The Destruction of the Plate

When studying historical events there are many ways to learn about a certain subject. A couple of ways one can study a historical event is through the use of literature and films. While learning about the Russian Revolution, I read the section on the Russian Revolution in the novel Dark Continent by Mark Mazower and watched the silent film Battleship Potemkin directed by Sergei Eisenstein. In their own ways, both of these works touch upon the division of social classes in Russia in 1905 and the tension that accompanies the division.

Battleship Potemkin depicts the Russian Revolution on a smaller scale, through the mutiny of soldiers aboard a ship. The scene that interests me the most from Battleship Potemkin is surprisingly not one of the many gory scenes depicted in this film. It is instead of the crew members doing the dishes. One crew member comes across a plate that puts a look of anger, betrayal, and disgust on his face. I was intrigued as to what could have possibly angered him so much. This plate turned out to say “give us this day our daily bread.” He takes this plate, shows it to his fellow crew members, and then violently throws it to the ground. Although there is an obvious religious affiliation with this plate, I believe it symbolizes something other than the destruction of religion. The tension in Russia before the revolution is depicted through this poor crew member looking at the aristocrat’s plate he is being forced to wash. This man that was provided rotten meat is now supposed to clean the very plate on which his overseers, the aristocrats, had eaten a perfectly good meal on. To me, this shattering plate symbolizes the anger of the common man towards the upper class, and the hope for destruction of democracy, aristocracy, and the division of the social classes. From this disdain for the division of social classes comes the desire for equality, and a desire for a government centered around the ideas of communism.

This scene from Battleship Potemkin relates the writing of Mazower about the Russian Revolution in his novel Dark Continent. Mazower writes about the fall of democracy, aristocracy, and the rise of communism due to the peasants (or crew members in Battleship Potemkins) desires. “In the factories, in the countryside and in the ranks, social order was collapsing, and the middle ground in Russian politics disappeared (Mazower 11). The lower class wanted their “daily bread” and felt that communism would be the solution to their “starvation.” They wanted a Russia where everyone was equal; where everyone could afford land, food, and water. Aristocracy needed to come to end, and the Russian Revolution began the process of attempting to close the gap within the social classes. Russia’s current government was not adequate in providing the people what they wanted, and thus they revolted.