Rivers gave birth to many great cities. Each one gave them its own character, rhythm of waves, rushes of wind. Neva presented St.Petersburg with particular power, width of breath, spatial scope, majestic marine soul. Because of that in any season , in any hour, in haze, in snowstorm, in rain streams there hovered the Angel of St.Petersburg raised on the spire of Peter-and-Paul Cathedral and the gold ship with units crossed by Andreevsky Cross raised on the Admiralty's spire. St.Petersburg saved them as inmost symbols of its soul full of faith and tendency to universe. Admiralty ship inspired with sails wasn't an architect's casual decorative imagination. This distinctive sign was given by Peter the Great to St.Petersburg as the capital of Russian Fleet. Young tsar initiated home shipbuilding and navigation on Plesheev Lake (near Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, Vladimirskaya oblast). The famous lake was only the "font" where new-born fleet was christened. It was the Neva that became a cradle and mother for Russian naval and merchant fleets and the city on her banks became it's spiritual and state capital.

The thought about foundation Russian naval stronghold on Baltic Sea was the main motive for Peter whose nature was related to marine element , its power, storms and everlasting summons over horizon borders, over the possible limits. This likeness between Peter and Sea Falkone realized the monument to the founder of Russian Fleet having made the pedestal of it from granite monolith as a heavy wave. On May days of 1703 the future Petersburg started as a marine fortress whose forward redoubt was Kronstadt. The essence of big fleet was concentrated in St.Petersburg's "haven" at once. Just here the Dutch word "fleet" came into Russian speech organically.

Peter the Great was himself an embodiment of unity of new capital and fleet. Having been the sovereign Peter knew all the marine business in details. He became proficient in navigation all types of vessels, frigates yachts, galleys, showed himself as a talented naval commander and only gradually and according with his deserts got naval ranks. Having generalized an experience he wrote and published regulations named "Book of marine regulations" in 1720. Peter I was also an skillful shipbuilder. He learnt the ship architecture, designed ships himself and drew their drafts and worked as a skillful carpenter to set an example. The position of "Chief ship master" for which Peter got money was actual and not honorable.

Unity of sovereign, navigator and shipbuilder on Peter's person told upon the basic unity of St.Petersburg which grew and became stronger as a sovereign capital and the actual and spiritual capital of Russian Fleet. This meaning was consolidated in St.Petersburg Emblem arranged with crossed marine and riverine anchors and a scepter.

The summer phenomenon of St.Petersburg as a naval capital was shown in arranging Admiralty in one line with the summer and winter tsar's palaces on the left bank of the Neva. In 1704 according with Peter's draft there was laid and built complex of admiralty buildings including a fortress, shipyard, moorage, place for storage of ship-models and Admiralty itself - the building for meetings of head naval commanders - admirals. Since 1717 here was the Admiralty Board a hundred and ten years later reformed in Admiralty Council. The large island between left bank of the Neva and Moika was named Admiralteisky. Here lived citizens of St.Petersburg who worked on the Admiralty shipyard and served in the Fleet. The names of the streets - small and big Marine- reminded this up to now.

So already in Peter days the admiralty part of the city assumed the character of marine capital and later became the center of the Russian capital - the place where were concentrated all state offices, palaces and temples. The marine capital became the main shipyard of Russia. When Admiralty-fortress showed its worth in salutes the feverish activity was spread on the Admiralty shipyard from the very beginning.

By spring 1706 the first 18-gun ship was launched. by 1712 54-gun vessel "Poltava" was built and in 1720 90-gun "Lesnoe" and 92-gun "Gungut" were built. Soon the Admiralty shipyard was connected with Galley yard by channel. On the left bank of the Fontanka there was the Civil shipyard where the civil ships were built. In 1800 the Admiralty shipyard was closed and the place of Galley shipyard there was built and shipbuilding plant - new admiralty. So since Peter's days St.Petersburg became a leader of home shipbuilding have been staying it up to now. The St.Petersburg's Port was one more side of marine capital. First moorage were not far from Peter's house on Petrogradskaya Side and on the spit of the Basil Island. Ships came into the center of the capital and their sails, masts and rigging were inseparable part of St.Petersburg's view. Only in 1885 the Port was transferred to Gutuev, Volny and Turukhansky islands and was connected with the Gulf by channel.

The main role of St.Petersburg as a marine capital was its being a center for training of naval professionals. Since Peter's days there were high naval schools, Naval Academy, Marine military school. Building of Naval Archives not far from Winter Palace saved documents since XVIII century, Central Naval Museum on Basil Island and Naval Library in Mikhailovsky Castle were one more trait that showed St.Petersburg as a marine capital. Out of St.Petersburg and Kronshtadt beginning with XVIII century navy and peaceful ships have been putting out to Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Mediterranean and Japan Seas, went round the world, reached Arctic and Antarctic, the North Pole.

The first naval victory was written to annals of marine capital. On the early morning of May 7, 1703 (Peter-and-Paul Fortress wasn't laid yet) Russian guards commanded by Peter I and Menshikov on 30 boats sailed up to two Swedish battleships that had gone to the Neva estuary and captured boarding the admiral 10-gun boat "Gedan" and 34-gun boat "Astrel" The captured ships were piloted through the Neva to Russian Army Camp on the Okhta. This first naval victory became the proclamation for future meaning of St.Petersburg as a marine capital of Russia and gave rise to the first triumphal celebration in honor of Fleet.

On September 9, 1714 in honor of the victory gained over Swedish squadron of the Gangut Cape there were raised two Triumphal Arches : the first - on the Troitskaya Square on the right bank of the Neva and the second - near the "own river rapid" in the embankment in front of Manshikov's palace. Passing by these arches Russian squadron with ringing bells and peals of cannonade brought the captured 16-gun frigate "Elephant" and nine galleys. In October 1720 the citizens of St.Petersburg greeted coming back of Russian Squadron with captured Swedish frigates after the naval victory of Grengam.

One of the most exciting marine festivals - parade and triumphal ceremony in honor of Peter's Boat ("the Grandfather of Russian Fleet") - was connected with St.Petersburg and Kronshtadt. On August 30 1723 the ceremony of giving "Grandfather of Russian Fleet" to Peter-and-Paul Fortress for everlasting keeping took place. The Boat came up to the Nevsky Gate of the Fortress and saluted from its four small guns. The most distinguished sailors heaved it and brought it into the Fortress and placed it in the Sovereign Bastion. Peter I, admirals and generals escorted them. 21 gun volleys and salvos saluted "The Grandfather". By Peter's Ukase every year on August 30 the Boat should be put on water but such ceremonies took place only in 1724, 1744 and 1746.

St.Petersburg tradition of naval parades in honor of home fleet was born from triumphal "bringing" of captured ships, putting out Peter's Boat. At all times ships from many countries came to St.Petersburg with welcome visits. Even after transferring the capital of Russia to Moscow this tradition went on in St.Petersburg - in eyes of all sailors St.Petersburg have been staying a marine capital which visiting is a great honor. Because of that the English Queen Elizabeth II preferred to come to Russia by ship escorting by battleships. Her yacht moored in the center of St.Petersburg.

The meaning of St.Petersburg always was affirmed by different images of mythic marine god Neptune who was Peter's ally and Russian Fleet's patron. Petersburg, Kronshtadt, palaces and parks of St.Petersburg suburbs were satiated with marine and naval symbols (anchors, tridents, nymphs, tritons), monuments to Russian naval Glory, memorials in honor of sailors fallen for their country, monuments to naval commanders. Among them there are also monuments to Baltic sailors defended our city from Gitler's invasion.

At the beginning of XX century stern waves of events rushed into Russia couldn't wash over the marine capital. And today as three centuries ago Peter's words :"Increasing fleet has the one aim of providing trade and landing-stages; this landing stages will stay for Russia because first they belonged to it and secondly landing stages are necessary for the state as through these ways health and profitable state heart could be". St.Petersburg's "landing-stage" will stay the capital of Russian Fleet for ever. And for ever the Admiralty Spire and Ship - the non-extinguished "leading light of home land" - will shine over the city.


The abobe materiales are by kind permission of publishing house "All Petersburg"
webmaster@neva.ru