Russian Navy Day. From Sevastopol to Severomorsk

During the celebrations of last year’s Navy Day the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Ukraine were pr


During the celebrations of last year’s Navy Day the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Ukraine were present at a joint military parade of the Russian and Ukrainian Navies in Sevastopol.

In his speech the President Putin said: “Our blood and spiritual ties are truly inseparable and they make a solid fundament of strategic partnership of the two countries and serve as collateral of successful and confident development of comprehensive Russian-Ukrainian collaboration”.

This was just a year ago, on July 28, 2013, in Sevastopol. Less than 7 months later Viktor Yanukovich has fled Ukraine and dismissed.  On the 9th of May this year Vladimir Putin visited Sevestopol again. But now he congratulated the citizens of this city not only with Victory Day but also with the 2-months anniversary of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea “reunion” with Russia.

No one could predict 1 year ago that the relations between two brotherly people will change so dramatically and the next Navy Day the Ukrainians will have to celebrate in Odessa, first time in the 23-years of their newest history. This year the highlight of the holiday traveled to Severomorsk and Severodvinsk.

Russian Navy strengthens in the North
The Navy Day remains one of the most popular holidays in Russia and it is especially widely celebrated by the citizens of the two main territories of the Russian part of the Barents Region – Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions,- where the maritime traditions are stronger than anywhere. Last Sunday both regions welcomed the President of Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Severomorsk, the city in Murmansk oblast became the next city after Sevastopol chosen by Vladimir Putin for celebration of the Navy Day.  Severomorsk is known as the main base of the Russian Northern Navy and is situated just 120 kilometers from the Norwegian border.

Severodvinsk, the biggest Russian military shipyard situated 50-kilometers from Arkhangelsk was also waiting for Putin’s visit but this time it could only enjoy the President’s close envoy Dmitry Rogozin, the Vice-Premier responsible  for military-industrial complex and one of the most raging critics of NATO and the US policy  in the Russian Government.

In Severodvinsk Dmitry Rogozin took part in the ceremony of laying down of the new strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine “Knyaz Oleg” and the multi-purpose attack submarine “Krasnoyarsk”. Another two subs - the multipurpose nuclear submarine “Severodvinsk” and a Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine “Alexander Nevsky” were put into service on Saturday. “Knyaz Oleg” and “Krasnoyarsk” are supposed in the next decade to become the basis for the Russian Navy. Vladimir Putin was linked to Severodvinsk from Kola Peninsula by videoconference. He congratulated its citizens with the holiday and listened to the report of the CEO of Sevmash plant  Mikhail Budnichenko.

Last year Russia put into service 26 warships and 60 are under construction today. Russian Navy has 60 submarines, among them 10 are strategic nuclear subs and 30 – multipurpose nuclear submarines.

Some people expected that Crimean and Ukrainian events would echo at the celebration of the holiday in the two northern military cities. It was felt in the tense patriotic rhetoric of official speeches, in the plenty of national flags and St.George’s ribbons. Dmitry Rogozin in Severodvinsk for example compared Russia with a submarine which should be able to protect itself from greedy giants who claim for all resources concentrated on its territory. Vladimir Putin’s speech in Severomorsk however did not have a single hint to a hard international situation of the country and did not possess any common unfriendly words against the West. 

In Severomorsk the President watched a parade of the main forces of the Northern Fleet including the first Borei-class ballistic missile submarine “Yuri Dolgorukiy”, the aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, the battlecruiser “Pyotr Velikiy” and a number of smaller battleships and submarines.

Tension? Not for the Barents Region
The glowing military patriotic rhetoric caused by growing contradictions between Russia and the so-called western world could of course frighten the neighbors of Russia. Some could think that Russia plays back in the past to the years of tension where military concentration in the North was the highest in the world. However, despite of combative words of the Vice-Premier the people of Severodvinsk gathering for celebration of the favorite holiday did not look so anxious about hostile imperialists encroaching on their resources. They were drinking beer, listening to the music and enjoying the nice summer weather. The central events of the holiday were two historical reconstructions made by the enthusiasts of the local historical patriotic club “Severnaya Dvina”. The first was a small copy of “Operation Overlord” in Normandy and the second - the landing of Soviet troops in Petsamo in the course of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation. Both events celebrate the 70th jubilee this year.

The large-scale reconstruction of the Russian landing in Petsamo involved hundreds of actors in historical ammunition, aircrafts and warships and represented a fantastic picture of historical events. The reconstruction of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation in Severodvinsk continues a number of events aimed to stress that Norway and Russia have a common page of history of the WWII. In June the Arkhangelsk museum of local history opened an exhibition devoted to the Russian Prisoners of War in Norway. It will be continued by another project initiated by Norwegian and Russian partners in order to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Finnmark. The next stage of this activity will be an exhibition devoted to the history of liberation of Eastern Finnmark to be prepared by the students of Arkhangelsk city gymnasium #3. The exhibition is made in Norwegian and Russian languages and in October it should travel to Murmansk, Kirkenes and Vardø to be presented there.

The students who worked at the exhibition are going to visit the main sites of the battles of October 1944 in Murmansk oblast and in Finnmark, to honor the monuments of the war and to take part in a historic seminar to be held in Vardø and Kirkenes. The high interest towards the history of  the liberation of Finnmark the students explain by the fact that the troops of the Red Army which took part in the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation were formed in Arkhangelsk. Some of the participants of  the historical reconstruction in Severodvinsk will join the Arkhangelsk students in their expedition to Murmansk, Kirkenes and Vardø.