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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Centuries Later, New 'Standard' Takes Form

ST. PETERSBURG -- Three hundred years after the first Russian navy took shape, a spiritual heir to Peter the Great's naval dream is busy at work trying to bring it back to life.


"This is the result of my childhood dreams," said Vladimir Martous, 29, in a log cabin just meters away from a skeletal frame taking shape at a former tarring wharf on the Neva River.


Since last April, Martous, founder and director of the Naval Studies Center, and a team of devoted shipbuilders have been laying the hull for the first replica of the famed "Shtandart," or Standard -- the Russian Baltic Fleet's first warship. Built in 1703 on the shore of Lake Ladoga according to plans by "Pyotr Mikhailovich," as Peter called his shipbuilding alter-ego, the 30-meter frigate became the historic symbol of Russia's naval power.


It came to the defense of St. Petersburg that summer against the unrelenting Swedes, who hoped to snatch back their recently lost territory, while Peter raced to complete the Peter and Paul Fortress.


When the original 28-cannon Standard's naval career ended, Peter ordered it kept as a monument to Russian shipbuilding. When the original deteriorated beyond repair, Empress Catherine I had drawings made and decreed that a new ship be built to carry on the tradition.


The decree was never carried out, although the ship's name was passed down for generations, the last Standard being Tsar Nicholas II's royal yacht.


"Now there is no longer a Standard in Russia," said Martous, who drew up the new building plans based on historical research. "We decided we have the right to build this replica."


Members of Martous's studies center and the Standard Sailing Club spend their days hewing pine and oak logs. Working in the shadow of Smolny Cathedral, they are studying shipbuilding traditions as Peter's workers did centuries earlier.


The team celebrated its first anniversary last Sunday by laying the first planking along the hull frame. A huge ceremony is planned for the mounting of the figurehead to the bow July 18, the kickoff event for the Cutty Sark Tall Ship Regatta planned for the naval anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg.


When completed next year, the 30-meter ship will make its maiden voyage to Holland and England in honor of Peter's "Grand Tour" of Europe in 1797. Martous then plans to offer the vessel, which will be listed in Lloyd's Register, for training and charter cruises.


"My whole life has been built along this path," said Martous, recounting plans with his father, a professor at the St. Petersburg Shipbuilding Institute where Martous studied, to build their own yacht. "Since 1987, I've been dreaming of building this ship."


Funding, predictably, is the project's biggest headwind. Martous started work with $50,000 from the sale of his previous project, a sailing ship called the St. Peter. But the entire cost for this new project is estimated at $300,000. The only continuous sponsor so far is the exhibition-organizing company Dolphin Exhibitions, which sends $1,000 a month.


Although most of the work is being done just as it was three centuries ago, Martous and his team have some advantages over the tsar -- two chain saws, an electric sander and computer-aided design. Considering the resources the tsar could bring to bear, Martous sees this as a fair trade.


"Peter had 40 carpenters, 20 blacksmiths, 150 workers and 300 peasants with horses," he said. "We are five workers and 30 to 40 volunteers."