Imperiia: a spatial history of the Russian EmpireMain MenuAboutDashboardsData CatalogMapStoriesGalleriesGamesWho said history was boring?Map ShelfTeach Our ContentCiting the ProjectKelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5The Imperiia Project // Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University
12019-05-02T07:05:04-04:00James Browning65efa2ec00ce8a050c9dcd84432b161675653c1c91Summary of Forays into the Black Seaplain2019-05-15T01:11:13-04:00James Browning65efa2ec00ce8a050c9dcd84432b161675653c1cBuilding 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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12019-02-27T09:50:58-05:00Forays into the Black Sea1The Birth of the Black Sea Shipyard - Introductionplain2019-08-09T18:07:37-04:00
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Russia’s victory in the Russo-Turkish War (1768 – 1774) brought the port cities of Azov and Kerch as well as the territory between the Dnepr and Southern Bug rivers under Russian control. With this territory came the first real possibility of a self-sustainable southern fleet capable of controlling the Black Sea and asserting Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean. Catherine II tasked the admiralty with finding the optimal location for a shipyard within the newly acquired Dnepr estuary, which she had determined to be “the most suitable location for a roadstead along the shore of the Black Sea and within the borders of Our empire."1The Dnepr was considered ideal for its easy access to forested lands further inland, and it was hoped that its estuary would provide a sufficiently deep harbor for the construction and safe anchorage of warships. As this shipyard was to be the base of Russia’s future Black Sea operations, it additionally had to be on land that could quickly be developed into a fortified city without incurring too much of a cost. Such a matter was of paramount importance to an empire wondering how best to defend its new acquisitions and to project its imperial vision.2
For a condensed assessment of why Kherson was built where it was, click here.