The Port of Arkhangelsk is located about 50 kilometers from the White Sea on the Dvina River in far northwestern Russia. With the suburbs of Ekonomiya and Solombala, the Port of Arkhangelsk stretches for about 16 kilometers along both sides of the river as well as several islands in the river's delta. The Port of Arkhangelsk is about 450 nautical miles from Russia's northern-most Port of Murmansk and about 700 kilometers northeast of the Port of St. Petersburg. It is the administrative of the Arkhangelsk Oblast. In 2006, the Port of Arkhangelsk was home to almost 350 thousand people.
Located at the end of a 1133 kilometer railroad linking it to Moscow, the Port of Arkhangelsk was medieval Russia's major seaport. Today, it is the busiest timber-exporting port of the country. The Port of Arkhangelsk is the base for a large fishing fleet as well as being the western end of the Northern Sea Route. Industries in the Port of Arkhangelsk include timber-processing and shipbuilding and repair. The large timber-processing industry includes saw mills and factories that make pulp and paper.
For centuries, the Port of Arkhangelsk has been an important link in Russia's relations with the world. It was first built as a port, and it has grown over the centuries into a major seaport and city.
The Vikings knew the Port of Arkhangelsk as Bjarmaland. Ohthere of Halogaland wrote in 800 AD about his travels to an area on the White Sea that had many buildings. Snorri Sturluson reported a Viking raid on the city in 1027.
An archaeological discovery of a silver treasure was found next to the modern Port of Arkhangelsk on the mouth of the Dvina River in 1989. It is believed that the articles were buried at the beginning of the 12th Century and that some of them may have been 200 years old when they were buried.
In 1581, Russia lost its access to the Baltic Sea when it lost the towns of Yam, Narva, and Koporye during the Livonian War. The Russian Tsar then turned his attention to the White Sea further north. In 1583, Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) ordered the construction of "a city for launching ships," and the Port of Arkhangelsk was born. Within a year, the wooden city was built.
The Port of Arkhangelsk imported fine goods like English cloth, Barbant silk, sugar, spices, hand soap, writing paper, lace, pearls, European china, and weapons. The port also imported a lot of wine, but the most important import was money. The Russian treasury was empty of gold and silver, so the Russians melted down imported silver and gold coins from other countries and minted the Tsar's coins for circulation. The Port of Arkhangelsk exported goods from Russia as well, including bread, flax, tallow, canvas, hemp, wax, skins, and furs.
In 1693, Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) visited the Port of Arkhangelsk with a huge group of followers. He was inspired at the sight of Russia's first seaport. To welcome him, the Port of Arkhangelsk had built a 12-cannon yacht called the St. Peter. The Tsar escorted a convoy of Dutch merchant ships into the White Sea from the Port of Arkhangelsk, fulfilling a boyhood dream. The Tsar visited the city's trading center and talked with Russian and foreign merchants, coming to believe that a Russian fleet was necessary if Russia was to be an economic power.
Within a year, Peter the Great had started building the first Russian ship on the Port of Arkhangelsk's island of Solombala. In 1694, the St. Pavel was launched from the Port of Arkhangelsk with a cargo of official Russian goods, beginning Russia's participation in sea-going trade.
During the Northern War with Sweden in the early 18th Century, the Port of Arkhangelsk grew rapidly. The port became not only an important commercial seaport but a military one as well. The Tsar built the Novodvinsk fortress downriver from the city on the Linsky Priluk island in 1701 to protect his beloved Russia. Before the fortress was finished, the Battle of Novodvinsk was fought before the site of the fort, and Russia won her first naval victory.
Tsar Peter sent Vice-Admiral Cornelius Kruse to the Port of Arkhangelsk in 1702 to create a naval port. Buoys were set out, and a lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Dvina. Modern docks went under construction in the Port of Arkhangelsk. In 1721, the Northern War ended with Russia's final victory, and Peter's child, St. Petersburg, was made the Russian Empire's new capital. In 1722, Peter ordered all export trade transferred from the Port of Arkhangelsk to St. Petersburg, ruling that only those goods required by residents of the Port of Arkhangelsk could be sold or shipped to the city.
By 1725, only 19 ships called at the Port of Arkhangelsk, and the port seemed to have lost its seaport status to the young St. Petersburg. The Admiralty who were stationed there played the role of port commander and captain. While trade all but ceased in the Port of Arkhangelsk, shipbuilding in Solombala became important.
In 1762, Tsarina Catherine the Great issued a decree that changed the Port of Arkhangelsk's fortunes. She gave the port-city the same privileges and rights as St. Petersburg, with the right to import and export all types of goods. Maritime commerce immediately revived. By 1772, 206 ships had called at the Port of Arkhangelsk. The marine trade also stimulated the growth of industry in all the major Russian northern cities.
The Tsarina ordered a search for a sea route through the north to Kamchatka, and expeditions were launched in 1765 and 1766 to find a way past the North Pole. Although each expedition failed, blocked by Arctic ice, they were the first explorers in the world to sail that far north.
Until the middle of the 19th Century, the Port of Arkhangelsk was Russia's third largest port for volume of cargo. However, lack of a railway linking the port to central Russia became an obstacle to the port's success. In 1887, the Department for Port Improvement was created. In 1898, a new railroad to the Port of Arkhangelsk gave new energy to port development. In 1889, the Port of Arkhangelsk's access channel was deepened, and cargo-volume grew by four times. Other technical improvements in the port also stimulated local industries, particularly sawmills.
The Arkhangelsk Commercial Port Administration was established in 1904, and the new Port of Arkhangelsk Committee for Port Affairs met for the first time with the acquisition of an ice-breaker as the first order of business. The ice-breaker was received in 1908, and the Port of Arkhangelsk was able to benefit from a longer navigational season. By 1907, new modern port facilities were appearing in the Port of Arkhangelsk. New berths had been constructed. The Port of Arkhangelsk began to acquire modern cargo-handling and dredging equipment.
The early 20th Century was a time of interest in the Arctic circle, as it was the only unexplored region left in the world. In 1912, the first Russian expedition to the North Pole departed from the Port of Arkhangelsk under the command of Lieutenant Georgi Yakovevich Sedov. A solemn ceremony was held to see the ship off, but it was unable to reach the North Pole. Sedov had died in the attempt.
During World War I, the Port of Arkhangelsk was the only open port in western Russia, and it served the war effort. The new port area, Bakaritsy, became a base for handling military cargo, and the downriver port of Ekonomiya was built in 1915-16 to extend the winter navigation season. Another new area of the Port of Arkhangelsk was constructed near the railway station at the docks, and the railway was refitted for wide-gauge transport. During the war, cargo volumes in the Port of Arkhangelsk reached all-time records. In 1916, the Port of Arkhangelsk handled 2.8 million tons.
The 1917 Russian revolution brought great hardship to the nation's economy, and the Port of Arkhangelsk's economy went into decline. The harbor was polluted, and the depth of the access channel and docks was seriously reduced. The size of the fleet shrank. Despite the hardships, the Port of Arkhangelsk slowly began to recover. After the civil war, 36 foreign vessels called at the port, and eight Soviet vessels departed for foreign trips. The port handled almost 38% of the country's wood exports.
In 1932, a Northern Sea Route was finally created by the ice-breaking ship A. Sibiryakov. In 1935, several cargo vessels made the trans-Arctic trip. The Port of Arkhangelsk was well-position for this new route.
The Port of Arkhangelsk was once again an important military base during World War II. In 1941, the Soviet Union decided to support year-round operations at the Port of Arkhangelsk. Handling capacity at the docks was increased dramatically. A new railroad branch line to Ekonomiya was begun. In August 1941, the first Allied convoy arrived in the Port of Arkhangelsk. With the Port of Murmansk under imminent attack by Nazi Germany, the Port of Arkhangelsk handled most of the imported cargo to North Russia. Over the period of the war, the Port of Arkhangelsk handled a million tons of strategic war supplies.
After the end of World War II, the port needed a complete overhaul. Many of the docks had been constructed hastily during the war, and the harbor needed another deepening. Reconstruction of the facilities did not begin until 1963 when the first iron-and-concrete dock piles were installed. Reconstruction of the Port of Arkhangelsk area at Bakaritsy was finished in the mid-1970s with the completion of a transfer terminal for containers.
In 1972, a passenger terminal was opened in the center of the Port of Arkhangelsk. That year, reconstruction of the Port of Arkhangelsk port area at Ekonomiya began. Concrete berths were built, and roads and railway lines were added. Cargo storage areas were available by 1977. By 1978, the container complex had capacity for 185 thousand tons of cargo. In 1980, the container terminal at Ekonomiya was completed. The Port of Arkhangelsk became a leader in state-of-the-art technology among Russian ports, with automated cargo-handling methods being adopted and modern cargo-handling equipment being acquired.
In 1977, the Port of Arkhangelsk was opened for year-round navigation, bringing new cargo volumes and new demands for port services. Thus, expansion of the Port of Arkhangelsk has continued.
In a history stretching back hundreds of years, the Port of Arkhangelsk has grown from a small trading port for Russian skins, canvas, and furs to a modern multi-purpose port facility with a powerful infrastructure with capacity for handling 4.5 million tons of cargo per year.