Soviet Navy - 1936-1939 -
Reversal of Soviet Naval Policy
The first indication of a change in naval policy came during the latter part of 1936 when Fleet Flagman of the First Rank (Admiral of the Fleet) Orloff, Chief of the Naval Forces, announced "a new building program which would include ships of all classes and of the most up-to-date design.1! The Third Five-Year .Plan, which began in 1937,provided for a large increase in the size of the navy.
It is hard to say whether this change of policy was brought about by careful thinking and a conviction of the necessity for employing it, or whether it was the result of a desire for achievement on the part of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and demonstration bo the world that the U.S.S.R. can produce a fleet equal if not superior to that of a first-class naval power.
Probably Admiral Orloff was too slow to see the change in the minds of the ruling clique; in addition, Soviet shipbuilding yards were not equipped to meet any such increase in the demands made upon them. Therefore, in 1937,the purge of the Navy took place. It was the most far-reaching purge ever instituted, and when it was over, every high-ranking officer with the exception of Admiral Galler had been "liquidated". This included three Supreme Commanders of the Naval forces, the Commanders-in-Chief of three fleets and their chiefs of staff, the commanding officer of the flagship "Marat", the superintendent of the Naval Academy, and many others. The photograph shows the Naval High Command of 1936: all of these men with the exception of Admiral Galler were eventually executed or disappeared. This purge probably, because of its far-reaching results, and because it followed so closely on the heels of the purge of the Red Army, was not officially announced until August, 1938.
The first steps taken to build up the Soviet Navy were to reconstruct existing shipbuilding yards and to build new ones. Progress along these lines were found to be far from satisfactory, and so in July, 193&, M. I. Kalinin, President of .the U.S.S.R., made a speech at the Ordzhonikidze Shipbuilding Yard at Leningrad, and blamed this state of affairs not only on "the work of traitors" but also on the inefficiency of the workers themselves.
In order to give high-ranking naval officers more freedom of action, the first Commissariat of the Navy was organized in December, 1937; prior to that time, the navy was administered as a part of the Commissariat of Defense, along with the army and air forces.
In an attempt to help along this building program, Vice Admiral Isakoff, Vice Commissar of the Navyj was sent to the United States in January, 1939, as chief of a naval mission for the purpose of placing an order for the construction of one or two capital ships in this country: due to various reasons, this mission failed.
In March, 1939, at the XVIII Communist Party Congress, three new men appeared, who have since played a large role in the formation of naval policy: the first of these was Rear Admiral N. G. Kuznetsoff, then Commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, who shortly afterward became People's Commissar of the Navy at the age of 37, which position he still holds to the present day. The second was P. Tevosyan, Peopled Commissar of the Shipbuilding Industry, and third was Captain I. D. Papanin, Chief of the Northern Sea Route Administration. The first two stated that the building program according to the dictates of the third Five-Year Plan was well on its way and would be met, if not exceeded. Captain Papanin declared that because of the success attained in opening the Northern Sea Route and because of the Stalin Canal, the,Baltic, Northern, and Pacific Fleets could now be considered as one.
Because of the outbreak of the war in June, 1941 ship construction did not follow according to plan; however, at the time of the German attack, there were either built or building: 2 or 3 44,000-ton battleships building, 5 8,000-ton cruisers built, and 5 more building, as well as a lrage number of smaller craft.
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