Famous naval commanders spoke about their no less famous ancestors
The surname of the Kasatonovs is called admiral. The ancestor of the dynasty, Afanasy Stepanovich Kasatonov, was a full Knight of St. George.
Admiral Vladimir Afanasyevich Kasatonov commanded three fleets: the Baltic, Black Sea, Northern and became a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Admiral Igor Vladimirovich Kasatonov retained in the 90s for Russia, the Black Sea Fleet became a national hero of Russia.
Vice Admiral Vladimir Lvovich Kasatonov commanded the heavy nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky, now he is Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy.
About how dramatic their fate was, in the material of the special correspondent “MK”.
Igor Vladimirovich Kasatonov. Photo: Personal archive
“Four Georges as a reward for bravery”
– My grandfather, Afanasy Stepanovich, from a working family, from peasants who worked on the land, – says Igor Vladimirovich Kasatonov. – He was tall, stately, distinguished by dexterity and dexterity, was an excellent rider. When he was drafted into the army, he had the honor to go to Peterhof, served in the Life Guards Ulansky Regiment of Her Majesty Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Sometimes, he christened himself, kissed the august lady three times on Easter.
At the races, Afanasy Stepanovich invariably took prizes. He skillfully overtook the grand dukes, who were considered excellent riders. The audience enthusiastically greeted the simple lancer Kasatonov, who came first.
The First World War became a test for everyone.
— Their regiment was brought to the front. There were cuirassiers – heavy armed cavalry, and my grandfather served in light cavalry, in regimental intelligence. The goal of the lancers was quick maneuvers and calls to the rear of the enemy.
Afanasy Stepanovich was a very brave man, at the same time smart and prudent.
– He distinguished himself by the ability to get a “language” in the most difficult conditions. Went to the front line. The scout had to act quietly, covertly. It was also necessary to have sufficient physical strength to deliver the captured “tongue” to the command. For these exploits, Afanasy Stepanovich received four “George”. The George Cross was considered the most honorary soldier's award in the Russian army. The decision to award was made by the council of the St. George Knights of the regiment. It was the highest authority, and no one could interfere and influence their decision.
Full Knight of St. George Afanasy Kasatonov, Peterhof, July 17, 1950. Photo: From the personal archive
When the Bosphorus operation was planned, the recruitment of two divisions was entrusted to the Cavaliers of St. George. They personally selected people in the division.
– Afanasy Stepanovich always spoke very well of the officers of the regiment. He told, for example, that they never sat down at the table if the soldiers were not fed. It was a matter of honor. And if one of the officers violated this rule, he was expelled from the regiment. According to the norms, the officers were given raincoats, but the privates were not, they were wet and cold. So, the officers of the regiment chipped in and bought raincoats for all their subordinates. Remarkably, the officers taught the rank and file to read and write. Grandfather learned to read and write when he was already in the army.
There was a war, but the soldiers were allowed to go home on leave. Then children were born.
– My father, Vladimir Afanasyevich, was born, then his sister Sofia, uncle Fedya, uncle Yasha. Even earlier, Uncle Vasya was born, who in 1916 was 13 years old.
Soon, revolutionary events swept the country.
— Chaos began. Semyon Budyonny served with his grandfather, who left with a cavalry detachment to the Don to fight the White Guards. And Afanasy Stepanovich, having received a severe concussion, returned home, to Peterhof, it was necessary to raise four sons and a daughter, the family was starving.
Afanasy Stepanovich worked in the land department of the City Council of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Deputies. Then for many years he worked in the office of Glavvtorchermet. He still wore a beautiful lancer mustache, which he was very proud of.
“Resigned from the post of naval attaché”
The family lived in Peterhof, where the imperial country residence, palace and park areas, museums, ponds, magnificent fountains were located. In this atmosphere, the character of the younger generation of the Kasatonovs was formed.
— At that time there were 17 churches in Peterhof. All children were baptized by their grandparents in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Father, Vladimir Afanasyevich (who was destined to become an admiral in the future, command three fleets: the Baltic, Black Sea and Northern. – Aut.), recalled how they rode yachts in the summer, and on iceboats in winter. In the former imperial yacht club, life was in full swing even in Soviet times.
First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Nikita Khrushchev and Commander of the Northern Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kasatonov. Cruiser Murmansk, July 1962. Photo: From personal archive
My father told how they ran with the boys on the pier and one of the yacht captains suggested: “Whoever unties the sea knot will go to sea with us.” The father was the fifth in a row to whom this knot got, and he untied it. Nobody could, but he did. And he went on the yacht for half a day, helped with the sails, chose the sheets. When the captain looked at his father's hands, he did not notice a single blister on the palms. They just blushed, that's all. The Kasatonovs were working people, accustomed to hard work. And my father was really addicted to yachting, he spent days on the piers. I watched how battleships and cruisers were moving along the Gulf of Finland. All this was stored in the subconscious.
— My father decided to become a submariner. In this profession there was something mysterious, inaccessible, incomprehensible, and therefore interesting. When my father entered the Frunze Naval School, it was not yet a higher educational institution. Such outstanding people studied with him as Sergei Gorshkov, who later became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Andrei Chabanenko, the future commander of the Northern Fleet, Ivan Baikov, who became an admiral, Serafim Chursin, the future commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Leonid Bekrenev, who became a military diplomat, head of the Soviet military – maritime intelligence.
At that time, a serious system of personnel training was formed. When my father swam on the legendary submarine “Panther”, switching to the “Pike”, he went to study, in 1932 he graduated from the command classes of the training detachment of diving named after Kirov. And he went to the Far East, where the Pacific Fleet was created. Sections of submarines were transported on railway platforms. Then they were welded on the spot. At the same time, the strength of the Pacific Fleet was replenished. Such outstanding submariners as Aleksey Zaostrovtsev, Konstantin Griboedov, Georgy Kholostyakov served at the Pacific Fleet. They were both good leaders and educators.
The growth of the command staff was then exceptionally large. Father was appointed commander of the Shch-112 submarine. He commanded her well, realizing that the tasks of combat training are the main thing.
– Considering the technical features of the submarines and their technological equipment, swimming under water in those years was an extreme situation. But nevertheless, they swam in any weather, went under the ice, came out from under the ice, went without food. My father sailed on the Pike, but they were very poor on the Malyutki. There were few people on these boats, the crew consisted of 20 people. They left for two or three days, but in reality it turned out that for a week. There were not enough products.
Admiral of the Fleet Vladimir Kasatonov on the ship with his son Igor Kasatonov (far left), BOD “Agile”, summer 1968. Photo: From personal archive
The years 1937-1938 were terrible. Everywhere they looked for conspirators, spies, saboteurs. The chief of staff of the fleet, captain 1st rank Orest Solonnikov, who was from the nobility, was arrested. Together with him, the former leaders of the fleet Viktorov, Orlov, Kireev were on the hit list … My father said that their commander of the submarine brigade, the most authoritative Georgy Nikitich Kholostyakov, who was declared a Polish, English and Japanese spy, was also in trouble. He ended up in a cell with criminals who treated the “politicals” very badly, tried to humiliate and oppress them in every possible way. But Kholostyakov was not touched. Being a well-read person, for three months he retold various books from memory, including The Count of Monte Cristo.
Father, who then commanded the L-12 submarine, was also summoned for interrogation. They began to ask what Kholostyakov taught them. Father said: “He taught us what a real communist should teach.” Father was scolded, beaten, but lagged behind. Georgy Nikitich Kholostyakov was sentenced to 15 years in labor camps, but then his case was reviewed, and in 1940 he was released. He came out of the dungeons without teeth and nails. He was reinstated in rank, returned the awards and party card. In our family, he has always been a very respected person.
– After graduating from the Voroshilov Naval Academy, he received an unexpected offer to become the naval attaché of the USSR Embassy in Sweden. His candidacy was approved by Kollontai, who at that time was the ambassador to Sweden. My father had a very high level of training, he swam a lot, prepared important documents, and spoke as a highly cultured, educated person. These qualities greatly helped him conduct important negotiations with the Americans in 1971-1972. But the father refused the post of naval attache. And, as he refused, he was appointed to the post with a demotion. He became chief of staff of a separate training division of submarines of the Kirov Red Banner Diving Training Unit in the Baltic Fleet. The division was stationed in Oranienbaum. When the Great Patriotic War began, they went to combat positions. We saw our father only two years later.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Baltic was extremely difficult.
– In the first days of the war, we lost 13 submarines, the Germans managed to mine our rear zone. During the evacuation of the main forces of the Baltic Fleet from Tallinn to Kronstadt, out of 225 ships and vessels, only 163 reached the place. For some time there was even a question of undermining the ships of the Baltic Fleet. Neither Commissar of the Navy Nikolai Kuznetsov, nor Marshal Boris Shaposhnikov could take on such a responsibility. They turned to Stalin so that he himself would sign the order to mine the ships of the Baltic Fleet. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief did not sign it, he kept the document with him. It was a very important psychological moment. The assault on Leningrad was repulsed. The ships remained intact and undefeated.
Vladimir Afanasyevich Kasatonov led convoys under continuous bombardment. Participated in the defense of Leningrad.
— In the meantime, my family and I were evacuated to the Urals, to Irbit. They settled in the lobby of the cinema. There they constantly played the picture “The Pig and the Shepherd”. Subsequently, when I heard: “I will never forget a friend if I made friends with him in Moscow” performed by Vladimir Zeldin and Marina Ladynina, he recalled the evacuation. Of course we were poor. We didn’t take warm clothes with us, we thought that we were leaving for a short time. Mom had a thousand rubles with her, and a loaf of bread then already cost 100 rubles. As I remember now, a woman named Zagorskaya brought two padded jackets to my mother. Mom sewed coats for my sister and me. They also served as blankets for us. And then they were stolen. Father sent us newspapers, they were convertible goods. Mom managed to exchange some paper for groceries. And then the invalids who were selling shag demanded that she give them all the newspapers. At that time, my father had already been transferred to the Main Naval Headquarters, and was the head of the operational management department. In the middle of 1943, after the Battle of Kursk, he came to Irbit to pick us up. We gathered in half an hour, hired a cart and set off. We arrived in Moscow when it was still half empty. We lived in a communal apartment, cramped, where there were 20 neighbors. Everything was not easy.
George's bow by Afanasy Kasatonov. Photo: From the personal archive
“We reached the North Pole under the ice and hoisted the flag”
– My father oversaw the Pacific Fleet, was part of the delegation, was a member of the working group of the People's Commissar of the Navy of the USSR Kuznetsov. I recalled that the atmosphere was working, the mood was victorious. At the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill already addressed a request to Stalin. They asked the Soviet Union to go to war with Japan and support the creation of the UN. When I asked my father if there were any photographs left, he said: “I would like to stay alive.” Each of them was closely watched, including the NKVD.
The Pacific Fleet made a significant contribution to the victory over Japan. At the age of 34, Vladimir Kasatonov put on admiral's shoulder straps and became rear admiral. At 41, he became vice admiral.
– When Admiral Nikolai Kharlamov told a political anecdote, he was removed from the post of commander of the 8th Fleet of the Navy in the Baltic Sea. His father went to Tallinn to replace him. After the Pacific expanses, it was hard for him there. Somehow Georgy Zhukov came to check. As a result, he told his father: “You will go as commander of the Black Sea Fleet.” Father remarked: “But what about the Central Committee, all the necessary conversations?” Zhukov snapped: “What a Central Committee, I have already decided everything.”
Vladimir Afanasyevich was transferred to the most difficult direction after the battleship Novorossiysk sank from an external explosion on the Sevastopol roadstead in the fall of 1955. More than 600 people died, including emergency parties from other ships.
– A difficult situation has developed in the Black Sea Fleet. Father recalled that some personnel there were not quite efficient. He forbade harassing those who in one way or another were involved in the death of Novorossiysk. We had to work, to move forward. I had to cut the old ships, where the classical artillery stood. There was a scientific and technological revolution. There are already rocket weapons. Long-distance voyages began in the Mediterranean Sea. Once we passed through the Bosphorus, other business trips were already going on, instead of tea they were given cocoa and coffee with condensed milk. My first long-distance voyage took place in 1957.
Vladimir Afanasyevich commanded the Black Sea Fleet for almost seven years.
In 1962, a B-37 diesel submarine exploded in the harbor of the Polyarny naval base, 35 kilometers from Murmansk. The explosion of torpedoes was so strong that the nearby S-350 submarine also sank. Not only submariners were killed, but also sailors from the coastal base. And Vladimir Kasatonov was again thrown into a breakthrough, where it was most difficult. He was appointed commander of the Northern Fleet.
— At that time there was a massive construction of nuclear submarines. We had to catch up with America. From 1960 to 1967, the Americans built 41 nuclear submarines with Polaris-type ballistic missiles. It was a serious threat to the Soviet Union. All forces were thrown to achieve parity. There was as much money as needed, because it concerned the security of the country. Father stood at the origins of the formation of the nuclear fleet. It was necessary to prepare commanders, to master new equipment. And everything had to be done quickly.
Father and son. Vladimir and Igor Kasatonov, Sevastopol, 1976. Photo: From the personal archive
The first nuclear boats were not so perfect. There were fires and radiation emissions in excess of the norm.
– In order to show the commanders the reliability of nuclear-powered ships, in the fall of 1963, my father himself boarded the K-181 submarine of project 627A “Kit”, took the best specialists with him, and they went to the North Pole. It was the hardest, unsurpassed trip. The father had to prove that it was safe, that it was possible, that it was necessary. Approaching the point where all the meridians converge, 90 degrees north latitude (the pole has no longitude. – Aut.), they broke through a small layer of ice, surfaced, set up a mast on the ice and raised the flags – the State USSR and the Naval. In 9 days, 3464 nautical miles passed, of which 1800 were under ice.
In eight years, from 1967 to 1974, 34 submarines were built in the Soviet Union. A strategic submarine fleet was formed. The country's nuclear missile shield helped keep the peace.
Vladimir Kasatonov was appointed First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the USSR Navy. For testing new ships and showing personal courage, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Opening on the D-2 submarine Narodovolets” museum exposition, St. Petersburg, September 2, 1994. Vladimir Putin, Admiral Igor Kasatonov were present … Photo: From the personal archive
“Saved villages on Novaya Zemlya from freezing”
The son of Vladimir Afanasyevich Kasatonov, Igor Vladimirovich, continued the maritime dynasty. The truth chose the surface fleet.
– As a boy, I ran in Kronstadt, where there were many ships. Frozen in front of the battleships. I remember that the battleship Marat stood without a bow, in 1941 Hans-Ulrich Rudel dropped a thousand-kilogram bomb from the Junkers on it. The battleship was then raised, the water was pumped out. And his guns fired at the enemy. The battleship “October Revolution”, the cruiser “Kirov” is still standing before my eyes … It was real power! In general, I gravitated towards surface ships. The whole situation in Kronstadt, where Vice Admiral Yuri Rall was in charge, was conducive to this. He was one of the royal officers, served in the Imperial Navy, had many awards. He only slept in the office. At lunch he drank a “soup” glass of vodka, did not change his habits. Somehow a commission from the Central Committee arrived. When it was time for dinner, the sailor brought Rall a glass of vodka on a tray in front of the high Party authorities. He knocked it over and said: “That's it, time for dinner!” The nomenklatura lost the power of speech … And no one could force him to work at lunchtime. Yuri Rall was a member of the commission for the division of the German fleet. With the British he spoke on the phone in fluent English, with the Germans in pure German. After dinner he read, and no one approached him. Therefore, sometimes I walked with his sheepdog. And he absorbed like a sponge that Kronstadt post-war unique atmosphere.
Igor Kasatonov graduated from school with a silver medal, the Black Sea Higher Naval School named after Nakhimov – with honors. As well as the Naval Academy.
9 candidates were considered for the position of commander of the newly formed Kola flotilla of heterogeneous forces. And they chose Igor Kasatonov, who commanded the 30th division of anti-submarine ships in the Black Sea Fleet. From Sevastopol, he flew to Polyarny, to the Northern Fleet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during his stay on the Peter the Great TARKR with cruiser commander Vladimir Kasatonov. Severomorsk, August 17, 2005. Photo: From personal archive
The area of responsibility was huge: the entire water area of the Barents and Kara Seas. Igor Kasatonov gave 10 years to the Northern Fleet. He flew to all emergencies: fires, natural disasters, rescued the Komsomolets submarine. When a water-bearing station burned down on Novaya Zemlya, a water conduit thawed, it went to save the villages from freezing.
– It was the end of January, the polar night, the blizzard was chalk, the thermometer dropped below minus 30 degrees. The village of Belushya Guba could freeze. Together with the builders, they loaded pipes and pumps onto the icebreaker. I was then the first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet. On Novaya Zemlya there was a nuclear test site, five organizations “with ambitions”. Arrived, subjugated everyone. Otherwise it is impossible – an emergency situation has arisen. Mobilized all GTSki – all-terrain vehicles. But, when I was driving down the street, I noticed one moving GTS. The all-terrain vehicle slowed down near the store, women in furs got out of it. He stopped them, offered to take them home. And we took the all-terrain vehicle. We had to extend a water conduit from Lake Chayachye. They built a tarpaulin conduit – it froze after 16 hours, laid another conduit – it froze after 6 hours. We decided to build an already insulated version. And the ice on the lake is almost two meters. While we pumped water, it froze. And there was one engineer girl who offered to put a cast-iron boiler room of the Vitok type on the water intake. We fired it up for three days. And everything worked out, the New Earth came to life. The deputy commander of the Northern Fleet for construction, Major General Anatoly Gaiduk, as a token of gratitude, presented me with boots in which they stand on guard – they resemble felt boots, only the tops are leather. True, his wife then put them out the door.
In 1991, Igor Kasatonov was appointed commander of the Black Sea Fleet. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he banned personnel from taking the Ukrainian military oath until another political decision was made and the legal process began. He knew that behind him was strength and truth. Thanks to a tough position, he saved the Black Sea Fleet for Russia. (“MK” talked about this in detail in one of the previous issues.)
He also defended the heavy nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great. The ship was mothballed, it had practically no prospects to stand on an “even keel”. Igor Kasatonov, who was appointed chairman of the government commission, having connected personal connections, secured the allocation of funds. The cruiser was completed. On April 18, 1998, the Naval ensign was raised on it. “Peter the Great” began its service in the Northern Fleet.
Father and son. Igor and Kirill Kasatonov, Sevastopol, 1996. Photo: From the personal archive
Igor Kasatonov had a chance to serve in the Black Sea, Pacific, and Northern fleets. In total, he traveled more than 200 thousand miles, made 15 long-distance ocean voyages, and completed 10 military services. 32 times on the commander's bridge he passed the Vilkitsky Straits near Cape Chelyuskin, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. Like his father, he became an admiral, First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.
Both sons of Igor Kasatonov graduated from the Frunze Higher Naval School in St. Petersburg, then military academies in Moscow, currently serve in the Russian Armed Forces Federation. Alexander Igorevich – Captain 1st Rank, Kirill Igorevich – Colonel of Justice. Nephew – Vladimir Lvovich Kasatonov – became the third admiral in the dynasty. He commanded the heavy nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great. Now – Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy. Serving the Fatherland is a family tradition of the Kasatonov naval dynasty.