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Russian Baltic Fleet sleeve ensign

The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - (Дважды Краснознамённый Балтийский флот), was the Imperial, later Soviet, and is now the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Seamarker. 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 Kaliningradmarker, with its main base in Baltiyskmarker and another base at Kronshtadtmarker, in the Gulf of Finlandmarker. The Fleet is the oldest Russian Navy formation, established in 1703, was part of the Imperial Russian Navy, the Soviet Navy, and is now again part of Russian Navy.

Imperial Russia

The Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet was created during the Great Northern War at the instigation 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 Kronshtadtmarker. One of the fleet's first actions was the taking of Shlisselburgmarker. 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 Towermarker 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 Vyborgmarker, Tallinnmarker, Rigamarker, the Moonsund archipelago, Helsinkimarker, and Turkumarker. The first great victories of the Russian Navy were won at the Gangutmarker in 1714 and the Grengammarker in 1720. During the concluding stages of the war, the fleet would land troops on the Swedish mainland, devastating the coastal settlements.

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 Kolbergmarker in 1761. The Oresundmarker 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, routed the Swedes at Hogland (1788) and the Vyborg (1790). An impetuous Russian attack on the Swedish galley flotilla on the July 9, 1790 at the Second Battle of Svensksundmarker 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. It was the greatest naval victory ever gained by Sweden and saved her from defeat in the war.

During the Russo-Turkish Wars the fleet sailed into the Mediterraneanmarker and destroyed the Ottoman Navy at Chesma (1770), the Dardanelles (1807), the Athos (1807), and the Navarinomarker (1827). At about the same time, Ivan Krusenstern circumnavigated the globe, while another Baltic Fleet officer — Faddei Bellingshausen — discovered Antarcticamarker.

In the Crimean War, the fleet — although stymied in its operations by the absence of steamships — prevented the Allies from occupying Hankomarker, Sveaborgmarker, and Saint Petersburgmarker. 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).

Age of iron

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 Yorkmarker. At the same time ten Uragan class monitor based on an American design were launched. In 1869 the fleet commissioned the first turret battleship in the world - Pyotr 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, Rigamarker, 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 Tangiermarker, Dakarmarker, Gabonmarker, Baía dos Tigres, Angra Pequeñamarker, and Nossi Bemarker (Madagascarmarker), then across the Indian Oceanmarker to Cam Ranh Baymarker in French Indochina and then northward to its doomed encounter with the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Tsushimamarker. 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 incidentmarker. 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

Following the catastophic 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 4 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 Statesmarker. Four of these submarines, AG 11, AG 12, AG 15 and AG 16 were scuttled in the harbour of Hankomarker on April 3, 1918, just before the 10,000-strong German Baltic Sea Division landed in support of the White side 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 Harmajamarker lighthouse outside Helsinkimarker on April 4, 1918.

Soviet era

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 the 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.

Baltic pacts of mutual assistance and subsequent invasion

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.

Winter War

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 Finlandmarker in 1939-1940, mostly through conducting artillery bombardments of Finnish costal 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.

Great Patriotic War

In the beginning of the Great Patriotic War the Baltic Fleet had 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, 2 flotilla leaders, 19 destroyers, 48 MTB, 65 submarines and other ships, and 656 aircraft. During the war the Fleet, commanded by the vice-admiral Vladimir Tributz, defended the Hanko Peninsulamarker, Tallinnmarker, several islands in Estonian SSRmarker, 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 minefields in Leningrad and nearby Kronstadt, the only bases left in Soviet hands on the Baltic coast. 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 Gustloffmarker, Steuben and Goyamarker, causing great loss of life.

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

Cold War

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 the 24 December 1955.

In Liepāja the Baltic Fleet's 14th submarine squadron, call sign "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 the 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 Fleetmarker 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 Germanmarker 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 Karlskronamarker, 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[120609].


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 19 - 29 May 1959
Aleksandr Evtafyevich 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 6 December 2007 - 8 September 2009
Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov 8 September 2009 - present

Under the Russian Federation

The breakup of the Soviet Unionmarker deprived the Fleet of key bases in Latviamarker, Lithuaniamarker, and Estoniamarker, leaving Kaliningrad Oblastmarker as the Fleet's only ice-free naval outlet to the Baltic Sea. However, the Kaliningrad Oblast between Polandmarker and Lithuaniamarker is not contiguous with the rest of the national territory of the Russian Federationmarker.

Order of Battle

As of 2008 the Baltic Fleet included about 75 combat ships of various types. The main bases is in Baltiyskmarker and a second operational base is in Kronshtadt. 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:

  • Naval Aviation
    • The fleet's aviation arm currently comprises:
    • 689th Independent Fighter Aviation Regiment - Kaliningrad Chkalovskmarker - operating Su-27;
    • 4th Independent Naval Assault Aviation Regiment - Chernyakhovsk Air Basemarker - operating Su-24M/MR;
    • 125th Independent Helicopter Squadron - HQ at Chkalovsk - operating Mi-8, Mi-24 (this was the former 288th Independent Helicopter Regt of the 11th Guards Army and used to be at Nivenskoyemarker);
    • 396th Independent Shipborne Anti-Submarine Helicopter Squadron - Donskoye Air Basemarker - Ka-27/PS, Ka-29;
    • 398th Independent Air Transport Squadron - HQ at Khrabrovomarker - An-2, An-12, An-24, An-26, Be-12, Mi-8.
    • 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.
  • Ground and Coastal Forces of the Baltic Fleet


  1. Finnish Navy in World War II
  4. Moscow's Week at Time Magazine on Monday, October 9 1939
  5. The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0415285801
  6. Боевой путь Советского Военно-морсого Флота, Военное Издательство, Moscow, 1988
  7. Kommersant VLAST,No.7(760) 25 Feb 2008
  8. Air Forces Monthly, August 2007 issue.

  • 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 9780714655406.

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