October 01, 1996

Blood for the Revolution

At the end of June 1905, Russian society, which had still not cooled off from the crushing defeat by the Japanese at Tsushima Strait a month previous, was shaken by news of a mutiny. The impossible had happened — the crew of the Black Sea Fleet’s powerful, brand new battleship, the Prince Potyomkin of Tavridia, had ousted its officers, set sail for Odessa and opened fire on the town.

The mutiny shook Tsar Nicholas II much more than the death of Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Rozhdestvensky at Tsushima. He wrote in his diary: “I simply can’t believe it. God knows what is happening in the Black Sea Fleet. Three days ago the crew of the St. George the Victorious joined the Potyomkin... Everything must be done to keep discipline on the other ships of the squadron! Then we must punish the ringleaders heavily and the mutineers harshly.”

With uncharacteristic mercilessness Nicholas gave the order to destroy the battleship. But harsh repressions against the rebels did not have the desired effect. In 1905-7, a wave of mutinies rocked naval bases in the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Far East, involving the crews of 22 ships and over 20,000 land-based sailors.

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