October and the Dark Continent

Matthew Goldstein                                                   Inter War History

The film October: Ten Days that Shook the World by Sergei Eisenstein was another in the series of grand Soviet Propaganda films produced by the director Eisenstein. It’s highly dramatized portrayal of the November Revolution, is in stark contrast to the straight forward writings of Mazower in the Dark Continent.

The title to the film and its background were taken from Jack Reed’s highly popular novel Ten Days that Shook the World, which gives a first hand account to the happenings of the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg during that faithful Revolutionary period. Reed’s sympathy with the Communist revolutionaries makes it impossible to call his book a straight forward honest portrayal of the events in St. Petersburg. Its a exciting work that makes you feel as if all of Russia was behind the communist pusch, with stories of soldiers revolts and the great bravery of common supporters of the Soviet against the bourgeois officers and aristocrats that supported the Provisional government. Eisenstein’s film fills you with this same emotion. His grand scenes of the supporters storming the Winter Place make you feel as if all of Russia was there on the faithful night. Eisenstein’s movie was created as a propaganda film, and it’s purpose was to prop up men like Stalin who was taking control of Russia at this time and ruin the reputation of men like Trotsky who had fallen out of favor with the leadership. As a result this film has little validity to a student of the actual occurrences of the Revolution.

Mazower’s passage on the Russian Revolution is in a totally different vein then the film. It isn’t slanted so heavily to the side of the Revolutionaries, like Ten Days that Shook the World and October are. Mazower looks back to the period before the Revolution and the politics involved in the entire arch of time. This examination puts a different spin on the Revolution. Instead of being strictly a spontaneous uprising of the people, we see that the actions of the Communists were planned much further in advance and that their success was a much more calculated move. The Communist party “gained under one forth of the total votes cast”. (Mazower p.10) The Communist party did not have the rousing support shown in the movie but it was smart enough to seize power when it could. That is abundantly clear in The Dark Continent. Although October and Ten Days that Shook the World vary greatly from The Dark Continent, both works are able to give you a perspective and insight into the Russian Revolution.

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