Storozhevoy Mutiny

Storozhevoy Mutiny

Cold War

Storozhevoy Mutiny
An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet Krivak I Class guided missile frigate 959 at anchor. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1975 Nov 8

Storozhevoy Mutiny

Gulf of Riga

On 8 November 1975, Captain 3rd Rank Valery Sablin seized the Storozhevoy, a Soviet Burevestnik Class missile frigate, and confined the ship's captain and other officers to the wardroom. Sablin's plan was to take the ship from the Gulf of Riga north into the Gulf of Finland and to Leningrad, through the Neva River, mooring by the decommissioned cruiser Aurora (a symbol of the Russian Revolution), where he would protest by radio and television against the rampant corruption of the Brezhnev era. He planned to say what he thought many were saying privately: that the revolution and motherland were in danger; that the ruling authorities were up to their necks in corruption, demagoguery, graft, and lies, leading the country into an abyss; that the ideals of Communism had been discarded; and that there was a pressing need to revive Leninist principles of justice. Sablin was a strong believer in Leninist values and considered the Soviet system to have essentially "sold out".

A junior officer escaped from confinement and radioed for assistance. When the Storozhevoy cleared the mouth of the Gulf of Riga, ten bomber and reconnaissance airplanes and thirteen warships were in pursuit, firing a number of warning shots across her bows. Several bombs were dropped in front of and behind the ship, as well as cannon fire. Storozhevoy's steering was damaged and she eventually came to a stop. The pursuing vessels then closed in, and the frigate was boarded by Soviet marine commandos. By then, however, Sablin had been shot in his knee and detained by his own crew, who had also unlocked the captain and the other captive officers. Sablin was charged with treason, court-martialled in June 1976 and found guilty. Although this crime usually carried a 15-year prison sentence, Sablin was executed on 3 August 1976. His second-in-command during the mutiny, Alexander Shein, received an eight-year prison sentence. The other mutineers were freed.

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