Russian cruiser Varyag (1899)

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Career (Russia) Russia Navy Ensign
Name: Varyag
Builder: William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia
Laid down: October 1898
Launched: 31 October 1899
Commissioned: 2 January 1901
Fate: Scuttled 9 February 1904
Career (Japan) Japanese Navy Ensign
Name: Soya
Acquired: by Japan as prize of war
Commissioned: 9 July 1907
Fate: Returned to Russia, 5 April 1916
Career (Russia) Russia Navy Ensign
Name: Varyag
Acquired: 5 April 1916
Fate: Ran aground 1920, sank 1925
General characteristics
Type: Protected cruiser
Displacement: 6,500 long tons (6,604 t)
Length: 129.6 m (425 ft 2 in) w/l
Beam: 15.8 m (51 ft 10 in)
Draught: 6.3 m (20 ft 8 in)
Propulsion: 2-shaft Vertical triple expansion steam engines
30 Niclausse water-tube boilers
20,000 ihp (15,000 kW)
Speed: 23 knots (26 mph; 43 km/h)
Complement: 570
Armament: 12 × 1 - 152 mm (6 in) guns
12 × 1 - 75 mm (3.0 in) guns
8 × 1 - 47 mm (1.9 in) guns
2 × 1 - 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
6 × 1 - 381 mm (15.0 in) submerged torpedo tubes

Varyag (also spelled Variag; see Varangian for the meaning of the name) (Russian: кре́йсер «Варя́г») was a Russian protected cruiser. Varyag became famous for its crew stoicism at the Battle of Chemulpo Bay.


The Imperial Admiralty contracted William Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to build the ship, and her keel was laid in October 1898. Launched on October 31, 1899, under Captain Vladimir Behr, she was commissioned into the Imperial Russian Navy on January 2, 1901.

During her construction, an assistant physician, Leo Alexandroff, left the ship's advance party on April 20, 1899, and applied for U.S. citizenship. He was arrested for desertion. His case reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in Tucker v. Alexandroff that the ship, though not accepted for service in the Imperial Russian Navy, was a warship under the terms of the 1832 treaty between Russia and the United States.[1]

During the Battle of Chemulpo Bay at the start of the Russo-Japanese War, Varyag (under the command of Captain of the First Rank Vsevolod Rudnev) accepted a badly unequal battle with the Japanese squadron of Admiral Uriu (one armoured cruiser, five protected cruisers and eight destroyers) in a heroic attempt to break out from Chemulpo (Incheon) harbour February 9, 1904. Chemulpo was in neutral Korean waters. Admiral Uriu gave the Russian ships in harbor an written ultimatum to sail by 12:00 noon or be attacked in the harbor itself. Captain Rudnev sortied, accompanied by the gunboat Koreets; having lost 31 men dead, 191 injured (out of 570) and outgunned, both ships returned to harbor by 1:00 p.m., the crew decided not to surrender, but to sink the ship. The crew was saved by transferring them to the British cruiser Talbot, the French cruiser Pascal, and the Italian cruiser Elba; the captain of the American cruiser Vicksburg declined doing so as a violation of U.S. neutrality. [2][3]

In 1907, Vsevolod Rudnev (by that time dismissed in the rank of rear admiral) was decorated with a Japanese order for that battle; although he accepted the order, he never wore it in public.

The Varyag was later salvaged by the Japanese and repaired. She served with the Imperial Japanese Navy as light cruiser Soya.

During World War I, Russia and Japan were allies and several ships were transferred by the Japanese to the Russians. She was returned to the Imperial Russian Navy at Vladivostok on April 5, 1916 and renamed Varyag. She was sent to Great Britain for an overhaul, and was due to re-enter service with the Arctic squadron of the Russian Navy. However, following the Russian October Revolution on November 7, 1917 she was seized by the British and sold to Germany in 1920 for scrap. That same year, while under tow in the Firth of Clyde, she ran aground on rocks near the Scottish village of Lendalfoot, and was scrapped there (55°11′03″N 04°56′30″W / 55.18417°N 4.94167°W / 55.18417; -4.94167Coordinates: 55°11′03″N 04°56′30″W / 55.18417°N 4.94167°W / 55.18417; -4.94167). She finally sank in 1925 and was never recovered.


File:1972. Крейсер Варяг.jpg
Soviet postage stamp of 1972 honoring the cruiser Varyag

The Varyag's crew stoicism at Chemulpo was commemorated in the 1904 song that remains popular today:

Наверх вы, товарищи, все по местам!
Последний парад наступает.
Врагу не сдается наш гордый “Варяг”,
Пощады никто не желает.

Get up you comrades, take your places,
The final parade is at hand.
Proud "Varyag" will not surrender to enemy,
No one wants their mercy.

On Sunday July 30, 2006 (Russian Navy Day), a monument to the cruiser was unveiled at Lendalfoot in a ceremony attended by senior Russian politicians and navy personnel, veterans and local dignitaries.[4]

On 8th September 2007 a large bronze memorial was dedicated at Lendalfoot.


  1. Tucker v. Alexandroff, 183 U.S. 424.
  2. Port Arthur: Prologue materials of publishing house "Alexander PRINT"
  3. Report from Robert S. McCormack to Secretary of State John Hay, May 11, 1904, in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1904, Government Printing House, Washington
  4. Resting place of Russian cruiser Varyag South Ayrshire Council News

External links

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