Radio "Voice of Russia"

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This program was prepared at the request of our listeners, including one from Great Britain – Geoffrey Lund. In this program we will tell you about Navy Admiral of the Soviet Union – Nikolai Kuznetsov – who participated in many historic events of the 20th century.
His son – Vladimir Kuznetsov – who is an employee of the Moscow-based World War Two museum on Poklonnaya Hill, says:
“My father was a man of remarkable destiny. At the age of 31, Kuznetsov, as was written in the papers at the time, was “the youngest First Rank Captain of all the seas”. At 32 he became a naval attaché and chief military adviser of the embattled Spain during that country’s civil war. At 35 he was appointed to the post of People’s Commissar of the Naval Fleet of the Soviet Union. He was personally acquainted with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was admired by Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Adolf Hitler wished he were dead and Joseph Stalin trusted his integrity.”
“I never had to change my profession in search of work to do, which would be more to my calling,” wrote Admiral Kuznetsov in his memoirs. “All my life is linked with the Soviet Naval Fleet. I made my choice once in my youth and never regretted it.”
Nikolai Kuznetsov became a seaman when he was just 15. And he made it all the way from a seaman to a Naval Admiral.
“I went into service in 1919 as a volunteer in the North-Dvinsk Flotilla, in Northern Russia,” the Admiral says recalling how he began his service in the Navy. “We were deployed to various regions of the country. Subsequently, I ended up in Murmansk. Then they ordered me to go to Archangel for boot training, and, eventually, I found myself in Leningrad (now St.Petersbugh) studying in the Naval Command Academy, which was frequently referred to as the ‘Naval Corps’.
Nikolai Kuznetsov drew attention of the Naval Command when he was still a cadet. In the references that were issued to him it was said that he was “capable, reserved, quiet, active, with a good military bearing and excellent special training.”
After graduation from the Naval Academy, Nikolai Kuznetzov went into service in the Black Sea Fleet, and, at the age of 29, he was appointed a cruiser commander. His dream was realized “to become a ship commander, whether big or small”, as he later recalled, “to occupy a captain’s bridge steering the ship”. Under his command the cruiser “Chervona Ukraina” was recognized as the best military vessel of the Soviet Navy. The cruiser was visited by high-ranking officials. Joseph Stalin also visited the ship and took note of the young and promising officer.
“This period in Admiral Kuznetsov’s life opens a series of what he called “abrupt curves and turns,” the Admiral’s son, Vladimir Kuznetsov says. “In 1936 he was re-called to Moscow and from there he never went back to his cruiser. He was appointed a Chief Naval Adviser to Spain, where a civil war was raging at the time. That was the start of his diplomatic activity.”
Nikolai Kuznetsov wrote in his memoirs:
“The speedy rise, as with divers, is always dangerous and is linked with heavy overloads. I didn’t do it of my own free will. I had no choice but to carry out the order.”
After Spain Admiral Kuznetsov was dispatched to the Far East where he took on the command of the Pacific Fleet, but the job lasted for just a few months. Then followed another sharp turn in his career. He was appointed People’s Commissar in charge of the Navy.
“It was a time of trouble in the world,” the Admiral’s son, Vladimir Kuznetsov says. “The Second World War was underway. My father shouldered huge responsibility. Two of his predecessors fell victim to Stalin’s purges. My father recalled how he entered an empty office of the previous Commissar where everything was topsy-turvy and ransacked after searches. There was no one who would pass on his new responsibilities.”
Admiral Kuznetsov thus described this difficult period in his life:
“If I felt that I occupied that office prematurely in the first months of my service in Moscow, subsequently I felt certain that I would be up to this challenge. It should be admitted that, with the passage of time, I became reassured and stood up to the interests of the Navy and had the nerve to object even to Stalin himself, when I felt it necessary.”
In 1939, Nikolai Kuznetsov as People’s Commissar of the Navy took part in negotiations with Britain and France on forging an anti-Hitler coalition. But such a coalition did not materialize at the time and the talks were deadlocked. The Soviet Union was up against the threat of an imminent Nazi aggression.
“The military have no right to be caught by surprise,” said Admiral Kuznetzov. “Everyone from the Commissar to the seaman ought to know what they had to do in case of attack.” Purposeful work was undertaken to prepare the fleet and its personnel for war. Admiral Kuznetsov thus recalled the final fatal hours before the hostilities:
“The Saturday of June 21 was particularly tense, as if before a rain storm. Numerous troubling signals emanated from the fleets. On that night our naval attaché in Berlin, Vorontsov came to me on arrival from his train. He detailed to me all his available information, and, when I asked him what it all means, he replied: “It means war.”
The Soviet Navy went into battle in June 1941 in full combat readiness and from the very first minutes successfully repulsed the enemy. And in August 1941 on the initiative of Nikolai Kuznetsov the naval aviation of the Baltic Fleet bombed Berlin ten times.
“Straining to the limits of their physical and material resources, we figured out that our aircraft could reach Berlin and return to one of the airfields of the Moonzund Archipelago. This was a risky and responsible operation. We reported this to Stalin, and he requested all our calculations. When they were made, he permitted to carry out such operations.”
During the war, in addition to overseeing combat operations of the Navy, Admiral Kuznetsov was also entrusted with diplomatic missions – negotiations with the allies to carry out and secure the safety of the Northern Naval Convoys. In the course of the war the Northern Fleet secured the protection of 77 convoys from the Allied countries.
In 1944 Nikolai Kuznetsov was accorded the new highest military rank of Fleet Admiral, which was equivalent to the rank of Marshall of the Soviet Union.
In the victorious 1945 Nikolai Kuznetsov participated in the Yalta and Potsdam conferences as part of the Soviet delegation.
“The Yalta conference, as I recall, took place in the most amicable atmosphere. Although the many questions and problems it faced, all of them were successfully resolved. The Potsdam conference underwent in a different atmosphere. Churchill and Stalin were locked in an angry debate whether or not the German fleet should be severed in three equal parts. I never saw them so irate. Military representatives were entrusted with the urgent task to come up with a decision to sever it. This task was entrusted to American Navy Admiral King, British Admiral Cunningham and me. I suggested an unusual stratagem by casting lots. Nobody opposed it. The issue was settled, but I must admit that I went to report to Stalin with some trepidation. When he heard me out, he kept silent, apparently agreeing with me. And I became reassured.”
The war did not end for Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov with Germany’s surrender. In keeping with its allied obligations, the Soviet Union went into war with Japan. Kuznetsov was promptly dispatched to the Far East where he took charge of the Pacific and the Amur Fleets up to September 1945, when Japan signed its surrender papers.
Nikolai Kuznetsov was awarded this country’s highest combat distinction – Hero of the Soviet Union “for heroism displayed in the execution of orders of the Supreme Command in the conduct of combat operations of the Navy.”
“The Navy has fully complied with its duty before the Motherland,” said an order of Joseph Stalin, who was the Supreme Commander of the Soviet Union. Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov likewise complied with his duty before his Motherland. All his life and destiny were devoted to the Soviet Navy.