After the fall of Sevastopol in June, 1942, the Soviet navy retreated to the east coast of the Black Sea.

North of the Black Sea is the much smaller Sea of Azov, with a narrow access through the Kerch Strait. The Germans controlled the two peninsulas on either side of the strait after the fall of Sevastopol.

Did the Germans deny the Russian navy access to the Sea of Azov, making it "safe" for waterborne transport by posting air and artillery units on either side of the Kerch Strait? If not (as I suspect), was that at least possible, given the technology of the time? (Later in the war, the Allies made the Atlantic, a much larger area, almost "submarine-proof" using air and search technology. Perhaps a better example is the fact that the Americans retained complete control over the Panama Canal.)

  • Well, they did sort of seal off Sea of Azov. Azov flotilla was disbanded, some gunboats were scuttled. Sea of Azov is to small for subs, as far as I know soviets didn't operate them there . There is some information on Wiki on this : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azov_Flotilla
    – rs.29
    May 7, 2020 at 16:16
  • Russian article is somewhat more informative ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – rs.29
    May 7, 2020 at 16:17
  • You didn't have to use artillery to seal the Kerch Straight in 1942. Naval mines were a much more efficient way.
    – d.k
    May 12, 2020 at 11:28
  • Another example is the strait between Italy and Sicilia, that the Nazis secured nearly totally agaist air and sea attacks May 6, 2023 at 11:16

1 Answer 1


The Sea of Azov is counted as the world's most shallow "sea", with an average depth of only 7 meters (and a max of 14). Russia's battleships at that time had a draft of about 9m, and its cruisers a bit over 6. That made it impractical for all but the most careful of capital-ship naval operation. Submarine warfare without the ability to dive to escape trouble is obviously inadvisable as well.

This is probably why the actual Russian flotilla there consisted of small gunboats.

Also, its small size (max length 220 miles, max width 110) meant it could easily be searched by a small flight of aircraft. Typical aircraft search patterns of the era assumed a nominal search range of 25 miles, with ranges of 400-1000 miles. This means a single search two or three planes wide is quite likely to spot everything on that sea.

This was an era when air power was so dominant that naval units being so discovered without any defensive air power of their own could not expect any significant further operational lifetime.

So yeah, it would have been quite doable with aircraft alone, assuming said power had air superiority over that entire body of water.

  • And because of all the mentioned reasons it didn't have a naval base for any of bigger vessels. So any submarine-cruiser would have to pass the Kerch straight, which, I'm sure, was "sealed" with naval mines
    – d.k
    May 12, 2020 at 11:26

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