The Navy of the Revolution

(To Mario Veronesi)

The Soviet Navy was born on the remains of the old Russian Navy, which had been almost completely destroyed during the 1917 Revolution and civil war.

In an atmosphere of servility, ambitions, fears, laziness, and adulation that poisoned everything, decisions that were already overcome before being applied and orders that were lost between the dusty office practices sank in the deepest sea. In the antique buildings of the palaces, the chancellery, the ministries, those who saw the threat plung over Russia were desperate for a situation that was worse than a lost war: the hatred of the people against the state, a hate that was born slowly but reached the farthest places of the vast Tsarist empire.

Because of the war, many sailors who had completed their five-year stint had been called again in active service. Classes from 1909 to 1912 led this life to six, seven, and even eight years. They were tired of living separate from the family, tired of the daily difficulties, tired of the war. Men ate, slept, and languished in the most complete monotony, and this successfully contributed to Soviet propaganda. On ships with 800 crews to 1.200 men, a member of the communist party found it easy to sympathize, thus succeeding in providing practical development to his theories. We must not therefore be surprised that at the beginning of the Soviet revolution there have been found on the great ships of the revolutionary seafaring nucleus already formed.

The Russian revolution that led to the dissolution of the Tsar Empire and the resulting civil war were devastating for the Navy. Most of the ships in the Black Sea fleet were under the control of Baron Peter Wrangel, who defeated Crimea was driven back to Turkey; and his faithful ships broke for Biserta in Tunisia where they were interned. While other surviving units entered the Navy of the new Soviet state.

Baltic fleet sailors (renamed Baltic naval forces in March 1918) were among the fiercest supporters of the Bolsheviks and formed an elite among the military. Some fleet ships participated in the civil war, clashing in particular with the British Navy in the Baltic Sea. Over the years, however, the relations of the Baltic fleet sailors with the Bolshevik regime broke out and, in 1921, this led to the so-called "Kronstadt rebellion". The uprising was mainly coordinated by Stepan Petricenko (1892-1947) already an engineer belonging to the Petropavlovsk warship crew. On March 7, the Red Army, led by Michail Tuchacevskij, attacked Kronstadt, taking advantage of the ice cover that still covered the waters in front of Pietrogrado. Between the 17 and the 19 March, the Bolsheviks, at the expense of many losses, managed to penetrate the base and arrested the insurgents, many of whom had gone through the arms. Stepan Petricenko was not captured but repaired in Finland, continued political action against the Bolsheviks until 1940, the year of his expulsion to the USSR for contrasts with the Finnish government during the Russian-Finnish winter war; deported to prison, will die in 1947.

After this revolt, the Navy and the fleet were left in a painful condition that would not improve until 1926 when Soviet naval authorities asked for assistance from the German Navy (Weimar Reichmarine) for fleet reconstruction and navy training. Prior to that time, Trotzkii was merited if he avoided breaking the navy wanted by Lenin by resorting to the roots of numerous young Communists and entrusting the responsibility of naval personnel to Komsomol, the youth organization of the party.

As for the Navy, the Baltic fleet moved to Bolshevism more rapidly than the Black Sea fleet, whose energetic commander, Admiral Kolciak (photo), the future white dictator of Siberia, succeeded for a few months after the revolution to maintain a certain order. It seems that in the Navy and especially in the Baltic fleet, there have been a number of official killings proportionally higher than the Army. This is mainly attributable to the fact that Navy officers were almost all formulated on the type of anti-war aristocrat, which excited the subordinate's hatred, while the staff of the officers in the Army files, following the numerous losses during the war, had become very much transformed into its social composition. In the center of the storm of the Bolshevik revolution and of the civil war, he entered into his last czar Nicola II with his whole family, who dramatically emerged from the stage of history.

As for the navy, due to the suspension of works on shipyards, ships left unfinished quickly became iron scrap, which were sold to German demolition yards. Officially, the Navy was declared dissolved by the 11 February 1918 Decree; The same decree established the reconstruction of the fleet, which was named the "Red Fleet of Workers and Farmers", with voluntary solicitation. At the end of April 1918, when the German troops occupying the Crimea began to move towards Naval Base in Sevastopol, ships in more efficient conditions were moved from Sevastopol to Novorossijsk, where, after a German ultimatum, they were sunk on Lenin's orders, while the units remaining in Sevastopol were captured by the Germans and then, in November 1918 followed by the German surrender, by the British.

On April 1 1919, when the Red Army conquered Crimea, the British forced to retreat, sunk the ships in the base. Some of these ships were then saved and recovered by the White Army during the 1919 occupation of the Crimea. The first unit of the Soviet Navy could be considered as the "Aurora (photo), whose crew joining the Bolsheviks in October 1917 fired the shot that gave the signal for the conquest of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, which was attended by the sailors of the entire Baltic fleet who joined en masse with the Bolsheviks to the revolution. Immediately after the Bolsheviks took over, the "Centroflot", ie the Central Committee of the Pan-Russian Naval Forces, had exercised the functions of supreme naval command.

The 12 February 1918, with order no. 113, was the "People's Commissariat for Naval Affairs", in which the fleet administration was entrusted to the "Soviets of the Baltic Fleet Commissars", while operational responsibility belonged to the Military Section of the "Centroflot". For the new "Workers and Farmers' Russia", so it was called at the time, the big problem was represented by the shortage of sailors and officers, for the latter it was necessary to resort to former members of the Tsarist Navy.

After the revolution, the Soviets attempted to rebuild an organic naval unit even in the Arctic seas. Their attempts in this sense materialized in the 1920 with the Arcangel constitution of the "White Sea Flotilla". Later this fleet was named "North Sea Naval Force", which was dissolved in the 1923. Reconstituted in the 1933 as "North Military Fleet", 1937 assumed the current name "North Fleet". This is the youngest among the Russian fleets. The first ships to equip the newborn fleet were transferred from the Baltic Sea: two destroyers, two submarines and two patrolmen sailed from Kronstadt, 18 May 1933, to Murmansk. Currently the headquarters is in Severomorsk and most of its bases are located in the Kola Peninsula.

The 17 October 1917 could be the first and only battle of the Soviet Navy. The German Navy wanted to destroy the Bolsheviks and occupy the Baltic countries, while Lenin ordered the ships to move north to Tallin. For this purpose, the German Navy formed a group of ships including 10 Armored, 11 Cruisers, 50 Destroyers and 6 Submarines. While the Bolshevik Navy had only 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 21 destroyers. The clash was harsh, two German destroyers and one Russian sunken. The two Soviet battleships including the Glory they opened fire on modern German battleships Konig e Krunprinz, the result was that all four battleships were damaged, but it was damaged Glory it was in very bad condition. For this reason, his crew took him to shallow water and ran aground (photo), allowing the rest of the Soviet fleet to withdraw. Eventually the crew of the Glory he fled away from the earth. It should be noted that many German sailors refused to open fire because of their political ideas close to the Bolshevik. During the battle and in the following days the German battleships Bavaria e Grusser Kurfuerst were severely damaged by earth and mine batteries, and 7 destroyers sank. The main objective of the Bolsheviks was the survival of the fleet and sailors and the result was obtained while the enemy had very heavy losses; 300 died and 200 was injured, while the Bolshevik losses were lower.

After the end of the First World War, the allies sent considerable forces in the Russian waters to support the "White" forces, who fought against the new Bolshevik regime. British naval units, cruisers and hunters were sent to the Baltic. The 5 December 1918 the light cruiser Cassandra sank against a mine. On the other hand two large Soviet destroyers, the Spartak andAvtroil, were captured by the British. The 17 July 1919 the Russian cruiser Oleg was plagued and sunk by the British motosilurante CMB 4. On August 18 the British launched their most massive attack against the Bolshevik fleet, 8 motosiluranti penetrated into the base of Kronstadt where they sneaked and sunk the battleships Petropavlsk, theAndrej Pervozvanny and the old cruiser Pamyat Azova (photo). In the autumn there were still some clashes that cost the Bolsheviks the loss of two other fighters, but when in February of the 1920 the "White" forces were defeated by the Red Army, the Royal Navy only had to retreat from the Baltic Sea.

In the Black Sea, Russian ships abandoned by occupiers were partially divided between the allied Marine and partially delivered to the "White" forces. Sevastopol and Odessa were occupied by British and French marine riflescopes. But the trotzkii Red Army's success forced the troops to leave the two cities in the spring of 1919, turning 11 November 1920 from the allies permanently. Sevastopol had seen the start of the last allied convoy: 150.000 people transported to Constantinople by 126 ships between merchants and war. Among these ships were also the last Russian Navy fleet units still able to sail, the battle ship Volya and the old armor Georgi Pobiedonosetz, the cruiser Ochakov and the seagoing ship Almaz, seven destroyers, submarines, cannoniers. The fate of these ships was bitter, known as a unit of the "Wrangel fleet", were interned in the French base of Biserta, where they remained inactive to rust for years. Constantinople, who had welcomed so many refugees from so different regions, now assisted in the appalling of this strange fleet of Russian refugees. These came after an indescribable journey, some were so hungry and thirsty that in exchange for food and water, hanging on a lanyard, wedged wedding rings over the boats overflowing with Greek and Armenian merchants. Old mother-in-law mother-in-law ladies, with her head shaved to remove lice, prayed in front of family icons. In the streets of Galata Russian soldiers were so many to look like an army of occupation. These men finally arrived in the camps of the French army at Lemnos, Catalca and the Dardanelles, and the French Navy took over the Russian ships. The Cossack Brigade troops with Russian officers would have contributed a few months later to settle on the throne of Iran Reza Khan, the first Pahlavi. When France officially recognized the new state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Paris government offered the restitution of the Black Sea fleet survivors. The Soviet government refused to recapture those old rusty irons, so they started to demolish. With this latter act, the story of the Russian Navy in the Revolution was concluded.

Even in the far Far East, the American and Japanese allies, to help the "Bianchi", landed on Russian territory and took possession of Vladivostok and other ports. But in the end here too, they had to retire when the Red Army defeated the resistance of counterrevolutionary forces commanded by Admiral Aleksandr Vasilevich Kolcak (1874-1920). The sailors of the fleet fought for both water and land, on the northern and southern sides, but also on the Caspian and along the Volga, where they were armed with real flotilla fleets and with these they attacked the "Bianchi" and opposed the British who they operated in those inner waters with cannons, flying saucers and minor means. From this moment on, the true constitution of the Soviet armed forces began, from which, through a tormented and anguished journey, the new "Red Fleet" was born.

From the birth of the fleet a special tradition accompanied the name of the ships. The names were generally given to honor the leaders of the fleet, its heroes, and even in memory of previous victories. When a ship was withdrawn from active service or sunk in combat, its name was repeated to one under construction. With the ancient name passed on the new ship the spirit of the now disappeared, and thus the traditions. From a psychological-military point of view, all of this had enormous significance. When the revolution broke out, the crews abolished the names of their ships, assigning them other revolutionary names. This was first the case for ships carrying the names of emperors or imperial titles. Thus,Imperator Pavel I (photo) became Republic, and the Tzesarevic became Grazdanin (Citizen); theImperator Alexandr II already the fleet pride became Zarià Svobodi (dawn of freedom). The school ship Rinda which represented the sailing fleet of the past and had done more than once around the world, became Osvoboditel (Liberator). The new destroyer Wladimir became Svobodoi (freedom) and the school ship Dvina once again became Pamiatiu Azova (Azov remembrance), this name had been removed for the 1906 uprising in which the crew had killed all the officers. All 'Imperator Nikolai II, Democratia (democracy); all 'Ekaterinie II, Svobodnaia Rossia (free Russia) and all 'Imperator Alexander III, I wanted to (freedom). All these new names were hardly remembered by sailors, and so the most revolutionaries often called their ships with the former name.

The Russian maritime problem did not escape the new Soviet leadership that, once the regime settled and the civil war ended, promoted extensive propaganda to encourage the birth of the people of a maritime conscience. But it was not possible for a long time to remedy the material deficiencies and the organizational disorder in which the navy was located. The civil war ended, in fact, in November 1920, when Moscow celebrated victory over all White Guard generalities. The 18 March 1921 the Soviets signed with the Polish government the Peace of Riga (pictured below), under which Poland repossessed its ancient territories comprising part of Ukraine and Belarus.

Starting from the 1924, the Naval team was re-established, starting with the hierarchical organization, as the revolution had had the decree of the elimination of military grades and official bodies, with deleterious consequences on operational capacity. They were splashed by official 750 ranks, although we must point out that the 50% of officers were devoid of any specific preparation and the 30% still came from the Tsarist Navy. Only a 20% was the trusted element of a certain profession that, in principle, came from the roles of non-commissioners or those of the merchant navy. In the same year, the rank of officers was restored, under the name of "service categories", distinguishing 13 hierarchical levels (against the 14 of the Red Army) from K-1 to K-13.

From the point of view of the naval units, the class of destroyers was built Leningrad. The first contacts with the German Navy, related to the organization, training and use of underwater naval forces, took place in the 1925. The following year we had the first direct reports having always for object the development and the employment of the submarines. The negotiations with the German naval mission led to the delivery of the construction plans of the old German boats, such as: UB-UC-U139-U105-U114-U122-U126. Other technical references were for torpedo boats, for catapults for the launch of airplanes from naval units and also of fast armored ships. However, the predominant factor was the underwater factor that immediately assumed great importance in Soviet naval politics. On the level of mutual cooperation, the two marines examined the possibility of common operations during a conflict that saw them lined up together against Poland or against a Franco-Polish coalition; the Soviet fleet was supposed to block the Gulf of Gdansk and attack the French navy in the Mediterranean with the duly reinforced units of the Black Sea fleet. Considering the Soviet gaps regarding the naval command, it was also planned to entrust the command of Soviet submarines to German officers. These cordial relations between the Reichmarine and the Russian Fleet continued until the 1930-31, so as to allow the Soviets to acquire the plans of the Germany the first German pocketed armor. Then the Germans for a number of reasons slowed down and cooled the reports. There was a mistrust of views between the German and Naval commands of the Navy about relations with the Soviet Union, a new need of the Navy itself to follow more closely the naval environments of the great powers, and a perceived general policy change.

Without German assistance, the Soviet Navy sought the technical-shipbuilding industry in the West, especially as it referred to the surface shipwreck: cruisers and large displacement destroyers. The Soviet commands continued to consider the submarines as the ideal weapon and started the construction of the first boats in the 1927, envisaging their use in naval attack and enemy traffic, mining, reconnaissance, support to surface forces, disembarkation of agents and saboteurs. From the first submarines of 600 tons, they went to 1931 to design boats of more than 1.000 tons, trying to get from Italy the equipment and launching torpedoes that equip the submarines of Regia Marina. The first Dekabrist, the first class of submarines built for the Soviet Navy after the October Revolution, came into service from 1930. These were six named boats: D1 Dekabrist who gave the name to the class, D-2 Narodovolets, D-3 Krasnogvardyeyets, D-4 Revolucioner, D-5 Spartakovets, and D-6 Yakobinets. Dekabrist went lost with the whole crew in November of the 1940. The Narodovolets was the only one who had a long career, also served as a school ship in Kronstadt and finally in the 1989 anchored on the Neva in St. Petersburg as a museum. The Krasnogvardyeyets (photo) sank in July 1942 off the coast of Norway. The Revolutsioner it was sunk by the Germans off the Crimea. The Spartakovets he was disarmed in the 1950,Yakobinets was destroyed by the Germans on 12 November 1941, during the bombings of Sevastopol. It was six Leninets, second-class submarines. These units were successfully considered by the Soviets, so they followed other 25 constructs in groups of four between 1931 and 1941. Follow the Class Shciuka which were the first Soviet original submarines, after the previous classes inspired by foreign models.

The 1932 is the formation of the Pacific Fleet. These were unusual naval complexes, as demonstrated by the 1935 exercises in the Pacific when five submarine destroyers, submarines 15 and some airplanes participated, with no larger units; but they were still a test of the growing importance of the Navy. The 1933 was restored to the military rank under the Tsar, and so many officers received the rank of General or Admiral. Three years earlier, the Black Sea Fleet had been reconstructed, with the transfer of a battle ship and a cruiser to that basin, which, after the destruction of the civil war, was only guarded by subtle units. In 1933 Stalin inaugurated the White Sea channel, and embarked on a military unit, chose the site destined to become, with the construction of yards and equipment, the base of the Northern Fleet. The construction of new battleships was not yet possible in Russia, as the Navy's senior staff had to admit when the fleet development plans were being prepared in the 1935. Therefore negotiations were started with American and Italian shipyards and with a French cannon factory.

While Soviet politics around the 1933 alternated diplomatic recognition and trade and technical assistance agreements with the Orient, aiming to intensify its participation in China's internal situations, which caused tensions and contradictions with Japan, with a serious aggravation at the moment of the 1937 Chinese-Japanese War. Meanwhile, the Soviet Navy, thanks to German assistance, had made progress in its organization, especially in staff training, while the existing navy was being reorganized and the first units, though overtaken, began to be entered team. In September, the 1935 was introduced to the Navy as in the army, the new hierarchical organization which, regardless of the admiral's degree, provided for the establishment of 1st and 2nd rank "flag officers" covering the roles of commanders of the three fleets, naval superior commander and chief of staff.

In 1935 Stalin intervened directly to develop the conduct of a naval policy and to establish the objectives of development of the Navy. By the end of that year the fleet's backbone consisted of 100-120 submersibles, many of them old-fashioned, and thin surface units, all of which were good for defensive operations. Stalin decided that it was time to give decisive change of direction to Soviet naval policy; battle ships, cruisers, destroyers had to be built and then navigate to the oceans. Their construction was included in the third five-year plan. The development of this new naval policy brought the Soviet Union into the 1936 to negotiate with the Great Britain an agreement for naval armaments, following the Anglo-Germanic armament, and the conclusions of the London conference. The Soviets demanded and obtained that the limitations had to be equal to those already agreed with Germany, while as far as the Far East was concerned, the Soviet Union claimed to be released from any constraint in the event that Japan had exceeded the previously set limits . For the Black Sea, Moscow wanted the widest freedom within that restricted basin, and also the right to cross the straits, prohibition instead of transit for submarines and aircraft carriers of other marinas. Clear signs of a new, more ambitious, aggressive and dynamic naval policy.

In 1938 after Stalin's bloody "purges" that hit military hierarchies, the Soviet leaders declared that the Navy had to compete with the greatest naval powers and become the most powerful in the world. Although the Soviet industrial structure was not yet able to meet the needs of a large fleet. In confirmation of Stalin's directives aimed at developing a great naval policy, remain the figures of the ship set between the 1928 and the 1941, year of the German attack on the Soviet Union: 4 battleships, 2 battle cruisers, 18 cruisers, 82 flotilla and destroyer conductors, 297 submarines, 55 minesweepers, 36 escort ships, 2 posarets, 17 submarine hunters, 19 riverboat gunboats.

In the period from 1935 up to the Second World War the four independent fleets were formed (Black Sea, Pacific, North Sea and Baltic), and the number of submarines became the largest in the world. The battleships of the class were set up Sovetskij Sojuz (Soviet Union), initially foreseen in fifteen specimens, the project was subsequently resized and the construction of only four units was undertaken, however, none of them was ever completed. There Sovetskij Sojuz: The 15 July 1938 began in St. Petersburg. When the jobs were almost stopped in the 1940, the hull had been practically finished, the engines had been installed and the brackets had been mounted. However, between 1941 and 1944, much of the armor was removed to be used on the mainland. There Sovietsky Soyuz was launched in the 1949, in order to free space in the yard, and demolished later. There Sovetskaya Ukraina: 28 November 1938 started in Mykolaiv. At the time of the Nazi invasion, the works were complete at 75%. The hull was partially damaged by the Soviets themselves just before the capture of the city by the Germans. The latter, however, continued building, albeit very slowly (this was not a priority project). When they retired, the Germans damaged the hull and made it unusable. It was demolished around the 1950. There Sovetskaja Rossija and Sovietskaya Belorussiya you begin at the end of the 1939 at Severodvinsk (which was at that time Molotovsk), their construction was interrupted on 19 October 1940, and demolished around the 1950.

In the same period they followed i Kirov who were the first class of cruisers made in the Soviet Union after the revolution. Designed with Italian assistance, six models were built in two versions and entered into service between 1938 and 1944. The decision to build new classes of modern large units was taken from the roots of the Soviet Navy at the beginning of the 1930s. Given the little experience the Soviets had in designing and building large units (many naval engineers had fled or were killed), it was decided to resort to foreign assistance. In particular, we turned to the Italian Ansaldo. This contributed to the design of a light cruiser by 7.200 tonnes, based on the Italian design Montecuccoli. Construction would have to take place in the Soviet Union, but using Italian components (boilers and turbines in particular). The versions made based on this project were two. The construction of the first ship was, however, quite slow due to the poor Soviet experience in the construction of large units and the fact that many changes were made to the original project (changes that led to an increase in displacement). For the Kirov, the works began in Leningrad 22 October 1935, and the ship was completed in 1938; was the largest warship ever built since the revolution. Used against the Finns during the winter war, it was the flagship during the Soviet fleet's evacuation operations from Tallinn to Leningrad, in an operation where 50 ships sailed. The same ship was sunk by German aircraft on April 4 of 1942. Fixed in the 1943, in June 1944 supported the Soviet attack on Vyborg. During the sixties, it was used as a school ship. Radiated in the early seventies and demolished in 1974. Two of its artillery towers are today preserved in St. Petersburg as a monument. This was then followed by a second ship, the Voroshilov, which showed differences as far as armaments and engines were concerned. This last unit was completed in 1940. The ship was named after Russian military and political man Kliment Efremovic Vorosilov, who would be one of the first to reach the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. The Voroshilov was demolished in 1973. The propeller and the anchor are preserved in Sevastopol. For class fighters cruisers Kronstadt the works started 5 November 1939 in Leningrad, but were interrupted in February 1940 because of the Soviet inability to find 14.000 steel tons, needed for construction. For the Sevastopol Jobs started the 30 November 1939 at Nikolayev. The incomplete hull was demolished by the Germans at the airport.

At the Soviet Supreme Soviet of 15 January 1938, Molotov declared that considering the rejection of Italy and Japan to limit its naval potential and the Italian desire to achieve naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union decided to increase its its own naval forces, especially as Germany itself, although having adhered to certain limitations, would not have long persisted in observing them. This Molotov statement was echoed, because the Soviet organs alleges that the same story and geography gave the Soviet Union the function of great naval power. The naval augmentation program had to bring the Soviet Navy to the same level as that of the great naval powers, and this concept was reiterated several times, so that, in order to better organize the development of naval structures, a special commissariat was set up in 1939. Then there were difficulties for the construction of heavy surface ships, while the submarines had a further boost, so that during the summer of 1939 the Navy Commissioner Admiral Nikolaj Gerasimovic Kuznecov (1904-1974, pictured) declared that the fleet Red possessed more submarines than any other marine in the world. It should also be emphasized that the naval development program and the new naval policy wanted by the Kremlin leaders found several critical positions in the military, which was in August of the 1939, another high-level surrender in the high seas of the Soviet Navy. The war broke down but did not change the lines of development of the great Soviet naval policy, although it would still take nearly forty years to get the Soviet Navy to the intended destination.

(photo: web)