The Apraksin brothers were launched to prominence after the marriage of their sister Marfa to Tsar Feodor III of Russia in 1681. Fyodor entered the service of his brother-in-law at the age of 10 as a stolnik. After Feodor's death he served the little tsar Peter in the same capacity. He took part in military amusements of the young tsar and helped to build a toy flotilla for him. The playfellowship of the two lads resulted in a lifelong friendship.
In 1692 Apraksin was appointed governor of Arkhangelsk, the foremost trade port of Russia at that time, and built ships capable of weathering storms, to the great delight of the tsar. While living there, he commissioned one of the first Russian trade vessels to be built and sail abroad. In 1697 he was entrusted with major shipbuilding activities in Voronezh, where he would supervise the construction of the first Russian fleet. He won his colonelcy at the siege of Azov (1696). He was nominated the first Russian governor of Azov in 1700. While Peter was combating Charles XII, Apraksin was constructing fleets, building fortresses and havens in South Russia, notably Tavrov and Taganrog. In 1700 he was also appointed chief of the admiralty, in which post (from 1700 to 1706) his unusual technical ability was of great service.
Having pacified the rebellious Astrakhan, Apraksin was summoned to Moscow, where he was put in charge of the mint and the armoury. In 1707, he was appointed president of the Russian Admiralty. The following year, he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ingria, to defend the new capital Saint Petersburg against the Swedes, whom he utterly routed. On February 25, 1710, aged 48, he became the third Russian ever to be elevated to the comital dignity. In March 1710 he was in command at the Siege of Vyborg. Taking this Swedish fortress in June, he was invested with the Order of St. Andrew and appointed governor of the conquered provinces (Estonia, Ingria, and Karelia).
Apraksin held the chief command in the Black Sea during the campaign of the Pruth (1711). He commanded the Imperial Russian Navy in the taking of Helsinki (1713) - materially assisting the conquest of Finland by his operations from the side of the sea - and the great Battle of Gangut (1714). That same year he assisted the tsar in launching a new harbour in Revel. Earlier, in 1712, he held parley with Turkey, which ended in the destruction of Taganrog and the surrender of Azov to the Ottomans.
From 1710 to 1720 he personally conducted the descents upon Sweden, ravaging that country mercilessly, and thus extorting the peace of Nystad, whereby she surrendered the best part of her Baltic provinces to Russia. For these great services he was made a senator and General Admiral of the Empire.