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Old 12-01-2018, 11:38 AM   #1
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Default East Meets West and a meeting with Captain Kurdin

Finally the East meets West

On November 22 2018 I was embarking on a trip of a life time, heading from London to St Petersburg Russia.
I had been making plans for this trip for some time researching all the things I wanted to see and do however I did get quite a lot of help on this trip and whatís more itís a memory that will endure a life time.

One ambition of my life was to meet the famous Russian Captain 1st rank Igor Kurdin, I had watched many documentaries, read many books that he has written or been in and I knew for many years my goal was to meet with him and understand more about the Russian fleet and the people that make it happen, well this week I spent in St Petersburg I can honestly say that mission is accomplished.

The People & the club

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

Myself with Igor Kurdin and Andrey Nikolaev

I had made contact with Igor prior to my trip and I explained I wished to meet him and also the world famous Submarine club, what I was greeted with was not what many people in the west assume to be the normal stance which is denial, obstruction or indeed avoid at all cost because Iím a westerner.
I was greeted openly honestly and very much warmly not just by Igor but by his entire organisation, I never thought I would get to see so many fascinating places and meet so many fascinating people when I say the learning curve was steep that is no understatement, every person I spoke with and ever place I visited welcomed me with openness and kindness and a willingness to assist me on every level.
I was keen to learn about the Submarine Veterans club which in my narrow mind at least was for retired submarine and naval people to come together to keep in touch in their years of retirement, I was surprised to find that this is not the case at all the club is on a much higher level than I ever anticipated.

I soon learnt Igor has the name Igor ďKurdichĒ which basically means Igor the father figure, and that is very true, his organisation doesnít just have reunions and regular meet upís but they assist in many different aspects of life for members or staff; this can be anything from assisting in healthcare matters, fund raising, young people schemes to assist them in education, social support for members families and in times of urgency immediate action to assist the families of those in need.
So in reality his organisation does do so much more than the coffee morning meet ups and once a year reunions.

During my stay I was assisted by members of Igorís staff who in turn each have their very own story and reasons for being there and assisting and I would like to take a moment to acknowledge their fantastic work on my trip and acknowledge them.

Igor Kurdin former Captain of Ballistic missiles submarines spent most of his life under the sea he has commanded both Yankee and Delta IV class submarines and now is the Chairman of the club.

Konsatntsia is a mother of 3 who works as a translator, a devoted family woman she lives with her husband who is from Magadan, she has lived in the west specifically the Netherlands and is a very helpful and charming woman.

Dascha is the driver she is young at just 23 well dressed and mannered she seems very cool calm and collective when driving she doesnít speak English but I am told she can speak German (my German is non-existent Iíll add)

Kiril is a 41 year old former navigation officer trained on submarines but spent his service on board an ASW corvette a father of two and a keen yachtsman.
Andrey Former XO on a project 949A Antey (Oscar II) submarine he is a family man who does like the occasional beer with friends and has a passion for art, he is quite the artist and I have seen some of his work.

Sasha 17 year old student who speaks extremely good English a pleasant young lady who is keen to learn and someone I can see has a bright future ahead of her.

Andrey Nikolaev a former communications officer on-board submarines, he is a walking encyclopaedia of the fleet and runs

The Sights

Aurora by B S, on Flickr

Aurora sits looking as beautiful as ever on the Neva River at night

Flag ship of the Russian navy and the oldest vessel still commissioned, she is an active warship in Russia and as such she has a full time crew of 27 including a captain 1st rank in command, Aurora although cannot move under her own power is fitted with two diesel generators and can be totally self-sufficient for a period of up to two weeks.
This three funnelled cruiser is one beautiful ship, and she is the only remaining Pallada class vessel left after one was sunk at the Tsushima Straights and the other scrapped.

Built between 1897 to 1900 she was completed and commissioned in 1903, the Aurora would wait just a year to see some action in the Dogger Bank incident in 1904 and then sail half way around the world in 1905 and be present at the battle of Tsushima straight where she escaped to Manilla to see out the Russo-Japanese war of that year.
Aurora would return to the Baltic to become a training ship and would eventually sail to many different destinations around the world including to Bangkok to celebrate the coronation of King Siam in 1911.

Not Long after her return Aurora would be thrust into World War I, during which time she would engage in Baltic sea patrols and also bombard shore installations, in 1916 she moved back to Petrograd (Now modern day St Petersburg) for major overhaul.
During the February 1917 revolution some of her crew took part in the civil disobedience the captain was also killed and with a crew now supporting the Bolsheviks a new Captain was elected by the crew.
On October 25th 1917 at 2140 Aurora would make her famous signal, flying the red Bolshevik flag she sailed into the Neva River where a shot was fired from one of her guns at the Winter palace which in turn signalled the start of the revolution.

During the 1920ís the Aurora was used a training ship making port calls along the Baltic this time was largely uneventful.

In 1941 with the soviet invasion of the Soviet union Aurora found herself at war once more, however she was bombed and sunk in the harbour, her main battery was taken off the ship to assist against the siege of Leningrad, the ship herself would be used as an anti-aircraft battery. in 1944 despite her damage she became a naval training school and at wars end raised and repaired.
Over the years she has been restored many times including recently returning to her berth in 2016 after extensive overhauling once again she stands pride of place in the Russian city where she remains an active warship.

My first Full day In St Petersburg saw me arrive at Aurora which I have to say she looks better up close and in person than any picture could ever replicate and it was outside I first met Captain Kurdin, now I did not anticipate that firstly I would meet Igor so soon or the subsequent events which followed.

Captain Kurdin was dressed in uniform (I later was told he had to attend a function) which was a nice surprise either way, however when one of the crew marched up to him saluted and presented himself to Igor (who tried to modestly play down the uniform and shake his hand) I learnt that this wasnít going to be an ordinary tour, the officer that had presented himself was the Chief Engineer of Aurora.

We were led on board by the Chief engineer past the que up the gangplank and past the no tourist cordon below decks, it was here that we were to have coffee and cake served by a young enlisted man, here I learnt something else, the head of the table is reserved for the captain of the ship no one else including the president of Russia may sit in this seat thankfully I had a seat opposite Igor, we spoke for a while whilst eating cake and drinking some very nice coffee it was then I was shown around the off limits areas of Aurora, the Chief engineer was keen to point out aurora is an active warship and thus considered a serving warship I was asked not to take pictures of certain areas of the ship (which I duly respected).

IMG_6940-29-11-18-10-20 by B S, on Flickr
The only picture in the wardroom of Aurora not taken by myself of course and besides i wasn't ready for the shot either!

Four key features of Aurora stand out firstly there is a Piano gifted by the Tsar Nicholas II to the crew on board it is original and remains in place in this cabin, not far from this room is another cabin this one is for the president of Russia and yes Putin has been on-board Aurora, it is complete with bathroom and bedroom and as Igor jokingly said the secret door to leave the vessel which turns out to be a closet.
I also learnt that just across the deck is the captainís cabin, it is tradition that if the captain is not present no one must enter even if the door is open and as such this was respected.

The other key areas has to be the smoking area which is located as far forward as you can go in a small cabin which could house no more than around 6 or 7 people at a squeeze, it is a long walk from one end to the other and in some places if your above 5ft 2in your practically walking on your knees however, the crew has great respect for the ship and only here can you smoke the Chief Engineer pointed out that if you were caught smoking anywhere else on-board you would have a lot of cleaning work to do.
Half way to the Smoking room is the gym which was supplied by the Submarine Veterans Club aptly I thought itís on a lower deck and happens to be below the water line it has the fortune in that it is the only underwater gym in St Petersburg.

While walking back to the wardroom I was shown the crews mess, as soon as Igor and Chief engineer walked up to the hatch every sailor in the conjoined rooms were stood to attention, there was no fuss it happened in just a moment these men were cleaning their mess area although I didnít see the need it was immaculate anyway!

I got a great sense from the Chief Engineer that the entire crew as one has a great sense of pride in their ship and it was this pride that lead us to the heart of the ship the engine room, while not the main boilers and steam engines but a room for two diesel generators which can if required provide everything Aurora needs for up to two weeks thus making the ship totally self-sufficient for that period.

After returning to the Cabin we had a chat and Igor had to leave due to his function, it was then I was allowed to walk around the deck and also take in the tour which showed the Aurora through her history, to see the models and also the videos of what life was like on board was really something I really did get the feeling that she is a floating and working piece of history something that any person travelling to St Petersburg should certainly visit, in fact she had made that much of an impression straight off that when I left my next destination I walked back several kilometres in the -1*c with slight snow just so I could see her in the dark lit up.

Central naval museum

IMG_1575 by B S, on Flickr

One of the key museums in St Petersburg in my opinion dedicated to the history of the navy, dating back centuries, the artefacts including the very first Russian naval vessel built by Peter the Great a simple yet crucial vessel.

Central naval museum by B S, on Flickr

This is a ship that Peter the great first built the first ship of the Russian navy

Peter the Great was a keen traveller and toured Europe, his understanding of naval affairs grew immensely and he realised that Russia which was a great land power also had the need for a navy, this he used to great effect not only did he build a front line navy he also saw the importance of explaining to the citizens why he needed a navy and this tradition can still be found on the last weekend of July Navy day.

Peter would go on to battle and defeat Sweden before he died at the age of 52, however today his name can still be seen and his memory still lives on, in 1998 the Russian navy commissioned the largest non-aircraft carrying warship in the world, project 1144 Orlan (Kirov) these heavy missile cruisers are the largest of their kind at almost three times the displacement of a Ticonderoga cruiser and some 180ft longer than a world war one battleship she is currently a flag ship of the Northern fleet.

The museum itself is dedicated to the entire period from imperial Russia to the modern day much of the art work and models are not on display however the ones that are on display are of exceptional quality not to mention detail, I would strongly say you do need to spend a good two or three hours here to appreciate all the collection for me the Japanese flags were one of my favourite finds, having previously been on Aurora and also Mikasa the only two survivors of the Russo Japanese war and present at the Battle of Tsushima straight it completed the picture very nicely.

Central naval museum by B S, on Flickr

Battle ensign from a Japanese warship

I will honestly say this museum is one of the best I have been to in terms of displayed items, and also its layout is like that of a slip way in a ship yard, its two floors house some of the most impressive collections I have seen to date, very much worth a visit.

Project 613B Whiskey C189

C189 by B S, on Flickr

Many of you are familiar with the October 1981 Whiskey on the rocks incident that took place not far from Karlskrona Sweden, well the C189 is of the same type and today there are only two of these vessels left in the world.
Built between 1950 and 1958 the Whiskey class had three main project numbers 613 644 and 665 as well as appendages for modified sub variants, this class of submarine is the most numerous class of post war submarine ever produced a total of 215 vessels were made (a further 21 in China taking the total to 236) and they would go on to serve in eight different navies around the world.

Seeing C189 from the road is a great sense of triumph for me, my main interest is cold war 1945 to present day and this was certainly a cold war veteran, commissioned in 1955 this vessel would see much duty only being taken out of service in 1990.
You can clearly see this type of submarine was designed right after world war two she owes much of her design to the former German type XXI boats that were captured at the wars conclusion.

These submarines were designed as patrol submarines meant for sinking enemy shipping rather than facing other submarines, armed with six 533mm or 21inch torpedo tubes (four bow and two stern) these submarines like many others that would follow such as the Foxtrot Romeo and Tango class made up the back bone of the patrol type submarine for the fleet.

Inside she is in a well preserved state which considering that in 1998 she sank while awaiting scrapping, however in 2005 she was raised and restored then placed on display not far from the Ice Breaker Krasin.
On board original fixtures and fitting show the age of the submarine, from the typical wheel valves to the bench seating arrangement, she isnít a large submarine only 76 meters long unlike her successors the Foxtrots at 90 meters (The Romeo was only slightly larger at 76 meters).

On board you get a sense of just how tight things can get, a crew of fifty two would man this submarine and it was crowded with two of us, that said you do get an appreciation of space and how it is used, while being cramped the space is actually quite refined and it is quite easy to move about even when youíre trying to pass a full tour in progress.

C189 by B S, on Flickr

Valves for the diving and surfacing process

Despite the cramped space you get a homely feel inside the people who assist the submarine in her role as a museum have a great fondness of her and were keen to answer the questions I had quite oddly the engineer spoke very good English something I didnít expect but was very happy to give me details about the main engines and also the specifications of the submarine.

I had to admit I had now nearly completed my goal I have just one type of cold war submarine left to visit at Krasnodar the M203 Quebec class, but the C189 painted in a shade of green and grey did capture my imagination and I do hope she remains there for many years to come again another fascinating museum and worth a visit.

World war II Veteran D2 Narodovolets

DSCN2688 by B S, on Flickr

One of the six Dekabrist class submarines built between 1927-1929 these submarines would go on to see active service during the Second World War, indeed four would be lost overall one in a training accident in July 1940, of the two that did survive the D5 was scrapped in the 1950ís and the D2 which became a training vessel until 1987.
Thereafter in 1989 she was refitted and placed on shore as a permanent display, she is the same length as the Whiskey but her internals differ greatly, you can see the technology difference in the interim years taking hold rapidly.

Walking into the main building beside the submarine you pass by artefacts from some submarines over the years, a lot of the art is dedicated to the Dekabrist class and the struggles, the one piece of art that caught my attention was a painting of a downed submarine with men escaping from one of the bow torpedo tubes to the surface using an orange suit.
Beside the painting is the said orange suit I quizzed Andrey about it and he kindly went into detail about this suite, apparently you can get this on and ready to go in around 1 minute 45 seconds the hardest part being the connection between facemask and oxygen tubes which is screwed on, to give you some idea of the struggle put some over gloves on then try and screw up a nut and bolt by your face being unable to see what youíre doing.

DSCN2616 by B S, on Flickr
DSCN2615 by B S, on Flickr

The survival suite and painting showing usage

There was much to see around the building much more art and models not to mention a mine and torpedo but going on board was the real highlight.
I had read a book called ďRed Star Under the BalticĒ by Victor Korzh it depicts the submarine campaign from the Russian side during the Second World War, in which it shows just how almost impossible the situation was for the submarines, not only being blocked by mines but an anti-submarine net running across the Baltic, donít forget the Finns were also on the side of Germany until 1944 and of course the Siege of Leningrad didnít help.

On board much like the whiskey you get a homely feel, but this time it is special this submarine has seen action and is nearly 90 years old, during the war she sank Jacobus Fritzen a German merchant ship and went on to have a successful war sinking five ships in total as indicated on her sail in the red star.

Inside the submarine like many of this period I have been on are pretty similar with similar roles too, while blockaded they still mounted a limited and successful campaign and the men inside here didnít live life luxuriously they faced the same challenges even submariners face today, this submarine is very closed in and you do get a real understanding why the crews would have bonded so well together and worked as a team.

Passing through the submarine the main engines which run the submarine on the surface are quite small compared to other types I found but that doesnít mean lack of power but does mean more space for things and no doubt like many submarines you would eat your way to the floor you can only picture now what it must have been like under fire and what is more many men would die in these machines with no hope of rescue.

Ice breaker Krasin
Krasin by B S, on Flickr

Completed in the United Kingdom at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1917 the ice breaker Krasin would have a very long distinguished career, today she looks nothing like her 1917 appearance looking like just a normal modern ship, however if you get up close you can still see the riveting of the hull plating.

The Krasin would see many different places in her career including the United States, Great Britain, Germany and the North Pole.
it was this ice breaker that saved two ships crews at the same time, and also the crew of a crashed air ship.
In the artic her powerful engines allowed Krasin to go places no other ship ever could and many times this would be put to good use especially when the ice breaker Lenin got stuck in 1938 Krasin rescued her and her convoy.

Coming on board you get to feel and see this is a modern ship but with heritage, her hull is now nearly 100 years old but the ship looks like a modern build the contrast is quite subtle and for that reason you donít notice it as much.
Our guide takes us through the engineering spaces of the ship now I point out that Krasin is fully capable of putting to sea and she is also capable of moving under her own power everything here works and its probably the reason we cannot go on the bridge and other places around the ship.

The engine room still smells of oil and it really does hit you going down the ladders the huge oil fired boilers would produce more than enough horsepower to keep her triple screws on the move the power to weight ration of this vessel is some 3hp to 1 ton of ship (6,000 GRT) she is just 100 meters long but has a wide beam of just under 22 meters, you can see in the hull she has a sharp raked bow this is to ride up onto the ice then push down on it to break the ice modern icebreakers use exactly the same principle.

The boilers of the Krasin are huge but down here it is also dirty and dark when operational, it was like walking into a mechanical cathedral the main engines take up three decks everything in here says power.

Krasin by B S, on Flickr
Part of the main engine there are three turning three propellers

back on the deck you get to see what the ship is like from an aesthetic point of view, the single modern funnel replaced two smoke stacks the soviet insignia is still present all her winching gear is intact and working, behind and on the other side of the river two new icebreakers are under construction this ship did lead the way in design at the time but now she is a monument to the artic convoys which she helped protect during the war and also polar explorers.

Krasin by B S, on Flickr
One of the two new ice breakers under construction

Poltava Ship of the line

Poltava by B S, on Flickr

A forth rate ship of the line a 52 gun wielding ship commissioned in 1712 the Poltava would become a symbol of new Russian sea power.
Nothing remains today of the Original Poltava, however a group are re constructing this ship and I got the chance to go and see her.
The original ship was built in just 3 years using 200 year old oak trees for main masts and also other solid woods, now with modern day technology they have managed to reduce the weight and amount of resources needed to construct her for example in the original Poltava the mast were solid on todayís Poltava they are hollow this in turn makes the ship more stable than the original.

Poltava is famous for her escapades in the Baltic chasing down Swedish and Danish ships, she would have a long life too for a wooden ship which most would sail for some 12 years before being rotten, the Poltava managed 20 years in service.

This trip is not for the tall Iím only 5ft 11 with a bad back so if your over 4ft 10 your out of luck here there will be much stooping and bending involved.
Poltava is still being built and finished off on the outside so most of the decks were empty except for a couple of cannons, but the full quota of cannons where on the dock side waiting to be loaded, new material will be used for the sails unlike the original which used linen, and the ship has a feel of being over crowded.
up to three hundred men would crew this vessel as you can imagine this ship is not even fifty meters long, the toilette is on the bow you basically hang you backside over the rail and away you go, this must have been a dire cold place to live and work not to mention the smell that must have been involved.

Some of the decks are quite open thereís the main gun deck which is quite tall and will eventually be filled with the main guns, the crews would sleep with their gun and you can imagine no heating and a hatch not perfectly sealed it would be a very cold affair indeed.

Lower down the decks get much smaller in fact so much so Iím almost on my hands and knees this is the lower gun deck for smaller guns and below this deck will be the cargo hold for powder food and general stores.

Poltava by B S, on Flickr

A good feature on this ship can be found aft at the stern there is a balcony with a dome top which intrudes into the captainís cabin above, but it gives the rear of Poltava a very distinct shape.

Poltava is nearing completion and will eventually be placed in the Neva river in St Petersburg open for the public to see, she is expected to last 100 years because of modern wood treatment and so on once she has left the ship yard the group plans on starting a new project building a brigantine type vessel.

Kronstadt cathedral and also St Nicholas naval cathedral

IMG_1709 by B S, on Flickr

The Cathedrals are a big part of Russian naval history, true during the soviet time they were not used as their intended purpose but they still provided some role to their communities.
In world war II the Cathedral at Kronstadt would play a role guiding artillery onto advancing Germans which were within sight of the cathedral, more over the Cathedral was never attacked directly not because of its significance but because the Luftwaffe were using it as a navigational landmark.

The Kronstadt cathedral is some 55 meters tall at the dome and houses a whispering gallery as most domes do, the decoration in Kornstadt is amazing full of bright colours and also lights.

kronstadts walls are a historical diary the plates show dates of lost ships and crews itís almost a day by day account history of the navy, outside is also impressive looking up at the domes and also the gold cross gives you the impression of grandeur and how much is invested today into the church.

St Nicholas holds the memorial plaques to the dead submariners, most notable plaques are of K19 K141 Kursk and also K278 Komsomolets, I was asked not to take pictures inside St Nicholas these two cathedrals are active, but on St Nicholas it was no less spectacular than that of Kronstadt seeing the walls in the upper cathedral with each name listed under each boat on each date you get the feeling that many many people have died in service to their country it is personalised here.

The cathedrals are worth a visit just to get a feel for Russian society and culture in this sphere, even Dasha bought candles to light in memory of people.

K141 Kursk memorial

DSCN2728 by B S, on Flickr

12th of August 2000 while on a training exercise in the Barents sea in north Russia the massive project 949A Antey (Oscar II) submarine Kursk suffered from a catastrophic accidental explosion in her forward torpedo compartment, this subsequently sank the submarine with the loss of all 118 lives.

This incident originally sparked my interest in the Russian navy I still remember hearing about it on the BBC news, over the years I had gathered and compiled information on Kursk and to finally complete the journey and see the memorial was something of a hollow feeling and I do not wish to go into too much detail about this visit.

Normally when I complete a goal I am over excited and jubilant but for this one I couldnít be, I guess it was like a stone falling off a cliff and hitting the valley floor, yes I had completed the goal but staring back at me were faces of these men on head stones all of them had suffered a tragic fate.
Two of the men who are buried here Captain Liachin and Capitan Lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikov were two of the faces I instantly recognized.

Although her whole crew are not buried here the ones who are have a simple monument behind them a bird flying over the ocean there is also an eternal flame on a cenotaph this cemetery is full of sailors and submariners, these men gave their lives defending their country a tragic end.

DSCN2724 by B S, on Flickr

Celebration time the Submarine clubs birthday party

It was quite an honour and privilege to take party in this celebration, as I mentioned previously the club does many different things not just for the men but the women too.

The event was held in a naval college walking in I felt out of place mainly because I didnít get time to get changed but the college is well maintained the art work is some of the best works I have seen prom submarines to the Aurora, an exhibition had been put on displaying all the artefacts through the ages I wasnít able to take pictures here.

The celebrations get off to food wine and also introductions, Captain Kurdin presented the evening very well in my opinion, there were a few moments where it went really well and the navy really did show its true devotion to duty.

IMG_1696 by B S, on Flickr

Among the Admirals and Captains were young cadets just starting off on their naval careers I had the pleasure of watching them parade in their banner and also sing the national anthem as well as an impressive arms drill and a parade of the banner back out of the hall.

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

Admiral Volozhinsky Addressing the crowd

The high ceilings gave a great acoustic resonance to the evening and the elaborately decorated plaster works gave a feeling of attention to detail, this is what I noticed in the building, the whole area I spent my time in was kept immaculately clean and well attended by cadets.

Some of the guests included not only Igor himself yes he kind of has to be present he is the chairman after all, but also some of the most remarkable people two of which I was sat close by.

Vice chief of naval operations Admiral A Volozhinsky he is the second in command of the entire Russian navy.

Admiral Berzin who on the night won an award for operations in the arctic region (as did Igor Kurdin) he is famous for firing all his missiles in a single salvo sixteen missiles in total from a Project 667BDRM (Delta IV) missile submarine.

The evening was supported by buffet food on each table which was quite something and also something I had never tasted before thatís for sure, the whole evening was spent enjoying the time dancing and basically having as we say in the UK a good ol knees up.

The dancers performed two dances I did remember the Yablochko and also the Cossacks which I remember from seeing the red army choir in Lyon some time ago.

These are videos please click to view
Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

These are videos please click to view

The whole evening went extremely well I thought there was tributes paid to members that had passed away and also awards for various achievements, and not just to naval officials but also design stations.

I had a fantastic evening much hospitality was given and much of the time was spent seeing just how to party in Russia, the evening was very eloquent, I know the west enjoys portraying that the Russians are Drunk backwards incompetent people but I can whole heartedly say that this certainly is a mis-representation, I have been in a room of over 300 people that are the most competent professional people in the Russian Navy a truly fantastic event.

The submarine club

Of course a visit would not be able to be complete without a visit to the club house, I have to say itís pretty and encompasses one key feature that is quite apt for a submarine clubÖ.. Itís underground.

I spent several hours here we talked ate cake and drank coffee it was a time of learning and I really wanted to know more about Igor and this organisation, on hand was also another key member of the club Andrey Nikolaev, this man is the founder of and gathers information from all over to create a working encyclopaedia of the Russian submarine forces past and present, very apt for a former communications officer.

I have to say if you donít like submarines donít come here this was a treasure trove of books posters fridge magnets models, it makes my own items look weak in comparison, however Igorís office is most certainly the hub of the club here awards and plaques festooned the walls models books and a full size wall map of the world this really is the centre of operations.

I had so much fun looking at the items on display in Igorís office which included a Kettle from K219 Igor also showed me many photos of people he has met and also trips he has made a truly fascinating career he has led and the people he has met.

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr
Igor's Office

IMG_1758 by B S, on Flickr
The kettle from K219

During my time in the club I had plenty of time to put forward many questions to them both, I had asked a few members of this forum to present questions and I will share what was told to me, I am keeping the identity of the people asked a secret.

Question time

Q: Do you think that aircraft carriers are the way forward for the Russian Navy?
Igor: There is new construction taking place of a new shipyard that can handle large surface ships, however at present its not a good idea to have many carriers in the fleet as we require more surface escort ships and support ships also it requires a lot of funds

Andrey: Good for peace time but in a war they are targeted

Q: What would you like to see in terms of fleet size?
Igor: I would like to see more Yasen and Borei class submarines along with more multirole surface ships, more amphibious vessels and also more support ships but crucially I would also like to see four rescue ships for submarines one to be based in each fleet.

Q: Was the USS Puerblo captured by the North Koreans at the request of the soviet government?
Igor: no this is not the case

Q: Was the USS Scorpion lost due to Soviet action possibly in retaliation for the loss of K129?
Igor: No absolutely not
Andrey: No it had nothing to do with the Soviets

Q: What was the cause behind the loss of K219 was she scuttled by Captain Britanov?
Igor: No she was not scuttled she sank due to the amount of damage she received and eventual flooding.

Q: There has been a proposal to bring a Typhoon class submarine to London do you think it will happen?
Igor: There is a proposal but right now itís waiting funds

Q: I am aware of a project to restore K3 to become a museum is that so?
Igor: Yes there is such a project and it is underway

Q: What are your views on the current fleet organisation?
Igor: The current fleet organisation is very good very effective it was a lot worse ten years ago

Q: What is your view on the current fleet?
Igor: We have a good balanced fleet at the moment which is ready to undertake all its tasks and challenges

Q: What is the state of the capability of new vessels joining the fleet?
Igor: The new ships are very good in my opinion but we need to hurry up replacing the older vessels, we also lost too many during the 1990ís due to scrapping many of these could have been modernised.

Q: What is the readiness of the fleet at present time?
Igor: Top secret but we are ready to face any challenges immediately we are restoring our bases in Tartarus and possibly sometime in the future Alexandria Egypt

Q: What is your personal view of the United States Navy and Royal Navy
Igor: Both are very strong and effective navies
Andrey: They both have great traditions

Q: What submarines did you command?
Igor: I commanded three submarines for 15 patrols over 20 years they were Project 667AU K241 a Yankee class, I also commanded two Project 667BDRM Delta IV K407 and K84 I only seemed to command submarines with the number 4 in them and this is my lucky number

Q: What is it like in command?
Igor: One commander once said to me Iím afraid, but itís not like that I can fall asleep easily because of fatigue and stress but I wake up just as quick

Q: What was the best moment in your career?
Igor: When I went to sea for the first time as commander under supervision, but also when I was then alone as commander.

Q: Is the SOKS system a working and functioning system?
Igor: Very much so yes and it is very effective, the system works by analysing all the physical properties of the outside this is Radioactivity Temperature and pressure many commanders who have this system on board says how effective it is.

Q: Every submarine fan knows about the crazy Ivan move could you explain it to me?
Igor: The Americans have a very primitive description of the move, it requires precise calculations and the submarine to move climb and turn at the same time (Igor demonstrates with two pens) however I never used this manoeuvre.
When I was in America I was awarded a medal because the United States had a hard time following me they had a high estimation of my performance and the Admiral related to me that he believed the cold war was technically a draw.

Q: There has been a game released based on the Kursk have you had any contact with the developer?
Igor: No none what so ever

Q: what is your opinion about this game?
Igor: This game is disrespectful to the dead sailors and their families, not one of the developers had thought about this, it would be better had they not called it Kursk and it is a totally disrespectful on every level that now the families must endure this game bringing back painful memories of their loved ones.

Andrey: I agree with Igor I am of the same opinion

(My own opinion is the same as above this game should never have been released as Kursk)

Q: What is your view on Trump and the people that voted for him?
Igor: He is a crazy man
Andrey: Itís an interesting time

Q: What do you think the Trump Ė Putin relationship is like?
Igor: The relationship is good and the ideas are also good but the outcome is always different

Q: How do you think Putin would deal with the migrant caravans?
Igor: Send them to the Ukraine

After the questioning session Igor let me into a little secret about the movie K19 staring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, the submarine club had much to do with this film.

At the christening ceremony Harrison Ford address the crew as follows ďWithout me you are nothing [Pause] without you I am nothing [pause] much is expected of usĒ Igor told me that he had used a similar speech to his crew when he became commander and told this story to Harrison Ford who subsequently used it in the film.


I have had a fantastic week out in St Petersburg everything had been arranged for me and also provided for me, I must say if anyone else wishes to do the same tour or even a smaller or longer one they should certainly get in touch with Igor Kurdin and the Submarine Veterans club they can assist you in obtaining a visa hotels travel and also ensuring you get to see the sights efficiently.

This week I have learnt so much more about the condition and operation of the Russian navy and the Submarine veterans club I do whole heartedly support the club and also the work they do, I cannot thank enough Igor and the crew for making the stay a very positive and enjoyable one it has been more than a pleasure and yes I certainly would do this again.

But probably the best moment of the trip was becoming a member of the club that and Aurora for me, knowing these sites are open for the public and the work that Igor and his crew put in to keep it this way is substantial.

I would assist anyone who wishes to make a similar trip please message me believe me when I say it is more than totally worth it and it is truly an outstanding city with an outstanding variation of sights to see and things to do.

Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr
Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr
Submarine Veterans Club by B S, on Flickr

My members book and badge i'm officially a member of the Club

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Old 12-01-2018, 12:17 PM   #2
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This is just a wonderful report! Thank you so much for posting, and sharing this with us

But man, take those hands out of your pockets!

P.S. I had almost wondered what this device really did, when i saw it fitted to a Projekt 971
P.P.S. still reading!

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Old 12-01-2018, 12:43 PM   #3
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Sounds like a origination very similar to our SUBVETS in the US and I'm not surprised to hear of it. We (submariners) are a very close knit military community unlike other members of the armed forces.

On the subject of Scorpion I will agree with my Russian counterparts, the Soviets didn't sink her. What did sink her was a battery explosion.

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Yes I was really on a submarine.
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Old 12-02-2018, 06:25 AM   #4
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This is an awesome report. Truly, first rate. There is so much information here that this is something I will read over and over. This report is an example of how to do a professional narrative. The Kronstadt cathedral is a great example of Byzantine architecture as well.

Did Igor Kurdin and Andrey Nikolaev know of your affiliation with Subsim and that they and this story would be profiled here ? Did they know you had visited Chernobyl ?

Thanks for sharing your trip with us and the history and pictures as well.

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Old 12-02-2018, 06:52 AM   #5
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Did Igor Kurdin and Andrey Nikolaev know of your affiliation with Subsim and that they and this story would be profiled here ? Did they know you had visited Chernobyl ?
Yes they are aware of subsim and both i do believe are members of the facebook group, i specifically informed igor i was doing this for subsim and also that my report would be published on the site.

As for Chernobyl yes they are aware and have access like everyone else to my flickr page with all the pictures as per my signature.

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Old 12-02-2018, 07:37 AM   #6
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WOW! What an opportunity! What an adventure! To get to meet an iconic man you admire.

Great story, and great pictures. It almost feels like I'm there with you. Thanks for sharing that.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:43 PM   #7
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Simply fantastic
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Old 12-03-2018, 09:24 AM   #8
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Great article and interview! Congrats!
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Old 12-03-2018, 11:34 AM   #9
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Best topic in this year
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:16 AM   #10
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This is legit like a early Christmas present.
No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. - Albert Einstein
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Old 12-07-2018, 12:57 PM   #11
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Thankyou guys it was a pleasure to meet Igor and his team not to mention seeing the history this was my 13th time back to Russia, i am hoping to return in the future as K3 is due to open in a few years in st petersburg as is the sovremenny class destroyer !

I appreciate all your comments please feel free to share it about and promote subsim and the submarine club

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Old 12-07-2018, 01:23 PM   #12
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I believe you are still missing Vesikko, the last remaining German Type II in Suomenlinna from your belt. Slacker!

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Old 12-07-2018, 01:26 PM   #13
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i have been to Finland Dowly yes it was closed when i went however the U3 of sweden is of pretty much the same design however im not saying never going to get back to Finland but i have to also be selective.

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Old 12-07-2018, 01:34 PM   #14
It's an alpaca, ok?
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Originally Posted by Kapitan View Post
i have been to Finland Dowly yes it was closed when i went however the U3 of sweden is of pretty much the same design
Judging by the photos, U3 is very much different.



I only bring up Vesikko since it is, as I said, the only remaining German Type II, so I thought it might be worth a visit. But yeah, it's only open during the summer months.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:55 PM   #15
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They are different exterior wise inside it is getman organised the U3 is based upon the type II but modified for Swedish requirements

That's what I was told in Sweden anyway

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