FIVE YEARS BEFORE PETER I BECAME TSAR, Russia had formed an alliance with the German Empire, Rzech Pospolita (the Kingdom of Greater Poland), and the City-State of Venice in order to oppose the Ottoman Turks. In 1695, during his first campaign against the Turks, Peter I quickly realized that Russia’s free access into the Black Sea and Sea of Azov was not possible so long as the Turks held the Fortress of Azov.
In a protracted and ultimately disastrous attempt to capture Azov, the Russian forces were defeated: Azov was both well fortified and protected by the Turkish fleet. It now further became apparent that wresting Azov from the Turks depended upon the creation of a Russian naval fleet.
Consequently, at the Preobra-zhenskoye and Voronezh shipyards, construction of a fleet of ships was undertaken in earnest in 1696. The shipbuilding proceeded quickly, and by the spring of that same year two warships, 24 galleys, four fire ships and over 1,400 smaller boats had been constructed and were ready for launching.