Comparing Mazower and Battleship Potemkin

In the film Battleship Potemkin the sailors of the vessel revolt and over throw the command after being severely mistreated and abused. In the opening scene of the movie a caption appears saying “there’s a limit to what a man can take,” in reference to his constant struggle and pattern of harassment. The mutiny that takes place on the ship is representative of the same struggle that occurs on the soil of the Russian homeland. On the boat it is the common sailors vs. their oppressive officers, and on the mainland it is the workers vs. the Tsarist regime. This film could be considered a piece of revolutionary propaganda because it glamorized the working class by showing a banded, cohesive group of like minded people rising up and taking things into their own hands through power in numbers.

While Mazower’s Dark Continent does not go into much detail about Russia prior to WWI, there are a lot of recurring themes and similarities that exist, principally dealing with violent overthrows instigated by the middle and working classes. Although Battleship Potemkin is set in 1905, the Russian people are still dealing with very similar issues in both time periods. Some similarities that I noticed in the two works is how Mazower wrote, in reference to Tsarist times compared to communist rule, “but it differed too in its conception of revolutionary politics as civil war, wherein state terror had a special role as an instrument of class struggle” (p.12). The sailors on the Potemkin were victims of this when some of the sailors were designated for execution for refusing to eat the rotten meat. In response, the sailors dealt their superiors a crushing blow by rousing a mutiny and symbolically tossing them overboard, cleansing themselves of their oppressive regime.


FUN FACT: Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, proclaimed the film to be “A marvelous film without equal in the cinema … anyone who had no firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after seeing the film,” even though there was a man in the film who made an anti semitic slur during the rally and was beaten in the street by the mob. This scene highlighted how the Russian cause did not discriminate in terms of race or ethnicity, it was solely about class struggle and united all workers.             … Quite ironic