Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


In the years since the end of the Second World War, no aspect of merchant shipping has created greater controversy than the phenomenal growth of the merchant fleet of the Soviet Union. Starting in 1945 with a makeshift fleet that was a motley collection of obsolete vessels, ships received as reparations from the defeated Axis nations and Lend-Lease Liberty ships, the Soviets have fashioned a modern, efficient merchant marine that is currently second in the world in numbers of ships and sixth in deadweight tonnage. Employed as a powerful instrument of the Soviet state, this fleet now competes effectively with Western shipping lines throughout every corner of the globe. This paper will examine the remarkable rise of the Soviet merchant marine with particular emphasis on the objectives of this growth. For ease of discussion, political, economic and military objectives will be evaluated separately, although, in reality, these aims are often closely intertwined and dependent on each other. This analysis will reveal why the Soviet Union, once regarded strictly as a continental power, is now a maritime superpower and, given her economic development plans, will become even more dependent on her merchant fleet in the future.