The Naval Museum at 4 Stock Exchange is one of the oldest museums in the country, founded in 1709 by order of Peter the Great.
Today the museum boasts a collection of more than eight hundred thousand exhibits, including an oaken dug-out, raised from the bed of the Southern Bug River, where it had lain for about 3000 years; the boat of Peter the Great, affectionately known as the "forefather of the Russian Navy"; personal effects of Peter the Great (an axe with which he worked on the slips during the building of the ships, a measuring cane); personal effects of Fleet Admiral Pavel Nakhimov, and many other items.
The Russian regular navy was formed in the early 18th century. Within a short time 146 battleships and frigates came off the stocks as well as more than 350 galleys and other types of vessel. Russia soon became one of the world’s major naval powers. After her victory in the Northern War (1700-1721) when Russia won back her lands along the Baltic, she had the opportunity to develop economic, cultural and political ties with the countries of Western Europe, and the navy played a considerable part in it. In the late 18th century Russia established herself on the Black Sea and here you can see exhibits that show the feats of the Black Sea fleet under the command of Admiral Fyodor Ushakov. Exemplary bravery and fearlessness was shown by Russian sailors in the battle of Sinop during the Crimean War (1853-1856) and here you can see a canvass by the great Russian seascape painter, Ivan Aivazovsky which depicts the burning remains of the Turkish fleet and the regular lines of the victorious Russian squadron In a glass case there is a report of the famous Admiral Pavel Nakhimov on the victory at Sinop as well as his cap, sword, some of his letters and other items. A considerable number of exhibits relate to the heroic defense of Sebastopol (1854-1855) including paintings, drawings, medals, a ten-pound cannon from one of the bastions, guns, bombs and cannonballs The second half of the 19th century was marked by the comparatively rapid development of capitalism in Russia. This brought about radical transformations in the navy. Steamships and battleships began to be built Russian naval engineers played an important role in the design and building of new types of ships and weapons. This can be seen from the model of the Peter the Great, the most powerful battleship of its time. A model of the world's first aeroplane, which was built by Captain Alexander Mozhaisky, the radio that was built by Alexander Popov and Stepan Dzhevetsky's submarine (the original) also illustrate Russia's great inventions. There is a model of the legendary cruiser Varyag, which sank heroically in a battle against overwhelming odds in the Russo-Japanese War(1904-1905). Some of the original relics from the cruiser are on display including the flag of one of its boats, the medals and decorations that were awarded to those who took part in the battle and some of the personal effects of the commander and crew.
It may be recollected, as mentioned in the early- part of this Memoir, that the first boat in which Peter set his foot was a little skiff he had accident ally cast his eye upon, in the river Yausa at Moscow, and the first of the kind that was built in Russia, by a Dutch shipwright of the name of Brandt; that, having acquired the management of this boat, he ordered Brandt to build him a larger, and thus proceeding from step to step, he went on building larger and larger until he had acquired a formidable navy of ships of the line. This first little boat was cherished with great care at Moscow, and was named by Peter the "Little Grandsire." It was now transported from Moscow to his new capital, as the more appropriate place for its future preservation. And in order to signalize the event of laying it up, as a monument to posterity, which might remind the Russian people from what a small beginning great things were capable of being accomplished, even in the short space of one mans life, he availed himself of the occasion to give a grand public entertainment, to which all the court and foreign ministers were invited and to be present at The consecration of the Little Grandsire. This little skiff, decorated for the occasion, was sent down to Cronstadt on the deck of one of the emperors galleys. Twenty-seven sail of ships of war being anchored in the form of a crescent, the emperor embarked in this boat, as steersman, while Prince Menzikoff and three admirals performed the office of rowers. It was first towed out by two yachts, and made a small circuit in the gulf; and on returning to the view of the fleet, all the ships saluted with all their guns, to the number, as stated in one account, of three thousand ; and on rowing along the concave line of the fleet, every ship in succession struck its colours and fired a salute, which was answered by the little skiff by firing three small brass guns to each ship. It was then rowed into the harbour, and a few days afterward was sent up to Petersburg, where its arrival was solemnized by a grand flte and masquerade upon the water. This memorable little boat of four oars is still held in great veneration, and carefully preserved in a small brick building within the fortress, as a memorial to future ages of its being the origin of the Russian navy. The consecration of the Little Grandsire, and the solemn procession by which it was afterward conveyed to the fortress, were well calculated to excite the admiration of the people; and by its being carefully kept, but always exposed to view, to remind them of the condition in which Peter found their marine, and the proud state in which he left it. At this time the fleet, which Peter may be said to have left as a legacy to the Russian nation, consisted, according to the returns of the admiralty, of forty-one ships of the line, in a condition for service at sea, carrying two thousand one hundred and six guns, manned with fourteen thousand nine hundred seamen, besides a proportion ate number of frigates, galleys, and other smaller craft.
A Memoir of the life of Peter The Great, John Barrows