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"Lenin" Soviet Steamer (ex "Simbirsk")


Depth: 96 .
Date of sinking: 1941

  The Soviet steamer that was leading a convoy of vessels was lost on 27 July 1941 off cape Sarych in the Black Sea. About 900 people died with it.


  The loss of the Soviet steamer Lenin.

  The exact number of victims of the calamity which took place not far from the Crimea's coast on the 27th of July 1941 when the Soviet steamer Lenin sank was never determined. But even by rude estimates of survivors it exceeded the number of people who had been killed in both sinkings of the Titanic and Lusitania...



The steamer Lenin, formerly known as Simbirsk


  Almost immediately all data concerning its circumstances and a number of victims were classified secret. Nothing was also reported by Sovinformburo (then a leading Soviet news agency) about losses of other passenger steamers and hospital ships that operated in the Black Sea : the Abkhazia, Armenia, the high-speed motor ship Adzharstan and the motor ships Chekhov and Belostok.

  Only at the turn of the century the information about this shocking calamity near cape Sarych was declassified, and academic secretary of Sevastopol's military-scientific Society Captain 2nd Rank Sergey Alekseevich Soloviev gained access to it. He conducted a thorough study of investigatory records, made copies of maps, photos and proof by witnesses and revealed the unvarnished truth which was hidden - the details of death of many thousands of people.

  The circumstances of the Lenin's sinking remain a mystery until now, and we have to clear up whether she ran onto a Soviet naval mine or she was torpedoed by a submarine.

  The steamer Lenin lies in 96 meters of water opposite the former presidential resort Zarya ( the " Dawn " ) 2 1/2 miles off shore.

  This elegant two-funneled beautiful ship was originally built for the Far East cargo and passenger lines.

  She was built for Imperial Russia at a German shipyard in Danzig ( now Gdansk ) in 1909 and was named Simbirsk. The comfortable and fast sailing steamer had a rather high speed of 17 knots, even in comparison with more morden vessels. She was 94 meters long, had a beam of 12 meters and a 5.4 meters draught.



The steamer Simbirsk ( later the Lenin ) taken before the revolution 1917.


  In Soviet Russia her name was changed to Lenin. In September, 1925 in spite of great shortage of food while fulfilling a governmental task the steamer deliver gratuitous cargoes to Nagasaki for its inhabitants - victims of an earthquake.

  Afterwards she was transferred to the Black Sea where she served on the Odessa - Novorossiysk route. Just before the war the steamer got on the rocky ground near Odessa.

  In 1941 the ship was modernized and painted anew. She came under command of Captain Ivan Semyonovich Borisenko who had been awarded the Order of Lenin in 1937 for his humanitarian voyages to Spain.

  The first voyage in wartime the ship made from Odessa to Mariupol while evacuating refugees with a cargo of sugar on board in July 1941. The situation at the front was rapidly getting worse. On the return trip while approaching Odessa Lenin was attacked by dive bombers that were driven off by fire from the cruiser Comintern.

  The German Luftwaffe made several bomb raids on the city during a day which caused first victims among its civilian population. Captain Borisenko got orders from the Black Sea State Shipping Company to urgently take in cargo and passengers aboard and return to Mariupol.

  On shore a representative of a navy commandant's office lieutenant Romanov was in charge of embarking passengers. Later he testified in court that boarding-cards were used as a pass aboard, but 2 or 3 adult passengers were accepted with one common boarding-card.

  Children didn't count. Many people brought notes from city and region authorities and a military commandant's office of Odessa instead of tickets. Crew members accomodated their families and friends in their cabins. Afterwards many of them turned out to be on a sad list of the missing.

  Captain Borisenko didn't register anybody, and as a result contrary to regulations instead of usual 482 passengers and 400 tons of load Lenin carried about 4000 passengers on her last voyage...

  There were so many people on board that they occupied all salons, mess rooms, corridors, holds and decks, and to crown it all Borisenko was ordered to pick up 1200 men of Red Army reserves. But people still continued to flow in...

  The boatswain had reported more than once that the vessel was overload when at last a command to unmoor was given.

The route of the steamer Lenin in the Black Sea on 24-27 July 1941.


  Following the outbreak of the war defensive mine barrages were laid down in many places of the Black Sea and a special regime for shipping was introduced that required obligatory pilotage. Vessels followed special fairways known to a limited number of persons. Beacons as well as all navigation lights on shore operated in a " manipulated " scheduled manner which created additional complications for enemy ships. But unfortunately at least during the first war months the Black Sea shipping lacked a common and effective communications service which all captains and pilots could obey.



  Lenin began her last voyage on 24 July 1941. At 22:00 she slowly put off and headed out to sea as a leader of a convoy including Lenin, Voroshilov, Berezina and 2 barges which lagged behind all the time and were about to part with it.

  Our Black Sea Fleet had a traditional advantage over enemy forces even in a number of ships, therefore it was unexplainable that its naval council didn't help vessels pass through a secret fairway and they began to strike Soviet mines.

  Vice-Admiral Oktyabrskiy received reports that two ships had run onto mines at Zhelezniy Port and Cape Kyz-Aul during only one day, and the day before the cargo ship Kola had blown up near Kerch.

  It was important that a pilot on board the steamer Lenin had no communication with an operations duty officer, and for this reason radiograms were transmitted through Navy boats and other vessels. As it turned out on the voyage the slowly moving barges had their pilot and they could reach their destination on their own.

  At last Lenin and Voroshilov could pick up their speed, and they quickly disappeared behind the horizon. But abeam of Cape Lukull   Voroshilov's captain reported that his motor ship's engine had failed and it couldn't sail alone. Captain Borisenko knew this was a result of a hurried and ineffective repair and decided to tow Voroshilov to Sevastopol. He also knew that this motor-ship was overcrowded with people as heavily as his own steamer. The port of Sevastopol was very near but they had lost a lot of time because of the barges. In war conditions it had been an unforgivable mistake, it had also been wrong to make up a convoy of so different vessels, and besides with badly repaired engines.

  Having evaded enemy aircraft attacks by a miracle, Lenin towed the motor ship to the Kazachya Bay of Sevastopol and left for Yalta, guarded by a patrol boat, but she didn't reach it...

  Captain 2nd Rank A.E.Abaev testified : " Young lieutenant I.I.Svistun, who had graduated the Leningrad Higher Naval College not long before, was appointed as pilot on board the steamer for further piloting. "

  ( Pilot I.I.Svistun was shot on the 24th of August 1941. He was posthumously rehabilitated on the 18th of August 1992 in accordance with decision of the Black Sea Fleet's naval tribunal ).

  " He would have made a navigator in a long time. Svistun was not appropriate for the role in peace, not to speak of wartime".

  That was confirmed by Rear-Admiral A.R.Azarenko : " Svistun had been enrolled on the pilot staff just before the war ... He was not duly prepared because he had no practical experience of piloting vessels of big displacement ".

  Meantime Lenin had to sail in close vicinity to minefields...
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)

"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)

"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)

"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)
"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)

"Lenin" Soviet Steamer
Lenin Soviet Steamer
(photo TekForce)




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