You know how I love strange and little known things in history. How about a mutiny on a modern Soviet warship? This little incident was the story that inspired Tom Clancy to write “The Hunt of Red October”
It was November of 1975 and the “cold war” was in full swing. In Russia, Leonard Brezhnev is Premier and the corruption of the ruling class is reaching new heights. The Soviet people are beginning to become disillusioned with the communist revolution. A ship, the Storozhevoy (Сторожевой, Storoževoj in Russian - meaning "vigilant or protective") which was a Soviet Navy anti-submarine frigate, was attached to the Soviet Baltic Fleet and based in Riga. It was about to be the center of a little known mutiny.
The mutiny was led by the ship's political commissar, Valery Sablin, who wished to protest against the rampant corruption of the Brezhnev era. His aim was to seize the ship and steer it out of the Bay of Riga, to Leningrad through the Neva River, moor by the decommissioned cruiser Aurora, a symbol of the Russian revolution, and broadcast a nationwide address to the people from there.
In that address, he was going to say what 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; the lofty ideals of democracy had been discarded, and there was a pressing need to revive the Leninist principles of justice.
On the evening of November 9, 1975, Sablin locked the captain in the forward sonar compartment and seized control of the ship. All of the ship's crew who did not wish to go along with the plan were locked in a compartment below the main deck.
When Soviet authorities learned of the mutiny, it was ordered that control must be regained. The Soviets chased the ship into international waters, just off the Scandanavian coast with aircraft and small missile ships. They ordered the Storozhevoy to halt and be boarded. When the ship refused the Soviets opened fire with machine guns and bombs. After a few minutes the crew gave up and released the imprisoned Captain and surrendered control to him. She was boarded by Soviet marine commandos. All the crew were arrested and interrogated (including all those who had refused to mutiny), but only Sablin and his second in command Alexander Shein, a 26-year-old midshipman, were tried and convicted.
In July 1976, Sablin was convicted of high treason and shot, while Shein was sentenced to prison and was released after serving 8 years. The rest of the mutineers were set free but all were reduced in rank or discharged from the navy and ordered not to speak of the mutiny under any circumstances. Even Shein, who was sent to prison, was required to tell his family that he was in prison on “a secret mission”.
On This Day in History:
1274 Robert the Bruce of Scotland is born
1915 Yule Brenner is born
1989 Sir Lawrence Olivier dies, age 82
1955 US Air Force Academy dedicated