March 01, 2016

Raising the Shtandart

In 1703, Peter the Great had barely founded St. Petersburg and Russia’s decisive victory at Poltava in its Northern War with Sweden (1700-1721) was still six years off. To protect the country’s new frontier, Peter needed a navy on the Baltic.

Peter had been enthralled by sailing since an early age, and he acquired essential boatbuilding skills on the docks of Holland and Britain during his Grand Embassy, an 18-month journey to Europe in 1697-98. The tsar traveled incognito, as Peter Mikhailov, and labored with simple carpenters, not shunning difficult work. His own knowledge and the craftsmen he lured back to Russia enabled the creation of a great new fleet.

So it was that, in the spring of 1703, on the Olonetsk dock of the small town Lodeynoye Pole, the keel was laid for the first flagship of the Baltic fleet, the frigate Shtandart. For six months, 150 carpenters, blacksmiths, riggers, and sailmakers worked to complete it.

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