This page was created by James Browning. 

The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Why Kherson?

Building a shipyard on the Black Sea was no small matter. When Catherine II ascended to the throne, the Russian Empire had limited access to the open sea and less experience building ships on the open water. Until this point, the empire’s navies had largely been constructed at river shipyards, sometimes hundreds of miles inland. This alone could go a long way toward explaining the Admiralty’s reticence to build slipways at more open locations such as Glubokaia pristan’. It simply lacked the experience. Inland river shipyards were more secure from the sea, and more easily protected at multiple points by Russia’s armies. Catherine fully supported moving quickly to establish a foothold in the Black Sea, but the Admiralty was more cautious, preferring to stay in familiar territory. While Kherson would cease to function as a shipyard by 1827, with that capacity being transferred to Nikolaiev on the wider Bug estuary, Glubokaia pristan’ would never be developed as a harbor. Sevastopol’, with its natural defensive geography and large harbor would become the hub of Russia’s future Black Sea Fleet, a role which it continues to perform to this day.

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