The Soviet Black Sea Navy

Black Sea Fleet Sinking 1918

On April 23, 1918 in the face of a threat of the Crimea seizure by the German troops the RSFSR Council of People’s Commissars (CPC) issued an order on relocation of the Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. The Central Committee of the Black Sea Navy that was vested full power from early January 1918 decided to fulfill the order of RSFSR CPC. On April 29-30 Sevastopol was left by 2 battleships, 14 destroyers, 2 torpedo boats, 1 auxiliary cruiser and 10 patrol ships making the battle core of the fleet (in total about 3,500 men of the crew). On May 1-2 they joined in Novorossiysk. In Sevastopol the German troops seized old battleships, cruisers, submarines, some destroyers and other ships that were mostly inoperative. On May 11 the German Commander-in-chief in the East front laid down an ultimatum demanding from RSFSR CPC the return of ships to Sevastopol. In order to keep the Brest Peace Treaty in force RSFSR CPC had to agree and the People’s Committee on Foreign Affairs sent the respective notes on May 13 and June 9. However, not willing to give the ships to the enemies RSFSR CPC decided to sink them about which a respective order was given (the directive signed by V. I. Lenin on May 28). On June 18 the battleship “Svobodnaya Rossia” (“Free Russia”), 6 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats were sunk in the Novorossiysk Bay and one more destroyer was sunk on June 19 in Tuapse. Eight patrol boats were transported via railroad to Tsaritsyn and they made the core of the future Volga Navy. From December 12, 1917 to June 4, 1918 the Black Sea fleet was under command of Admiral M. P. Sablin.

Black Sea Shipbuilding Yard – in Nikolaev City (Ukraine)

In 1895, a Belgian joint-stock company commenced the building of a shipyard in Nikolaev, which was subsequently called “Society of Shipyards, Mechanical and Foundry Plants”. One of the oldest shipyards. The yard was officially commissioned on October 9, 1897 as “Naval” plant (translated from French, meaning “marine”). The plant was specialized in the manufacture of military ships and vessels, ship engines, mechanisms, boilers, ship equipment, canons and ship’s artillery turrets, railway cars, bridges, cranes. The yard had shops, slipways, piers and workshops with most advanced equipment at the time, and was the foremost plant for the building of steamship metal fleet on the Black Sea. The world’s first submarine mine-layer “Krab” (Crab) was built here, along with the main seaborne machinery of the ironclad battleship “Potemkin”. Alongside the main orders, the shipyard built barges, ship’s boilers, cranes, tram cars, steam engines, railway bridges. In 1925, the first Soviet tanker “Krasny Nikolaev” was laid down at the shipyard, in 1941, the construction of the ice-breakers “I. Stalin” and “Krasin” was completed. During the Great Patriotic War (WWII), the shipyard was evacuated and turned out products for the front. In 1949, the first postwar vessel-tanker “Kazbek” was laid down. Unique vessels, like the whaling bases “Sovetskaya Ukraina” and “Sovetskaya Rossiya”, vessels for scientific expeditions and research and fishing ships of the type of “Yu. M. Shokalsky”, “Akademik Knipovich” were built at the shipyard. At present, the shipyard is busy building dry-cargo vessels, large refrigerator trawlers, container carrying ships. Also, the shipyard manufactures the newest seaborne machinery and devices, pleasure craft, ship furniture. The ship is decorated with the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1926), 2 Orders of Lenin (1949, 1977), Order of the October Revolution (1970).

(Ivanov) Filipp Sergeevich Oktyabrskiy (1899-1969)

Soviet Admiral

In December 1918 he volunteered to serve on the Baltic Fleet. From 1920 to 1938 he served on various ships of the Baltic and Pacific Fleet. In 1939-1943 he commanded the Black Sea Fleet. In July 1940 he participated in formation of the Danube Fleet. In 1941 he was conferred the rank of Rear Admiral. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) due to his efforts the Black Sea Fleet was ready for the war and it was the first unit that met the enemies fully armed. During the war he was responsible for laying mines, formation of sea brigades, repair of ships and evacuation of the population. He organized the aircraft and ship attacks on the oil product warehouses in Romania. At approaching of the Germans he focused his efforts on defense of Odessa and later Sevastopol. In November 1941 he was appointed the commander of the Sevastopol defense region. Near Sevastopol he organized support of the land troops by the Fleet and took part in development of the Kerch-Feodosiya operation and commanded its realization. He ensured supply of Sevastopol and actions on enemy communications. After defeat of the troops of the Crimean Fleet in May 1942 he organized their transfer to the Taman Peninsula. On 1 July 1942 he left Sevastopol on the last plane as it was impossible to defend any further. He commanded the operations of the Black Sea Fleet from the command posts in the Caucasus. After the unsuccessful attempt of landing near Novorossiysk in February 1943 he was dismissed from the Black Sea Fleet. In 1943-1944 he commanded the Amur (River) Fleet. In 1944-1948 he was again appointed the commander of the Black Sea Fleet. In 1944 he was promoted to Admiral. He took part in development of the military campaign of 1944 on the Black Sea and operation on liberation of Crimea. He commanded the actions of the Black Sea Fleet and Danube Fleet during the Yassy-Kishenev operation. In 1946 he was appointed a member of the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces keeping the post of a Fleet commander. In December 1948 he became Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. In April 1952 he was appointed the Chief of the Navy Research Center. In 1954-1957 he retired. In 1957-1960 he was the director of the Black Sea Higher Naval School named after P. S. Nakhimov in Sevastopol. In September 1960 he was included into the group of general inspectors of the USSR Ministry of Defense. He was awarded many orders and the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Gorshkov Sergey Georgievich (1910-1988) – admiral of the USSR Navy.

In 1926 he became a nondegree student of the physical-mathematical faculty of the Leningrad University. In 1927 he entered the M. V. Frunze Naval School. After finishing in 1931 of this school he served as a navigator on a destroyer of the Black Sea Fleet. In 1932 he was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. In June 1939 he was appointed the Brigade Commander of the torpedo boat squadron of the Black Sea Navy. From 1940-the commander of the cruiser brigade of the Black Sea Navy. In 1941 he finished the courses for command staff advancement at the Naval Academy. He was promoted to first Rank Captain. Commanding the detachment of assault landing ships he showed bravery during the landing operation at Grigorievka near Odessa. In 1941 he was promoted to the Rear-Admiral. He took command during the Kerch-Feodosia operation and during evacuation of the troops of the Crimean front in 1942 he commanded the defense of the Kerch Strait. After loss of bases on the Sea of Azov he organized pullout of a part of military ships and transport ships with their cargo. Using the forces of the Azov Navy, Kerch and Novorossiysk naval bases he took part in defense of the Taman Peninsula until the ships left the Sea of Azov and the troops retreated for defense of Novorossiysk. He commanded the Novorossiysk defense and was the last to leave it. In 1943-1944 he commanded the Azov Navy for the second time. In spring 1943 he commanded some landing operations. Among the major naval operations there were landings in Mariupol, Osipenko and Temryuk; support from the sea of the forces of the North-Caucasian front during liberation of the Taman Peninsula and, at last, a major operation in November 1943 on landing of the Detached Maritime Army on the Kerch Peninsula and its support on the conquered base area. In 1943 during the Kerch-Eltigen operation he commanded the preparation and landing of the marine forces and then crossing to Crimea of the troops of the 56th Army. From April 20 to December 12, 1944 he commanded the Danube Fleet that supported the Soviet troops in their attack of German Army in Eastern Europe. He commanded the actions of the fleet during forced crossing of the Dniester mouth, and the liberation of Bulgaria and Romania. In September 1944 he was promoted to the Vice-Admiral. In 1944 he was successful commanding the fleet during the Belgrade and Budapest operations. From 1945 he commanded the squadron of the Black Sea Navy. From November 1948 he was the Chief of the naval staff, in 1951-1955-the commanded of the Black Sea Navy. In 1955 he was appointed the First Deputy Commanded-in-Chief and in 1956- Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and USSR Deputy Naval Minister. In 1967 he was awarded the rank of the Naval Admiral of the USSR. G. advocated development of submarine fleet and guided-missile ships. He was the author of such books as “Naval Might of the State” and “In the Southern Maritime Flange. Autumn- Spring 1941” describing the army and naval operations near the coasts of the Black and Azov seas. For the achievements in the Navy development he was conferred the USSR State Award (1980) and Lenin Award (1985); he was twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1965, 1982). He was awarded many orders and medals of the Soviet Union as well as medals of other states. In 1990 his name was given to heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser “Naval Admiral of the Soviet Union Gorshkov” (former “Baku).

Kerch-Feodosiya Operation

The landing operation of the troops of the Transcaucasus Front commanded by General D. T. Kozlov in Kerch and Feodosia on 26 December 1941-2 January 1942. The Soviet command planned to capture the Kerch Peninsula and then liberate Crimea occupied by the German Eleventh Army of General Erich von Manstein. As the main forces of Manstein were engaged in storming Sevastopol the Soviet troops (more than 40,000 people) on 26-31 December 1941 landed near Kerch and Feodosia. The troops were supported with 43 tanks and 1,802 horses. This was the largest landing operation during the Great Patriotic War. Despite the winter storm, shortage of special landing facilities and resistance of the Germans the landing troops using the element of surprise on 29 December seized Feodosia and continued their attack in the northern direction. Commander of the German 42nd Army Corps Hans Graf von Sponeck fearing that his detachments on the Kerch Peninsula (up to 25,000 people) could be cut off gave an order to leave Kerch and retreated (for this act he was subject to court-martial and put to prison). Having seized Feodosia the Soviet command acted rather cautious and irresolutely which enabled the Germans to retreat without any problems from the Kerch Peninsula and to organize defense on the Parpachaisky isthmus. With the beginning of the Kerch-Feodosiya Operation Manstein had to stop the assault of Sevastopol (on 31 December) and to transfer some of its forces against the landing troops. On 15 January Manstein troops made a counterattack and broke through the landing troops positions and on 18 January they seized Feodosia back. The Soviet troops retreated to the Ak-Monaisk isthmus.

Kerch Military Operation

This was an assault on 8-20 May 1942 of the forces of the Eleventh Germany Army commanded by General Erich von Manstein against the Soviet troops commanded by General D. T. Kozlov. The 300,000 grouping of the troops of the Crimean front on the Kerch Peninsula that nearly twice the German forces was preparing to lift the siege of Sevastopol and to liberate the Crimea. But Manstein in anticipation of these attacks, made a preventive strike on May 8. Having the greater number of forces in the south of the Crimean Front the Germans broke the Soviet defense, also the Germans landed in the rear of the Soviet troops, thus, disorganizing Soviet situation. In spite of its domination on the sea, the Black Sea Fleet did not provide the expected support to the defending land troops, so Manstein forces moved freely along the coast. After the Crimean Front all but disintegrated, the German tanks attacked further Russian defense positions. First the attacking units moved along the coast and then turned northward and reached the dislocation of the Soviet reserve forces and destroyed them. As a result, the basic Soviet grouping in the north of the Kerch Peninsula (47th and 51st armies) was cut off and forced to the bank of the Sivash Lake. The troops of the Crimean Front went out of control and retreated in chaos to the east. On 15 May the Germans captured Kerch. The Soviet troops numbering about 120,000 troops were evacuated to the Northern Caucasus. Those who did not manage to evacuate (about 18,000 troops) found shelter in the Adzhimushkay rock quarry (catacombs) where they heroically resisted the German attacks until late October 1942. The German victory “buried” the Soviet plan of Crimea liberation and, in fact, decided the fate of Sevastopol. The success of the Germans in battle at Kerch in 1942 had opened the way to new victories, which could be attributed to low competence of the commanding staff of the Crimean Front that enabled Manstein, without much effort, to realize this well-prepared, but risky plan.

Kerch-Eltigen Operation

A landing operation of the troops of the North-Caucasian Front (commanded by General I. E. Petrov) with the seizure of the Kerch Peninsula that lasted from 31 October to 11 December 1943, during the Great Patriotic War. After success of the Novorossiysk-Taman operation the Soviet command put the task to seize the Kerch Peninsula and to create there a base for Crimea liberation from German Army. For this purpose two landing units went ashore. One of them landed to the northeast of Kerch, but could not take hold of the city because of the tough resistance of the Germans, but it managed to consolidate its positions on the seized area and to organize defense. The second landing unit got established to the south of Kerch, near Eltigen. After fierce battles in the early December the Germans liquidated the forces in this landing area. On 6 December the remaining landing troops attempted a breakthrough trying to reach the base to the north of Kerch. After marching for 25 km in the rear of the German positions they came to the southern outskirts of Kerch and seized the Mitridat Mountain and organized an all-round defense. But they failed to organize cordination with the northern unit. After receiving an order to evacuate on 10 December the Eltigen unit forced its way to the coast and was transferred by sea to the Taman Peninsula. The Kerch landing area held out till the Soviet troops launched an offensive in Crimea in spring 1944. It played a very important role in seizure of the Kerch Peninsula. The Soviet Army lost more than 27,000 killed.

Novorossiysk Landing Operation 1943

Amphibious operation on 10- 16 September 1943 organised by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiysk during Novorossiysk-Taman operation against German Army during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. As one of the largest Soviet amphibious operations, the Novorossiysk operation went down in history as one of the most well planned and prepared by the Soviet Army, and carried out jointly by the Army and Navy. It showed that with careful preparation of the landing operations their success is possible even on a heavily fortified coast.

Georgiy Nikitich Kholostyakov (1902-1983)

Vice Admiral in the USSR Fleet. In 1915 he worked as unskilled laborer. He took part in Civil War in Russia. In 1925 he finished the Naval Hydrographic College. From 1926 to 1938 he served on different submarines in the Far East. In 1938 he was arrested, accused of treason and condemned to 15 years in a correctional labor camp. He was sent to a labor camp on the Olga Bay shore of the Pacific. Later his case was reconsidered and he was returned his rank. In autumn 1940 he was appointed commander of the Third Brigade of submarines of the Black Sea Fleet. Later he was promoted to Captain first Rank. Kholostyakov was appointed the Chief of submarine division of the fleet and in July 1941 he headed the Naval Base in Novorossiysk. He supported the Kerch-Feodosiya military operation in late 1941. He took part in land-based defense of Novorossiysk. After retreat of the Soviet troops he moved to Gelendzhik from where the artillery of the Novorossiysk Naval Base shelled Novorossiysk, thus, preventing the Germans from using the port. In 1942 he was promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1943 he was in charge of the landing operation in Novorossiysk. In September under Kholostyakov command two more landing operations were conducted. The German troops left the Taman Peninsula. At night on November 1 he organized landing at Eltigen near Kerch. Regardless of the overwhelming superiority of the Germans the landing troops made strong beachhead on Ognennaya zemlya and defended this area for more than a month and then broke through the German positions and united with the main Soviet forces. In 1944 he acted as Commander of the Azov Flotilla replacing S. G. Gorshkov in this position. He organized two more landings-on the Tarkhankut Cape at night on January 10 and in the Kerch Bay on January 23. In December 1944 he was appointed to the Danube Flotilla and commanded its last operations. In 1950 he graduated from the General Staff Academy with a gold medal. In 1950-1951 he in the rank of Vice Admiral commanded the Caspian Military Flotilla and then received an appointment to the Pacific Ocean. In 1953-1969 Kholostyakov was Deputy Chief of the Military Training Department of the Navy General Staff. He took other positions of importance. In 1965 he was awarded the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. In 1969 he resigned. The memorial museum of Kholostyakov is opened in Baranovichi, Belorussia. He was also awarded many orders and medals.

Crimean operation of 1944

The liberation of the Crimean Peninsula by the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front commanded by General F. I. Tolbukhin and Separate Maritime Army commanded by General A. I. Yeremenko with the support of the Black Sea Fleet commanded by Admiral F. S. Oktyabrsky and Azov Flotilla commanded by Rear-Admiral S. G. Gorshkov from German Army. This operation lasted for 36 days-from 8 April through 12 May 1944 and ended in victory of the Russian troops. They were opposed by the Romanian and German troops of the Seventeenth Army. A week after beginning of the offensive the Soviet troops came up to Sevastopol and on 5 May began the storming of the city. They fought most furiously for the Sapun Mountain-the key point of the German defense. On 9 May the Soviet assault units broke the German defense and rushed into the city. On 12 May the remaining German troops (21,000) laid down their arms on the Khersones Peninsula, as the Black Sea fleet had disrupted the enemy evacuation plans. The Seventeenth Army lost 140,000 (killed, wounded, captives, and drowned during the evacuation). If in 1941-1942 the Germans spent 250 days for seizure of Sevastopol, then in 1944 the Soviet troops needed only 5 days for the city liberation. After recovering Crimea the Soviet Union regained control of the Black Sea. The casualties of the Red Army during the Crimean operation were about 85,000.


During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), Odessa fought against German and Romanian troops from August 5 to October 16, 1941. Since 13 August 1941 Odessa was completely blocked from land. Despite the land blockade the enemy failed to break the resistance of the defenders-Soviet troops were evacuated and transferred to increase 51th Special Army, defending the Crimea. In 1941-1944 Odessa was occupied by Romanian troops and was part of Transnistria. In early 1944, due to the advance of the Red Army German troops entered Odessa, and the Romanian administration eliminated. On 10 April 1944 Odessa was liberated by Red Army. During the occupation, the population of the city of Odessa was actively resisting the invaders. During the years of occupation, tens of thousands of civilians were executed in Odessa.