The deficiencies of the Nakhimov were connected with the time of her construction, and the rapid advance in naval technology during the period. As a result she was already an obsolete vessel by 1905, inferior to newer cruisers. The main fault was weak protection against torpedoes, despite the fact she was the first Russian vessel to introduce anti-torpedo nets (which were useful only at slow speed). As quick-firing medium-caliber artillery became widely used her limited amount of side armour left most of the hull vulnerable. Her machinery also became obsolete and her speed was low.
Construction started on 7 December 1883 (old style) at the Baltic Works in Saint Petersburg. The official start, in the presence of Tsar Alexander III of Russia, was in July 1884. She was launched on 21 October 1885, and entered service in October 1888 (old style).
After the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, Admiral Nakhimov was assigned to the 2nd Pacific Squadron, created in the Baltic to reinforce the 1st Squadron at Port Arthur. In October 1904, she sailed to the Far East with the Squadron. As she was more powerful than other Russian cruisers, she was included into the 2nd Battleship Group of the Squadron, consisting of three obsolete battleships. On 27 May 1905, the first day of the battle of Tsushima, the Admiral Nakhimov was the eighth and last ship in the main column. She was hit about 30 times, mainly by fire from Japanese armoured cruisers, and suffered 25 killed, and 51 injured, but retained her combat capabilities. Nakhimov slightly damaged the armoured cruiser with three 203 mm shells. At night, when the remaining Russian ships were attacked by torpedo boats and destroyers, Nakhimov was visible, turning on searchlights. Around 21.30 - 22.00 hours she was hit at the bow by a torpedo, fired by an unidentified ship. Despite the struggle of the crew, the ship was sinking and she was abandoned the next morning close to Tsushima. The Japanese auxiliary cruiser Sado Maru captured 523 of her crew, another 103 men escaped in boats and were captured later, and 18 men were lost. At about 10.00 on 28 May, Nakhimov sunk at 34° 34'N, 129° 32'E.
Nakhimov was one of several Russian ships sunk at the battle of Tsushima, including: , , , , and .