Here follows a photo essay dedicated to the history of the Russia’s oldest fleet
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
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
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For enormous merit to the Motherland, the Baltic Fleet was twice awarded with the Order of Red Banner – in 1928 and 1965.
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.
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.).
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.