In the late 1800s, Russia acquired Port Arthur in Manchuria (through coerced lease) and this was notable because it represented an ice-free port for its Navy with free access to the Pacific. To defend its control, Russian leader Tsar Nicholas II ordered several warships to be constructed with one of these becoming the Tsesarevich. Due to a lack of shipbuilding capabilities within Russia, the warship was constructed in France and delivered to the Russian Navy upon completion. Tsesarevich was ordered on July 20th, 1898 and built by Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee of France. Her keel was laid down on July 8th, 1899 and she was launched on February 23rd, 1901. Her commissioning followed on August 31st, 1903.
The Tsesarevich was a pre-Dreadnought battleship which predated the arrival of HMS Dreadnought (1906). HMS Dreadnought brought about the rise of the all-big-gun, steam powered capital ship and rendered mixed gun, coal-powered warships obsolete as a result. As such, Tsesarevich carried a mixed-gun armament consisting of 2 x 305mm (12") main guns, 6 x 152mm (6") secondary guns, 20 x 75mm (3") guns, 20 x 47mm (1.9") guns and 8 x 37mm (1.5") guns. Additionally there were 4 x 381mm (15") torpedo tubes fitted. Power was from 20 x Belleville boilers feeding 2 x Vertical triple-expansion steam engines driving 16,300 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. Maximum speed was 18 knots with a range out to 5,500 nautical miles.
As built, Tsesarevich exhibited a length of 388.8 feet, a beam of 76 feet and a draught of 26 feet. Her crew complement numbered 778 and armor protection reached 10" at the conning tower. The belt held up to 9.8" and the decks up to 2". Her profile featured a forward set bridge superstructure, midships-based smoke funnels and a twin-mast arrangement. On the whole, her appearance was consistent with warship design of the late-1800s.
After entering service in 1903, Tsesarevich was sent to the Far East and took up station in Port Arthur before the end of the year. She represented the more formidable warship in the Russian Navy fleet at the time and a considerable foe for Japan when the two nations went to war in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.
In the opening rounds of the conflict, Japanese torpedo boats struck the Russian fleet where it berthed on the night of February 8th - Tsesarevich being one of the targets. The vessel took a torpedo into her side that caused a noticeable list but counter-flooding was able to right the warship and keep it afloat. However, once she got moving, she ran aground at the port entrance and remained in her damaged state until June 7th. She then broke down while attempting to break the Japanese blockade and was part of several inconclusive actions against the Japanese fleet thereafter. It managed to reach the German treaty port of Tsingtau and was disarmed and interned for the duration of the war.
The vessel was then returned to Russia and formed part of the Baltic Fleet. In 1906 it took part in suppressing the Sveaborg rebellion, a Russian military mutiny born from the 1905 Russian Revolution. That same year her profile changed some as her superstructure was shortened and she lost some of her 75mm guns. Her next participation was in response to the Messina earthquake in December of 1908. Her propulsion scheme was drastically updated from 1909 to 1910.
Tsesarevich was still in commission by the time of World War 1 (1914-1918) but saw little action in the conflict. There was another mutiny, this time involving Tsesarevich as a host ship, in the early part of 1917. Following the February Revolution, the warship was renamed to "Grazhdanin" on April 13th. Then came her participation in the Battle of Moon Sound during October 1917 which ended as a German victory in the Baltic Sea. Grazhdanin took several direct hits from German guns and retreated.
Before the end of the year, she was taken over by the Bolsheviks and retired by May 1918. She was scrapped in 1924 and her name was stricken from the Naval Register on November 21st, 1925.