The Founding of Russia's Navy: Peter the Great and the Azov Fleet, 1688-1714

The Founding of Russia's Navy: Peter the Great and the Azov Fleet, 1688-1714

The Founding of Russia's Navy: Peter the Great and the Azov Fleet, 1688-1714

The Founding of Russia's Navy: Peter the Great and the Azov Fleet, 1688-1714

Synopsis

The reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), long regarded as the turning point in the Europeanization of Russia, witnessed the establishment of Russia's first modern navy, the Azov Sea fleet. Its creation evokes a fundamental question about the era: was Peter a reformer or a revolutionary? This three-part study examines Russia's maritime experience in the 17th and early 18th centuries in order to address this central question. The author argues that Peter's development of the navy was revolutionary in the scale and level of technology brought to fruition through the reform of existing political and social structures.

Excerpt

The sweeping reorganization and technological modernization of Russia's armed forces undertaken in the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725) yielded a military prowess that carried Russia from the periphery to the center of European politics and diplomacy. Historians have linked most of this remarkable emergence as an international power specifically to the huge Petrine army that defeated Sweden's highly regarded land forces in the Northern War of 17001721. That tribute is deserved, but it is incomplete because it fails to credit any significant role to the army's companion force, the Russian navy. Built from scratch at tremendous cost in human, financial, and natural resources, the Petrine navy arguably represents the most remarkable innovation of the tsar's military modernization.

Nevertheless, this novel institution remains woefully underexamined, the victim of a long-standing historiographical pattern. Nearly all studies of the "Petrine reforms" focus on the last decade and a half of the tsar's reign when, with a growing certainty of victory over the Swedes in his grasp, the TsarTransformer decreed changes that touched virtually everyone and everything in his domain. Historians have largely discounted, then chosen either to ignore or to treat anecdotally rather than systematically, the first half of Peter's rule as little more than temporizing to meet the immediate needs of his military adventures. Because Peter established his navy in the early years of his active rule, its creation has remained the stuff of the great tsar's legend, not his legacy. As its broadest task, then, this book opens the study of Petrine reform to include the earlier years of the reign. It thereby retrieves Peter's navy from an unjust absence from the historical literature.

This book does not seek to redress the undervaluing of Peter's navy on the basis of a traditional military history about battles won or lost at sea; its combat record was modest at best and is treated accordingly. Instead, the book explores the creation of the tsar's navy as an evolving process of gathering and . . .

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