Salvaging the wreck of an old Russian cruiser

The Murmansk was a Russian Sverdlov-class light cruiser – Project 68bis of the Soviet Navy’s Northern Fleet. It was formerly a vessel that made NATO admirals nervous. But, alas, the Soviet Cruiser Murmansk became a naval embarrassment in the mid-1990s, a corroding old wreck stuck in a Norwegian fjord.

The Murmansk became a perfect metaphor for the situation of the former Soviet military at the time in many respects. As Putin crashes his sword now, it’s easy to forget the true view at the time, which was that the Soviet military was a collection of obsolete, worthless weaponry. It’s also easy to forget that the approval of these ships was a terrifying scenario for Western naval developers, who seemed to be guessing that the Soviets were on to something that other shipbuilders had missed.

The stranded Murmansk before being dismantled Photo Credit

The Murmansk was built at Severodvinsk in 1953 and went into service on September 22, 1955. When the Murmansk was founded in 1956, it joined with the Russian 2nd Cruiser Division.

The Murmansk was sold for scrap to India in 1994, but on December 24, 1994, while being towed, the Soviet cruiser broke free, ran aground, and partially sunk near the Norwegian settlement of Srvaer, a tiny village on an island off Norway’s north coast. A location characterized by turbulent waves and frequent exposure to adverse weather conditions.

Initially, it was thought that the winter storms would damage the Murmansk’s above-water portions, but in 2009, funding was provided to pay for the ship’s disassembly. The vessel could not be towed since it was in such bad shape. As a result, it was decided to deconstruct it piece by piece.

AF Decom, Scandinavia’s largest demolition contractor, created a massive barrier and dry dock surrounding the Murmansk to allow the wreckage to be reached from land and disassembled where it lay. The water will be drained from the dry dock, leaving the wreck completely dry.The cruiser will be disassembled and the various demolition materials will be sorted before being delivered to recycling and garbage facilities. In April 2012, the mooring surrounding the wreck was made waterproof. By mid-May, the dock had been nearly completely dewatered, and the demolition of the vessel had begun. The full deconstruction process was finished in 2013. There is also a disagreement concerning probable radioactive items aboard the ship. Some claim that Polonium-210, a highly radioactive metal with a half-life of 138 days, was discovered on board.


The Soviets also planned to build numerous additional powerful gunships, such as battleships and battle cruisers. Here, reality and fantasy tend to converge as Cold War conspiracy ideas collide with deceptions too bizarre to comprehend. I’m also curious about the real soundness of these programs, or if Stalin was simply displaying his ego in the guise of national security and defense.

Only two major projects were completed, both of which were light cruisers. The first was Project 68 Chapayev. It was the next stage advancement of the preceding Project 26 Kirov, which was the newest and most modern cruiser available to the Soviets in WWII to combat the Nazis.

The Chapayev, like the Project 26 Kirov, was heavily influenced by Italy, with the most notable change being the gun size, which was reduced from 7.1-inch to 6-inch. In the process, it was also downgraded from a battle cruiser to a light cruiser. It did, however, receive a new turret mount, which supplied it with three more cannons. The Murmansk is part of Project 68bis, an enhanced development with stronger anti-aircraft weaponry that retains the twelve 6-inch gun configuration.

Based on Nazi efforts to down American planes, their 130 mm supplementary weaponry was cutting-edge at the time. This was one of the most sophisticated and widely used anti-aircraft weapons available to the Soviet Navy. As missiles were still in the early stages of development and deployment, their primary armaments still adhered to the pre-World War II “big gun” concept.

An elevated port bow view of the Soviet Navy command cruiser projekt 68-K

The Murmansk is now exposed enough to begin construction after the dock was finally successful in becoming waterproof. The pool was not totally drained since the corporation did not want to stress the building site; much of the ship can be readily removed as it is now.

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