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    MOSCOW, October 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Navy, which has 308, was officially established on October 30, 1696.

    Peter the Great had issued his memorable decree on that day. Russian ocean-going ships shall set sail, that document read in part, Igor Dygalo, chief of the Russian Navy's press center, told RIA Novosti today.

    Russian priests and noblemen, who had more than 100 serfs each, then established 35 shipbuilding companies, which helped create a regular national navy.

    These new legal entities were supposed to build, equip, arm and repair new ships.

    However, they started building the first Russian ships in Voronezh in late 1695, that is, after the abortive siege of Azov by tsar Peter's forces during the 1686-1700 Russian-Turkish war. (The Azov port in the lower reaches of the Don river was controlled by the Ottoman empire at that time). Peter the Great's decree launched an ambitious shipbuilding program. Every 10,000 nobility households were supposed to build one ship, with every 8,000 priest households contributing one ship.

    The December 1696 decree ordered merchants, ordinary traders and foreign merchants to build 12 ships. All in all, the afore-mentioned companies were supposed to construct 52 different ships.

    The state involved soldiers serving with the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments in this shipbuilding program. Shipbuilders were recruited all over Russia, with Russian authorities also inviting 50 foreign specialists.

    Peter the Great conducted the first-ever Russian naval exercise in the spring of 1699 near Taganrog (a port on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov), with Duma official Ukraintsev leaving for Istanbul aboard the new Krepost (Fortress) 46-gun man-of-war in August 1699. That ship was escorted by ships from the Azov Sea fleet. Ukraintsev negotiated with Turkish authorities later on.

    The Ottoman Empire was duly impressed by the Russian squadron, whose presence largely facilitated the successful outcome of Russian-Turkish talks. Forty sailing ships, as well as over 100 galleys, were constructed for the Azov Sea fleet by the early 18th century.

    According to experts, the Russian Navy now comprises nearly 600 warships and submarines, including 60 submarines, approximately 200 warships and some 300 motorboats.

    The celebration of the Russian Navy's 308th anniversary has coincided with the summing up of naval activity results over the last three months, reports the Navy headquarters.

    Russian warships have accomplished some important high seas objectives. A successful Russian-Italian naval exercise was conducted in the Mediterranean Sea; add to this Russian-French war games involving a submarine from the Russian Navy's North fleet in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the first-ever Russian-U.S. North Eagle-2004 exercise, RIA Novosti's interlocutor noted.

    The North fleet's carrier task force successfully accomplished its objectives in the Atlantic Ocean, as well, he added.

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