For the first time, the question of building armored floating batteries to protect the entrances to the Sea of Azov and the Dnieper-Bug estuary was raised in 1863. After the defeat in the Crimean War, the development of the Black Sea Fleet was limited by the terms of the Paris Peace Treaty, so even the project of sedentary floating batteries was rejected. In 1869, the military and naval departments jointly decided to build such batteries, surpassing the caliber of artillery and thickness of the armor of any foreign battleships, and at the same time having a draft of no more than 14 feet. All these conditions were met only by A.A. Popov's proposal to build batteries that were round in plan, which made it possible to fit 11-inch guns and powerful armor into a 2, 700-ton ship with a length (diameter) of less than 31 meters with a draft of 3, 76 meters.
Two popovka named "Novgorod" and "Kiev" (later - "Vice-Admiral Popov"), were built on the initiative of Admiral AA Popov in 1871-1875 as coastal defense battleships of the Black Sea Fleet.
Contemporaries foresaw perfectly the shortcomings of round ships, but the demonstration with round boats convinced the officials not to hesitate with the construction, which began simultaneously with Russia's withdrawal from the restrictions of the Paris Treaty. Due to the weak production base on the Black Sea, the construction of real battleships was impossible at that time. Two popovka built - "Novgorod" and "Kiev" (later "Vice-Admiral Popov") - became the first battleships of the Black Sea Fleet. The development of shipbuilding technologies, a change in foreign policy and domestic conditions, the rejection of the initial concept of using highly specialized ships - floating armored coastal defense batteries, subsequently led to an abundance of criticism of these unusual ships
"Novgorod" was built in St. Petersburg, partly transported by land to Nikolaev and assembled there (launched on May 21, 1873). "Kiev" was completely built in Nikolaev, two years later. The ships differed in the diameter and caliber of artillery ("Novgorod" - 11-inch guns, "Kiev" - 12-inch).
Due to the design features of the propeller-rudder mechanisms, the popovka poorly kept on course, suffered from being overwhelmed by waves, but tolerated moderate excitement satisfactorily. During the tests, the weakness of the mechanisms of the tool machines of the Pestich system was revealed. The malfunctions were eliminated, but rumors about the shortcomings of the installations led to the emergence of a myth about the rotation of the "popovok" when shooting, which still have to be met in non-core literature (in fact, it was the gun machines themselves, located inside an armored barbet). These are the only ships in history that had 6 propellers at once, however, this number subsequently decreased. Due to the disturbance of the water flow, the rudders were considered ineffective - it was necessary to maneuver only by machines, which reduced the already insignificant speed.
Both popovka took part in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, demonstrating on the roadstead of Odessa without firing a single shot, making an exit to the Danube estuary to ensure the passage of the Danube detachment ships in 1877, in 1892 they were ranked among the coastal defense battleships, and served until 1903. Only in 1903, the completely aged ships were handed over to the Nikolaev port, two months later they were excluded from the lists of the fleet, and at the end of 1911 - beginning of 1912 they were sold to private individuals for scrap.