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The Fleets

Russian Volunteer Fleet (Dobrolyot)

The Russian Volunteer Fleet was created in 1878 at St. Petersburg, at the behest of Tsar Alexander III and started sailings from Odessa to Vladivostok in 1880. He called for private donations to create a "Patriotic Squadron" to destroy the British mercantile fleet if war occurred between Russia and Britain over Afghanistan.
By 1890 there were only seven ships in the fleet, but this figure had grown to fifteen by 1900. The fleet made service runs between Nagasaki, Shanghai, Vladivostok and Odessa. Like the Russian East Asian Fleet, it spent the winter in the ice-free port of Nagasaki. An agency for the fleet was established in Nagasaki at No. 47 Oura by Nicholas Gray in 1897. In December 1902, Gray transferred the agency to M. Ginsburg & Co. In 1904, there were thirteen ships in the fleet, all of which had been built in Britain.
When the Russo-Japanese War began, the transports of the Russian Volunteer Fleet were drafted into war service. By early 1906, with the war concluded, the fleet was back in Nagasaki. Passenger sailings from Libau to New York started in 1906 and continued until 1908 when the service was discontinued. The fleet's agent in the city was still M. Ginsburg & Co. of No. 50 Oura, but Ginsburg himself did not return to Nagasaki after the war. Ginsburg & Co. closed its Nagasaki office in March 1909, but the agency for the Russian Volunteer Fleet remained at No. 50 Oura, where it was managed by N.P. Azbeleff.
A Vladivostok - Vancouver service started shortly after 1908 and passenger/cargo services between Archangel, Odessa and New York continued until 1919.
After the Russian Revolution, there was a protracted argument between the new Soviet leaders and the White Russians of Siberia as to who should control the fleet. Eventually the Soviets took control and the name was changed to "Russian Mercantile Fleet." In early 1926, after the fleet stopped calling here, the Nagasaki City Chamber of Commerce made an unsuccessful effort to have the Russians steamers return to the port.
In 1925, many of their ships came under Allied control, the rest were incorporated into the Soviet State Shipping Line, Sovtorgflot.

From The Times, Tuesday, November 29, 1904:

The Russian Volunteer Fleet
St. Petersburg, Nov. 28th
The newspapers to-day publish details of the proposed reorganization of the Volunteer Fleet after the war. The number of ships, it is stated, will be largely increased, and new passenger and freight services will be started. In view of the extensive emigration traffic to America which is now conducted via Hamburg and Bremen, one of the most important of the projected new sailings will be from Libau or Windau to America. It is added that considerable changes are contemplated in the personnel and the administration of the fleet.

Many thanks to Ted Finch for his assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (on-site) or the Immigrant Ship web site.

  • Routes:
    • 1878 - 1920? Odessa - Nagasaki - Shanghai - Vladivostok.
    • 1906-1908 Libau - Rotterdam - New York.

Funnel:
Yellow with black top.

Fleet:

Funnel
Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
Astrachan 1913 1923 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1935 converted to minelayer, 1960 deleted from registers. 2,716
Ekaterinoslav (1) 1896 1904 captured by Japanese cruisers, 1905 renamed Karasaki, Japanese Navy auxiliary, 1939 hulked at Kure, 1946 scrapped. 5,402
Ekaterinoslav (2) 1898 built as Assyria for Hamburg America Line, 1905 sold to Imperial Russian Navy as Baltic Fleet transport renamed Sveaborg, 1906 sold to RVF renamed Ekaterinoslav, 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 returned to U.S.S.R, 1924 scrapped. 6,581
Erivan 1913 1923 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1960 deleted from registers. 2,716
Indigirka 1886 built as Tsinan for China Nav. Co., London,1910 sold to Wallem & Co., Shanghai renamed Tsinanfu, 1911 transferred to Norwegian registry, 1914 sold to RVF renamed Indigirka, 1918 taken over by the Shipping Controller, London, 1919 returned to RVF, 1925 transferred to Sovtorgflot, 1941 Soviet Navy, artillery hulk, 1950's scrapped. 2,269
Irtysh 1901 ex- Dortmund, 1914 seized from Hamburg America Line renamed Irtysh, 1922 transferred to Russo-Norwegian Nav. Co, Blyth,, 1924 scrapped. 4,970
Kamenetz-Podolsk 1915 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 Anglo-Russian Volunteer Fleet, London, 1927 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1941 sunk by German air attack in Black Sea. 5,071
Kazan (1)
1896
ex- Adria, Hamburg America Line, 1905 sold to Russian Navy and renamed Narva, 1906 to Russian Volunteer Fleet and renamed Khazan / Kazan for Far East service, went aground near Colombo, Ceylon and wrecked 19th Apr.1906
5,458
Kazan (2) 1900 1905 scuttled at Port Arthur to avoid capture by Japanese, 1906 raised by Japanese, renamed Kasado Maru, 1912 purchased by OSK, 1933 sold to Shinko Suisan K.K., Tokyo, 1945 sunk by Soviet aircraft in Kuriles. 6,167
Khabarovsk 1895 1902 to Imperial Russian Navy, transport ship, 1909 submarine depot ship, 1920 to Soviet Navy renamed Marat, 1922 scrapped. 1,523
Kherson 1895 1903 renamed Lena (Russian Navy), 1906 reverted to Kherson, 1920 became British Raetoria. 1922 sold to London SS & Trading Co renamed Raetoria, 1924 scrapped. 6,438
Kiev 1896 28th Oct.1916 wrecked Rattray Briggs, Scotland. 5,465
Kishinoff 1910 ex- Jakut, 1912 purchased from Russian East Asiatic SS Co., Libau renamed Kishinoff, 1922 under Soviet control, 1925 transferred to Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, renamed Pamiat Lenina, 1927 seized by Chinese gunboat and sunk as blockship at Pukou. 2,372
Kolyma 1906 ex- Prosper, 1911 purchased from Norway renamed Kolyma, 1922 sold to Arcos SS Co., Cardiff, 1925 sold to Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R., 1970 deleted from registers. 1,457
Kostroma 1888 7th Sep. 1913 wrecked near Karaga on voyage Vladivostok - Kamchatka. 3,513
Koursk 1911 1918 the Shipping Controller, London, 1923 Anglo-Russian Volunteer Fleet, London, 1925 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1953 withdrawn from service, 1960 deleted from registers. 6,254
Krasnoiarsk 1915 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 sold to St.Mary SS Co., Cardiff renamed Eastway, 1926 sank in hurricane in Atlantic. 5,812
Mogileff 1911 1918 the Shipping Controller, London, 1923 Anglo-Russian Volunteer Fleet, London, 1921 sold to Limerick SS Co., Limerick, 1923 renamed Kilcredane, 1931 sold Norway renamed Bonus, 1933 scrapped. 6,377
Moskva (1) 1879 ex- Kinfauns Castle, 1884 purchased from Currie's Castle Line renamed Moskva, 1895 to Imperial Russian Navy, converted to training ship renamed Prut, 1909 converted to minelayer, 1914 shelled and sunk by Turkish cruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim in Black Sea. 3,507
Moskva (2) 1890 ex- Furst Bismarck, Hamburg America Line, 1904 purchased, renamed Don (Russian Navy), 1906 renamed Moskva (RVF), 1913 sold to Austrian Navy, renamed Gaea. 8,430
Moskva (3) 1898 1903 Imperial Russian Navy cruiser renamed Angara, 1904 Russian Red Cross hospital ship renamed Moskva, 1904 sunk by Japanese shellfire, 1906 raised by Japanese renamed Anegawa Maru, 1911 returned to Russia as hospital ship renamed Angara, 1915 sold renamed Moskva, 1916 torpedo boat depot ship renamed Pechenga, 1922 seized by Soviet forces and sank at moorings, 1950 raised and scrapped. 7,267
Nonni 1909 ex- Sabine Rickmers, 1914 captured from Rickmers Line, Bremen renamed Nonni, 1917 torpedoed and sunk off Portland Bill by U.102. 4,105
Novgorod 1913 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 sold to R. J. Thomas & Co., London renamed Cambrian Duchess, 1931 sold Norway renamed Valhall, 1933 sold to Moller Line, Shanghai renamed Lilian Moller, 1940 torpedoed and sunk by Italian submarine Maggione Francesco Baracca. 5,285
Omsk 1898 built as Knight Errant for Greenshields, Cowie & Co., Liverpool, 1914 sold to Petersen & Co., London renamed Rio Tiete, 1916 sold to RVF renamed Omsk, 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1921 sold to W. Bell, London renamed Calanda, 1923 sold D. Flack & Son, London renamed Flackwell, 1925 sold Norway as whale factory ship renamed Lancing, 1942 torpedoed and sunk by U.552. 7,464
Orel (1) 1890 1905 captured by Japanese cruiser near Tsushima renamed Kusuho Maru, 1916 sold back to Russian Gov't - no further trace. 4,528
Orel (2) 1909 1921 sold to C. T. Bowring & Co., Liverpool renamed Silvia, 1929 transferred to Bermuda & West Indies SS Co., Hamilton, 1935 sold to Douglas SS Co., Hong Kong renamed Haitan, 1950 scrapped. 3,462
Penza 1909 1922 sold to Cie de Nav. Mixte, Marseille renamed La Marsa II, 1934 scrapped. 2,649
Perm 1903 built as Tiberius for C. Andersen, Hamburg, 1904 mined and abandoned, salvaged and renamed Sungari for Imperial Russian Navy, 1907 sold to Far East SS Co., Vladivostok, 1910 sold to RVF renamed Perm, 1915 sold Denmark renamed Tina, 1915 sold to H. E. Moss, London renamed Freshwater, 1925 sold to S.G.T.M, Marseille renamed Mount Dore, 1928 sold Greece renamed Enosis, 1932 scrapped. 4,230
Petersburg 1894 1904 taken over by Imperial Russian Navy, converted to cruiser renamed Dniepr, 1905 returned to RVF renamed Petersburg, 1914 renamed Petrograd, 1914 requisitioned by Imperial Russian Navy renamed Don, 1921 scrapped. 5,432
Petrograd 1894 see Petersburg. 5,432
Poltava 1909 1917 wrecked off Shanghai. 3,476
Riazan 1909 1914 captured by German cruiser Emden off Korea, renamed Cormoran and converted to surface raider, Dec.1914 interned at Guam, 1917 scuttled by crew. 3,433
Saratov 1891 1920 sold to Greece, renamed Bernina. 1923 sold to Xydia & Son renamed Egypt, 1924 scrapped. 5,427
Simbirsk 1909 1923 transferred to Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R. renamed Lenin, 1941 accidentally sunk in Soviet minefield. 2,713
Simferopol 1913 1923 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1941 bombed and sunk by Japanese at Hong Kong, refloated, 1950 scrapped. 2,750
Smolensk 1901 1904 renamed Rion (Russian Navy), 1906 reverted to Smolensk, 1913 renamed Rion (Russian Navy), 1922 scrapped. 7,270
Stavropol 1907 ex- Kotik, 1912 purchased from Kamchatka Commercial Industrial Co., Reval renamed Stavropol, 1925 transferred to Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R., 1931 transferred to Soviet Navy, 1935 renamed Voroshilovsk, 1952 scrapped after explosion in 1950. 1,210
Suchan 1895 ex- Spezia, 1914 captured from Hamburg America Line at Vladivostok renamed Suchan, 1916 recaptured by Germany returned to HAPAG renamed Spezia. 4,148
Tambov 1893 1904-05 Imperial Russian Navy, 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 returned to U.S.S.R. and scrapped. 4,441
Tobol 1901 ex- Cheltenham, 1904 captured by Russian warships renamed Tobol for Imperial Russian Navy, 1916 transferred to RVF, 1917 torpedoed and sunk by U.52 off Duncansby Head, Scotland. 3,741
Tobolsk 1913 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1920 returned to RVF, 1925 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1960 deleted from registers. 2,750
Tomsk 1913 1922 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R, 1932 converted to minelayer, 1960 deleted from registers. 2,750
Toula 1910 built as Aleut for Russian East Asiatic SS Co., Libau 1910 transferred to East Asiatic Co., Copenhagen renamed St. Lucia, 1910 returned to Russian East Asiatic SS Co., St. Petersburg renamed Aleut, 1912 sold to RVF renamed Toula, 1923 sold to Wallem & Co., Bergen renamed Solviken, 1940 transferred to Panama registry renamed Capella, 1941 captured by Japan renamed Minami Maru, 1944 torpedoed and sunk by USS Flying Fish. 2,351
Tourgai 1907 built as Farley for Houlder, Middleton & Co., London, 1915 sold to Eagle Oil Co., London renamed Santa Brigida, 1915 sold to RVF renamed Tourgai, 1916 captured in North Atlantic by U.43 and scuttled. 4,276
Tver 1913 1922 sold to Lloyd Triestino, Trieste renamed Soria, 1926 Sovtorgflot, U.S.S.R. renamed Theodor Nette, 1960 deleted from registers. 2,750
Vitim 1893 built as Embiricos for A. Embiricos, Greece, 1901 sold to M. Jebsen, Hamburg renamed Emma, 1904 sold to Imperial Russian Navy as transport renamed Kolyma, 1913 converted to depot ship renamed Blokship No.6, 1916 sold to RVF renamed Vitim, 1923 sold Greece renamed Petros Nomicos, 1933 scrapped. 2,707
Vladimir 1895 1915 Imperial Russian Navy transport, 1920 reported sold at Constantinople, 1922 owned by Russo-Norwegian Nav. Co., Odessa, 1923 scrapped. 5,331
Vologda 1913 ex- Mottisfont, 1916 purchased from Harris & Dixon, London renamed Vologda, 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 sold to St. Mary SS Co., Cardiff renamed Tideway, 1933 sold Panama renamed Nellie, 1935 transferred to Greek registry, 1942 torpedoed and sunk by U.607. 4,784
Voronezh 1896 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 returned to U.S.S.R., 1924 scrapped. 5,331
Yana 1886 built as Chingtu for China Nav. Co., London, 1909 sold to Wallem & Co., Shanghai renamed Chingtuan, 1911 transferred to Norwegian registry renamed Chingtufu, 1914 sold to RVF renamed Yana, 1922 sold Japan renamed Toyokuni Maru, 1929 wrecked Hokkaido. 2,268
Yaroslavl (1) 1878 built as State of California for Pacific Coast SS Co., San Francisco, 1878 sold to Imperial Russian Navy and completed as cruiser Evropa, 1885 sold to RVF renamed Yaroslavl, 1890 sold to Prince of Montenegro, Montenegro renamed Jaroslaw, 1895 to Russian Navy as transport renamed Evropa, 1917 hulked at Helsingfors, 1918 renamed Europa for Finnish Navy, 1918 sunk in Helsingfors Harbour. 1,857
Yaroslavl (2) 1892 1904-1905 Imperial Russian Navy transport, 1918 The Shipping Controller, London, 1923 returned to U.S.S.R. but scrapped after stranding on Dutch coast. 4,321

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