Tallinn Breakout: Remember Everything

В поисках погибших кораблей. Фото: Разведывательно-водолазная команда
В поисках погибших кораблей. Фото: Разведывательно-водолазная команда

On the eve of the 77th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, begins the second season of the RGS expedition "180 Miles to Leningrad. The History of the Tallinn Breakout on the Modern Sea Map". The expedition is part of the long-term international exploration-research project "A Bow to the Ships of the Great Victory".

At the moment, the main task of the underwater explorers is to conduct detailed surveys of the ships discovered during the first season in order to prepare full-fledged 3D models for an interactive map. In addition, the divers plan to continue searching for vessels involved in the crossing from Tallinn to Kronstadt.

During the first season of the expedition in the spring-summer of 2021, it was possible to detect ten vessels that participated in the Tallinn Breakout: five in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland and the same number in the territorial waters of Estonia. They became mass graves for more than nine and a half thousand people. All the lost ships that participated in the legendary crossing are planned to be put on an interactive map, where their exact coordinates will be marked and 3D models will be displayed.

This year, from May 6 to May 20, the underwater explorers of Konstantin Bogdanov's “Underwater Exploration Team” plan to conduct a detailed photo documentation of the “Kalpaks”, the “Alev”, the “Järvamaa”, the “Atis Kronvalds” and the “Ausma” transports, on which about three thousand people died. All of them sank on August 29, 1941, under German air strikes. The first four remained lying at the bottom near the island of Moshchny; the last one, to the west of the island of Rodsher.


Судовой колокол с парохода "Атис Кронвальдс", находка первого сезона экспедиции.Фото: Иван Боровиков
Судовой колокол с парохода "Атис Кронвальдс", находка первого сезона экспедиции.Фото: Иван Боровиков

“Last year we managed to record only individual fragments of these vessels,” says Konstantin Bogdanov, chairman of the exploration diving club, winner of the RGS Award. “There were a lot of objects, and there was not enough time to record them in detail. Now we need to complete this work. In addition, we will continue the search – we hope to find the transport vessels ‘Vtoraya Pyatiletka’ and ‘Tobol’.”

As last year, the underwater explorers will work in partnership with the marine engineering team from “Fertoing”. Its specialists help to perform sonar and 3D scanning of sunken ships, as well as develop a geographic information system "Maritime Heritage", thanks to which it will be possible to recreate a virtual model of the Tallinn Breakout, and to acquaint a wide audience with video materials and photographs.

In addition, Konstantin Bogdanov's team plans to work on the creation of virtual monuments of the patrol ship "Burya" and the minesweeper "Fugas". The ships also participated in the Tallinn Breakout and managed to reach Kronstadt, but were blown up by mines during a combat operation off the island of Bolshoy Tyuters in 1942. About a hundred sailors sank with them.

During 1942-1945, the “Burya” and the “Fugas” remained the most serious losses of the Baltic Fleet. To this day, these are the largest ships resting in Russian territorial waters. The year 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of their wreck. To perpetuate the memory of the event, the ships will be given military honors at the location where they sank to the bottom. After that, a concert "Voices of the Lost Ships" will be held on the island of Gogland. Songs about the sea and sailors will be performed by famous artists in the westernmost point of the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland.


Таллинский прорыв
Таллинский прорыв

The expedition can be called an anniversary one for “Underwater Exploration Team”. For ten years, the underwater explorers have been working in the waters of the Gulf of Finland in search of the ships lost during the Great Patriotic War. In addition to the ten vessels that participated in the Tallinn Breakout, during this time it was possible to detect all the submarines that sank from 1942 to 1944 in the Russian territorial waters of the water area. There were also unexpected finds – in 2013, the team established the resting place of the sailing ship “Lefort”, one of the last battleships of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Empire, which had lain in oblivion at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for 150 years.

Tallinn Breakout. From August 27 to August 29, 1941, during the relocation of the Baltic Fleet from Tallinn to Kronstadt, more than 60 military and transport vessels sank and more than 15 thousand people died in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. The decision on the combat operation was made urgently after the German troops had forced their way into the Baltic States. If not for this maneuver, the USSR risked completely losing the Baltic Fleet, leaving Leningrad without protection from the sea.

The expedition is supported by the Presidential Grants Fund

Olga Ladygina