Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Georgiyevich Gorshkov served as chief of the Soviet Navy for 29 years, during which time he contributed as much as anyone in making Russia a global superpower. Never in peacetime has any nation expanded its navy as rapidly as did the Soviet Union. When Gorshkov took command in 1956 AD, at the age of 45, the Soviet “fleet” was little more than a collection of obsolete coastal vessels that rarely strayed far from port. By the time he retired in 1985, the fleet had 385 submarines, five aircraft carriers, hundreds of destroyers and frigates, and bases in every ocean … making it the Cold War’s second largest navy.
Born in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Gorshkov joined the Soviet Navy in 1931, and soon was in command of various vessels in the Black Sea, advancing rapidly through the ranks thanks to Stalin’s purges. During the Great Patriotic War he distinguished himself in command of a destroyer squadron, and in 1948 he was promoted to Chief of Staff for the Black Sea fleet. Adept at navigating Soviet politics (given the fate of many Soviet officers, a considerable skill to have), he was appointed to Commander-in-Chief of the Navy by Nikita Khrushchev with the directive to create a force capable of challenging Western naval power, a chore Gorshkov continued when Leonid Brezhnev took power in the Kremlin.
A prolific writer, Sergei steadfastly argued that a powerful fleet, a nuclear fleet capable of waging strategic war, played a unique role as an instrument of influence in peacetime. That same thinking was behind his efforts to promote large Russian merchant marine and commercial fishing fleets. His most significant book, The Sea Power of the State, was regarded by military experts around the world as the seminal work in Soviet naval strategy. According to TASS, Gorshkov died after a long illness in May 1988.