rank Khurshudov. According to the staffing table, the battleship had 68 officers, 243 mates, and 1,231 sailors. After the Novorossiysk was moored, part of the crew went on leave. More than a hundred fifty thousand people remained on board: part of the crew and the new reinforcements (200 people), and the naval academy cadets and soldiers, who arrived at the battleship the day before.

On October 29, at 1:31 am Moscow time, under the ship’s bow, on the starboard side, a powerful explosion went off. Experts estimate that its force was equivalent to that of an explosion of 1,000-1,200 kilograms of TNT. The explosion resulted in a hull breach greater than 150 square meters in area on the starboard side of the submerged part of the hull, and in a dent with a deflection of 2 to 3 meters on the port side and along the keel. Total area of the damage to the underwater part of the hull amounted to approximately 340 square meters on a 22-meter long section. Outside water rushed into the resulting breach and in 3 minutes caused a trim difference of 3-4 degrees and a list to starboard of 1-2 degrees.

At 1:40 am, the Fleet Commander was informed of what was happening. By 2:00 am, when the list to starboard reached 1.5 degrees, the Chief of Fleet Operations, Captain of the 1st Rank Ovcharov ordered to “tow the ship to a shallow area,” and the arrived towboats turned it stern on shore.

By this time, the Black Sea Fleet Commander-in-Chief Vice Admiral V.A.Pakhomenko, the Chief of Fleet Staff Vice Admiral S.E.Chursin, the Military Council member Vice-Admiral N.M.Kulakov, the acting Squadron Commander Rear Admiral N.I.Nikolskiy, the Squadron Chief of Staff Rear Admiral A.I.Zubkov, the Cruiser Division Commander Rear Admiral S.M.Lobov, the Fleet’s Political Directorate Chief Rear Admiral B.T.Kalachev, and 28 more senior Staff officers had arrived at the battleship.

At 2:32 am, a list to port became apparent. By 3:30 am, 800 sailors, not occupied with anything, drew up on deck, and rescue vessels were stationed alongside the battleship. Nikolskiy suggested to transfer the sailors onto the vessels, but received a flat refusal from Parkhomenko. At 3:50 am, the list to port reached 10-12 degrees, while the towboats continued to pull the battleship to the left. 10 minutes later, the list grew to 17 degrees, with 20 degrees being the critical value. Nikolskiy, again, asked Parkhomenko and Kulakov permission to evacuate the sailors not occupied with damage control tasks, and was refused once again.

The Novorossiysk began to capsize. A few dozen people managed to move over to the boats and to the neighboring ships, but hundreds of other sailors jumped from the deck into the water. Many remained inside the sinking battleship. As Admiral Parkhomenko later explained, he “did not consider feasible to order the ship’s personnel to abandon the ship ahead of time, since up until the last minute was hoping that the ship would be rescued, and had no thought that it would be lost.” This hope cost hundreds of people, who, having fallen into the water, got caught under the battleship’s hull, their lives.

By 4:14 am, the Novorossiysk, having taken more than 7 thousand metric tons of water, listed to the fatal 20 degrees, swayed to starboard, then as unexpectedly fell over to the left and rested on its port side. In this position it remained for several hours, masts propping against the hard bottom. On October 29, its bulk completely disappeared under the water.

Total of 609 people, including the damage control parties from other ships of the squadron, died in the disaster. From 50 to 100 people died directly as a result of the explosion and flooding of the bow compartments. The rest died during capsizing of the battleship and after. No timely evacuation of the ship’s personnel was ever organized. Most of the sailors remained inside the ship. Some of them survived for an extended time in the air bubbles of the compartments, but only nine people were rescued: seven exited through an opening cut in the stern side of the ship’s bottom five hours after the capsizing, and two more were led out by divers 50 hours after. According to the divers’ recollections, the doomed to death, buried alive sailors were singing “Varyag”. Only by November 1 the divers stopped hearing the knocking.

In the summer of 1956, a special expedition ÝÎÍ-35 (EON-35) started work for lifting the battleship by the blowing of ballast method. Preparations for the lifting were fully completed by the end of April 1957. The general ballast blowing started the morning of May 4 and the lifting was completed in the same day. The ship surfaced keel up, on May 4, 1957, and on May 14 it was towed to the Cossack Bay, where it was turned upright. During lifting of the ship, the third main battery turret fell out and had to be lifted separately. The ship was dismantled, and the scrap metal was transferred to the Zaporozhstal Factory.

The Committee’s Conclusion

To ascertain the cause of the explosion, a governmental Committee was formed, headed by the Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, Minister of the Shipbuilding Industry, Colonel General of the Engineering Corps Vyacheslav Malyshev. As everyone who knew him recalls, Malyshev was an engineer of greatest expertise. He knew his trade inside out, could read technical diagrams of any complexity, and had expertise in questions of ship’s resistance to flooding and stability. Already in 1946, having reviewed the Giulio Cesare's diagrams, Malyshev recommended refusing the acquisition. However, he was not able to change Stalin’s mind.

The Committee delivered its conclusion two and a half weeks after the disaster. The tight timeline was set by Moscow. On November 17, the Committee’s conclusion was presented to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, where it was accepted and approved.

An “external underwater (non-contact, sea bottom) explosion of a charge equivalent to 1,000-1,200 kg of TNT” was named as the cause of the disaster. The most probable was considered to be an explosion of a German limpet mine that had remained on the bottom after the Great Patriotic War.

As for the responsibility, the Black Sea Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Parkhomenko, the acting Squadron Commander Rear Admiral Nikolskiy, and the acting Commanding Officer of the battleship, Captain of the 2nd Rank Khurshudov, were found to be directly responsible for the death of a considerable number of people and the loss of the battleship Novorossiysk. The Committee noted that the member of the Military Council of the Black Sea Fleet Vice-Admiral Kulakov was also directly responsible for the disaster of the battleship Novorossiysk and especially for the loss of people.

However, despite the severe conclusions, the whole affair amounted to the battleship's Commanding Officer Kukhta being demoted in rank and sent to the reserve. The following were also fired from their posts and demoted in rank: the Commander of the Waterways Defense Division Rear Admiral Galitskiy, the acting Squadron Commander Nikolskiy, and the member of the Military Council Kulakov. A year and a half later, they were reinstated in their ranks. The Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Viktor Parkhomenko was severely reprimanded and on December 8, 1955, he was fired from his post. No legal action was taken against him. In 1956, the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy Admiral N.G.Kuznetsov was fired from his post.

The Committee also noted that the “sailors, mates, and the officers directly supervising the survival efforts on the ship – the acting Commander of the Combat Unit Á×-5 (BCh-5) Comrade Matusevich, the Damage Control Unit Commander Comrade Gorodetskiy, and the Chief of Technical Services of the Navy Comrade Ivanov who aided them - skillfully and bravely fought the incoming water, each knowing his trade well, took initiative, and displayed courage and true heroism. But all the personnel’s efforts were devalued and reduced to zero by the criminally reckless, unqualified, and indecisive command…”

The Committee’s documentation described in detail who was responsible for, but failed to organize, the rescue of the crew and the ship. However, none of these documents gave a direct answer to the principal question: what was the cause of the disaster?

Theory Number 1, the Mine

The initial theories, such as an explosion in the petrol depot or the ammunition chamber, were rejected practically immediately. The petrol depot reservoirs of the battleship had been empty for a long time before the accident. As for the chambers, had they exploded, not much would have remained of the battleship, and the five cruisers surrounding it would have also gone up in air. Besides, this theory was immediately frustrated by the testimonies of the sailors, whose battle stations were the 2nd main artillery battery turret, which is approximately the area of where the battleship’s hull was breached. It was determined with certainty that the 320-mm missiles remained intact.

Several more theories remained, such as: mine explosion, submarine torpedo attack, and sabotage. After the circumstances have been examined, the mine theory received the most votes. A fact easily explained, since in Sevastopol harbors, mines were no rarity beginning with the times of the Civil War. The harbors and the roadsteads were cleared of mines with the aid of minesweepers and diver teams. In 1941, with the German armies’ advancement against Sevastopol, the German Air Force and Navy laid mines in the water basin from both the sea and the air; overall, they planted several hundreds mines of various types and purposes. Some of those went off already in the time of battles, while others were removed and defused after the liberation of Sevastopol in 1944. Later on, the Sevastopol harbors and roadsteads were regularly swept for mines and inspected by diver teams. The last of these comprehensive inspections was completed in 1951-1953. In 1956-1958, already after the battleship’s explosion, 19 more German ground mines were found in the Sevastopol Bay, with three of those being less than 50 meters away from the site of the battleship’s accident.

The divers’ testimonies were also in favor of the mine version. As the unit commander Kravtsov evidenced, “The plating edges of the hole are bent inwards. Judging by the characteristics of the breach and of the plating edge burrs, the explosion was on the outside of the ship."

Theory Number 2, the Torpedo Attack

Next was the theory of the battleship being torpedoed by an unknown submarine. However, when examining the characteristics of the damage done to the battleship, the Committee did not find any signs characteristic of a torpedo hit. But it found something else. At the moment of the explosion, the ships of the Waterways Defense Division, whose responsibility it was to guard the entrance into the main base of the Black Sea Fleet, were in a totally different location. No one was guarding the outer harbor at the night of the disaster; the net gates were wide open, and the hydrophones were inactive. Thus, Sevastopol was defenseless. And, theoretically, an outsider submarine could very well enter the bay, position itself and deliver the torpedo strike.

Practically, though, the depth would probably not have been sufficient for a full-fledged submarine attack. However, the military was aware that some western fleets were already armed with small-sized and midget submarines. Therefore, theoretically, a midget submarine could penetrate into the inner harbor of the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. This supposition, in turn, gave rise to another one – could the explosion have been an act of subversion?

Theory Number 3, the Italian Frogmen

What speaks in favor of this theory is the fact that before taking its place under the Red Flag, the Novorossiysk had been an Italian ship. And the most fearsome subsurface special operations unit during the Second World War, the “10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla,” belonged to the Italians and was under the command of the Prince Junio Valerio Borghese, a staunch anticommunist, who supposedly publicly swore, after the battleship transfer to the USSR, to avenge such a humiliation of Italy.

The graduate of the Royal Navy Academy, Valerio Borghese had a brilliant submarine officer career ahead of him, aided by his noble origins and excellent grades at the Academy. The first submarine under Borghese's command was part of an Italian legion, which, as part of aid to Franco, acted against the Republican Fleet of Spain. After that, the Prince had received a new submarine to command. Later on, Valerio Borghese went through a special training course in Germany, in the Baltic Sea.

After his return to Italy, Borghese was given the most state-of-the-art submarine Scir? to command. Thanks to the Commanding Officer’s skillful actions, the submarine returned back to its base after each military campaign unharmed. Operations of the Italian submariners attracted genuine interest of the King Viktor Emmanuil, who granted the Prince-submariner a personal audience.

After that, Borghese was offered to create the first in the world flotilla of naval sabotage submariners. Midget submarines, special guided torpedoes, and remotely operated motor boats were specially created for the flotilla. On December 18, 1941, the Italians, on midget submarines, secretly sneaked into the Alexandria Harbor and planted magnetic explosive devices to the bottoms of the English battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth. The destruction of these ships allowed the Italian Navy to regain the combat activity initiative in the Mediterranean Sea. The “10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla” also took part in the siege of Sevastopol, basing itself in the ports of Crimea.

A foreign submarine cruiser could, theoretically, deliver frogmen to a maximally short distance from Sevastopol, so that they could carry out the sabotage. Taking into consideration the combat potential of the first-rate Italian scuba divers and the small-sized submarine and manned torpedo pilots, and with an allowance for sloppiness of the Black Sea Fleet main base security, the submarine sabotage theory appears convincing.

Theory 4, English Sabotage

The other subdivision of the world capable of such a subversive act was the 12th Flotilla of the Great Britain’s Naval Forces. At that time it was under the command of the Captain of the 2nd Rank Lionel Crabb, also a legendary figure. During the Second World War, he headed defense of the British naval base Gibraltar from the Italian frogmen and was rightfully regarded as one of the best submarine subversives of the British Navy. Crabb personally knew many of the Italians of the 10th Flotilla. Moreover, after the war, the POW Italian frogmen gave consultations to the 12th Flotilla specialists.

In favor of this version, an argument is put forth that allegedly, the Soviet Command wanted to equip the Novorossiysk with a nuclear weapon. The USSR had the atomic bomb since 1949 but at that time there were no naval means of using the nuclear weapon. The only solution could be the large-caliber guns, shooting heavy missiles to large distances. The Italian battleship was ideal for this purpose. Great Britain, being an island, in such a case would have become the most vulnerable target for the Soviet Naval Forces. In case of an atomic explosive device usage near the western shores of England, taking into consideration the wind rose, with the winds in those lands blowing eastward all year round, the entire country would be exposed to contamination by radiation.

And one more fact – at the end of October 1955, the British Mediterranean squadron was conducting maneuvers in the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Theory 5, Work of the KGB

Already in our time, a Candidate of Science in Engineering Oleg Sergeev, put forth one more version. The battleship Novorossiysk was detonated by two charges with a total TNT equivalent of around 1,800 kg, planted on the sea bottom, somewhere in the area of ammunition magazines of the ship’s bow, at minor distances from the center plane of the ship and from each other. The explosions took place in short succession, resulting in creation of a cumulative effect and resulting in the damage that caused the ship to sink. The blast was prepared and carried out by the domestic special services, with the knowledge of the country’s leadership, and with internal politics as the sole purpose. In 1993, the perpetrators of this act became known; they were the Senior Lieutenant of the special services and two sub-officers – the support group.

Who was the target of this provocation? According to Serveev, first and foremost it was targeted against the Navy leadership. This question was answered two years after the loss of the Novorossiysk, at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on October 29, 1957, by Nikita Khrushchev: “We were proposed to invest more than 100 billion rubles in the Navy and build old motor boats and destroyers armed with conventional artillery. We made a big effort to fight this, fired Kuznetsov… he turned out incapable of thinking and caring about the Navy, the defense. Everything needs to be evaluated in a modern way. We do need to build the Fleet, but, first and foremost, it has to be the submarine fleet, armed with missiles.”

The ten year shipbuilding plan, not reflecting in perspective the priority of the development of the most capital-intensive and profitable for the Military-Industrial Complex naval strategic nuclear forces, could not objectively be supported by the military and political leadership of the country, which is what decided the fate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Nikolai Kuznetsov.

The death of the Novorossiysk marked the beginning of the large scale reduction of the Soviet Navy. The outdated battleships Sevastopol and The October Revolution, captured cruisers Kerch and Admiral Makarov, numerous captured submarines, destroyers, and ships of other classes of prewar construction, were scrapped.

Theory Critique

The mine theory critics claim that the power sources of all the ground mines would have been inevitably de-energized by 1955, and the detonating fuses made completely useless. To this day there are no accumulators capable of keeping charge for ten years or longer. It is also noted that the explosion happened 8 hours after the battleship had been moored, while all the German mines operate in time intervals that are multiples of 6 hours. Before the disaster, the buoy No. 3 was used for mooring by the Novorossiysk (10 times) and by the battleship Sevastopol (134 times) at different times of the year, with nothing exploding. Additionally, it became clear that in reality there were two explosions, and of such a force that two large, deep craters resulted in the sea bottom that could not have been left by an explosion of only one mine.

As for the theories that center around Italian or English subversive work, in this case, a number of questions arises. First of all, an act of such a scale is only possible with participation by the government. It would have been very difficult to hide its preparations, considering the level of activity of the Soviet intelligence on the Appenine Peninsula and the influence of the Italian Communist Party.

Private persons would not have been able to organize such an act - the required resources would have been too large, starting with the several (metric) tons of explosives and ending with the transportation means (let’s not forget about the secrecy). Something like this is acceptable in movies like “The War Dogs,” but in real life it becomes known by the appropriate agencies already at the planning stage, as was the case, for example, with the failed coup in the Equatorial Guinea. Besides, as the former Italian frogmen themselves admitted, their life after the war was under strict control of the government, and any attempt at unauthorized activity would have been suppressed.

Besides, the preparations for such an operation would have had to be kept secret from the allies, and first and foremost, from the US. Had the Americans found out about the planned act of sabotage by the Naval Forces of Italy or Great Britain, they would have surely opposed it, since, in case of a failure, the US would have had a hard time clearing itself from accusations of war mongering. To undertake such a raid against a country that had nuclear weapons, in the midst of the Cold War, would have been madness.

Finally, in order to plant mines on a ship of this class in a protected harbor, it would have been necessary to gather complete information about the defense schedule, moorage locations, ship sorties, etc. To do so without having a resident agent with a radar station in Sevastopol itself or somewhere nearby would have been impossible All the Italian sabotage operations during the war were carried out only after a thorough scouting and never “blindly." But even half a century later there is not a single piece of evidence of an English or Italian resident spy acting in one of the most protected, filtered through and through by the KGB and the counterintelligence, cities of the USSR, and diligently supplying information not only to Rome or London, but to the Prince Borghese himself.

The followers of the Italian theories claim that some time after the demise of the Novorossiysk, there was a fleeting report in the Italian press about a group of officers of the Italian Naval Forces being awarded with orders “for carrying out a special task.” But until this day no one published a single photocopy of the said report. And the allusions to the Italian officers at some point telling someone of their participation in the sinking of the Novorossiysk are without proof. Many “absolutely authentic” interviews with people, who, allegedly, personally piloted the midget submarines to Sevastopol, sweep through the internet. There’s only one problem – these people are either already dead or there is still no possibility to talk to them. Not to mention that the descriptions of the subversive attack vary greatly …

True, the information about the explosion of Novorossiysk appeared very quickly in the western press. But the Italian newspaper commentaries (with the obscure allusions) are just regular journalist’s tricks, whereby the most “reliable” evidence appears post factum. It should also be noted that the Italians sent their "younger” battleships, returned to them by their allies under the NATO, to recasting. If not for the Novorossiysk disaster, the only people in Italy to remember the Giulio Cesare would have been the Navy historians.

Belated Awards

Based on the report by the governmental Committee, the Black Sea Fleet Command, in November of 1955, sent order and medal award nominations of all the seamen who died together with the battleship to the acting Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, Admiral Gorshkov. 117 more people were nominated for awards from those who survived in the explosion, those sailors from other ships who came to the aid of the Novorossiysk, as well as those divers and doctors who distinguished themselves in the course of the rescue operations. The appropriate number of awards was delivered to Sevastopol, to the General Staff of the Fleet. But the actual awarding did not take place. It’s only forty years later that a note was discovered, made on the nominations document by the hand of the Chief of the Personnel Department of the Navy at the time: “the Admiral Comrade Gorshkov does not consider it feasible to come forward with this proposal.”

Only in 1996, after having been repeatedly addressed by the ship veterans, the Government of the Russian Federation gave appropriate instructions to the Ministry of Defense, the Federal Security Service, the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Russian State Naval Historical and Cultural Center and to other agencies. The Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office began the process of checking the materials of the investigation that took place in 1955. The classified commendation lists for the Novorossiysk sailors had been kept in the Central Archive of the Navy all this time. It turned out that 6 sailors were posthumously nominated for the highest award of the USSR – the Order of Lenin, 64 (53 of them posthumously) were nominated for the Order of the Red Banner, 10 (9 of them posthumously), to the Order of the Patriotic War of the 1st and 2nd Degrees, 191 (143 posthumously), to the Order of the Red Star, and 448 sailors (391 posthumously), to the Medals “For Valor,” “For Combat Merits,” and the Ushakov and Nakhimov Medals.

Since by that time, neither the State, under whose naval flag the Novorossiysk was destroyed, nor the Soviet Orders existed any longer, all the Novorossiysk sailors were awarded the Orders of Courage.


Will the final answer to the question of precisely what killed the Novorossiysk ever be found? Most probably not. Had the retrieved battleship been thoroughly inspected by specialists from competent authorities and agencies in addition to the specialists evaluating the degree to which it could be further used, they could have found, in the lower parts of the ship, various “traces” of the still mysterious “charge.” But the ship was quickly cut to scrap, and the matter was closed.

The following materials were used for the article:

site battleships.spb.ru.
S.V. Suliga. Linkor “Dzhulio Chezare” (“Novorossiysk) (The Battleship Giulio Cesare (Novorossiysk)).
N.I.Nikolskiy, V.N.Nikolskiy. Pochemu pogib linkor “Novorossiysk”? (Why Was the Battleship Novorossiysk Lost?)
Sergeev O.L. Katastrofa Linkora “Novorossiysk”. Svidetelstva. Suzhdeniya. Fakty. (The Battleship Novorossiysk Disaster. Testimonies. Opinions. Facts.)
The RF FSB Journal Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (The Security Service), No.3-4, 1996, publication of the investigatory case materials for the loss of the battleship Novorossiysk, from the FSB archives.

Source: Lenta.ru, author: Sergei Karamaev
Translation: Rusnavy.com