Most books about WWII speak of the naval battles of Allied and Axis powers during the war, but none about the Soviet Navy. The Soviets had an active fleet at the time - why did it not engage the Germans at sea?

  • 2
    The Soviets were allied.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 18:53
  • 3
    Sure they were. What I meant that as allies, they did not engage the Germans at sea! Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 19:10
  • 5
    The Soviets joined the allies only after the 22/06/1941. Before that, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was in full effect. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 9:32
  • 8
    Soviet fleet... you mean all those guys Stalin executed in 1934-1936? It's actually hard to operate a warship when all the people who know anything about boats are dead. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:02
  • 3
    @TylerDurden Ships. Without ships and people to handle them there is no navy. Distinction: a ship can carry one or more boats, a boat can't carry a ship. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:49

6 Answers 6


Unlike Soviet ground forces the fleet was well prepared at the beginning of German invasion and did not panic or wait for orders.

For example as early as August 1941 Baltic fleet air force bombed Berlin from the island Ezel. In 1941 Baltic fleet placed 12047 mines.

In 1943 the Finns together with the Germans successfully placed a net across the Gulf of Finland which Soviet submarines could not penetrate. The operations of the Baltic fleet became confined to the Gulf.

Nevertheless the fleet played a serious role during the blockade of Leningrad and associated operations. For instance they supported the offensive north of Leningrad with about 200 high-caliber guns.

The fleet also set up some fleet units on the lakes surrounding Leningrad, the Chud, Ladoga, Onega and Ilmen lakes.

In 1944 Finland started to remove the barrier net, increasing the possibilities for Soviet fleet.

Overall they sunk 280 enemy warships and 624 transports, including 2 pre-dreadnought battleships, 3 cruisers, 16 destroyers, and 16 submarines.

The Fleet executed 24 landing operations and 158,000 aerial sorties.

100,000 Baltic fleet personnel were awarded decorations and 137 became Heroes of the Soviet Union.

The Black Sea Fleet also was not caught by surprise; on the night of the June 22 German attack on the USSR they successfully defended against a German surprise air strike.

Throughout the war the Black Sea Fleet made 13 landings, sank 508 enemy ships, and transported 2 million passengers and 8 million tonnes of freight.

The Northern Fleet during the war sank over 200 enemy warships and 400 transports and destroyed over 1300 planes.

The Pacific Fleet mostly did not participate in the war until the 1945 war against Japan. Many of its personnel did participate in the fight against Germany as members of other units.

Source http://militera.lib.ru/enc/0/djvu/enc_vov1985.djvu

  • 7
    Source for the statistics? Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 19:28
  • 1
  • 8
    According to this answer, the combined Russian fleets sank a total of 508+280+200 = 988 enemy warships. I don't believe Germany or her allies had this many warships. Can you elaborate on this claim?
    – Barry
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 0:37
  • 4
    The numbers don't pass the smell test, unless you are able to break down allied (Bulgarian, Romanian, etc) shipping that may have been reported or confirmed engaged/sunk by various Russian naval units. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:53
  • 4
    @Barry: I had the same gut reaction, and went for sources. If you count all the submarines and minor vessels listed as "warships" (which, being listed by the Kriegsmarine, they are), those numbers don't seem as completely out-of-the-ballpark anymore.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 10:36

Soviet Navy's role was negligible compared to that of either the Soviet Army or the Navies of the Western Allies. This is not surprising given the essentially continental nature of the USSR.

The other two answers give the glorified official version which inflates ridiculously the damage inflicted on the Axis. Early in the war, the Baltic fleet was locked up in Leningrad; Tributs kept sending submarines on one way missions to show that he was doing something. After the cruiser Red Ukraine was lost in 1941, the use of larger ships had to be sanctioned by Moscow. Indeed, the Northern fleet helped with the Arctic Convoys, and late in the war both Baltic and Black sea fleets were more active, but all their achievements pale compared to what the Red Army did.

PS. The Soviet Naval Strategy was heavily directed towards Sea denial (the Shipbuilding Ministry was unofficially known as "Наркомат подводных лодок" - Submarine Ministry) which is not surprising given the aforementioned continental nature of the USSR. One might find Анализ эффективности советского подводного флота в годы Второй мировой войны enlightening, especially its scathing criticism of the official historiography.

  • 2
    Amen to this! Cf. Mark Solonin "25th June"
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 15:36

Baltic fleet

The fast German advance up the Baltic coast pushed the Soviet fleet back to bases in the gulf of Finland (Leningrad and Kronstadt). From here their operations were severely limited by German and Finnish mines. See the wikipedia page.

Here is a description of mine-laying activity in gratuitous detail. Mine were layed by Germany, their co-belligerent Finland, as well as by Sweden.

The Baltic fleet did participate in the Siege of Leningrad, but it looks like their main contribution was in aviation.

The Russian submarines in the Baltic appear to have been disruptive, but weren't very effective and did not present a substantial threat.

Black Sea

Mostly inaccessible to the Germans. As with the Baltic, their western bases were quickly taken by German land force. The Russian navy had a huge surface fleet advantage, against the Romanian and Bulgarian navies, but this was completely nullified by German air superiority.

In this case the German land advance took all major Soviet shipyards, leaving the fleet based in Georgia with inadequate repair facilities, hindering their operational capabilities. They were able to give some support to, and helped to evacuate, coastal cities.


The Northern fleet was involved in protexting the Arctic Convoys, and supplied naval infantry forces to the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive against German forces in northern Finland and Norway.

The Pacific fleet participated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.

The Caspian Flotilla was involved in supplying Stalingrad (via the Volga, which flows into the Caspian) as well as supplying other fighting in the Caucasuses.

  • 7
    To sum it up, crudely (talking about surface combat): The Baltic (Talinn) was overrun by the Germans, so the Soviet Navy couldn't fight them there. The Black Sea was inaccessible to the Germans, so SN didn't need to fight them there. Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 21:40
  • 1
    Sweden was neutral, not a co-belligerent with Germany and Finland. (For all I know, they may well have mined the Baltic - it would certainly have made sense.) Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 20:02
  • Listing Sweden as a co belligerent earned a -1. Clean that up and I'll reverse it. Sweden was neutral in WW II. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:52
  • @KorvinStarmast I've actually moved to Sweden since writing this answer, so there's absolutely no excuse. It's still a complete wikipedia binge, but hopefully it's easier to read and doesn't contain any skitsnack about the Swedes. Thanks for the ping.
    – Nathan
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:12
  • 1
    @KorvinStarmast and a lot of Swedish interests lay in protecting their lucrative sales of wood and iron/steel to Germany...
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 7:39

The Soviet navy played an auxiliary role throughout the entirety of the Second World War. The Baltic fleet was mainly locked in by German and Finnish mines, while the Black Sea fleet mainly participated in evacuation operations (Odessa and Sevastopol) and after the Germans retreated in 1943, attempted to gain control from German and Romanian forces. The Navy also participated in numerous landing operations in the Black Sea (Malaia Zemlia) for which Tsezar Kunikov is famous, and Brezhnev, who took credit he didn't deserve.

Furthermore, Soviet Naval Infantry participated in numerous battles once their ships were disabled or there was a need for manpower. From Leningrad, to Odessa, Stalingrad, Sevastopol, Novorossiisk, and 'special forces' operations (mainly conducted by naval recon troops), Soviet navy personnel made up a significant and important part of many Red Army operations. The Germans nicknamed them 'The Black Death'.

  • 2
    Are you a relation of Ts. Kunikov? Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 7:47
  • 2
    No, the name I go by here isn't my actual name.
    – Kunikov
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 13:43

the soviet fleet did assist on the arctic convoys as mentionedin a post.it was also a soviet submarine that sank a german hospital ship willhiem gustloff that was acting as a evacuation ship as the russians advanced on the eastern front. wasn't the only timea hospital ship was attacked. a dutch and australian hospital shipswere attacked in the pacific by the imperial japanese navyin 1942

  • 5
    This answer provides anecdotal, unsourced examples of actions of the Soviet Navy; it doesn't answer what was the role of the Soviet Navy.
    – MCW
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 11:26
  • Also, Wilhelm Gustloff started the war as a hospital ship, but had not served in that role for years before being sunk. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 19:38

In the Black sea there was also an Italian naval group of small ships. Ans the germans managed to send a group off small speedboats using the Danube river to reach the Black sea.

  • 6
    I'm not sure how this answers the question on the Soviet Navy.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 16:17
  • 3
    This should possibly be a comment to another post @Semaphore I guess he means to clarify how the Red banner Black Sea fleet could have had targets despite the lack of German ships in their theatre of operations.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 7:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.