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At the Edge of the Kola Land

The Northern Fleet is 75. Yet the first attempt to raise the fleet up North was made over 300 years ago. In 1693 as per the ordinance of Peter I it was founded Solombal shipyard in Arkhangelsk that started construction of naval ships. August 14, 1694 built in Solombal 24-gun frigate Sv. Pavel, bought in Holland 44-gun ship Sv. Prorochestvo, and yacht Sv. Petr under overall command of Peter I put to sea flying white-blue-red flag and having eight English merchantmen under convoy. Naval ships never stayed long in the White Sea but deployed to the Baltic.

The first detachment (squadron) of Russian naval ships appeared in the White Sea in 1740 patrolling the area from Norwegian to Kara Sea therefore preventing attacks of the Swedish ships on the Russian harbors and their raids off the coast of Murman.

The regular Northern Fleet dates back to 1933. April 15, 1933 Peoples Commissar for USSR Defense signed an order providing for transfer to the North of destroyers Uritski and Kuibyshev, patrol ships Uragan (Hurricane) and Smerch (Tourbillon) and submarines Dekabrist and Narodovolets. These ships made up Special Action Squadron (SAS-1).

According to circular of Chief of Staff of the Red Army the Northern Flotilla was formed with the basing site in Murmansk in Kola Bay. The first commander was assigned Flagman of the 1st rank Zakhar Alexandrovich Zakupnev.

August 5, 1933 the ships of SAS-1 reached the port of Murmansk their final destination and temporary base. The city-folk gave a warm welcome to the seamen. Together with the establishment of the Fleet the construction of the first naval base in Polyarny was commenced.

November 5, 1935 destroyer Karl Liebknecht fired 21-shot salute in Ekatrininskaya Harbor in honor of transferring of naval ships from Murmansk to Polyarny to their permanent naval base. The same year the division of submarines made a cruise to Novaya Zemlya. December 23, 1935 by the resolution of USSR Supreme Soviet a team of people was awarded orders for successful exploration of the Northern waters and enhancement of defensive capacity of the North. Ten submariners were awarded Order of Lenin.

In 1936 two destroyers Voikov and Stalin performed unparalleled journey from the North to Far East via Northern Sea Route. Submarines D-1, D-2, and D-3 under overall command of Captain of the 1st rank K.N. Griboedov successfully crossed Matochkin Strait entering the Kara Sea. The submarines practiced in crash dives there. That year D-2 Narodovolets submarine was declared the best ship.

May 11, 1937 as per the order of Peoples Commissar for Defense the Flotilla was reorganized into the Northern Fleet. To the position of Fleet Commander was assigned Flagman of the 1st rank Konstantin Ivanovich Dushenov. Prior to his appointment of the Northern Fleet Commander he commanded the Northern Flotilla for two years. Under his command continued construction of bases and airfields, established coastal defense and ship construction facilities, explored the theater.

May 21, 1937 polar pilot M.V. Vodopianov on four-seater plane USSR N-170 close to the North Pole landed a group of Polar scientists on an ice-float. The group consisted of the head of the station SP-1 I.D. Papanin, hydrobiologist P.P. Shirshov, magnetism expert E.K. Fedorov, and radio operator E.T. Krenkel.

275 days the whole world watched with bated breath the scientists worked and struggled with nature. Early February 1938 the ice-float broke and started drifting to the Greenland Sea. Peoples life was hanging by a thread. To save them there were sent icebreaking ships Taimyr and Murman, destroyer Karl Liebknecht and submarines D-3, Sch-402, Sch-404 and aircrafts. The destroyer and submarines relayed communication from the icebreakers to radio communications centre of the Fleet and back. February 19, 1938 the brave scientists were recovered from the ice-float by icebreakers Taimyr and Murman.

In 1938 submarine D-1 stayed at sea for 120 days covering over 11 thousand nautical miles.

In 1938 submarine D-3 for the first time in Navy history made an under ice diving staying there for 30 minutes.

In 1940 for the first time in history the cruise from Polyarny to Vladivostok via Northern Sea Route was carried out by Sch-423 submarine.

Starting November 30, 1939 the Northern Fleet participated in the hostilities of the Soviet-Finnish War. It fulfilled all tasks assigned. As a consequence of occupation of Liinahamari and Petsamo ports the enemy fleet was cut off from the assistance delivered on the sea. The Fleet also ensured troops and equipment transportation and guarded the coastal area.

The establishment and the making of the Northern Fleet in the 30s of the last century was only the beginning in the history of the Fleet and its people who in spite of severe climate, hardships of service and life did their duty closely and often bravely.

The Great Patriotic War became a severe test for the young Northern Fleet. From June 22, 1941 till May 9, 1945 the Northern Fleet acted permanently in the vast theatre of naval operations with severe geographical and weather conditions.

As oppose to other Fleets the Northern Fleet increased its numbers during the war. By the beginning of Great Patriotic War it consisted of 15 submarines, 8 destroyers, 7 patrol ships and other types of ships, the fleet air numbered 116 aircrafts. By 1945 the Northern Fleet comprised of a battleship, cruiser, 17 destroyers, 51 patrol ships, 45 submarine hunters, 42 submarines, 718 aircrafts of various types, 256 coastal guns and over 25 thousand of marines.

In the course of war the Fleet screened the flank of the 14th Army from bombardment of enemy ships and landing of forces from the sea. The Fleet protected own lines of communication, attacked enemy transport shipping lines and made the enemy to surrender the initiative.

The Fleet landed troops and reconnaissance detachments behind enemy lines, formed the units of marines for the land front. The units of the Northern Fleet fought bravely at Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Northern Caucasia. The heroic deeds of marines during the Great Patriotic War are highlighted in the chronicle of the Armed Forces. A pilot of the Northern Fleet Air Boris Feoktistovich Safonov was the first to be decorated twice with the Hero of the Soviet Union Star.

During the whole war the Northern Fleet was cleverly commanded and controlled by Admiral Arseniy Grigorievich Golovko.

Standing against the massed enemy forces in the course of war the Fleet managed to destroy 628 and damage 237 enemy naval ships and transports, 1308 aircrafts. It ensured delivery of 76 allied convoys with total 1436 transports and 1152 escort ships. 1548 convoys were escorted on interior lines of communications of the Arctic Ocean. The troops and detachments of the Northern Fleet at the land front beat tens of thousands of fascist officers and men.

Until today the people of the Fleet remember and honor the names of submarine aces Ivan Kolyshkin, Magomet Gadzhiev, Nikolai Lunin, Grigori Schedrin, Israil Fisanovich, Fedor Viyaev, pilots Boris Safonov, Ivan Katunin, Zakhar Sorokin, Peter Sgibnev, PT boat men Alexander Shabalin, Vladimir Alexeev, Sergey Korshunov, reconnoiters Viktor Leonov, Semen Agafonov, Ivan Katorzhniy, marines Vasiliy Kislyakov, Ivan Sivko, Anatoly Bredov and many other champions of the North.

For gallantry and courage revealed at the battlefields 85 seamen, petty officers and officers were awarded Hero of the Soviet Union, three of them namely pilot B.F. Safonov, PT boat man A.O. Shabalin and scout V.N. Leonov were decorated twice with the Hero of the Soviet Union Star.

For the exemplary fulfillment of assigned tasks during the war tens of units, ships and troops were decorated with orders of Red Banner, Ushakov, Red Star. 12 ships, units and detachments became the Guards and 14 were bestowed honored names. 200 men from the Northern Fleet took part in the Victory Parade on June 24, 1945.

The Northern Fleet did its duty for the motherland. Two decades later on May 7, 1965 in commemoration of Great Patriotic War Victory the Northern Fleet was awarded Order of Red Banner.

In the postwar years the Fleet proceeded with the development, acquired nuclear-powered ships, put to the oceans. In September 1955 for the first time in history there was carried out an underwater start of the winged missile from a submarine and June 1956 the first submarine armed with ballistic missiles was commissioned for the Northern Fleet.

June 1, 1958 the naval flag was hoisted at the first Soviet nuclear-powered submarine K-3 (later called Leninskiy Komsomol), on April 10, 1959 the submarine was commissioned for the Northern Fleet.

In September 1960 the first underwater launch of ballistic missile was performed by submarine B-67 (CO Captain of the 2nd rank V.K. Korobov).

On June 17, 1962 after under polar ice cruise nuclear-powered submarine Leninskiy Komsomol surfaced at the North Pole having installed there national and naval ensigns. For over 300 times in total submarines reached and dispatch missions in the polar region since 1962.

In 1966 a group of Northern Fleet submarines made around-the-world cruise without a single surfacing covering 25 thousand nautical miles. In September 1963 two nuclear-powered submarines for the first time in history made a cruise under polar ice from the Northern to Pacific Fleet. Later similar cruise was repeated by more that 25 submarines.

The first born ship of the surface nuclear-powered fleet was the aircraft-carrying cruiser Kievthat from 1976 till 1992 made 16 combat patrols covering over 20 thousand nautical miles. Colonel F. Matkovskiy made the first take-off from the deck of the cruiser. Since 1991 the air of the North sees the aircrafts from the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov.

The marines of the Fleet acted courageously and bravely in the hostilities in Chechnia. Ten of them became Hero of Russian Federation and over a thousand were decorated with orders and medals.

The history shows that the Northern Fleet had always been and continues to be reliable stronghold of our Motherland her Hope and Pride. Nowadays personnel of the Northern Fleet continue to perfect its military training and skills. Quite recently a squadron of ships of the Fleet completed a cruise into the Mediterranean. And the new cruises and exercises are yet ahead.

To those who serve and live in severe conditions of the North local poet Stanislav Zakharchenko addressed these words:

The people here are your treasure and richness
Their work is the ships at hand.
And honored maritime brotherhood you can witness
At the edge of the Kola Land


Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, author: Andrei Gavrilenko
Translation: RusNavy.com