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The Sea Battle of Sinop was fought

30 November 1853

“By destroying the Turkish squadron

you have adorned the annals of the Russian Navy with a new victory,

which will forever remain as a memorable in the naval history”.

Nicholas I, inscription in the nominal rescript to P.S. Nakhimov

 

On November 18 (30) 1853 as part of the Eastern (Crimean) War (1853-1856) the Black Sea squadron under the command of Pavel Stepanovich Nakhivov during the sea battle of Sinop inflicted a crushing defeat on the Turkish squadron of Osman Pasha. This battle became the last major naval battle during the Age of Sail.

The Crimean War between Russia and coalition of countries, which included the British Empire, France and the Ottoman Empire, was a consequence of clash of interests in the Black Sea, in the Caucasus and the Balkans. The British Empire and France, having decided to expand their colonial possessions and seize new markets, faced Russia’s resistance, which was anxious to defend its traditional spheres of influence, economic and political interests in the Black Sea, as well as strengthen its positions in the Caucasus and the Balkans.

In November 1853 the Turkish squadron commanded by Osman Pasha moved from Istanbul to Sinop Bay in the Black Sea in order to launch hostilities. According to the Turkish command’s plans for the squadron, it was to deliver major landing groups on 250 vessels collected in Batumi to the Black Sea shores of the Caucasus, in the area of Sukhum-Kale (Sukhumi) and Poti.   

The Russian squadron under the command of the Russian Vice Admiral Nakhimov (3 battleships), having acquired information regarding the location of the Turkish ships in the Caucasus, blocked their squadron from the sea. Nakhimov made up his mind to attack and defeat it right in the base, otherwise the Ottoman squadron could have moved onto the high seas and have been reinforced by the British and French fleet, stationed in the Dardanelles.

Under the Vice Admiral’s plan the Russian squadron ships were to break into the enemy’s raid and quickly move into the Sinop Bay in two rows, then cast anchor there. Nakhimov elaborately designed disposition of the squadron during the battle, gave clear instructions on preparation for the battle, anchoring, artillery file, choosing targets, detaching frigates  to monitor the steamers.

With the arrival of reinforcement Nakhimov, having 6 battleships (“Empress Maria”, “Paris”, “Three Saints”, “Grand Duke Constantine”, “Rostislav” and “Chesma”) and 2 frigates (“Kagul” and “Kulevchi”), decided to attack the Turkish squadron, which consisted out of 7 frigates, 3 corvettes, 2 steam frigates, 2 brigs and 2 military transport. The Russians had advantage in naval artillery (720 guns vs.  510), as for Turks — they had steamers and shore batteries (38 guns).

On November 18 (30) the Russian squadron started to approach the enemy. The artillery attack was started by Turkish ships. Russian ships, broke through the barrage of the enemy’s fire, anchored and opened a shattering fire. The battle lasted for about four hours. The Turkish steam frigate “Taif” commanded by A. Slade (British adviser of Osman Pasha) fled, other Turkish ships and all batteries (26 guns), which took part in the battle, were destroyed by the fire of the Russian artillery. Turkey lost over 3 000 men both killed and drowned, and some 200 men, including wounded Osman Pasha taken prisoners; losses of the Russian squadron amounted to 37 dead and 235 wounded.

The last major battle involving fleets of sailing vessels resulted into a decisive victory of the Russian squadron. In this battle for the first time on the large scale were used 68-pounder guns, located on the lower gun-decks of Russian battleships. It was a rare example in the world history when the naval base with a fleet located there was destroyed as a result of the attack from the sea.

For the victory at Sinop Nicholas I awarded the Vice Admiral Nakhimov with the Order of St. George of the 2nd degree, and wrote in the nominal rescript: “By destroying the Turkish squadron you have adorned the annals of the Russian Navy with a new victory, which will forever remain as a memorable in the naval history”. Assessing the Battle of Sinop, the Vice Admiral Kornilov wrote: “The battle is glorious, above Chesma and Navarino... Hurray, Nakhimov! Lazarev is proud of his pupil!”

Winning a victory in the Battle of Sinop the Russian fleet maintained dominance in the Black Sea and destroyed Turkish plans to land in the Caucasus. As a result of the Turkey’s defeat its allies — the British Empire and France in December 1853 brought their squadrons to the Black Sea.

Lit.: Зверев Б. И. Синопская победа. Симферополь, 1954; Крымская война в 1853–1856 гг. // Боевая летопись русского флота: Хроника важнейших событий военной истории русского флота с IX в. по 1917 г. М., 1948. Разд. 4. С. 220; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:http://militera.lib.ru/h/boevaya_letopis_flota/32.html; Крымская (Восточная война) // Золотарёв В. А., Козлов И. А. Три столетия Российского флота, XIX — начало XX века. М.; СПб., 2004. С. 260; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://militera.lib.ru/h/zolotarev_kozlov2/10.html; Образец российского моряка. П. С. Нахимов // Скрицкий Н. В. Георгиевские кавалеры под Андреевским флагом. М., 2002; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:http://militera.lib.ru/bio/skritsky_nv/09.html; Зонин А. И. Жизнь адмирала Нахимова. Л., 1987. Кн. 2. Гл. 4. Синопкое сражение; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:http://militera.lib.ru/bio/zonin/13.html; Тарле Е. В. Крымская война. М.; Л., 1941-1944. Т. 1. Гл. 7. Синопский бой и его ближайшие последствия; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:http://militera.lib.ru/h/tarle3/07.html.

From the Presidential library materials:

Асланбегов А. Б. Адмирал Павел Степанович Нахимов. СПб, 1898;

Лялина М. А. Подвиги русских адмиралов Петра Михайлова, Спиридонова, Ушакова, Сенявина, гр. Гейдена, Лазарева, Нахимова, Корнилова и их сподвижников. СПб., 1900;

Материалы для истории Крымской войны и обороны Севастополя. Вып. 1. СПб., 1871;

Материалы для истории Крымской войны и обороны Севастополя: сборник, издаваемый Комитетом по устройству Севастопольскаго музея. СПб., 1871. Вып. 1;

Преснов В. Незабвенной памяти Павла Степановича адмирала Нахимова, начальника Севастопольского порта : [Стихотворение / В. Преснов]. СПб., 1855;

Тарапыгин Ф. А. Известные русские военные деятели: краткое их жизнеописание. СПб., 1911;

Тарле Е. В. Нахимов. М.; Л., 1942.