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The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet – (Дважды Краснознамённый Балтийский флот) is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of the Order of the Red Banner. It is headquartered in Kaliningrad, with its main base in Baltiysk and another base at Kronshtadt, in the Gulf of Finland. Established 18 May 1703, the Fleet is the oldest Russian Navy formation.
The Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet was created during the Great Northern War at the initiative of Peter the Great, who ordered the first ships for the Baltic Fleet to be constructed at Lodeynoye Pole in 1702 and 1703. The first commander was a 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. One of the fleet's first actions was the taking of Shlisselburg. In 1701 Peter the Great established a special school, the School of Mathematics and Navigation (Russian: Школа математических и навигацких наук), situated in the Sukharev Tower in Moscow. As St. Petersburg was built it was moved to St. Petersburg and in 1752 its was renamed the Naval Cadet Corps. Today it is the St. Petersburg Naval Institute – Peter the Great Naval Corps.
The Baltic fleet began to receive new vessels since 1703, the first vessel the leader is 24-gun three-master frigate Standart is considered. By 1724, the fleet boasted 141 sail warships and hundreds of oar-propelled ships.
During the Great Northern War, the Baltic Fleet assisted in taking Viborg, Tallinn, Riga, the West Estonian archipelago (Moonsund archipelago), Helsinki, and Turku. The first claimed victories of the Russian Navy were the Gangut (Swedish: Hangöudd) in 1714 and, arguably, the Grengam (Swedish: Ledsund) in 1720. From 1715, the Royal Navy intervened in the Baltic Sea on behalf of Hanover and more or less in a tacit alliance with Russia. During the concluding stages of the war, the Russian fleet would land troops along the Swedish coast to devastate coastal settlements. However, after the death of Charles XII, the Royal Navy would rather protect Swedish interests after a rapprochement between Sweden and George I. A Russian attempt to reach Stockholm was checked at the Battle of Stäket in 1719. The losses suffered by the Russian Navy at the Grengam in 1720, as well as the arrival of a Royal Navy squadron under admiral John Norris, also prevented further operations of any greater scale before the war ended in 1721.
During the Seven Years' War, the Russian Baltic Sea fleet was active on the Pomeranian coast, helping the infantry to take Memel in 1757 and Kolberg in 1761. The Oresund was blockaded in order to prevent the British Navy from entering the Baltic sea. During Catherine II's Swedish War the fleet, commanded by Samuel Greig, checked the Swedes at Hogland (1788) and the Viborg (1790). An impetuous Russian attack on the Swedish galley flotilla on 9 July 1790 at the Second Battle of Svensksund resulted in a disaster for the Russian Navy who lost some 9,500 out of 14,000 men and about one third of their flotilla. The Russian defeat in this battle effectively ended the war.
During the Russo-Turkish Wars the fleet sailed into the Mediterranean and destroyed the Ottoman Navy at Chesma (1770), the Dardanelles (1807), the Athos (1807), and the Navarino (1827). At about the same time, Ivan Krusenstern circumnavigated the globe, while another Baltic Fleet officer — Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen — discovered Antarctica.
In the Crimean War, the fleet – although stymied in its operations by the absence of steamships – prevented the Allies from occupying Hangö, Sveaborg, and Saint Petersburg. Despite being greatly outnumbered by the technologically superior Allies, it was the Russian Fleet that introduced into naval warfare such novelties as torpedo mines, invented by Boris Yakobi. Other outstanding inventors who served in the Baltic Fleet were Alexander Stepanovich Popov (who was the first to demonstrate the practical application of electromagnetic (radio) waves), Stepan Makarov (the first to launch torpedoes from a boat), Alexei Krylov (author of the modern ship floodability theory), and Alexander Mozhaiski (co-inventor of aircraft).
As early as 1861, first armor-clad ships were built for the Baltic Fleet. In 1863, during the American Civil War, most of the fleet's ocean-going ships, including the flagship Alexander Nevsky were sent to New York. At the same time ten Uragan class monitors based on an American design were launched. In 1869 the fleet commissioned the first turret battleship in the world – Pyotr Velikiy. Furthermore, in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century a strong network of coastal artillery batteries was created to cover the approaches to St. Petersburg, Riga, and other important bases.
The Baltic Fleet took a prominent part in the Russo-Japanese War. In September 1904, a squadron under the command of Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky was sent around Africa – stopping in French, German and Portuguese colonial ports Tangier, Dakar, Gabon, Baía dos Tigres, Angra Pequeña, and Nossi Be (Madagascar), then across the Indian Ocean to Cam Ranh Bay in French Indochina and then northward to its doomed encounter with the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. The German Hamburg-Amerika Line provided 60 colliers to supply the Baltic Fleet on its epic journey. During its passage through the North Sea the fleet mistook a fleet of British fishing boats for Japanese torpedo boats and opened fire, killing three sailors in what is known as the Dogger Bank incident. The decision to send the fleet to the Pacific was made after Russia had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Japanese Army in Manchuria. This historic naval battle broke Russian strength in East Asia and set the stage for the unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905, which began the decline that would see the monarchy brought down in 1917.
Following the catastrophic losses in battleships during the Russo-Japanese war, Russia embarked on a new naval building program which was to incorporate a number of the most modern dreadnought-type battleships into the fleet. In late 1914, four dreadnoughts of the Gangut class entered service with the fleet: Gangut; Poltava; Petropavlovsk; and Sevastopol. Four more powerful battlecruisers of the Borodino class were under construction, but were never completed. The Fleet's main operation during World War I was the Ice Cruise of the Baltic Fleet (1918), led by Alexander Zelenoy. However, on the whole the heavy units of the fleet remained in port during the war, as the German superiority in battleships was overwhelming.
The fleet operated 355 ton submarines made by Electric Boat Co. in the United States. Four of these submarines, AG 11, AG 12, AG 15 and AG 16 were scuttled in the harbour of Hanko on 3 April 1918, just before the 10,000-strong German Baltic Sea Division landed in support of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War. During the war the fleet was aided by a detachment of British submarines. These subs were scuttled by their crews near the Harmaja lighthouse outside Helsinki on 4 April 1918.
During the October Revolution the sailors of the Baltic Fleet (renamed "Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea" in March 1918) were among the most ardent supporters of Bolsheviks, and formed an elite among Red military forces. 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. Over the years, however, the relations of the Baltic Fleet sailors with the Bolshevik regime soured, and they eventually rebelled against the Soviet government in the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921, but were defeated.
The Fleet, renamed Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on 11 January 1935, was developed further during the Soviet years, initially relying on tsarist warships, but adding modern units built in Soviet yards from 1930s onwards. Among the Fleet's Soviet commanders were Gordey Levchenko in 1938–39 and Arseniy Golovko in 1952–56. Ships and submarines commissioned to the fleet included Soviet submarine M-256, a Project 615 short-range attack diesel submarine of the Soviet Navy. The fleet also acquired a large number of ground-based aircraft to form a strong naval aviation force.
In September 1939, the fleet threatened the Baltic states as part of a series of military actions staged to encourage the Baltics to accept Soviet offers of "mutual assistance." Subsequently, in June 1940, the fleet blockaded the Baltics in support of the Soviet invasion.
Finland, which had refused to sign a "pact of mutual assistance", was attacked by the USSR. The fleet played a limited role in the Winter War with Finland in 1939–1940, mostly through conducting artillery bombardments of Finnish coastal fortifications. Many fleet aircraft were involved in operations against Finland, however. Its operations came to a close with the freezing of the Gulf of Finland during the exceptionally cold winter of that year.
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, participated in the break through breach of the Siege of Leningrad, etc. 137 sailors of the Baltic Fleet were awarded a title of the Hero of the Soviet Union. However, for most of the war the fleet was trapped by German and Finnish minefields in Leningrad and nearby Kronstadt, the only bases left in Soviet hands on the Baltic coast. Another key factor was that the Finns had recaptured outer islands of the Gulf of Finland, Suursaari being the most important of them. Many of the fleet sailors fought on land as infantry during the siege. Only submarines could risk the passage into the open sea to strike at German shipping. They were particularly successful towards the end of the war, sinking ships like Wilhelm Gustloff, Steuben and Goya, causing great loss of life.
During the Immediate post-war period the importance of the Red-Banner Baltic Fleet increased despite the Baltic being a shallow sea with the exits easily becoming choke points by other countries. The Baltic Fleet was increased to two Fleets, the 4th Red-Banner Baltic Fleet and the 8th Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on 15 February 1946. However during the post-Stalinist period and general reforms and downsizing in the Soviet Armed Forces the two fleets of the Baltic were again reduced, with many vessels, some built before the Revolution, were scrapped, and the Fleet was again renamed Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on 24 December 1955.
In Liepāja the Baltic Fleet's 14th submarine squadron, call sign "Kompleks" ("Комплекс") was stationed with 16 submarines (613, 629a, 651); as was the 6th group of rear supply of Baltic Fleet, and the 81st design bureau and reserve command center of the same force.
Far from being reduced in importance, operations of the Red-Banner Baltic Fleet during the early-Cold War period earned it a great amount of prestige and profile, with the second awarding of the Order of Red Banner being presented on 7 May 1965 when the Fleet was again renamed to Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet. Although the Soviet Union poured resources into building up the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet, both of which had easy access to the open ocean, the Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet assumed the very important position of supporting the northern flank of the European Theatre in case of a confrontation with NATO. This role was under-rated from the blue water navies perspective, but was seen as a highly valuable one from the strategic perspective of the Soviet General Staff planning. The Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet remained a powerful force, which in the event of war was tasked with conducting amphibious assaults against the coast of Denmark and Germany, in cooperation with allied Polish and East German naval forces.
A notable incident involving the fleet occurred in 1975 when a mutiny broke out on the frigate Storozhevoy. There were also numerous allegations by Sweden of Baltic Fleet submarines illegally penetrating its territorial waters. In October, 1981 the Soviet Whiskey class submarine U 137 ran aground in Swedish territorial waters, near the important naval base of Karlskrona, causing a serious diplomatic incident. Swedish naval vessels pulled the submarine into deeper water and permitted it to return to the Soviet fleet in early November.
|Navies of Russia|
Soviet Navy (1917–1991)
|Name||Period of command|
|Aleksandr Vladimirovich Razvozov||7 July – 5 December 1917|
|Aleksandr Antonovich Ruzhek||7 December 1917 – 13 March 1918|
|Aleksandr Vladimirovich Razvozov||13–20 March 1918|
|Aleksey Mikhaylovich Shchastnyy||22 March – 26 May 1918|
|Sergey Valeryanovich Zarubayev||27 May 1918 – 18 January 1919|
|Aleksandr Pavlovich Zelenoy||18 January 1919 – 2 July 1920|
|Fedor Fedorovich Raskolnikov||2 July 1920 – 27 January 1921|
|Vladimir Andreyevich Kukel (Acting)||27 January – 3 March 1921|
|Ivan Kuzmich Kozhanov||3 March – 4 May 1921|
|Mikhail Vladimirovich Viktorov||4 May 1921 – 6 May 1924|
|Aleksandr Karlovich Vekman||1924–1926|
|Mikhail Vladimirovich Viktorov||1926–1932|
|Lev Mikhaylovich Galler||22 August 1932 – 25 January 1937|
|Aleksandr Kuzmitch Sivkov||25 January – 15 August 1937|
|Ivan Stepanovich Isakov||15 August 1937 – 9 January 1938|
|Gordey Ivanovich Levchenko||10 January 1938 – 27 April 1939|
|Vladimir Filippovich Tributs||28 April 1939 – 15 February 1946|
|Arseniy Grigoryevich Golovko||27 January – 24 November 1956|
|Nikolay Mikhaylovich Kharlamov||24 November 1956 – 29 May 1959|
|Aleksandr Evstafyevich Orel||29 May 1959 – 27 January 1967|
|Vladimir Vasilyevich Mikhaylin||27 January 1967 – 1 September 1975|
|Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Kosov||1 September 1975 – 2 June 1978|
|Vladimir Vasilyevich Sidorov||2 June 1978 – 12 February 1981|
|Ivan Matveyevich Kapitanets||12 February 1981 – 25 February 1985|
|Konstantin Valentinovich Makarov||25 February 1985 – 30 December 1985|
|Vitaliy Pavlovich Ivanov||30 December 1985 – December 1991|
|Vladimir Grigoryevich Yegorov||13 December 1991 – 2000|
|Vladimir Prokofyevich Valuyev||11 April 2001 – May 2006|
|Konstantin Semenovich Sidenko||May 2006 – 6 December 2007|
|Viktor Nikolayevich Mardusin (ru:Мардусин, Виктор Николаевич)||6 December 2007 – 8 September 2009|
|Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov||8 September 2009 – May 2012|
The breakup of the Soviet Union deprived the Fleet of key bases in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, leaving Kaliningrad Oblast as the Fleet's only ice-free naval outlet to the Baltic Sea. However, the Kaliningrad Oblast between Poland and Lithuania is not contiguous with the rest of the national territory of the Russian Federation.
As of 2008 the Baltic Fleet included about 75 combat ships of various types. The main bases is in Baltiysk and a second operational base is in Kronstadt. The Leningrad Naval Base is an administrative entity that is not a discrete geographic location but comprises all of the naval institutions and facilities in the St. Petersburg area. Operational forces include: