Tsar Alexander III wanted a new Imperial yacht, so on October 1, 1893 the new ship to be named Shtandart was laid down at the shipyard of Burmeister and Wain in Cpenhagen, Danemark. This yacht, commissioned in 1896, became the yacht of the last of the Tsars, Nicholas II. The ship at 6,189 tons was equal in displacement with many protected, 1st rank cruisers of the Imperial Russian Navy and was far larger than the smaller scout cruisers. Nicholas II was aboard the Shtandart to inspect and bid farewell to the ill-fated 2nd Pacific Squadron when it departed Revel in the Baltic for its cruise that would end at the Battle of Tsushima.
In the spring of 1917, after the first, February Revolution that deposed the Tsar, the new Kerensky government started renaming many of the ships of the fleet. Any ship that had a name connecting it to the Romanovs was renamed. In March the Shtandart became the Vosemnadtsate Martza. The Bolshevik Revolution came the following November (October Revolution) and by 1918 Russia descended into chaos with Germany breaking the treaty of Brest-Livtosk and seizing the bulk of the Russian Black Seas Fleet, allied intervention and the start of the Russian Civil War. When the Reds finally forced the Whites out of Russia, now the Soviet Union, there was not much left of the Black Sea Fleet and only a portion of the Baltic Fleet was operational. A number of units were cannibalized in order to keep others in service and mass scrapings were the order of the day as the new state lacked the finances to support a large fleet. There were no plans for a yacht, whose design was to be a pleasure craft for nobility. After all, the concept of a yacht would be anathema to the classless society of the workerís state of the Soviet Union.
However, the Soviet Navy couldnít ignore a vessel the size of a cruiser. Some practical use could be found for it. Mine warfare dominated the Russian naval experience in World War One, especially in the Baltic. In the Black Sea, although mine warfare was significant, the Russian fleet was very active, seized control of the Black Sea and went and did what they want. The story in the Baltic was completely different. Here mine warfare dominated every aspect of the naval campaign. The newer warships rode at anchor in the Gulf of Finland, behind huge "mine barrages" protecting the approaches to St. Petersburg, with a small flotilla of older ships and destroyers operating out of the Bay of Riga in active operations. Mines accounted for more ship losses on both sides, than any other source. Since the mine had been such a powerful and successful weapon, when dumped from the decks of destroyers pressed into service as improvised mine layers, how much better it would be to have a large dedicated mine laying ship.
The last Yacht of the Tsars now became the Marti. Converted from 1932 to December 25, 1936 in the Marti Shipyard in Leningrad, the Marti was often called a mine cruiser for her size and heavy gun armament. With a crew of 390 the ship still lacked two characteristics of a true cruiser. The maximum speed was only 14 knots and she had a very short range, 1,660nm @ 12 knots. What went into service on Christmas Day 1936 was a unique vessel. No other warship was like her in appearance or heavy armament for a dedicated minelayer. Armed with four 5.2-Inch (130mm) and seven 3-Inch (76.2mm) guns all in single turrets, the deck was a veritable sea of turrets. She had space for 780 Model 1912 or 320 Model KB mines that could be deployed from mine rails on deck or from their internal storage and mine rails that deployed the mines through doors in the transom stern of the Marti.
Within five years the Marti would prove her worth in her intended purpose. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Marti instantly took over where the mine laying destroyers of the Russian Navy of World War One left off. As summer turned into fall, the Marti layed 3,159 mines in the course of several missions. As the German Army approached Leningrad, she also assumed ground support missions for units of the Red Army. Although hit on the forecastle by bombs while at Kronstadt on September 23, 1941, she was back in operation by the 26th of that month. By late autumn she was bottled up in Leningrad and some of her armament was landed to provide land gun emplacements. After the war Marti was refitted for use as a training ship, given new diesel engines and in 1957 was renamed Oka. She served in this capacity until 1961, when she was broken up. The last yacht of the Romanovs, laid down when Alexander III was Tsar, served Russia for 69 years, outlasted the Romanovs, outlasted Lenin, outlasted Stalin, to be broken up in the regime of Nikita Krushchev. (The bulk of this history is from Soviet Warship Development, Volume 1: 1917-1937 by Siegfried Breyer)
There are a great number of smaller resin parts that come with this model. One strip contains all of the deckhouses, bridges, gun platforms and bulk of superstructure detailed parts on a resin film. Removal of the individual parts and clean up should be very easy and fast. The splinter shielding found on most of these parts is very thin and crisp with none of it being broken. However, this film has a very delicate crosstree for the foremast and some care should be used in removing that piece from the film. The parts even include ship's wheels in 1:700 scale. The eleven shielded gun mounts are also very crisp with extraordinarily delicate barrels cast integral to the mount on the 76.2mm mounts. The 130mm guns are separate from their hollow gun shields. With my copy one of the 76mm guns was broken off the mount but was in the bag, so reattachment will be easy. The great number of gun mounts found on the Marti and their arrangement creates high impact visual appeal. If a finished model of Marti is placed in any model show anywhere in the world, outside of Russia, it is a pretty good bet that no one will know what ship it is or anything about it, except that it has guns all over the place. Itís unique design alone commands attention.
In addition to the 130mm and 76.2mm guns, there are a number of smaller AA guns, three 45mm and two 12.7mm AA machine guns. Thatís correct 12.7mm MGs in 1:700 scale with flared flash suppressers no less! There is a host of other fittings for the deck. Two cranes, shipís boats with different styles of davits, directors, cable reels, range finders, grills for the stack tops, platform support posts, mine paravanes and many parts for which I donít know their purpose; all have a place on the Combrig Marti. There is an eight piece tripod foremast and ten piece pole mainmast with searchlight platform. What is clear is that the Combrig Marti is a very busy model with equipment and fittings found at almost every run of open deck space. All you need to further enhance the model is some generic railing, vertical ladders and inclined ladders, as the Marti does not come with photo-etch. As is true with the latest Combrig releases, there are no "aztec" inclined ladders to remove as they are separate castings, greatly facilitating the attachment of brass inclined ladders.
The reverse side has the usual photographs of all the components and isometric drawing of parts assembly. With this kit however, Combrig has taken the step of showing the assembly and attachment of any parts set that have symmetrical assemblies on both sides of the model. Combrig employs a special "yin-yang" symbol to show any assembly that is symmetrical, creating less clutter on the instructions. Since the Marti hull casting has locator holes for most of the deck fittings, there does not appear to be any pitfalls in assembly. However, always remember, when in doubt, look at the plan and profile on the front side of the instructions.