On June, 27 1905 - protest onboard the Russian battleship Potemkin

On June 27, 1905 a protest erupted onboard the Russian battleship Potemkin. It became one of the most dramatic events of the 1905 Russian Revolution. For eleven days sailors of the Black Sea Fleet held control of the battleship supporting the revolution and striking fear in the Tsarist government.

The defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and the political unrest through the Russian Empire all led to mass revolutionary activities in the Imperial army and the navy. Sailors’ morale was low and they were oppressed by harsh disciplinary measures and severe service conditions. Groups were being formed inside the Black Sea Fleet dedicated to the revolution and planning for a fleet-wide mutiny.

The rebellion aboard Potemkin broke out unexpectedly and prematurely. The men on the ship were provoked by the mindless conduct of several senior officers. Sailors were served rotten meat for lunch and when they protested, one of the executive officers, beside himself with fury, shot one of the sailors. At this several other men grabbed the commander and threw him overboard. Other members of the crew quickly joined the brawl, killing other officers. Shortly the crew of more than 700 members seized control over the biggest battleship in the Black Sea and set sail for Odessa, flying a red flag.

The reasons for the mutiny were explained by the Potemkin sailors themselves in a radio message: “To all civilized citizens and to the working people! The crimes of the autocratic government have exhausted all patience… The government wants to drown the country in blood, forgetting that the troops consist of sons of the oppressed people. The crew of the Potemkin has taken the first decisive step… All free men and all workers will be on our side in the struggle for liberty and peace. Down with the autocracy! Long live the constituent assembly!”

The uprising aboard the Potemkin was not an isolated incident. In many cities across Southern Russia, workers were coming out on strike and tension was building in the villages. In the city of Odessa, demonstrations and strikes were a daily occurrence for about two weeks.



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