The Main Naval Parade is one of the most important summer events in St. Petersburg and Kronstadt. The parade formation of the Baltic and Neva warships always arouse a great interest. The tradition of naval parades goes back centuries and came to us from abroad
The tradition of naval parades, like so much in the Russian Navy, goes back to Peter the Great. During the Great Embassy, he visited a review of British ships in Spithead, near Portsmouth, organized in his honor, and was very impressed by what was going on. Back to Russia, the Russian tsar held a similar review of ships in summer of 1699 in Troitsk-on-Taganiy Rog (today’s Taganrog), where the construction of the port and naval base had just begun.
The fleet had already proved its worth at Azov, though the decision to create it had been made only three years prior to this review. In addition, Peter intended to impress the Turks at Kerch, so he was preparing the fleet for this task holding exercises (the so called “poteshnaya battaliya”(mock battle)). The result of those maneuvers and the subsequent demonstration of strength was a successful mission of Yemelyan Ukraintsev to Istanbul on the ship Fortress, which achieved a favorable Constantinople peace in 1700.
It was the Baltic where Peter I held his next naval parade - after the victory over the Swedes at Gangut in 1714. The Tsar brought captured enemy ships to St. Petersburg, where he placed them on the Neva roadstead. It was the first great celebration for the city, and the Tsar made it look like an ancient Roman triumph. After the victory at Grengam in 1720 and the conclusion of the Peace of Nystadt in 1722, there were some more extensive naval parades held in St. Petersburg.
However, Peter held his first sea review, which we can rightfully call a naval parade, in Kronstadt in August 1723, where almost all ships of the Baltic Fleet lined up at the roadstead. The Emperor himself welcomed their crews from the boat of his childhood days, delivered to the new capital from Moscow. The rowers on the boat were the admirals of Peter the Great’s fleet.
After Peter the Great died, the tradition of naval parades was forgotten in Russia until the time of Catherine the Great, who arranged a large-scale inspection of the ships before sending the flotilla led by Admiral Grigory Spiridov to the Mediterranean Sea in 1769.
Alexander I supported her initiative and celebrated the centennial of St. Petersburg’s founding with a naval parade in 1803.
Two monarchs - British Queen Victoria and Russian Emperor Nicholas I – added to the tradition of naval parades in the mid-19th century. The former held 17 naval parades during her long reign and even arranged her favorite residence on the Isle of Wight close to their venue.
Nicholas I held reviews and parades of both the Baltic and the Black Sea Fleets. Ivan Aivazovsky depicted one of such events in his famous painting “Parade of the Black Sea Fleet in 1849”. However, the artist created his masterpiece in 1886, to honor the fleet, which perished during the Crimean War, as well as its leaders and the Emperor himself, who did not survive in 1855.
Lev Tolstoy witnessed the parade and described it as follows: “The Tsar, members of the royal family, and the fleets commanders and squadrons attended the parade of warships. The parade takers bypassed all the ships one by one on boats, first on rowing boats, then on steam or motor boats. Trumpeters played «Pipe the side» and orchestras played the Admiral’s marches. The ships’ crews responded with «Hurrah!» to congratulations. When the parade takers got on board the flagship, the anthem was played and a festive artillery salute was performed. These smoke of shots and, strange to say, their sounds produced the main beauty of the spectacle. «Saint Petersburg’s bicentennial was celebrated in 1903 with a large and colorful naval parade. It was held in May, and instead of Peter’s boat, a rowing boat stored in the Emperor’s cabin participated in it. The cruiser Aurora, built at the New Admiralty shipyard, could have taken part in that parade. However, in the fall of 1902, it had not yet fulfilled the sea trials program, postponed until the spring. Thus, the Navy adopted the cruiser only in June 1903.
In 1911, the cruiser Russia, built by the Baltic Shipyard, came to Spithead raid for coronation parade from St. Petersburg. A heroic ship had previously stood the test of the Russian-Japanese War. In 1904, she was the flagship of the Vladivostok cruiser detachment. The writer, Valentin Pikul, built his novel The Cruisers upon her story.
THE OLD WAYS ARE THE BEST WAYS
After the revolution, Leningrad often hosted ship reviews. However, they were local, and the fleet was in far from the parade condition in the post-revolutionary years.
In 1937, the battleship Marat, built at the Baltic Shipyard on the eve of World War I, visited the Spithead harbor for another coronation. The Soviet Union leadership may have been inspired by that visit to return to the tradition of holding naval parades, which took place in the four fleets in 1939. In June of that year the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party established a new holiday - the Day of the USSR Navy «...in order to motivate the broad masses of working people for building the Navy and to meet challenges it faces».
In 1953, another coronation parade (by Elizabeth II) was to be held - and the time came for the newest Soviet cruiser Sverdlov, built by the same Baltic Shipyard, and her Captain Olimp Rudakov.
A large-scale naval parade was held in the USSR in Leningrad in 1957, where not only the Baltic Fleet, but also the Black and Northern Fleets took part. Naval aviation participated in this parade for the first time, and G.K. Zhukov, the Soviet Defense Minister; Marshal of the Soviet Union took the parade.
The new big naval parades have been held in the post-Soviet period:
In 1992, (in honor of the St. Andrew’s flag re-adoption), in 1995, (in honor of the 50th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War) and in 1996, (in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Navy). In addition to domestic ships, numerous representatives of foreign navies, including eight NATO countries, attended them, hard to imagine before.
In 2017, the Presidential decree raised the rank of the St. Petersburg Naval Parade. It is the country’s Main Naval Parade now, which is held annually.
The 2017 parade was really impressive - more than 40 ships and submarines participated there, and many of them were on display for the first time.
This is the fifth Main Naval Parade in Kronshtadt and St. Petersburg held, with 54 ships participating, including frigates from India, Pakistan and Iran fleets, as well as 48 aircrafts and helicopters. A special feature of Russian parades, as compared with foreign ones, is that ours consist of three parts: static - the passage of the parade host along the line of ships, dynamic - the passage of the parade formation along the bleachers, and aerial. This makes the parade spectacular and big event.
This year the Main Naval Parade was held for the fifth time