The cruiser Aurora marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution

The October Revolution was one of the key events of the greater russian revolutionand the Russian cruiser Dawn signaled his departure. Built in the late 1800s, Dawn remains in service with the Russian Navy, but for ceremonial purposes. Some considered the ship obsolete when it was introduced, but it managed to have a remarkable career.

Cruiser Dawn

DawnThe hull of was laid down on May 23, 1897 at the Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg. She was one of three pallada– class cruisers built by the Russians and ordered for service in the Pacific. She was named after a Roman goddess by personal order of Tsar Nicholas II – ironically, the ship would later play an instrumental role in the downfall of the monarchy.

Like a pallada-class cruiser, Dawn was built to be fast, so she could engage in commerce raiding operations. She displaced 6,731 tons and was 126.8 meters long. The ship carried eight 152 mm guns, 24 75 mm guns, eight 37 mm guns and three torpedo tubes, two of which were underwater.

She was later fitted with an additional 152mm of firepower, bringing the total to 14, as well as four 76.2mm AA guns and a 2-pounder QF naval gun.

Dawn1903. (Photo credit: Sailor of the Imperial Russian Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain)

Initially, Russia considered ordering foreign models, but eventually decided to build the pallada-to classify. At the time, naval technology was changing rapidly – with the HMS battleship in less than a decade – but the pallada-class of cruisers experienced long periods of construction. As a result, ships were considered obsolete even before they entered service.

Early service

After entering service, Dawn was sent to the Russian Pacific Fleet, but was hit with mechanical problems before arriving. After a refit, the ship sets off again on a voyage. Along the way, the group of Russian ships ran into British fishing trawlers and, believing them to be Japanese torpedo boats, opened fire. In the confusion, the Russian ships fire on each other. Dawn was hit by friendly fire and two crew members were killed, including the ship’s chaplain.

Military school students marching aboard Aurora
Students from a military school marching aboard the Dawn. (Photo credit: TASS/Maxim Blokhin/Alexei Smolsky/Getty Images)

Once in the Far East, Dawn participated in the Battle of Tsushima, a naval battle between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. It is one of the greatest naval battles in history and the only major battle where modern battleships were decisive. It is considered today as the last hurrah of traditional naval battles.

In battle, Dawn lost 14 crew and its captain, Eugene R. Yegoryev, and the overall encounter resulted in a Japanese victory. Dawn covered for slower Russian ships and eventually withdrew to Manila, where she was retained by the United States for the remainder of the war. Once freed, she returned to the Baltic to serve as a cadet training ship.

She also traveled the world, visiting different ports.

Aurora crewmen holding bayonets
The crew members of the Dawn maintaining order with fixed bayonets during the Russian Revolution. (Photo credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

When World War I broke out, Dawn was outmatched by more modern ships, but still participated in shore bombardments, surviving a few skirmishes with enemy ships. In 1915 she received six additional 152 mm guns and a year later was sent to St. Petersburg, where she was to undergo a major refit.

russian revolution

By this time, Russia’s bloody and costly involvement in World War I had become a source of anger and resentment towards the country’s rulers, and it was on the brink of a revolution. While Dawn was in St. Petersburg, part of her crew participated in the February Revolution of 1917. The captain of the ship tried to stop the revolt, but was later killed.

The cruiser then became a key location for the revolutionaries, who used it as a base to plan and launch revolutionary activities. The majority of her crew joined the Bolsheviks and prepared for the communist revolution.

Aurora docked in Petrograd
Dawn with its cannons pointing at the Winter Palace in Petrograd, before October 24, 1917. (Photo credit: Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images)

At 9:40 p.m. on October 24, 1917, Dawnoccurred the most significant moment: a blank shot from her forecastle signaled the attack of the Winter Palace and the beginning of the October Revolution.

She resumed her role as a training ship after the revolution, visiting a number of ports around the Baltic throughout the 1920s. In 1927 she was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for her revolutionary merits.

World War II to today

During WWII, Dawn was moored in Leningrad and her guns removed to help defend the city. She was sunk in her harbor in September 1941 after repeated shelling and shelling, but was later raised and repaired, becoming a training ship for the Nakhimov Naval School.

After the war, it was repaired and permanently anchored in Saint Petersburg, where it became a symbol of the October Revolution.

Aurora docked in St. Petersburg
Dawn preserved as a museum in Saint Petersburg. (Photo credit: Otto Jula / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

She was awarded the Order of the October Revolution in 1968, and soon after underwent a major restoration, which revealed that much of her armor had been made in Britain. The restoration saw its lower hull removed and replaced.

Today, Dawn is still technically in service with the Russian Navy and is the oldest commissioned ship in service.