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THE VARYAG CRUISER: SINGAPORE'S TRACES OF THE RUSSIAN LEGEND

In June 1916, two Russian ships, Chesma and Varyag (Russian for Varangian), called on the port of Singapore. The Special Purpose Vessel Detachment was heading north, from Vladivostok to Murmansk, where a new duty station was awaiting it.

In February 2009, Singaporean student Edwin Yeo happened to visit the Museum of the Northern Fleet in Murmansk where, to his enormous surprise and joy, he came across an almost century-old photo of the Varyag crew. It had been taken in Singapore in 1916 during the ship's seven-day moorage

"Our Proud Varyag Will Never Surrender"

This song verse celebrating the Varyag's military feat is known to every Russian. The battle that the song depicts took place on the first day of the Russo-Japanese War, 9 February, 1904, when the cruiser Varyag and the gunboat Koreyets repulsed a Japanese fleet of 14 cruisers and torpedo boats in Chemulpo Bay. The Varyag fired over a thousand shells, but was shot at in return. With multiple underwater bullet holes and all naval guns destroyed, it was soon unable to continue in battle. Determined not to surrender and intent on preventing the Japanese from taking over the ships as trophies, the Russians blew up the Koreyets and sunk the Varyag. This garnered respect even with their enemies: in the eyes of the Japanese, the Russian seamen had acted in accordance with the samurai code of honour.

Very few know that the story of the Varyag did not end here.

 

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