Battleship Potemkin and the Russian Revolution

The film, Battleship Potemkin is a very accurate depiction of Russian life in the early 1900’s.  From the image of officers physically abusing the men on the ship to the massacre at the Odessa staircase, Eisenstein certainly brought the image of revolution to life in a shocking and thought-provoking way.

In the film, after Vakulinchuk was murdered, his body was placed by the harbor with a candle and a paper that read, “Killed for a plate of soup.”  This notion resonates with the Russian people, and they unite on behalf of the common goal of holding the oppressor—in this case, the Tsar—responsible for their injustice.  The scene that depicted Vakulinchuk’s body in the tent, and the response of the Russian people, seemed to parallel Mazower’s depictions of liberal uprisings.  The violent response that Tsars utilized to quell the people was common not only in Russia, but among several European cities during the rise and fall of democracy.  I also found it intriguing how immediate the response of the Russian people was upon viewing Vakulinchuk’s body.  It was as if a spark ignited and rapidly spread across the city.

The massacre itself on the Odessa staircase is a painfully accurate visualization of Mazower’s descriptions.  He states, “… the congress sought the creation of socialism by ending exploitation, ‘crushing completely’ the bourgeoisie and vesting power in the working population as expressed by the Soviets” (12).  Eisenstein’s scene on the Odessa staircase is a literal representation of the Russian powers silencing those in favor of liberalism.

It is clear by the end of this film that democracy in Russia will be suppressed.  The Russian people have two clear options: respect authority and stay alive, or rebel and be killed.  The film ends with a bleak view of what the future will hold for Russia in terms of authoritarian leadership.

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