31 Jul 20
Posted by: Dr James Bosbotinis

Having studied the development of the post-Soviet Russian Navy extensively, the subject of this book immediately raised this reviewer’s interest. Russian Battleships and Cruisers of the Russo-Japanese War covers the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, which included the decisive Battle of Tsushima, and marked a nadir in the Russian Navy’s history. The author, Mark Lardas, holds a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, but interestingly, worked for the US Johnson Space Center undertaking structural analysis relating to the Space Shuttle. Lardas has written widely on naval and air topics, in particular covering the early 20th century and the First and Second World Wars. The book also features the excellent illustrations provided by Paul Wright.

Russian Battleships and Cruisers of the Russo-Japanese War is a concise book, totalling 48 pages, encompassing four sections: an Introduction, Design and Development, Operational History and Statistics and Histories. A short bibliography is also included. The section on Design and Development covers the technological context of the period 1880-1905, in particular, propulsion, metallurgy, ordnance, and wireless telegraphy, and the impact on Russian warship development. As someone unfamiliar with the detail of this period, this is a well-written and informative section. Proceeding from this, the author provides a succinct discussion of the principal classes of battleship and cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in the late 19th century and its connection to naval strategy. For this reviewer, comparing the challenges confronting Russian naval development in the late 19th/turn of the 20th centuries and in the early 21st century, one is struck by the enduring nature of some of those challenges.

The account of the Russo-Japanese War itself is well-written and provides a good introduction to the war for those seeking a basic introduction. The book concludes with an overview of the operational histories and key statistics of the battleships and cruisers used by the Russian Navy. Some of the ships’ names will be familiar to readers of The Naval Review for their more recent incarnations, such as the Dmitri Donskoi, Admiral Nakhimov and Varyag. In all, this is an excellent book, providing a well-written and excellently illustrated introduction to the Russian Navy’s principal combatants at the turn of the 20th century. It will greatly appeal to those with an interest in Russian naval history. There are only a handful of minor typos, and at £11.99, this book is good value for money. Russian Battleships and Cruisers of the Russo-Japanese War is recommended.