Nikolai Essen
Nikolai Ottovich Essen (11(23) December 1860, Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 – 7(20) May 1915, Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

) was a Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

n naval commander and admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 from the Baltic German Essen family. For more than two centuries his ancestors had served in the Navy, and seven had been awarded the Order of St. George, the highest military award of the Russian Empire.


Essen entered the Imperial Russian Navy
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

 after graduating from the Naval Cadet Corps
Sea Cadet Corps (Russia)
The Sea Cadet Corps , occasionally translated as the Marine Cadet Corps or the Naval Cadet Corps, is an educational establishment for training Naval officers for the Russian Navy in Saint Petersburg.It is the oldest existing high school in Russia.-History:...

 in 1880. He graduated from the Nikolayev Naval Academy, technical branch, in 1886 with the rank of lieutenant. In the early part of his career he commanded the Minesweeper no 120 (1897–98), the gunboat Grozyachiy (1898–1900), the steamship Slavianka (1901–1902) in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the Mediterranean, followed by the cruiser Novik
Russian cruiser Novik (1900)
Novík was a protected cruiser in the Imperial Russian Navy, built by Schichau shipyards in Elbing near Danzig, Germany.-Background:Novik was a very fast ship for the time, but smaller than most contemporary cruisers, and perhaps a forerunner of later light cruisers...

 (1902–1904), which was stationed at Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 with the Russian Pacific Fleet at the start of the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...


Essen was placed in command of the Russian battleship Sevastopol
Petropavlovsk class battleship (1897)
The Petropavlovsk-class were pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Imperial Russian Navy. All three ships fought and were lost in the Russo-Japanese war. Two ships were destroyed and one was captured by the Japanese....

 in Port Arthur
Lüshunkou is a district in the municipality of Dalian, Liaoning province, China. Also called Lüshun City or Lüshun Port, it was formerly known as both Port Arthur and Ryojun....

 by order of Admiral Stepan Makarov
Stepan Makarov
Stepan Osipovich Makarov was a Ukrainian - born Russian vice-admiral, a highly accomplished and decorated commander of the Imperial Russian Navy, an oceanographer, awarded by the Russian Academy of Sciences, and author of several books. Makarov also designed a small number of ships...

 in mid-1904. He fought in the Battle of the Yellow Sea
Battle of the Yellow Sea
The Battle of the Yellow Sea was a major naval engagement of the Russo-Japanese War, fought on 10 August 1904. In the Russian Navy, it was referred to as the Battle of 10 August. The battle foiled an attempt by the Russian fleet at Port Arthur to break out and form up with counterparts from...

. Despite general indiscipline in the Russian squadron, caught in harbour, during last weeks of the Japanese siege
Siege of Port Arthur
The Siege of Port Arthur , 1 August 1904 – 2 January 1905, the deep-water port and Russian naval base at the tip of the Liaotung Peninsula in Manchuria, was the longest and most violent land battle of the Russo-Japanese War....

, he managed to keep his battleship in serviceable condition until last days, then scuttled her in a deep water, so that the Japanese could not raise her. He was awarded the Order of St. George
Order of St. George
The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George (also known as Order of St. George the Triumphant, Russian: Военный орден Св...

 (3rd degree). After the end of the war he became the first captain of the British-built armoured cruiser Rurik
Rurik (1906)
The Rurik was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1906.-Design and construction:She is unusual in that she was built by Vickers in Barrow in Furness, England. Laid down August 1905, launched 4 November 1906, completed July 1909. The Russian Navy was not usually a customer...


He was promoted to Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 in 1908 and appointed Commander in Chief of the Russian Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

 in 1909 when this position was created. He was promoted to Admiral in 1913. Essen, from lessons learned in the catastrophic war against Japan and the mutiny of the Black Sea Fleet
Black Sea Fleet
The Black Sea Fleet is a large operational-strategic sub-unit of the Russian Navy, operating in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea since the late 18th century. It is based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov....

, urged far-reaching reforms and moderization of the Russian Navy. He recognized early the importance of submarines and aircraft, and sought to promote younger officers based on their knowledge of modern strategy and tactics, also establishing a naval training academy at Kronstadt
Kronstadt , also spelled Kronshtadt, Cronstadt |crown]]" and Stadt for "city"); is a municipal town in Kronshtadtsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on Kotlin Island, west of Saint Petersburg proper near the head of the Gulf of Finland. Population: It is also...

. Above all, he pushed for operational autonomy of the Baltic Fleet.

Widely regarded as the most able of Russian admirals in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Essen led the Baltic Fleet energetically during the first year of the war. His forces at the time consisted of four battleships, five cruisers, four light cruisers, 62 torpedo boats, 12 submarines and numerous smaller and specialty units. His superiors preferred but a cautious defensive position in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, forcing Essen to concentrate his forces in the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 to protect Petrograd, with older units at the Gulf of Riga
Gulf of Riga
The Gulf of Riga, or Bay of Riga, is a bay of the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Estonia. According to C.Michael Hogan, a saline stratification layer is found at a depth of approximately seventy metres....

, and effectively abandoning Liepāja
Liepāja ; ), is a republican city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea directly at 21°E. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region of Latvia, the third largest city in Latvia after Riga and Daugavpils and an important ice-free port...

 to the Germans.
Nevertheless, on 9 August 1914 Essen led part of his fleet towards Gotland
Gotland is a county, province, municipality and diocese of Sweden; it is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. At 3,140 square kilometers in area, the region makes up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area...

 to contain the Swedish navy and deliver a note of his own making which would have violated Swedish neutrality and may have brought Sweden into the war. He was ordered back before his plan could be executed. However, on 27 August 1914, he assigned the Rurik and Pallada  to commerce raiding
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

 operations in the Baltic. Although of little success, the mission went far to maintaining the morale within the Baltic Fleet.

Essen died unexpectedly after a short bout with pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

 in May 1915. He is buried in Novodevichy Cemetery (Saint Petersburg)
Novodevichy Cemetery (Saint Petersburg)
Novodevichy Cemetery in Saint Petersburg is a historic cemetery in the South-West part of the city near the Moscow Triumphal Gate. The cemetery is named after the historical Resurrection Convent...

. He was succeeded by his wife, Mary, and son Anton (who was later killed in action as commander of the submarine AG-14 on 24 October 1917), and two daughters who married naval officers.

Awards and commemoration

  • Golden gun "for courage" (14 March 1904)
  • Order of St. George
    Order of St. George
    The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George The Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George (also known as Order of St. George the Triumphant, Russian: Военный орден Св...

     (4th class), (17 April 1905)
  • Order of White Eagle with Swords (12 December 1914)

The second ship of the Admiral Grigorovich class frigate
Admiral Grigorovich class frigate
The Admiral Grigorovich class is the latest class of frigates ordered by the Russian Navy for the Black Sea Fleet. Three ships have been ordered so far to be built by the "Yantar" shipyard in Kaliningrad. The frigates are based on the Talwar-class frigate, six of which were ordered by the Indian...

s will be named Admiral Essen to commemorate the admiral.
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