Seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War the details of Soviet ships, their activities and fates remain an enigma to the West. In wartime such information was classified and after a brief period of glasnost (‘openness’) the Russian state has again restricted access to historical archives. Therefore, the value – and originality – of this work is difficult to exaggerate. It sees the first publication of reliable data on both the seagoing fleets and riverine flotillas of the Soviet Navy, listing over 6200 vessels from battleships to river gunboats, and mercantile conversions as well as purpose-built warships. Divided into three volumes, this first covers major surface warships down to MTBs and armoured gunboats, as well as submarines.
For every class there is a design history analysing strategic, tactical and technical considerations, and individual ship detail includes construction yard, key building dates, commissioning, fleet designations, relocations and ultimate fate. Once a closely guarded secret, the wartime loss of every ship and boat (over 1000) is described. Furthermore, the confusion caused by frequent name changes is clarified by indexes that run to 16,000 items.
By following the ships through both their wartime and earlier history, the book reveals many aspects of Russian history that remain highly sensitive: clandestine co-operation with Weimar Germany and fascist Italy, the NKVD-enforced closure of Soviet borders, the ‘Gulag Fleet’, the faked Metallist sinking that excused the military occupation of Estonia, and the ill-conceived pact with Nazi Germany. Restrictions recently imposed on historical publications in Russia mean this book could certainly not have been published there – as proven by the fact that most of the authors' Russian collaborators preferred not to disclose their identities.
This is undoubtedly one of the most important naval reference works of recent years and will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in warships, the Soviet Navy or wider maritime aspects of the Second World War.
Author(s): Przemyslaw Budzbon, Jan Radziemski & Marek Twardowski
First Publishment Date: 30 August 2022