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Baltic Fleet headquarters building, Kaliningrad

Russian Baltic Fleet sleeve ensign

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.[1]

Imperial Russia[edit | edit source]

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 first vessel the leader 24-gun three-masted frigate Shtandart, modern replica

The Baltic fleet began to receive new vessels in 1703, the first vessel 24-gun three-master frigate Shtandart is considered to be the leader of the fleet.

By 1724, the fleet boasted 141 sail warships and hundreds of oar-propelled ships.

Battle of Gangut.

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[2]), 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).

Age of iron[edit | edit source]

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 – Petr Veliky. 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 naval St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg is the main church of the Russian Navy. Its outside is covered with plaques to Russian sailors lost at sea.

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.

World War I[edit | edit source]

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 Imperial Russian Navy's Baltic fleet included a submarine division that had about 30 subs of several classes and various auxiliary vessels, the largest of which were the transport and mother ships Europa, Tosno, Khabarovsk, Oland and Svjatitel Nikolai.[3][4] Some of the Fleet's 355-ton submarines were made by Electric Boat Co. of the United States. Five of these AG (Holland) class submarines were prefabricated by British Pacific Engineering & Construction Company at Barnet (near Vancouver), British Columbia, under contract to the Electric Boat Company. These Canadian built subs were shipped to Russia in December 1915.,[5][6] 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.[7]

Soviet era[edit | edit source]

During the October Revolution the sailors of the Baltic Fleet (renamed "Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea" in March 1918)[8] 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.[9] 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 the Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on 11 January 1935,[8] 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."[10][11] Subsequently, in June 1940, the fleet blockaded the Baltics in support of the Soviet invasion.

Winter War[edit | edit source]

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.

World War II[edit | edit source]

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.

The Fleet carried out the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn in late August 1941. See also Baltic Sea Campaigns (1939-1945) for more details.

Grouping in June 1941[edit | edit source]

  • Battleship squadron
    • battleship Marat (named after Jean-Paul Marat)
    • battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya (named after October revolution)
    • destroyer leader Leningrad (named after the city of Leningrad)
    • destroyer leader Minsk (named after the capital of Belarus)
  • 1st destroyer division/1 Flotilla
  • 2nd destroyer division/2 Flotilla
  • 3rd destroyer division/3 Flotilla
  • Guard division/Naval Guards Squadron
    • Burya
    • Sneg
    • Taifun
    • Tsiklon
    • Tucha
    • Vihr
  • Support vessels
    • Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star)
    • Oka (named after the river of Oka)

Cold War[edit | edit source]

Navies of Russia

Flag of Russia.svg Imperial Russia

Imperial Navy (1696–1917)

White movement fleet (1917—1922)

Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union

Soviet Navy (1918–1991)

Flag of Russia.svg Russian Federation

Russian Navy (1991–Present)

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[13]

Post Cold War[edit | edit source]

After the 2018 reforms, the fleet also controls the units based in Kaliningrad, these include:

Commanders[edit | edit source]

Landing of Russian marines near Ustka in Poland

Name[14] 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
Viktor Petrovich Kravchuk May 2012 –

Under the Russian Federation[edit | edit source]

Baltic Fleet is located in Kaliningrad Oblast
Separate Motor Rifle Rgt
336th Naval Infantry Brigade
Polish 9th Armd Cav Bde
Polish 15th Mech Bde
Combat formations of Ground and Coastal Forces of the Baltic Fleet and nearby Polish Army formations
There is another brigade of the Polish 16th Mech Division to the east of the 15th Mech Bde

The breakup of the Soviet Union deprived the Fleet of key bases in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, 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.

In the late 1990s the 336th Independent Guards Naval Infantry Brigade and the remnant of the 11th Guards Army of the Baltic Military District were subordinated to a single command named the Ground and Coastal Forces of the Baltic Fleet under a deputy fleet commander. The 11th Guards Army remnant included the 7th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division, plus several Bases for Storage of Weapons and Equipment, holding enough vehicles and weaponry for a division but only having a few hundred men assigned to maintain the equipment and guard the bases. warfare.be listings in 2013 report that the staff of the Ground and Coastal Defence Forces of the Fleet may have been disbanded in November 2007.[15]

The fleet's aviation units were equipped with a total of 23 Su-27, 26 Su-24, 14 An-12/24/26, 2 An-12 Cub (MR/EW), 11 Mi-24 Hind, 19 Ka-28 Helix, 8 Ka-29 Helix assault helicopters, and 17 Mi-8 Hip transport helicopters in 2007, according to the IISS.[16]

As of 2008 the Baltic Fleet included about 75 combat ships of various types.[17] 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. It should be noted that the assignment of the 106th Small Missile Ship Battalion is disputed; warfare.be places it under the 64th Naval Region Protection Brigade, while Holm, probably working from older sources, places it under the 36th Missile Ship Brigade.

Operational forces include:

12th Surface ship Division

Leningrad Naval Base

Baltyysk Naval Base

Ships whose unit allocation is not precisely known

  • 2 Ondatra-class landing ships
  • 1 Serna-class landing ship
  • 7 Tarantul-class corvettes
  • 4 Pauk-class corvette
  • 1 Natya-class minesweeper - not listed by warfare.be
  • 6 Lida-class minesweepers

Naval Aviation (2007):[21]

Ground and Coastal Forces of the Baltic Fleet[15]

  • HQ: Kaliningrad
  • 7th Independent Motor Rifle Regiment (Kaliningrad) (former 1st Guards Motor Rifle Division)
  • 336th Independent Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Baltiysk)
  • 79th Independent Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Gusev) (former 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division)
  • 152nd Guards Missile Brigade - Chernyakhovsk (Kornevo), Kaliningrad Oblast[22]
  • 244th Artillery Brigade
  • 25th Coastal Missile Brigade
  • 22nd Independent Air Defence Regiment. Not clear which missiles this regiment is equipped with. However it was announced in 2011 that two divizions (batteries) of new S-400 Ground-to-Air Missile systems will join the Baltic Fleet.[23]
  • 73rd Independent Bridge Battalion
  • 254th Independent Radio Battalion (electronic intelligence gathering)
  • Other small units

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Baltic Fleet turns 307". RusNavy.com. 18 May 2010. http://rusnavy.com/news/newsofday/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=9479. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  2. "Early Radio Transmission Recognized as Milestone". IEEE. http://www.ieee.org/portal/site/tionline/menuitem.130a3558587d56e8fb2275875bac26c8/index.jsp?&pName=institute_level1_article&TheCat=1008&article=tionline/legacy/inst2005/may05/5w.fhistory.xml&. Retrieved 16 July 2006. 
  3. During 1915-1917 the Estonian Master Mariner Johann Kalmar had command of Svjatitel Nikolai and then Oland. Kalmar had been forcibly conscripted into the Tsar's Navy in 1914. He managed to evade the Bolsheviks (Reds) during the October Revolution and was later one of the founders of the merchant shipping firm Merilaid & Co.
  4. http://www.helsinki.fi/~jjeerola/baltlaiv.htm
  5. http://naval.review.cfps.dal.ca/forum/pdf/08-02-Shirlaw-Submarines_Burrard.pdf
  6. Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies 1718 - 1990, Polmar, N. and Noot, J., Page 63, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1990 ISBN 0-87021-570-1
  7. Finnish Navy in World War II
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 ВОЕННАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА – Военная история – Боевой путь Советского Военно-Морского Флота
  9. http://www.naval-history.net/WW1CampaignsRNBolshevik.htm
  10. Moscow's Week at Time Magazine on Monday, 9 October 1939
  11. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0-415-28580-1
  12. Keskinen, Kalevi; Mäntykoski, Jorma, eds (1991). The Finnish Navy At War in 1939–1945 (Suomen Laivasto Sodassa 1939–1945). Espoo: Tietoteos Ky. pp. 153. ISBN 951-8919-05-4. http://openlibrary.org/books/OL1778118M/Suomen_Laivasto_sodassa_1939-1945. 
  13. History – Sweden – issues, growth, future, power, policy, Sweden and Neutrality
  14. Боевой путь Советского Военно-морсого Флота, Военное Издательство, Moscow, 1988
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Warfare.be, Navy
  16. IISS (2007). The Military Balance 2007. London: Routledge for the IISS. pp. 197. ISBN 978-1-85743-437-8. 
  17. Kommersant VLAST, No.7(760) 25 Feb 2008
  18. http://www.ww2.dk/new/navy/128brrk.htm
  19. Interfax-AVN, Moscow, 0930 and 1250 GMT 16 May 13
  20. See also Holm
  21. Air Forces Monthly, August 2007 issue.
  22. Michael Holm
  23. http://flot.com/news/navy/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=85385
  • Richard Connaughton, 1988, 1991, 2003. "Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia's War With Japan". Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9.
  • Jürgen Rohwer and Mikhail S. Monakov, Stalin's Ocean Going Fleet – Soviet Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Programmes: 1935–1953, Frank Cass, 2001, ISBN 0-7146-4895-7.
  • Gunnar Åselius, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Navy in the Baltic, 1921–41, Routledge (UK), 2005, ISBN 978-0-7146-5540-6.

External links[edit | edit source]

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