"K istorii voyenno morskogo
"Toward the history of military-naval construction"
Tushin, Yu. Lt Col.
Voyenno istoricheskii Zhurnal, #8, Aug 1970. pp 101-104
Building ships on the Volga and Don long preceded Peter I. The large
strugi were able to continue out to sea and carried cannon for defense. The
Moscow government supported the Cossacks in their naval operations. In 1646 the
government bought on the Volga for the Don Cossacks 100 strugi.
In the war against Crimea in the middle 1600's the government employed
experienced, knowledgeable Cossacks in boat building on the upper Don. They
built 700 strugi there between 1659 and 1663 for use at sea. In 1673 130 ships
were built in the village of Romanov. In April 1675 129 ships were built in the
Ustanski uyezd near Voronezh. There were 2793 men employed in this work
The Cossack boats had no keel, They were 60 ft long and 10 or 12 feet wide by
12 feet deep. They were made of willow or linden logs, 45 ft long. Along the
sides bunches of dry rushes were fastened and tied with willow or cherry tree
bark for fenders. They had two rudders, made of long poles with wide paddles.
The boats were armed with 4 to 6 falconets, They had crews of 50 to 70 men.
Each man had a saber, two pistols, 6 funts of powder and bullets. The
government used these vessels widely in the Baltic also. In the Swedish war of
1656-58 tsar Alexis went down the Western Dvina to Dunaburg and Kokehhauzen in
one. The governor, Ordin-Nashchokin, also used one going to Kokehhauzen. The
Swedes burned the entire Russian fleet later. The war showed the necessity for
a fleet for victory along the coast. The Russians built small ships on the
Northern Sea also.
The government knew it needed large, European type ships and not just strugi on
the Caspian Sea. In 1633 Holstein offered to build 10 ships for the tsar. He
accepted. The first ship "Frederich" was built at Nizhni-Novgorod by
the master shipbuilder, Michael Korges with Russian help. The Holstein
ambassador, Olearius, helper was on board and wrote that the Persian sailors
were amazed at the size.
The next phase was building boats on the Oka at Dedinov. In 1667 van Sveden was
sent to Holland to hire masters. He had already lived many years in Russia. A
four-year contract was signed with four builders. A fifth man, named Butler,
was kept in Amsterdam to sign up more crews and search for six other builders
who had fled after receiving their payment. All this was handled by the
Novgorod boyar Ordin-Nashokin and three duma dyaki
In September 1667 on Ordin-Nashhokin's recommendation the dvorianin, Poluektov
was named as chief of construction. And by von Sveden's suggestion a colonel
Bukovin, a Dutchman, was named as head of the foreigners. He had been in Russia
over 20 years by then. The basic workers were Russians.
The ship was laid down on 14 November. In the spring of 1668 the government
hurried to finish it as Stenka Razin was preparing a campaign on the Caspian.
Only in September was Poluektov able to announce that the ship, a yacht, two
sloops, and a boat were finished. But the flotilla could not sail in 1668 due
to low water in the river. The finally started out on 24 April 1669. The Ship;
"Orel" was 24.5 meters long and 6.4 meters wide with a depth of 1.5
meters and armed with 22 cannon. (2 to 6 funt size) It had three masts and a
bowsprit. In April 1669 the crew under Butler left Moscow to Dedinov. while
they were en route the water was falling so Poluektov moved the ships to
Nizhni-Novgorod. In August the flotilla reached Astrakhan. The Orel was there
10 months. In June 1670 all the fleet from Dedinov and 150 more ships were
burned by Stenka Razin.