Archipelago Expeditions of the Russian Fleet

Archipelago Expeditions of the Russian Fleet


campaigns and major strategic operations of the Russian fleet in the area of the Greek archipelago during the second half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries.

(1) During the Russo-Turkish war of 1768–74, when Russia had no fleet on the Black Sea, the Baltic fleet was faced with the task of sending a squadron to the Mediterranean Sea to divert some of the Turkish forces from the Danube military theater and to strike at Turkey from the rear. In this undertaking, it was to exploit the incipient uprisings by Slavic peoples and Greeks, and it was to blockade the Dardanelles, cutting Turkish communications with North Africa and the Near East. A. G. Orlov was entrusted with overall command. The expedition included five squadrons of the Baltic fleet—20 battleships, six frigates, one bombardment ship, and 27 auxiliary ships, with crews and landing party of about 17,000 men. The expedition’s successful movement from the Baltic to the Mediterranean was facilitated by aid from England, which exerted pressure on France and Spain, both of which wanted to impede the movement of Russian ships. The first squadron, under Admiral G. A. Spiridov, left Kron-stadt on July 18, 1769. Having reached the shores of the Morea (Peloponnesus), on Feb. 19, 1770, the squadron, along with the insurgent Greeks, took Mistras and Arcadia and, on April 10, the fortress of Navarin, which became a base for the maneuvers of the Russian fleet. The offensive operations on the Morea failed because of insufficient landing forces and the suppression of the uprisings by the Turks; as a result, the main thrust of the expedition was redirected to the Aegean Sea. On May 22, 1770, the second squadron—under Rear Admiral J. Elphinstone—arrived and consolidated with the first under the command of Spiridov—in all, nine battleships, three frigates, one bombardment ship, and others. On June 24 the force was victorious in the Chios Channel, and on the night of June 25 it destroyed nearly the entire Turkish fleet in the Battle of Ceşme of 1770, establishing primacy in the archipelago. Between December 1770 and September 1774, the squadrons of Rear Admiral I. N. Arf, Rear Admiral V. Ia. Chichagov (from August 1772, captain M. T. Koniaev), and Rear Admiral S. K. Greig reached the archipelago. By the time peace was achieved, the Russian fleet had carried out the blockade of the Dardanelles, landed parties on the Turkish islands in the Aegean Sea, and destroyed transports of Turkey’s maritime communications.

(2) During the War of the Second Coalition (England, Russia, Austria, and Sweden) against France, 1805–07, the expedition’s object was to strengthen the defenses of the Ionian Islands, where the island of Corfu was the Russian fleet’s main base (established during Ushakov’s Mediterranean campaign of 1798–1800). In January 1806 six detachments of the Black Sea fleet and a squadron of the Baltic fleet were concentrated there under the command of Vice Admiral D. N. Seniavin (ten battleships, five frigates, six corvettes, six brigs, 12 gunboats, and others and a landing party of 13,000). In 1806 the Russian fleet operated primarily in the Ionian Sea and off the coast of Dalmatia; it blockaded shores defended by French troops and occupied the Qattar region and several islands by means of a landing party. After Turkey declared war on Russia in December 1806, Seniavin’s squadron (eight battleships, one frigate, one sloop and a landing force of 2,000) moved up to the Dardanelles in February 1807 for joint actions with the English fleet. At this time, an English squadron under Admiral J. Duckworth left the straits with considerable losses (after penetration to the Sea of Marmara and fruitless negotiations with the Turkish government) and moved toward Malta. On March 10 a Russian landing party took the island of Tenedos, where a base for blockade actions against the Dardanelles was organized. The attempt by the Turkish fleet to break through the blockade culminated in a battle in the Dardanelles on May 10 and the rout of the Turkish fleet in the Battle of Athos of 1807. After Russia and France signed the Treaty of Tilsit of 1807 (July 1807), Seniavin’s squadron terminated the blockade of the Dardanelles in August 1807 and headed toward the Baltic Sea.

The strategic maneuvering of forces of the fleet from one theater to another was carried out successfully in the archipelago expeditions. The Russian fleet employed all-out forms of strategic and tactical action—annihilation of the enemy in battle, blockade actions, and landings. The peoples of the Balkans supported the Russian fleet and troops.


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Boevaia letopis’ russkogo flota. Moscow, 1948.