Post-WWI Imperial Russian Navy

Inspired by @SealTheRealDeal's thread on a surviving Austro-Hungarian Navy, I wanted to see what the Imperial Russian Navy would look like after a white peace. Presumably the most they lose is Poland, with the Baltics and Finland still Russian. More power has been granted to the Duma, staving off major unrest at least for now.
 
Immediately speaking, not much. The Imperial Russian navy did pretty much exactly what it was intended to do.

Until at least the mid 1920s the navy probably receives enough of a budget to maintain its capabilities, replace any wartime losses, and maybe replace some of the pre-dreadnoughts. The majority of the military's budget will necessarily go towards unruining the army.

Beyond that immediate time frame it really depends. Do they dust off pre-war plans to build a navy to rival Britian's? What about the pre-war plans to operate a meditereanian fleet out of French ports? What if an asiaphile like Mannerheim is influencing the general staff towards a stronger far eastern deployment? Is the duma strong enough to shoot down a military budget? How has the diplomatic situation changed? How's the famine situation? Unlike Austria-Hungary which has one clear (naval) enemy and only a single naval theatre, Russia has many many more moving parts so to speak.

Safe bets:
-if there's a alt-WNT Russia would probably demand to be treated at least as Germany's equal, regardless of its actual capacity to keep pace with German construction.
-The navy will invest heavily in icebreakers and survey ships, because the opening of the Northeast Passage is of paramount importance.
 
Immediately speaking, not much. The Imperial Russian navy did pretty much exactly what it was intended to do.

Until at least the mid 1920s the navy probably receives enough of a budget to maintain its capabilities, replace any wartime losses, and maybe replace some of the pre-dreadnoughts. The majority of the military's budget will necessarily go towards unruining the army.

Beyond that immediate time frame it really depends. Do they dust off pre-war plans to build a navy to rival Britian's? What about the pre-war plans to operate a meditereanian fleet out of French ports? What if an asiaphile like Mannerheim is influencing the general staff towards a stronger far eastern deployment? Is the duma strong enough to shoot down a military budget? How has the diplomatic situation changed? How's the famine situation? Unlike Austria-Hungary which has one clear (naval) enemy and only a single naval theatre, Russia has many many more moving parts so to speak.

Safe bets:
-if there's a alt-WNT Russia would probably demand to be treated at least as Germany's equal, regardless of its actual capacity to keep pace with German construction.
-The navy will invest heavily in icebreakers and survey ships, because the opening of the Northeast Passage is of paramount importance.
If Britain still joins the war, I'm guessing Russia won't try to match their ally.

While I doubt Mannerheim himself could advance himself so much as a Finn in Russian circles, an Asiaphile seems possible. If Russia starts looking east, could we get another dust-up with Japan?
 
Just thinking of some of the major ships under construction: With a more stable situation in St Petersburg, I would expect the Borodinos to be continued, and the Obukhov Works to be in a better state. Not that the Obukhov Works didn't struggle pre-war; they only built one 14in gun for the Borodinos, while Vickers, contracted to pick up the slack, delivered 10 before the war. Russian industry did struggle with the Borodinos somewhat, and post-war foreign help would be available to get them completed. The Russians produced the turbines for the Ganguts, but they were of a lower power than those required for the battlecruisers, and turbines for Navarin were ordered from the Germans. If Russian industry still has trouble once the war ends, turbines for all four could be ordered abroad. With the Obukov works better off, guns and mounting should still be possible, if delayed somewhat. If the delay is unacceptable, Vickers could build additional 14in guns.

The four Svetlana cruisers should be completed for the Baltic Fleet as well.

In the Black Sea, Imperator Nikolai I in the Black Sea should be completed as well. She's an improved Imperatritisa Maria class, with a longer bow for increased buoyancy forward, and cemented armor and high tensile steel incorporated everywhere strength was required. I think all four Admiral Nakhimov class cruisers in the Black Sea will be completed as well.

I would expect the Whiltes to have more pressing financial commitments, but I would expect construction to continue, albeit more slowly than in the Imperial era. Larger ships might get laid down in pairs instead of three or fours. I think White Russia gets invited to Washington, and gets French and Italian limits, as well as included in the clause to build 70,000 tons of 16in armed, 35,000 ton battleships. If that option is taken up, it could be something like the Bubanov, Putilov or Black Sea concepts. One or more of the Borodinos might be completed as an aircraft carrier. After the battleship holiday, I would expect the all-centerline distributed layout to be abandoned based on foreign developments, and superfiring turrets to be adopted in capital ships, at least as in the Putilov concepts.

My initial thoughts,
 
A "White Peace"? Does that imply the Ottomans will continue to exist in its pre-war form?

If so the Russians will be forced to continue to spend considerable resources on the Black Sea fleet as the Ottomans will be also looking to increase its Navy.
 
Just thinking of some of the major ships under construction: With a more stable situation in St Petersburg, I would expect the Borodinos to be continued, and the Obukhov Works to be in a better state. Not that the Obukhov Works didn't struggle pre-war; they only built one 14in gun for the Borodinos, while Vickers, contracted to pick up the slack, delivered 10 before the war. Russian industry did struggle with the Borodinos somewhat, and post-war foreign help would be available to get them completed. The Russians produced the turbines for the Ganguts, but they were of a lower power than those required for the battlecruisers, and turbines for Navarin were ordered from the Germans. If Russian industry still has trouble once the war ends, turbines for all four could be ordered abroad. With the Obukov works better off, guns and mounting should still be possible, if delayed somewhat. If the delay is unacceptable, Vickers could build additional 14in guns.

The four Svetlana cruisers should be completed for the Baltic Fleet as well.

In the Black Sea, Imperator Nikolai I in the Black Sea should be completed as well. She's an improved Imperatritisa Maria class, with a longer bow for increased buoyancy forward, and cemented armor and high tensile steel incorporated everywhere strength was required. I think all four Admiral Nakhimov class cruisers in the Black Sea will be completed as well.

I would expect the Whiltes to have more pressing financial commitments, but I would expect construction to continue, albeit more slowly than in the Imperial era. Larger ships might get laid down in pairs instead of three or fours. I think White Russia gets invited to Washington, and gets French and Italian limits, as well as included in the clause to build 70,000 tons of 16in armed, 35,000 ton battleships. If that option is taken up, it could be something like the Bubanov, Putilov or Black Sea concepts. One or more of the Borodinos might be completed as an aircraft carrier. After the battleship holiday, I would expect the all-centerline distributed layout to be abandoned based on foreign developments, and superfiring turrets to be adopted in capital ships, at least as in the Putilov concepts.

My initial thoughts,
As the Revolution and Civil War have not happened, the Whites are just the Russian Empire.
A "White Peace"? Does that imply the Ottomans will continue to exist in its pre-war form?

If so the Russians will be forced to continue to spend considerable resources on the Black Sea fleet as the Ottomans will be also looking to increase its Navy.
The Ottomans may or may not have actually entered the war here, but we'll assume that if they did, they still exist by the end of the war.
 
The Russians will be looking to pay off all the old ships as soon as they can and scrap most of them. A few like Minin/Ladoga might make the cut due to recent conversion to something else, a minelayer in this case. But I would imagine that the in terms of battleships they would want to get rid of everything older than Gangut, maybe retaining the two semi-dreadnoughts for training only in the Baltic. In the Black Sea, they would want to scrap all of the pre-dreadnoughts, again maybe retaining Evastafi etc for training.
 
If Britain still joins the war, I'm guessing Russia won't try to match their ally.
That would largely depend on how the postwar period diplomatically shapes up. If the white peace simply creates a Cold War between the Central Powers and the Entente then Russia probably doesn't try to antagonize its ally. If the Entente and the CP drift apart in the postwar period, then all bets are off.

While I doubt Mannerheim himself could advance himself so much as a Finn in Russian circles,
I don't know, he was personally acquainted with the Tsar, and his advancement through the ranks was fast tracked during WWI. Given his pre-war intelligence work, him making it to the head of Military Intelligence isn't too unrealistic.

If Russia starts looking east, could we get another dust-up with Japan?
Considering that the USSR got into one while confronted with an existential threat in Europe, I think it's safe to say some sort of Russo-Japanese confrontation is inevitable. Only questions are which one is the aggressor, and if Russia is more or less prepared than iOTL.
 
As the Revolution and Civil War have not happened, the Whites are just the Russian Empire.
Thanks for the clarification. When I saw 'White Peace' I was thinking the Whites were in charge and the monarchy was reigned in via a republic.

Thinking on this one, what does the navy do with the Pacific? If they're part of the Treaty system, they can't match the Japanese, and the existing capital ships might not be very suitable for the Pacific. Maybe some cruisers and a Borodino? Concentrate on light forces, destroyers, and submarines based in Vladivostok?
;
Regards,,
 
Thanks for the clarification. When I saw 'White Peace' I was thinking the Whites were in charge and the monarchy was reigned in via a republic.

Thinking on this one, what does the navy do with the Pacific? If they're part of the Treaty system, they can't match the Japanese, and the existing capital ships might not be very suitable for the Pacific. Maybe some cruisers and a Borodino? Concentrate on light forces, destroyers, and submarines based in Vladivostok?
;
Regards,,
That's probably the best course in the Pacific if they don't start going the Asiaphile route and antagonize Japan.
 
Thinking on this one, what does the navy do with the Pacific? If they're part of the Treaty system, they can't match the Japanese, and the existing capital ships might not be very suitable for the Pacific. Maybe some cruisers and a Borodino? Concentrate on light forces, destroyers, and submarines based in Vladivostok?
That's probably the best course in the Pacific if they don't start going the Asiaphile route and antagonize Japan.
Let's say they do go asiaphile, or Japan still embraces aggressive militarism, what sort of force could they be expected to assemble as a deterrent/potential fleet in being?
 
Let's say they do go asiaphile, or Japan still embraces aggressive militarism, what sort of force could they be expected to assemble as a deterrent/potential fleet in being?
A lot of this probably depends on if an alt-WNT treaty happens, and how it goes. Japan has 8 battleships to begin with, if they actually build the eight-eight fleet, that goes up to 16. It goes without saying that Russia will need to make a big investment to get to those numbers.
 
So many questions, so many butterflies. At bottom I think Russia must at least halt Japanese expansion beyond the likely usurpation of Manchuria and deter any designs on Russia's Asian territory. If we assume some stabilizing Treaty designed to deter war and spending then Russia faces a knowable foe. At bottom the only true trade outlet is the Black Sea, followed by Vladivostok and Murmansk distantly unless actively developed. The Baltic is viable in peace but Russia likely lost even its shoulder territory to do more than defend Petrograd. I would predict very little for the Baltic, sea-denial via mines, some submarines, MTBs or fast anti-ship oriented destroyers at best, adding maybe a flag waiver or more. Russia should put its focus on controlling the Black Sea and forcing the Straights, next develop an Artic based strategy centered on Murmansk and critical links to its best outlet. Russia should accept that it cannot win a naval war with Japan, but can threaten her overland sufficient to get a stalemate. Propping up China now looks viable to draw away Japanese focus.

Overall I tend to think Russia will be a virtually invisible naval power at the lowest rung for the foreseeable future. And here I think Russia is off the Great Power list for a generation or two. Her primary foe is Germany who controls the Baltic, Japan who controls the North Asian seas adjacent, and the Bulgarian/Ottoman pilot fish of Germany who can deny the Black Sea. Her ally should remain France and get doses of support from the UK and odd cooperation from Italy. The biggest opportunity is to woo the British in China to re-align against ambitious Japan, warm up to the USA who distrusts Japan and leverage German betrayal over Tsingtao to isolate Japan and face her with other enemies.

So priority one is a sea-denial navy, mines, MTBs, Destroyers/TBs and aircraft as they mature, "capital" ships are peacetime diplomacy pieces, even cruisers are barely necessary outside of an overmatch play in the Black Sea. I might foresee something light cruiser sized as a northern fleet is groomed to deal with the awful sea state and weather in the Arctic, in effect being big seaworthy Destroyers primarily doing escort work. Submarines are the most flexible and leveraging strike arm, so combined with offensive mines, become the ersatz big water navy. All this might feel familiar to a Soviet-era Admiral in the Cold War facing blue water navies of maritime powers while having real landward foes at the borders. For this post-war scenario light forces, mines and airplanes become the guerre de course strategy for a constrained Russia.
 
The Baltic is viable in peace but Russia likely lost even its shoulder territory to do more than defend Petrograd.
OP specified that Russia still has the Baltic States.

Overall I tend to think Russia will be a virtually invisible naval power at the lowest rung for the foreseeable future. And here I think Russia is off the Great Power list for a generation or two.
Really? Avoiding the civil war, the political upheaval, the economic disruption, and (most of) the territorial losses makes Russia weaker than OTL's USSR?

A lot of this probably depends on if an alt-WNT treaty happens, and how it goes. Japan has 8 battleships to begin with, if they actually build the eight-eight fleet, that goes up to 16. It goes without saying that Russia will need to make a big investment to get to those numbers.
It would depend also on post war diplomacy. If one or both of Russia's allies join the theoretical Second Russo-Japanese War having a fleet in being to force the IJN to divide its forces could create openings for its ally(ies) advancing from the south.
 
Let's say they do go asiaphile, or Japan still embraces aggressive militarism, what sort of force could they be expected to assemble as a deterrent/potential fleet in being?
Japan is a nation with a million tons of warships in 1940, with 10 capital ships and soon 10 aircraft carriers. Whether within or without a treaty environment, Russia can't hope to match the Japanese in the Far East. Besides, Vladivostok is inconveniently close to Japan. Strategically, it's too close to the enemy to be of value until the enemy is weakened. Tactically, it should be turned into a porcupine; any attempt to touch it should cause suffering. Vladivostok should be stocked with light and mine warfare forces, have naval aviation present as well. For the former, I would say nothing larger than destroyers, mostly torpedo boats and MTBs/MGBs. Multiple minelayers and minesweepers; if the destroyers and/or torpedo boats can be fitted for minelaying, so much the better. For the latter, I would stock the naval air stations near the coast with fighters and patrol/reconnaissance aircraft. Attack, medium and heavy bomber types would be further inland in larger bases. Make any air raids on the attack types have to go through the fighter gauntlet first, and have to fight over Russian territory. All air fields should be protected by heavy anti-aircraft batteries.

Strategically, what the Imperial Navy can do with heavier units is base forces in the Far East outside of Russian territory. With a Washington Treaty, the Anglo-Japanese alliance will be finished, and Britain would be a natural ally for Russia in the Far East. With good relations, access to the Suez Canal will naturally follow, easing deployments to the Far East, whether the ships come from the Black Sea, Baltic or Northern Fleets. Singapore would seem an ideal place for a Russian Far East squadron. But Australia might be an alternative; perhaps Russia could offer to help develop Rabaul in exchange for basing rights. Supply and replacement sailors for either option could come out of Vladivostok in peace, but will have transit the Suez in wartime.

Given the historic relationship with France, Haipong or Cam Ram Bay might be another option.

A Pacific alliance with the United States might be another, though less likely possibility, but that would likely mean basing on the US west coast for most of the 1920s and '30s.

Another even more remote (geographically and politically) possibility might be a deal with Italy for basing rights in Italian Somalialand. A Russian squadron could then make forays into the Pacific, even call at Vladivostok, but I wouldn't have the the whole force there at the same time.

My initial thoughts.
 
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Considering that the USSR got into one while confronted with an existential threat in Europe, I think it's safe to say some sort of Russo-Japanese confrontation is inevitable. Only questions are which one is the aggressor, and if Russia is more or less prepared than iOTL.
At bottom I think Russia must at least halt Japanese expansion beyond the likely usurpation of Manchuria and deter any designs on Russia's Asian territory.
Both of you are assuming that Japan and Russia would be enemies. Personally I doubt this. In OTL, Russo-Japanese relations were warming rapidly between 1905 and 1914. If it hadn't been for WW1, likely a Russo-Japanese alliance would have been signed in 1914 or 1915. Of course, in OTL the Russian revolution ended any chances of that. In TTL, Russia is still ruled by the Tsars, and there is a chance for the Russo-Japanese good relations to continue.

Consider: neither of them especially benefit from fighting each other. Both of them are concerned about the expansion of British naval power into the NW Pacific (even though both had good relations with the UK at the time, they both saw each other as a valuable ways to hedge their bets) and both were interested in getting a good deal in China.

I could see the Russians and Japanese working together in China. Potentially to the point that a militarist Japan is joined by Imperialist Russia in attacking China in the 30s. Or possibly, a Russo-Japanese alliance would derail Japan's collapse into militarism.

Also, why would Russia stay on good terms with Britain and France? The Entente could easily fall apart. Indeed, I suspect it likely would. Nor is it set in stone that Russia would remain on bad terms with Germany. I could see things going either way here.

Odds are that Russia would be on poor terms with the Ottomans. I could easily see an Ottoman-Russian war in the 20s or 30s. Possibly with Italy and Greece as allies?

In terms of the navy, I think that would add up to a Russia whose main preoccupation was the Black Sea fleet while also keeping an eye to maintaining enough assets to defend the Baltic coast and the Pacific coast.

fasquardon
 
I could see the Russians and Japanese working together in China. Potentially to the point that a militarist Japan is joined by Imperialist Russia in attacking China in the 30s. Or possibly, a Russo-Japanese alliance would derail Japan's collapse into militarism.
Wouldn't their overlapping ambitions for Manchuria be a sticking point?
 
Wouldn't their overlapping ambitions for Manchuria be a sticking point?
Not necessarily. The Russians mainly care about the trans-Siberian railroad going through the northern parts of the region, the Japanese interests are mainly in the south. A partition is possible. Or if not that, then a co-dominium. Both options were discussed at several points in OTL and if I remember rightly the Soviets retained control of the railroad even in WW2, though I could be wrong.

Much depends on Russian relations with the US and UK of course, and where Russia is under pressure.

fasquardon
 
Both of you are assuming that Japan and Russia would be enemies. Personally I doubt this. In OTL, Russo-Japanese relations were warming rapidly between 1905 and 1914. If it hadn't been for WW1, likely a Russo-Japanese alliance would have been signed in 1914 or 1915. Of course, in OTL the Russian revolution ended any chances of that. In TTL, Russia is still ruled by the Tsars, and there is a chance for the Russo-Japanese good relations to continue.

Consider: neither of them especially benefit from fighting each other. Both of them are concerned about the expansion of British naval power into the NW Pacific (even though both had good relations with the UK at the time, they both saw each other as a valuable ways to hedge their bets) and both were interested in getting a good deal in China.

I could see the Russians and Japanese working together in China. Potentially to the point that a militarist Japan is joined by Imperialist Russia in attacking China in the 30s. Or possibly, a Russo-Japanese alliance would derail Japan's collapse into militarism.

Also, why would Russia stay on good terms with Britain and France? The Entente could easily fall apart. Indeed, I suspect it likely would. Nor is it set in stone that Russia would remain on bad terms with Germany. I could see things going either way here.

Odds are that Russia would be on poor terms with the Ottomans. I could easily see an Ottoman-Russian war in the 20s or 30s. Possibly with Italy and Greece as allies?

In terms of the navy, I think that would add up to a Russia whose main preoccupation was the Black Sea fleet while also keeping an eye to maintaining enough assets to defend the Baltic coast and the Pacific coast.

fasquardon
You are very correct, Japan was realigning to Russia to counter the increasing American presence that Japan correctly predicted Britain would not go to war with in Japan's favor. Here I did not assume some period of chaos that turns Japan more opportunist as I believe their policy often knee-jerked. If you retain a more Tsarist regime then I will agree that it could hold better relations with Japan. But even in a white peace Russia is deeply wounded, I am relying upon it losing its grip in Manchuria.

With a surviving Imperial Germany and HSF, would not British focus remain in Europe, and with a surviving A-H and potentially OE, that puts the Med at risk, so why does Britain abandon Japan or shift back into Asia? If anything they are weak in Asia and should leverage Japan as their local (albeit unreliable) bully stick.

I do like the idea of Japan and Russia teaming to further exploit China. My sticking point is that Manchuria is the valuable piece, adjacent to Korea, better fitting the strategic perimeter for Japan. So feeling is that Japan is in the short better off seizing Manchuria rather than playing side kick, again, to a European power elsewhere in China.

Depends, as they say. Russia owes nothing to the Entente, but with a surly Germany and surviving A-H and/or OE too, Russia needs friends. I do not feel Germany is crafty enough to offer Russia a good deal to turn to them and Japan cannot alter the balance in Europe. So I will bet Russia holds to its friendship with France even if it sought a separate peace. If I go with a non-USSR, then the PG chose to seek a separate peace, that should get us a more viable Russo-German rapprochement, and long-term that gives the German led Continent access to Russian resources, short circuiting the dependence upon sea lines and the pre-war trade with the British Empire. That is full stop German-wank and worst case for the UK.

Agreed, everything concerning the OE will be a mess. If we see more "little" wars that should be the theater. I put it ahead of Asia, so the UK is even less focused upon Japan as future enemy, China is valuable but we know that the Middle East is becoming the center of this world.

You have my full vote, the pivotal fleet for Russia is the Black Sea unless peace explodes with OE and friendship abounds with German led Europe. Only then would the Pacific begin to warrant a shift in resources.
 
So I will bet Russia holds to its friendship with France even if it sought a separate peace.
This does depend on whether France wants to continue being allies with Russia I think. There were strains starting to show, and France may decide after a stalemated war that Russia is not worth putting up with Tsarist autocracy and the risk of getting dragged into a Russo-German war. Especially if France retains a strong alliance with the UK in this scenario (possible, since in this scenario the UK won't spaz out in fear of France dominating the continent like Napoleon 2.0).

My sticking point is that Manchuria is the valuable piece, adjacent to Korea, better fitting the strategic perimeter for Japan.
Well, Manchuria is big, and both Japan and Russia recognized that fighting each-other was not a useful use of resources after the Russo-Japanese war.

They may fight over Manchuria, but I do think a partition or co-dominium is more likely.

fasquardon
 
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