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Russian Baltic Fleet Anniversary: Guarding Maritime Borders Since 1703

Here follows a photo essay dedicated to the history of the Russia’s oldest fleet

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The following photoessay
originally appeared at Sputnik


On May 18 Russia celebrates Day of the Baltic Fleet. The day was inaugurated by the order of the Commander of the Russian Navy on July 1996. On May 18, 1703, the oar-propelled flotilla of the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments, led by Peter the Great, won its first combat victory and captured two Swedish warships


"Baltic Fleet Parade" by Alexei Bogolyubov. Central Naval Museum, Saint Petersburg | © SPUTNIK/ ALEXEY VARFOLOMEEV
"Baltic Fleet Parade" by Alexei Bogolyubov. Central Naval Museum, Saint Petersburg | © SPUTNIK/ ALEXEY VARFOLOMEEV
<figcaption>Baltic Fleet's flagship destroyer 'Nastoichivy'</figcaption>
Baltic Fleet's flagship destroyer 'Nastoichivy'

Russia created the Baltic Fleet during the Great Northern War (1700-1721) with Sweden at the initiative of Czar Peter the Great. He ordered the first ships for the Fleet to be built at Lodeynoye Pole in 1702 and 1703

Three cheers for a seaman lifting weights | © SPUTNIK/ MIKHAIL KUHTAREV
Three cheers for a seaman lifting weights | © SPUTNIK/ MIKHAIL KUHTAREV

The first commander of the Baltic Fleet was a recruited Dutch admiral, Cornelius Cruys, who in 1723 was succeeded by Count Fyodor Apraksin. In 1703, the main base of the fleet was established in Kronshtadt.

Sailors of the Baltic Fleet with a little girl named Lucy whose parents died during the siege | © SPUTNIK/ BORIS KUDOYAROV
Sailors of the Baltic Fleet with a little girl named Lucy whose parents died during the siege | © SPUTNIK/ BORIS KUDOYAROV

In 1703, the fleet began to receive new vessels. The first vessel, the 24-gun three-masted frigate the Shtandart, is considered to be the flagman ship of the fleet. By 1724, the fleet consisted of 141 sail warships and hundreds of oar-propelled ships.

During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

During the Great Northern War, the Baltic Fleet took part in taking Viborg, Tallinn, Riga, the West Estonian archipelago (Moonsund archipelago), Helsinki, and Turku. The first claimed victories of the new Imperial Russian Navy were the Gangut in 1714 and the Grengam in 1720.

The crew of the Baltic Fleet's flagship destroyer "Nastoichivy" at Russian Navy Day celebration in Baltiysk, the Kaliningrad Region |  © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
The crew of the Baltic Fleet's flagship destroyer "Nastoichivy" at Russian Navy Day celebration in Baltiysk, the Kaliningrad Region | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

Forces of the Baltic Fleet protected Russia’s interests not only in the Baltic Region, but also in other maritime theaters. For example, during the series of Russo-Turkish Wars, (the 18th and 19th centuries), the fleet sailed into the Mediterranean Sea and destroyed the Ottoman Imperial Navy at the sea Battles of Chesma (1770), the Dardanelles (1807), Athos (1807), and Navarino (1827).

During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on RF Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on RF Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

In the 19th- and early-20th centuries, the Baltic Fleet made a significant contribution to science, with its around-the-world and distant cruises. On the world map, there are 432 geographic discoveries named after 98 admirals and officers of the Fleet.

Landing to a beach exercise was held in the Khemelyovka range | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR CHUPRIN
Landing to a beach exercise was held in the Khemelyovka range | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR CHUPRIN

The Baltic Fleet introduced a series of novelties to naval warfare, including torpedo mines, invented by Boris Yakobi. Other outstanding inventors who served in the Fleet were Alexander Popov (who was the first to demonstrate the practical application of radio waves), Stepan Makarov (the first to launch torpedoes from a boat), and Alexander Mozhaisky (co-inventor of the world’s first airplane).

During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

During the second half of the 19th century, the Baltic Fleet received armor-clad warships. Many of them were destroyed with the Second Pacific Squadron during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). In the 1910s, the Baltic Fleet was restored and equipped with modern vessels.

The "Neustrashimy" patrol boat sailors are welcomed back to Baltiysk, the main naval base of the Baltic Fleet, after a long ocean voyage | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
The "Neustrashimy" patrol boat sailors are welcomed back to Baltiysk, the main naval base of the Baltic Fleet, after a long ocean voyage | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

During World War I, despite being outnumbered by the German Navy, the Baltic Fleet won the battle for the Baltic having destroyed over 100 enemy vessels.

A Baltic Fleet naval parade in the Sea Canal of Baltiysk dedicated to Russia's Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
A Baltic Fleet naval parade in the Sea Canal of Baltiysk dedicated to Russia's Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

During the October Revolution of 1917, sailors of the Baltic Fleet were avid supporters of the Bolsheviks and were elite among the Red Military’s forces. In January 1918, vessels of the Baltic Fleet joined the Red Fleet. Some ships of the fleet took part in the Russian Civil War, notably by clashing with the British navy operating in the Baltic as part of intervention forces.

An amphibious assault vessel emerges from the large landing ship "Kaliningrad" during the rehearsal for the parade in honor of Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
An amphibious assault vessel emerges from the large landing ship "Kaliningrad" during the rehearsal for the parade in honor of Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

From March 1918 to January 1935, the Baltic Fleet was named the Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea. Between the two World Wars, the fleet was modernized and received new ships and aircraft. It served as basis for the creation of the Russian Northern and Pacific Fleets.

During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on RF Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on RF Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

During the Great Patriotic War, in the beginning of the German invasion the Baltic Fleet had 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, 2 flotilla leaders, 19 destroyers, 48 MTBs, 65 submarines and other ships, and 656 aircraft. During the war the Fleet, commanded by the Vice-Admiral Vladimir Tributz, defended the Hanko Peninsula, Tallinn, several islands in Estonian SSR, and participated in the break through breach of the Siege of Leningrad. 

Soldiers of the separate tank battalion of the Baltic Fleet’s motorized infantry brigade while loading of tanks on flatcars, to be sent to the district selected for military exercises, in the city of Gusev, the Kaliningrad Reg. | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
Soldiers of the separate tank battalion of the Baltic Fleet’s motorized infantry brigade while loading of tanks on flatcars, to be sent to the district selected for military exercises, in the city of Gusev, the Kaliningrad Reg. | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

More than 110,000 Baltic Fleet sailors fought on the ground. The fleet carried out 24 amphibious assault landings, destroyed 1,205 enemy warships and support vessels, and shot 2,418 enemy aircraft. Over 100,000 sailors were awarded orders and medals. A total of 137 sailors of the Baltic Fleet were awarded a title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Operating an AK-306 gun on board the Russian coastal minesweeper Sergei Kolbasiev during the joint Russian-French minesweeping exercise in the Baltic Sea | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
Operating an AK-306 gun on board the Russian coastal minesweeper Sergei Kolbasiev during the joint Russian-French minesweeping exercise in the Baltic Sea | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

In 1946, the Baltic Fleet was divided into two fleets – the 4th and 8th. In December 1955, the previous structure of the fleet was restored. Since the early 1950s, the Baltic Fleet has been receiving missile carrier ships and jet fighters which boosted its combat capabilities. Its ships began conducting missions in the Northern and Mediterranean Seas, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
During the general rehearsal for a naval parade on Russian Navy Day in Baltiysk | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

For enormous merit to the Motherland, the Baltic Fleet was twice awarded with the Order of Red Banner – in 1928 and 1965.

http://cdn2.img.sputniknews.com/images/102226/13/1022261323.jpg
http://cdn2.img.sputniknews.com/images/102226/13/1022261323.jpg

In 1991, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Baltic Fleet forces left key naval bases in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and joined the Kaliningrad special region which is headed by Fleet Commander.

Song and dance ensemble of the Baltic Fleet performing at celebrations in Baltiysk on Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
Song and dance ensemble of the Baltic Fleet performing at celebrations in Baltiysk on Navy Day | © SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO

Now the Baltic Fleet is operational-strategic command of the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea. Its main tasks are protecting the economic zone, securing the navigation and taking part in international missions (such as official visits, joint exercises, peacekeeping efforts etc.).

Georgy Shirokov, 91, a Russian veteran of WWII and former sailor of the Baltic Fleet walks in Red Square before the Victory Parade, celebrating 70 years after WWII, in Moscow | © AP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO
Georgy Shirokov, 91, a Russian veteran of WWII and former sailor of the Baltic Fleet walks in Red Square before the Victory Parade, celebrating 70 years after WWII, in Moscow | © AP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO

The Baltic Fleet is currently headquartered in Kaliningrad, with its main base in Baltiysk and another base at Kronshtadt, in the Gulf of Finland. It consists of the surface ship division, the diesel-powered submarines brigade, a unit of support and rescue ships, naval aviation, coastal forces, and support and technical units. 


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