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Black Sea Fleet

In the second half of the eighteenth century Russia made major strides in the fight for access to the seas and established itself on the shores of the Azov and Black Seas. As a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774 according to the Kyuchuk-Kaynarji Peace Treaty Russia took a part of the lands between the rivers of Dnieper and Bug. Kuban, Azov, Taganrog, Kerch, Yenikale, Kinburn, the Crimean Khanate were declared to be independent from Turkey.

In 1773 the Black Sea Squadron created on the base of the Azov Flotilla, successfully operated in the area of the Black Sea. It was based in Kerch and was carrying a cruise service by two units between Balaklava, Feodosiya and Sujuk-Calais (Novorossiysk). After the war, construction of warships continued on the river of Don. Sailing-rowing boats, 32-gun frigates and Cossack boats were mainly built. In 1775 Russia was to determine the place where deep-sea vessels and pulling them straight into the Black Sea could be possible. In 1778 according to the order of the Governor-General of Novorossiysk Prince G.A. Potyomkin the city of Kherson was founded, and General I. A. Hannibal was appointed «to build the port at it».

Despite signing of the Peace Treaty between Russia and Turkey complex diplomatic struggle for the Crimea was unfolded. The result of this struggle was accession of Crimea to Russia. The Rescript of Catherine II of April 8, 1783 incorporated the Crimean peninsula, Taman and all the Kuban area into Russia. The Crimean Khan abdicated. Annexation of the Crimea to Russia was progressive: the liquidation of the Crimean Khanate for ever removed the threat of devastating attacks from the south to the Russian lands, Turkey lost its main base for aggression into the northern Black Sea region. For protection of ancient Russian lands won from Turkey and ensuring navigation in the Black Sea Russia needed a strong navy.

For a long time convenient places for homing the main forces of the fleet were looked for. One of these bays was Akhtiar one located near the southwestern coast of the Crimean peninsula, near the ruins of the ancient Chersonese.

On May 2, 1783 in the Akhtiar Bay was reached by squadron of five frigates and eight other ships of the Azov Flotilla under command of Vice-Admiral F.A. Klokachyov. On May 7 the bay was attended by 11 ships of the Dnieper Flotilla. Since then the naval forces in the south of Russia became known as the Black Sea Fleet. In honor of its foundation Medal «Glory to Russia» was cast in the same year.

The Akhtiar Bay became a major point of basing ships of the fleet. On June 3, 1783 in solemn ceremony the first four buildings of the future city and port were laid. Initially it was called Akhtiar (White rock), then in accordance with the Decree of Catherine II of February 10, 1784 was named Sevastopol («Decent city»).

In 1785 the first staff of the Black Sea Fleet was approved, for which it was supposed to have 12 battleships, 20 large frigates, 5 combat schooners, 18 transport and support vessels. The fleet grew rapidly. By May 1787 it numbered in its composition 46 pennants: 3 battleships, 12 frigates, 3 artillery ships, 28 other warships.

However, Turkey could not accept loss of the Crimea and emergence in the Black Sea of the Russian Fleet. This led to a new war, in which Russia acted in alliance with Austria. Turkey also was supported and helped by England, France and Prussia. In August 1787 Istanbul presented an ultimatum to Russia demanding the return of the Crimea, recognizing Georgia as a vassal Sultanate and agreeing establishment of the Turkish control over the Russian ships during their passage through the straits. Russia refused. This gave rise to a new war.

From the experience of this war such combats and battles at sea became history: at the island of Fidonisi (3.7.1788), at the Kerch Strait (8.7.1790), at Tendra (28.8.1790) and at the Cape of Kaliakra (31.7.1791). The victories of F.F. Ushakov foiled all Turkish plans to attack the Crimea from the sea. They contributed, along with the successes of the Russian Army, to accelerate the negotiations and conclusion of the Jassy Peace Treaty, according to which Turkey transferred the Crimea, Ochakov, Kinburn and Azov to Russia forever.

In connection with further development of the Black Sea Fleet, the need arose to build a more convenient and secure yard. This shipyard was founded in the mouth of Ingul in June 1788. A year later, on Aug. 27, 1789 the new city was named Nikolayev, which became a center of shipbuilding in the country’s south. Simultaneously with the announcement of Sevastopol in 1804 as the main port of the Black Sea Fleet, it also began shipbuilding.

In 1826 in Sevastopol there was built 18-gun brig «Mercury», whose crew under Lieutenant-Commander A.I. Kazarsky won a brilliant victory on May 14, 1829 over the two Turkish battleships that took a ten-fold superiority in manpower and weaponry. «Mercury» was the first of the Black Sea Fleet ships was awarded the stern flag of St George.

In the middle of the XIX century due to prominent Admirals A.S. Greig, M.P. Lazarev, P.S. Nakhimov and V.A. Kornilov the Black Sea Fleet became one of the best sailing fleets in Europe.

During the Crimean War (1853-1856) the squadron of the Black Sea Fleet under Vice-Admiral P.S. Nakhimov on November 18, 1853 won a brilliant victory over the Turkish fleet in the Bay of Sinop. The enemy lost 15 the 16 ships. This was the last major battle of the era of sailing fleet.

The main event of the Crimean War was the defense of Sevastopol in 1854-1855. The Sevastopol epopee lasted for 349 days, during which sailors under Admirals V.A. Kornilov, V.I. Istomin, P.S. Nakhimov fought valiantly in the bastions of Sevastopol.

By the beginning of the twentieth century the Black Sea fleet became a serious fighting force in the south of Russia. Its composition was 7 battleships, 2 floating artillery batteries, 1 cruiser, 3 mine cruisers, 22 destroyers, 6 gunboats, 9 torpedo boats, 2 steamers, 8 transports. By the autumn of 1917 the Black Sea fleet numbered 177 warships, had the transport flotilla.

In early 1918 revolutionary sailors of the Black Sea Fleet in conjunction with the population of the Crimea were active in the struggle for establishment of the new power and then, from the spring, took part in the fight against the advancing forces of the Germanic troops. To prevent the seizure of ships of the Fleet by the Germans, some of them were transferred to Novorossiysk, where by the order of the Bolsheviks they were flooded. More than 130 ships left Sevastopol and went to the Tunisian port of Bizerta. The chances of restoring the Fleet came only after the final liberation of Sevastopol on Nov. 15, 1920. Its first great voyage across the Black Sea, which was attended by more than 20 ships, was made by the renewed Fleet in the autumn of 1923.

In 1928 restoration of the Fleet was largely completed and its technical reconstruction began. During 1929-1937 the Black Sea Fleet received more than 500 warships of various classes and hundreds of combat aircraft. The Air Force, Coast Defence and Air Defense of the BSF were established.

By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War the Black Sea Fleet consisted of battleship «Paris Commune» (later renamed into «Sevastopol»), cruisers «Krasny Krym», «Voroshilov», «Molotov», 3 leaders, 14 destroyers, 47 submarines, 15 minesweepers, 4 gunboats, 2 patrol boats, a mine-layer, 34 torpedo boats, 10 boats-hunters, auxiliary ships; the air Force of the Fleet totaled 625 aircraft. The Fleet met the invasion by fascist Germany in full combat readiness. The Black Sea Fleet was tasked to cover and support the Maritime Front of the Land Force with artillery fire and air strikes. Black Sea Fleet ships in the first days of the war carried out daring raids against the main naval bases of the enemy. The defences of Odessa, Sevastopol, the Kerch-Feodosia amphibious operation, the defence of the Caucasus, the liberation of Novorossiysk took a special place in the fighting fleet actions.

During the war the Fleet conducted 24 amphibious operations, sank 835 ships and vessels of the enemy, damaged 539. 18 ships and units were given the Guard rank, 228 people became Heroes of the Soviet Union, 54766 were awarded Orders and Medals.

In the subsequent time, having rebuilded the infrastructure destroyed by war, the Black Sea Fleet carried out the tasks of protecting the southern borders of the country. Ships, submarines and aviation of the Black Sea Fleet performed the tasks of combat patrolling in various parts of the oceans.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, having a difficult and painful period of reduction of the zone of basing, partition between Russia and the Ukraine, reforming the Fleet survived, retained its combat capability and remains a reliable outpost protecting the interests of the fraternal peoples of Russia and the Ukraine in the Black Sea.

On June 12, 1997 the Black Sea Fleet ships raised again the historical St. Andrew's Flag. In recent years the Black Sea Fleet ships conduct exercises, make long trips to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Ships and vessels of the Black Sea Fleet visited ports in Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Syria, Italy, France, Greece, Malta, Serbia and Montenegro, Egypt, India, Lebanon.
June 12, 1997, after the Russian-Ukrainian agreement determining the status of the Fleet on the Ukrainian territory, the Black Sea Fleet’s ships again raised historic St. Andrew's flag, under which the Black Sea Fleet seamen resumed their participation in long-distance cruises, not only in the Mediterranean, but also in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The Black Sea Fleet’s ships and vessels, showing the Russian Flag, regularly visit ports of Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Syria, Turkey and Montenegro. The Fleet has been actively involved in large-scale regional and international naval exercises and operations. Ships of the Black Sea Fleet together with ships of the Navy of Turkey are regular participants of international projects «Black Sea Harmony» and «Black Sea Partnership». The crews of ships of the Fleet annually participate in the bilateral Russian-Italian naval exercise «Ionieks», twice a year are involved in the activation of the Black Sea naval group for operational cooperation «Blackseafor». Russian-Ukrainian peacekeeping exercise «Fairway of peace» is carried out under the updated format.

In 2009, large amphibious ships of the BSF took part in strategic exercise «West-2009».
In 2010, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet Guards missile cruiser «Moskva» represented the Black Sea fleet at the operational-strategic exercise «Vostok-2010» in the Pacific Fleet.

Ship formations, aircraft units and subdivisions of coastal troops improve military training each year during training exercises on the ranges of the BSF with practical implementation of combat drills and firing.

Following 2010's results the Black Sea Fleet has won nine transitioning awards of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy for various types of training.
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On April 27, 2010 Presidents of the Russian Federation and Ukraine in Kharkov signed the bilateral agreement on extension of the terms of the Black Sea Fleet on the Ukrainian territory until 2042.

In 2010, the Black Sea Fleet came into the organizational structure of the Southern Military District.

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