With the advent of the 20th Century the Royal Navy was in a battleship construction race. Imperial Germany was still an also-ran as the 2nd naval power in the world was the traditional foe France. In third place was Imperial Russia, which had close ties to France. The Franco-Russian combination was most worrisome for the RN. The close connection between Russia and France went beyond politics, it also extended to warship design. All of the Russian yards capable of constructing a battleship were already tied up so in order to build ore battleships Russia contracted with two foreign yards to build two new battleships. One was contracted with the US firm of Cramps in Philadelphia, which built the Retvizan. The other battleship was the Tsarevitch, built by the French yard of La Seyne. The Tsarevitch was of French design and exhibited typical French characteristics of extreme tumblehome and small turrets for main guns and secondary. The Russian Navy liked the design so much that they contracted to build battleships of a similar design in Russia. This contract resulted in the construction of the five ship Borodino class.
Two ships of the class Borodino and Imperator Alexander III, were laid down in July 1899. The next two were spaced a year apart with Orel laid down in May 1900 and Kniaz Suvarov in July 1901. The fifth was Slava, laid down in October 1902. Russia was building up the strength of the 1st Pacific Squadron based at Port Arthur and friction with Japan steadily increased, especially over the status of Korea. When war came early in 1904 the 1st Pacific Squadron was bottled up in Port Arthur and Japan launched a land campaign to besiege and take that port. Russia’s response was to form a relief force entitled the 2nd Pacific Squadron centered around four of the Borodino class battleships. The Slava was nowhere near complete, so only she remained in Russia. The other four steamed around the globe in an epic voyage that ended in the destruction of the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. The tumblehome design clearly was a failure in that with flooding caused by battle damage, they became unstable and had the tendency to turn turtle. The Borodino blew up, while Imperator Alexander III and Kniaz Suvarov both capsized after being damaged. Orel survived but surrendered to the Japanese. The ships were designed to displace 13,516-tons but came in overweight. They were armed with four 12-inch/40 guns, twelve 6-inch/45, twenty 11pdr QF guns, twenty 3pdr QF and four 15-inch torpedo tubes. They developed 16,300ihp and had top speeds slightly under 18-knots.
Navis has produced a new model of the Borodino N612A, which is painted in the striking black and yellow scheme worn by the Borodino at the Battle of Tsushima. The Navis Borodino is carried by Chris Daley of 1250Ships, along with all of the other extensive Navis/Neptun line.