October 01, 1996

The Shtandart

On the banks of the Neva River’s northernmost curve, the wooden skeleton of a great frigate is slowly taking shape. And just as it was nearly 300 years ago, the construction of the Shtandart (‘standard’) warship is being led by a charismatic, driven man, one whose love for the sea is something of an anomaly in this nation of landlubbers.

The similarities end there, however. The builder of the first Shtandart was — the reader will not be surprised to learn — Peter the Great, who commenced building Russia’s first warship upon his return from studying shipbuilding in Holland and England. The tsar had at his disposal 40 carpenters, 20 blacksmiths, 150 workers and 300 peasants with horses; the ship was completed within five months.

Petersburger Vladimir Martus, on the other hand, is building a reconstruction of the famed ship mostly through volunteer labor, donated materials, and the strength of his own monomaniacal zeal for the project. Nearly two years after the keel of the ship was laid, the Shtandart is coming together slowly but surely, the pace of work ebbing and flowing according to irregular donations of money and materials to the project.

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