In the history of the Russian fleet, the period from the death of Peter the Great to the accession to the throne of Catherine II is a kind of "blank spot". Naval historians did not indulge him with their attention. However, the events of that time in the history of the fleet are quite interesting.
According to the decree of Peter I, signed by him in 1714, as, indeed, according to the primordial Russian law, the widow-mother with children became the guardian of the underage heirs, but did not have the right to inherit the throne. No less confusing, by the will of the king himself, was the issue of the children who were the heirs of the monarch. By a decree of February 5, 1722, the emperor canceled the two orders of inheritance that had previously been in effect (by will and council election), and replaced them with the appointment of a successor at the personal discretion of the reigning sovereign. Peter the Great died on January 28, 1725. Having lost his speech before his death, he managed to write with his losing strength only two words: "Give everything …"
Nevertheless, if you carefully read the decree of 1722, then in it you can see the order of inheritance not only according to the will, but also according to the law: when, in the absence of sons, power is transferred to the eldest of the daughters. She was Anna Petrovna, who, having married the Duke of Holstein in 1724, under oath renounced her rights to the Russian throne for herself and for her future offspring. It seemed that the legal right of inheritance should have passed to the second daughter - Elizabeth. However, after the death of the emperor, the once semi-underground opposition in the person of the princes Golitsyns, Dolgoruky, Repnins came out openly. She relied on the young Peter Alekseevich - the grandson of Peter I, the son of the executed Tsarevich Alexei. Supporters of the Tsar's wife Catherine - A. Menshikov, P. Yaguzhinsky, P. Tolstoy - wanted to proclaim her the empress. Then the opposition put forward a crafty proposal: to elevate Pyotr Alekseevich to the throne, but until he comes of age, let Catherine and the Senate rule. Menshikov showed decisiveness. He led the guards of the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments loyal to the empress to the palace. So, for the first time, these regiments played the role of not a combat, but a political force.
By the way, the conflict between the adherents of Peter Alekseevich and Catherine laid the foundation for an extremely peculiar period in the history of Russia from 1725 to 1762. - a series of palace coups. During this period, mainly female persons changed on the throne, who got there not on the basis of the procedures established by law or custom, but by chance, as a result of court intrigues and active actions of the imperial guard.
On January 28, 1725, Empress Catherine I ascended the Russian throne. Apparently, one should not list all the inheritance that she inherited from her late husband. Among other things, Peter the Great left to posterity and the Fatherland a powerful army and a strong fleet. The Baltic Fleet alone numbered about 100 pennants: 34 battleships armed with 50-96 cannons, 9 frigates with 30 to 32 guns on board, and other warships. In addition, 40 more ships were under construction. The Russian fleet had its own bases: Kronstadt - a fortified port and fortress, Revel - a harbor, St. Petersburg - an admiralty with a shipyard and workshops, Astrakhan - an admiralty. The command structure of the naval forces consisted of 15 flagships, 42 captains of various ranks, 119 lieutenant captains and lieutenants. Moreover, most of it is Russian. Of the 227 foreigners, only 7 were in command positions. And although domestic naval specialists constituted the majority, by that time there was a lack of good navigators, and in shipbuilding - of secondary masters. It was not for nothing that Peter planned to organize an educational institution that trained shipbuilding specialists.
Catherine began to rule, relying on the same people and the same institutions that operated under Peter. At the beginning of 1725, its government reduced the amount of taxes and forgave some of the arrears, returned from the conclusions and exiles almost all those punished by the late emperor, established the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, conceived by Peter, and finally decided the question of organizing the Academy of Sciences. We must not forget that during the reign of Catherine I, in pursuance of the dying will of Peter I, the First Kamchatka Expedition, headed by V. Bering and A. Chirikov, began.
Many historians are inclined to call the time of Catherine I's reign the beginning of the era of the reign of Peter's former favorite, Menshikov, who, for many sins of the state, was saved from a violent reprisal only by the death of Peter. Having become a complete arbiter of affairs, using the confidence of the empress, Menshikov first of all decided to deal with the opposition. Dissensions began in the Senate. P. Tolstoy where with flattery, where he managed to put out strife by threat. But the quarrel led to the establishment in 1726 of the Supreme Privy Council, which stood above the Senate, from which the Attorney General was "taken away". The Senate began to be called "high" instead of "ruling", coming down to the degree of a collegium equal to military, foreign and naval. "For important state affairs" the Supreme Privy Council was created, which consisted of six people: A. Menshikov, A. Osterman, F. Apraksin, G. Golovkin, D. Golitsyn and P. Tolstoy. The council assumed the role of a legislative institution, and without discussing it, the empress could not issue a single decree. With the establishment of this authority, Menshikov, as head of the military administration, got rid of Senate control. In order not to burden himself with routine work, His Serene Highness organized a "Commission from the generals and flagships", whose duty was to deal with all the affairs of the army and navy. The entire taxable part in each province was entrusted to the governors, for which one staff officer was specially designated to help them.
Behind the ostentatious state activity, resting "on laurels" was hidden. It is not for nothing that historians of the past argued that the once "tireless, talented and energetic executors of Peter's brilliant plans have now turned into ordinary mortals or dejected by old age, or preferring their own interests to the good of the Motherland." Menshikov was especially successful in this. Russia tried to maintain peaceful relations with Poland, but the prince's actions in Courland almost led to a break with it. The fact is that the last ruler of Courland, Duke Ferdinand, by this time was already over 70 years old, and he had no children. Menshikov, who entered the territory of Courland with an army, declared his claims for the vacant position. But even with a demonstration of strength, the Courland refused to elect him to the duke. Not salty, the vain courtier returned to St. Petersburg.
So, the actual power in the reign of Catherine was concentrated with Menshikov and the Supreme Privy Council. The Empress, however, was completely satisfied with the role of the first mistress of Tsarskoye Selo, completely trusting her advisers in matters of government. She was only interested in the affairs of the fleet: Peter's love for the sea touched her too.
It is worth noting that the negative trends of the era infected the naval leaders. The once energetic and experienced president of the Admiralty Collegium, Admiral-General Apraksin, as one of his contemporaries wrote, "began to take great care of maintaining his importance at court, and therefore was less concerned about the benefits of the fleet." His associate and vice-president of the Admiralty Collegiums, Admiral Cornelius Cruis, "having grown old physically and morally, rather constrained the activities of his subordinates than directed them." In the maritime college, in contrast to the Peter's era, preference was given not to business qualities, but to patronage and connections. In the spring of 1726, for example, Captain 3rd Rank I. Sheremetev and Lieutenant Prince M. Golitsyn were appointed advisers to the Admiralty Collegium, who had not previously distinguished themselves by any special merits.
And nevertheless, the state spring, instituted by Peter the Great, continued to operate. In 1725, the newly built battleships "Don't touch me" and "Narva", created by talented shipbuilders Richard Brown and Gabriel Menshikov, were launched in St. Petersburg in 1725. During the reign of Catherine I, they laid the foundation for the 54-gun ships Vyborg and Novaya Nadezhda at the capital's shipyard, and a new 100-gun battleship was being built, which after the death of Catherine I received the name Peter I and II.
External relations of that period were limited to the fight against the Ottomans in Dagestan and Georgia. However, in the west, the state was also restless. Catherine I desired to return to her son-in-law, Anna Petrovna's husband to the Duke of Holstein, the Schleswig region taken by the Danes, which could strengthen the ducal rights to the Swedish crown. But the Duke of Hesse, who was supported by England, also claimed it. London guaranteed Denmark, with a favorable outcome, possession of Schleswig. Therefore, some tension arose between Russia, Denmark, Sweden and England.
In 1725, Apraksin brought 15 battleships and 3 frigates to the Baltic Sea for cruising. The campaign went without any clashes with hostile states. However, the control of the ships was so unsatisfactory that, as Apraksin himself recalled, some ships could not even keep the formation. Damage to the ships revealed the weakness of the spars and the poor quality of the rigging. To put the ships in order for the next campaign, despite the fact that the financial situation of the naval administration turned out to be deplorable, General-Admiral Apraksin allocated two thousand rubles from his personal funds to strengthen the fleet. This did not go unnoticed. In the spring of 1726, the preparations of the Russian fleet alarmed Albion so much that he sent 22 ships to Revel under the command of Admiral Roger. They were joined by seven Danish ships that stayed off the island of Nargen until the beginning of autumn. Both those and others interfered with the navigation of Russian ships, but did not take military action. In anticipation of them, Kronstadt and Revel prepared for the defense: in the first, the fleet stood in the roadstead all summer, from the second the ships went into cruising.
The English king in his letter to Catherine I explained the actions of his fleet: he was sent "not for the sake of any quarrel or not an alliance," but solely out of the desire to maintain peaceful relations in the Baltic, which, in the opinion of the British, could be violated by enhanced Russian naval weapons. In her reply, the empress drew the attention of the British monarch to the fact that his prohibition could not prevent the Russian fleet from going to sea, and just as she does not prescribe laws to others, she herself does not intend to accept them from anyone, "like an autocrat and absolute sovereign, independent from none other than God. " This firm response from the empress showed England the ineffectiveness of the threats. London did not dare to declare war, for there were no obvious reasons for the conflict. The tension that was created ended peacefully both with England and with her allies.
In 1725 the Devonshire ship and two frigates went to Spain for commercial purposes under the command of Captain 3rd Rank Ivan Koshelev. This visit was already prepared by Peter I to attract Spanish merchants to trade with Russia. The head of the detachment, Koshelev, delivered domestic samples of goods to Spain, established business relations with foreign merchants, who sent their trading agents to Russia for a detailed study of the Russian market. The envoys of Catherine I stayed in a distant country, which Russian sailors visited for the first time, almost a year. In April 1726, they returned home safely to Revel. Koshelev for a successful voyage "not a model for others" was promoted through the rank of captains of the 1st rank. In addition, the following year he was appointed director of the Moscow Admiralty office.
Around the same time and with a similar purpose, a gukor and a frigate were sent to France. When this campaign was being prepared, they began to convince Catherine I that it was unprofitable, and "there are enough goods from both powers overland." The Empress nevertheless insisted on her own, ordering the ships to be sent both to train the crew and "for the public's ears" that Russian ships "go to French ports".
For the sake of expanding foreign sea trade, the empress canceled the decree of Peter I, according to which it was ordered to bring to Arkhangelsk goods produced only in the region of the Dvina basin, and from other places goods intended for sale abroad should be sent strictly through St. Petersburg. By her decree, Catherine I gave Arkhangelsk the right to trade goods and products with foreign countries, regardless of where they were produced. At the same time, she tried to create a Russian whaling industry, for which in Arkhangelsk, with the support of the empress, a special company was formed, which had three whaling ships.
Peter the Great, having passed away, did not leave a large amount of money in the treasury. Under him, strict economy was carried out in everything. However, the tsar did not spare funds for innovations in all branches of the vast economy. And, of course, the navy. The strict schedule of expenses made it possible, even with minimal funds during the reign of Catherine I, to conduct more or less normal maritime activities. Ships and vessels were built, armed, and went to sea. Construction work continued in Rogervik and Kronstadt, where under the leadership of the chief commander of the fortress and port, Admiral P. Sievers, the capital construction of canals, docks and harbors was underway. A harbor was also built in Astrakhan for the wintering of ships and vessels of the Caspian Flotilla. Fulfilling the will of Peter I, the Empress strictly monitored the safety and use of the ship's woods. For this, on her instructions, several specialists, "forest experts" were invited from Germany. It should be noted that it was during that period that the engineer colonel I. Lyuberas, the builder of the fortress on the Nargen Island, carried out hydrographic work and compiled a detailed map of the Gulf of Finland. The same work was carried out in the Caspian by Lieutenant Commander F. Soimonov.
On May 6, 1727, Catherine I died. According to her will, the royal throne, not without pressure from Menshikov, passed to the young grandson of Peter the Great - Peter II.
Peter Alekseevich, grandson of Peter the Great and son of the executed Tsarevich Alexei, ascended the throne on May 7, 1727. The monarch was then 11 years old. This "enthronement" was carried out by the crafty courtier A. Menshikov. As soon as the boy was declared emperor, the brilliant Alexander Danilovich took the young emperor to his house on Vasilievsky Island and two weeks later, on May 25, betrothed him to his daughter Maria. True, for the enthronement of Peter II, the Most Serene Prince "got" himself the title of full admiral, and six days later - generalissimo. The further education of the juvenile emperor Menshikov entrusted to Vice-Chancellor Andrei Ivanovich Osterman, former personal secretary of Admiral K. Cruis.
Seeing the open impudence of Menshikov in the struggle for proximity to the throne, the conservative opposition, led by the princes Dolgoruky and Golitsyn, came out. The first, acting through the favorite of Peter Alekseevich, the young prince Ivan Alekseevich Dolgorukov, who inspired the boy-tsar to overthrow Menshikov, achieved imperial wrath. Menshikov was arrested on September 8, 1727 and, deprived of "ranks and cavalry", was exiled to the Ryazan estate of Ranenburg. But even from there he remained dominant. A new trial took place over the temporary worker, according to which, according to A. Pushkin, the once "semi-sovereign" was exiled to the Tobolsk Territory, to Berezov, where on October 22, 1729 his bright life, full of exploits and sins, ended.
After the fall of Menshikov, the Dolgoruky took possession of the location of Peter Alekseevich. However, his tutor, A. Osterman, who, in general, did not contradict the intrigues of the old Moscow aristocracy, enjoyed great respect with him. At the beginning of 1728, Pyotr Alekseevich went to Moscow for the coronation. The northern capital did not see him again. His grandmother Evdokia Lopukhina, who was the first wife of Peter the Great, returned to the white stone monastery from the Ladoga monastery. Upon arrival in Moscow on February 9, the young monarch appeared at a meeting of the Supreme Privy Council, but "did not deign to sit down in his place, but, standing, announced that he wanted Her Majesty, his grandmother, to be kept in every pleasure according to her high dignity" … This was already a clear demonstrative attack on the supporters of the reforms begun by Peter the Great. The overly entrenched opposition gained the upper hand at that time. In January 1728 the yard left Petersburg and moved to Moscow. The historian F. Veselago noted that government officials have practically forgotten the fleet, and, perhaps, only Osterman retained "sympathy for it".
F. Apraksin, who headed the Admiralty Collegium and until recently commanded the Kronstadt flotilla, retired from naval affairs "old age" and also moved to Moscow, where he died in November
1728, having outlived for several months his like-minded and assistant Admiral K. Cruis, who died in the summer of 1727.
The maritime administration passed into the hands of an experienced sailor of the Peter's school, Admiral Pyotr Ivanovich Sivere, who was honored to be on the voyages next to Peter I, to carry out the emperor's assignments, to be the chief commander of the Kronstadt port and its builder. Contemporaries noted that Sivere was an energetic, knowledgeable person, but at the same time he had a difficult, quarrelsome character. Therefore, he was constantly at odds with the members of the Admiralty Collegiums. And it was because of what to have a "quarrelsome character."
Having left St. Petersburg, courtiers and high officials seemed to have forgotten about the fleet, which, without financial support, was rolling into decline, losing its former importance. An amount equal to 1, 4 million rubles, allocated for its maintenance, was allocated with such underpayments that in 1729 they exceeded 1.5 million rubles. Sivere agreed that in order to get out of this catastrophic situation, he began to petition for a reduction in the allocated funds by 200 thousand rubles, if only it was released in full and on time. The request of the Admiralty Collegiums was respected, the members of the Collegium were even thanked for caring for the fleet, but they continued to allocate the reduced amount with the same lack of punctuality.
In the spring of 1728, in order to save and maintain the ships of the fleet in the necessary serviceability, the Supreme Privy Council decided: to keep the battleships and frigates in a state of "immediate readiness for armament and march", and while provisions and other supplies necessary for sailing, "wait to prepare ". At the same time, it was decided, for cruising and the necessary training of teams, to build five ships of a lower rank, "but not to withdraw into the sea without a decree." They ordered two frigates and two flutes to send to Arkhangelsk, and send another pair of frigates to cruise, but no further than Reval. These voyages practically limited the activities of the fleet from 1727 to 1730. During this period, the fleet was replenished with practically only galleys, of which up to 80 pennants were built. And although in these years they launched five battleships and one frigate, they all began to be built during the life of Peter the Great.
A sign of the decline of the navy was the frequent transfers of naval officers to other services. The evidence of the Swedish envoy has survived, who in the fall of 1728, speaking with praise about the Russian army, emphasized in his report to the government that the Russian fleet was greatly reduced, the old ships are all already rotten and no more than five battleships can be taken out to sea, the construction of new ones " has become very weak. " In the Admiralty, nobody cares about these facts.
By the way, it was during the reign of Peter II that foreign ambassadors noted that everything in Russia was in terrible disarray. In November 1729, the now Dolgoruky decided to intermarry with the juvenile emperor, whom they betrothed to Princess Catherine Dolgoruka. But fate was unfavorable to them: at the beginning of 1730, Peter II fell ill with smallpox and died on January 19. With his death, the Romanov male line was cut short.