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People's Commissariat of the Navy

On December 30, 1937, the People's Commissariat of the Navy [Narkomate Voenno-Morskogo Flota] was organized; prior to that time the Navy was a mere sub-section of the Red Army, forming a part of the Peoples Commissariat for Defense, together with the Red Army and Air Force. The People's Commissariat of the Navy trained navy personnel, administers the naval fleet, and naval bases, and land establishments of the nation. It was responsible for the training and administration of naval aviation, coast defense, coast guard, and marine corps. The navy was responsible for all coastal and port defenses, including antiaircraft defense.

It shared with the People's Commissariats of Munitions and of the Shipbuilding Industry the responsibility for the construction of warships and naval bases. It was responsible for the distribution of naval supplies, although the procurement and production of these supplies is under the People's Commissariat of Munitions, which functioned in these matters under local naval inspectors. Naval war plans were the responsibility of the Soviet Naval Staff.

The People's Commissar for the Navy, Admiral N.G.Kuznetsov, is the Supreme Commander of the Naval Forces of the U.S.S.R. under the 1936 Constitution. He is aided [as of 1943] by the Deputy People's Commissar, Admiral L. M. Galler, and by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral I.S. Isakov. Under the Chief of the Naval Staff, come the Commanders-in-Chief of the 4 fleets; The Baltic Fleet, Admiral V. F. Tributs; The Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral Vladimirski; The Pacific Fleet, Admiral I. S. Yumashev; and The Northern Fleet, Vice Admiral A. A. Golovko, as well as the Commander of the Caspian Flotilla and of the flotillas of various inland waterways, notably the Amur and Volga Rivers. The actual command, however, lies in Joseph Stalin, absolute dictator and supreme commander of all Soviet military forces.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, Soviet naval policy was dictated by the Politburo; decisions of this bureau were put into effect by the Supreme Naval Council. This council consisted of 11 members. It decided on questions regarding the disposition of the fleets, naval construction, naval aviation,, coast defense, coast guard, marine corps, and naval policies. Its membership included M.Zhdanov, Communist Party executive of Leningrad, the Commissar of the Navy, 4 Vice-Commissars, of whom 2 were political appointees, the Chief of the Naval Staff, and the 4 Chiefs of Naval Administration, i.e., armament, supplies, aviation, political. There was a subsidiary naval council attached to each fleet; they controlled all fleet activities within the district. In general, these subsidiary councils were composed of the 2 highest ranking naval political officers and the party secretary or executive of the district.

At the end of the Russian Civil War in 1922, the Soviet Government found that the outstanding majority of its naval officers had been inherited from the Imperial Regime, All officers who did not immediately fall in line with the new government were, of course, either exiled or shot. There were, however, a fairly large number of naval officers who were retained; they formed the nucleus for ihe young Soviet Navy.

On the other hand, the party officials in Moscow were not entirely certain of the political feelings of these men and therefore set up what was known as the "Politico" system. Under this system, each officer having command, whether of an entire fleet or a motor torpedo boat, was assigned at least one political officer, a member of the Communist Party, who looked after the political education of the men under his command, as well as making certain that the commanding officer would commit no act which would hurt the Soviet Government.

As time went on, the Political Officers assumed more and more power, so that at the time of the Russo-Finnish War, no decision, either of political or operational importance, could be made by the commanding officer without the approval of his senior political officer. In fact, the political officer was equal in rank to the commander, if not superior to him. In September, 1941, there were no less than 9 political officers assigned to the 8,000-ton heavy cruiser VOROSHILOV. This system, which existed for the sole purpose of compelling officers to adhere to the rules set down by the Communist Party, made for great inefficiency at sea.

In order to meet, in part, the shortage of officers produced by heavy casualties and expansion, and to promote efficiency, discipline, and comradely cooperation among officers, the commissar system was, ostsnsibly, at least, abolished, both in the army and navy in 1943. Political commissars, formerly constituting as high as 1/5 of officer personnel, have been enrolled as regular naval officers, in which capacity they, no doubt, continued to exert strong party influence upon military personnel, although without the power to countersign the orders of the commander.

With the reorganization of the Armed Forces in 1946, when the separate Peoples Commissariat of the Navy was abolished, and the Navy came under the Ministry of the Armed Forces.




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