On October 29, 1955, the Soviet battleship Novorossiysk sank in a powerful explosion on the Sevastopol roadstead.
The reasons for the explosion are still unknown.
"Julius Caesar" and "Novorossiysk"
The battleship "Novorossiysk" stayed in the Soviet navy for a relatively short time.
It went to the USSR as part of reparations after the end of the Great Patriotic War.
The ship was originally called Giulio Cesare ("Julius Caesar").
It was laid down in 1910 at the Ansaldo shipyard (Genoa) and on the eve of World War I became part of the Italian naval forces.
During the First World War, Giulio Cesare took part in several operations, but never entered into combat clashes with the enemy.
In the interwar period, the ship underwent a large-scale modernization.
After Italy entered World War II, the battleship was involved in combat operations, but already in 1942, due to design flaws, it was used as a training ship and a floating barracks.
After Italy's surrender, its fleet was to be divided among the victorious powers as part of reparations.
The USSR sought to get more modern battleships, but due to the position of the Western countries, the Soviet Union got the outdated Giulio Cesare.
In 1949, the Soviet flag was raised on the battleship.
He was transferred to Sevastopol and received a new name "Novorossiysk".
Before the transfer to the USSR, the ship was parked for several years without proper maintenance.
Therefore, after the battleship was included in the Soviet Navy, it was sent for factory repairs and underwent a major modernization.
In fact, "Novorossiysk" entered service with the Black Sea Fleet only in the spring of 1955.
After that, he made several exits to the sea, practicing combat training tasks.
Launching Giulio Cesare
On October 28, 1955, the battleship returned from a regular campaign and took a place in the Sevastopol Bay (or rather, in its part known as the Northern Bay).
It was located about 110 m from the coast.
The depth in this place was about 17 m, excluding the silt layer.
According to the staffing table, the command of "Novorossiysk" consisted of about one and a half thousand sailors, foremen and officers.
Some of them, after returning from the campaign, went ashore on leave.
At this time, ceremonies were held in Sevastopol to mark the 100th anniversary of the city's defense in the Crimean War.
On October 29, at 01:31 am, a strong explosion occurred in the area of the bow of the ship from the starboard side.
Its capacity in a number of sources is estimated at more than 1000 kilograms of trinitrotoluene.
A hole with an area of about 150 sq.
m. Outboard water immediately began to flow into it.
The incident was reported to the command of the fleet.
It was decided to tow the ship to a shallow place.
Emergency parties began arriving at Novorossiysk from other ships in the bay.
Attempts to fight for the survivability of the ship were unsuccessful.
At about 4 hours 15 minutes, the ship lay on the port side and capsized.
Many of those on the deck were covered by the hull of the ship, and those who were inside the ship were trapped.
Only a few people were saved from the sunken battleship.
The death toll at the "Novorossiysk" in various sources is estimated from 607 to 829 people.
More than a hundred sailors were injured.
Giulio Cesare in 1940
Causes of the disaster
“As part of the organizational conclusions, after the disaster at Novorossiysk, the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet Nikolai Kuznetsov was removed from his post, and a series of resignations took place in the leadership of the Navy.
Now it is difficult to say whether the death of the battleship was the real reason for these resignations or just a formal reason.
To some extent, what happened influenced the halt of the construction of large ships with artillery weapons.
The security zone of Sevastopol was expanded, the security of the base was strengthened.
At the same time, the cause of the disaster remains a mystery, "said historian and writer Alexander Shirokorad in an interview with RT.
According to historians, several versions of the causes of the explosion emerged at once.
Initially, it was suggested that the ammunition load of the Novorossiysk itself could detonate.
However, it was quickly abandoned.
The edges of the hole in the hull were curved inward, the shells, according to eyewitnesses, remained in place, and the explosion from the detonation of the Novorossiysk ammunition load would have been much stronger.
Other potential causes of the disaster included an old German bottom mine, a torpedo attack from a foreign submarine, and the actions of foreign saboteurs.
The participants in the official investigation were inclined towards the version with a German mine, especially since they were found in the Sevastopol region for decades.
However, this assumption has met with valid criticism.
“There was no ammunition at the bottom of the Sevastopol Bay that could have caused such large-scale destruction at the Novorossiysk.
Yes, and the very possibility that such an ammunition would work ten years after the end of the war seems to me very doubtful, "military historian Miroslav Morozov told RT in an interview.
Experts note that the power supplies of the mines should have been discharged for such a long time, and the fuses should have become unusable.
The version with a torpedo was criticized because of the discrepancy between the nature of the damage on the ship's hull and the picture of a torpedo attack and the potential difficulties with using the submarine in a specific location.
“If we proceed from the method of exclusion, then the most probable assumption looks like sabotage,” Miroslav Morozov noted.
"Novorossiysk" in 1950
According to Alexander Shirokorad, there were rumors that the Italian military allegedly threatened to destroy the battleship if it served the USSR, but there is no documentary evidence of this.
True, hypothetically, the Italian armed forces had the means to commit this kind of sabotage - their underwater special forces were considered one of the most well-trained special units of the Second World War and, moreover, had experience of operations in the region of the Crimean Peninsula.
Historians named the British military as other potential organizers of the sabotage, referring to the fact that official London had fears about the prospects for the deployment of nuclear weapons at Novorossiysk.
However, there is no factual evidence in favor of this version either.
Critics of the "sabotage trail" in the death of the battleship note that the actions of foreign special forces on the roadstead of one of the most important Soviet military bases were extremely risky both from a military and political point of view.
And Western countries would hardly give a pretext for starting World War III for the destruction of one obsolete ship.
In 1957, "Novorossiysk" was raised from the day, towed to the Cossack Bay of Sevastopol and cut into metal.
Most of the dead sailors were buried at the Bratsk cemetery in Sevastopol.
In 1963, a memorial was erected there in memory of the victims of the disaster.
Other members of the Novorossiysk team were buried at the Sevastopol Kommunars cemetery.
Monument to the sailors of the battleship "Novorossiysk" at the Communards Cemetery in Sevastopol
Soon after the disaster, a presentation was prepared on the awarding of the dead and surviving sailors from the "Novorossiysk", as well as the military personnel who took part in the rescue operation.
However, for unknown reasons, the award did not take place in the 1950s and took place only in 1999 after repeated appeals from the veterans.
According to Alexander Shirokorad, tragic mistakes were made during the liquidation of the consequences of the explosion at Novorossiysk.
In particular, despite the severity of the situation, people were not evacuated from the ship, which is why the number of victims of the disaster increased.
“In general, it is hard to blame anyone for what happened at Novorossiysk.
Unfortunately, similar tragedies occur in peacetime, when it becomes difficult to maintain combat readiness at the same level as during a war.
The death of hundreds of people is a terrible tragedy, but the catastrophe of 1955 did not cause tectonic structural changes in the Soviet fleet, "summed up Miroslav Morozov.