The Imperatritsa Mariya Class dreadnoughts were authorized in the 1911 Russian naval program for the Black Sea. Two years earlier the four unit, Gangut Class was started in the Baltic. The Black Sea versions, although similar in appearance to the Ganguts, were 40 feet shorter, 760 tons lighter, had heavier armor, and had 15,000 less ihp, resulting in a maximum speed two knots slower than the Baltic battleships.
On October 30, 1911 the three ships of the Imperatritsa Mariya Class were laid down at Nikolayev. The second ship to complete was the Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya (originally Imperatritsa Ekaterina II and renamed in June 1915), was finished on October 18, 1915. With the completion of the second Black Sea dreadnought, the balance of naval power had definitely swung in favor of the Russians. From then on Turkish shore facilities and installations were regularly visited and shelled by the Russian fleet.
In 1917 the battleship was caught up in the political turmoil overwhelming Russia. With the February 1917 (Kerensky) Revolution and the Tsarís abdication, Imperatritsa Ekaterina II was renamed Svobodnaya Rossiya in April. The battleship went to the Bolshevik side after the October 1917 (Bolshevik) Revolution replaced the liberal democratic Kerensky regime with the communist government. In April 1918 Svobodnaya Rossiya was ordered to leave Sevastopol for Novorossisk to avoid capture by German forces. When this port fell Svobodnaya Rossiya was torpedoed and sunk by the destroyer Kerch on June 18, 1918.
The Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya/ Svobodnaya Rossiya could easily be distinguished from the other two battleships of the class, Imperatritsa Mariya and Imperator Aleksandr III, by the pronounced solid beak on the bow, which jutted out over the cutwater. Combrig now has 1:700 scale models of all three ships of the class. (Click for a preview of the Combrig Imperatritsa Mariya)