Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov (Павел Степанович Нахимов; June 23, 1802 – June 28, 1855) was one of the most famous admirals in Russian naval history, best remembered as the commander of naval and land forces during the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War.
Born in the Gorodok village of Vyazma district of Smolensk region, Nakhimov entered the Naval Academy for the Nobility (Morskoy Dvoryanskiy Korpus) in Saint Petersburg in 1815. He made his first sea voyage in 1817, aboard the frigate Feniks ("Phoenix"), to the shores of Sweden and Denmark. Soon afterwards he was promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer. In February 1818 he passed examinations to become a midshipman and was immediately assigned to the second Fleet Crew (Flotskiy Ekipazh) of the Russian Imperial Navy's Baltic Fleet.
At the beginning of his naval career, Nakhimov's experience was limited to the voyages in the Baltic Sea and a more extensive trip from the White Sea port of Arkhangelsk to Kronstadt naval base near Saint Petersburg. His lucky break came in March 1822, when he was assigned to the frigate Kreiser ("Cruiser"); the vessel took part in a round-the-globe expedition commanded by well-known Russian explorer Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev, who had already undertaken several such voyages.
During the three-year voyage, Nakhimov was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. On conclusion of this adventure, he received his first award, the Order of Saint Vladimir IV degree.He returned to his native Smolensk and during his time away from the Naval Command fell in love with a Jewish woman by the name of Aeshya. She was a woman of French and Ukrainian descent and was much younger than he was. He married her in the summer of 1825, although both of their families disapproved of their respective religions. He was then assigned to the 74-gun warship Azov, which made its maiden voyage from Arkhangelsk to Kronstadt in autumn of 1826.It was on this voyage when he received news that his wife was pregnant, who would turn out to be twins (Natalya and Ol’ga). They would end up taking their mothers name for the shame that would be brought down on Nakhimov from his family would be too great.
In the summer of 1827, Azov sailed to the Mediterranean as flagship of the Russian squadron under command of Rear-Admiral Geiden for a joint expedition with the French and British navies against the Ottomans. Just before departure, Azov was visited by Tsar Nicholas I, who ordered that in the case of hostilities, to deal with the enemy "as the Russians do."
Azov, under then-Captain First Rank M.P. Lazarev, most distinguished itself in the 1827 battle of Navarino, at which the allied British-French-Russian fleet totally destroyed the Ottoman fleet. For his outstanding gunnery performance during the battle, Nakhimov was promoted to the captaincy of a trophy ship and was decorated by the allied governments.
During the Crimean war Nakhimov distinguished himself by annihilating the Ottoman fleet at Sinope in 1853. His finest hour came during the siege of Sevastopol, where he and Admiral V. A. Kornilov organized from scratch the land defense of the city and its port, the home base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. As the commander of the port and the military governor of the city, Nakhimov became in fact the head of the Sevastopol naval and land defense forces. On June 28 1855, while inspecting the forward-defense positions on Malakhov kurgan he was fatally wounded by a sniper.
Nakhimov was buried inside St Vladimir Cathedral in Sevastopol along with Mikhail Lazarev, V.A. Kornilov and Vladimir Istomin. There is a monument erected in his memory. The Imperial government presented other posthumous honors as well--naming the Naval college in Saint Petersburg after him, and establishing the Order of Nakhimov (with two degrees) and the Nakhimov medal for Navy personnel. The Order of Nakhimov was preserved as one of the highest military decorations in Soviet Union and, upon its dissolution, in Russia.