Established 18 May 1703, under Tsar Peter the Great as part of the Imperial Russian Navy, the Baltic Fleet is the oldest Russian Navy formation. In 1918 the fleet was inherited by the Russian SFSR then the Soviet Union in 1922, where it was eventually known as the Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet as part of the Soviet Navy, as during this period it gained the two awards of the Order of the Red Banner. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Baltic Fleet was inherited by the Russian Federation and reverted to its original name as part of the Russian Navy.
The Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet was created during the Great Northern War at the initiative of Czar Peter the Great, who ordered the first ships for the Baltic Fleet to be constructed at Lodeynoye Pole in 1702 and 1703. The first commander was a recruited Dutch admiral, Cornelius Cruys, who in 1723 was succeeded by Count Fyodor Apraksin. In 1703, the main base of the fleet was established in Kronshtadt. One of the fleet's first actions was the taking of Shlisselburg. In 1701 Peter the Great established a special school, the School of Mathematics and Navigation (Russian: Школа математических и навигацких наук), situated in the Sukharev Tower in Moscow. As the territory to the west around the Gulf of Finland was acquired by Russia for a "warm-water" port giving access for its merchantmen and the buildup of a naval force, the city of St. Petersburg was built and developed an extensive port. The Fleet's base was moved to St. Petersburg and in 1752 it was renamed the Naval Cadet Corps. Today it is the St. Petersburg Naval Institute – Peter the Great Naval Corps.
The Baltic Fleet began to receive new vessels in 1703. The fleet's first vessel was the 24-gun three-masted frigate Shtandart. She is considered to be the fleet's flagship, and is a prime example of the increasing role of the frigate design.
By 1724, the fleet boasted 141 sail warships and hundreds of oar-propelled ships.