Desperate sailors take over the Russian Navy’s premier battleship, hoping to use their mutiny as a catalyst for revolution and the overthrow of Nicholas II.
Bascomb (Higher, 2003, etc.) presents the gripping events of June 1905 with sharply focused immediacy and a flair for high drama. The mutiny aboard the Potemkin, which threatened the entire Black Sea Fleet, was eventually suppressed, but it helped sow the seeds of the Russian Revolution. In Bascomb’s capable hands, this powerful morality play vividly reminds us never to underestimate a handful of people willing to die for an idea. The mutiny’s leaders were committed, desperate men with an equally desperate agenda—to put an end to the oppressive autocracy that had embroiled Russia in a destructive war with Japan and made life even more unbearable for the nation’s peasants. A lowly seaman named A.M. Matyushenko planned the daring takeover with another subversive sailor, G.N. Vakulenchuk. The mutiny was successful, but events quickly turned bloody. With the Potemkin anchored outside Odessa harbor, the Russian army massacred sympathetic workers lining the piers. When a squadron of ships arrived to sink the Potemkin, the crew of a second battleship also mutinied, prompting the Russian commander to flee. But the rebellion eventually stalled, failing to spark the land-based revolution its leaders had hoped for. Bascomb recounts the unfolding events in a believable and authoritative voice. He gives equal attention to the military officials determined to ruthlessly crush the revolt and to Nicholas, who had for years blindly ignored the growing unrest within his empire. Stunningly, the Potemkin mutiny seems to have only temporarily jarred the autocratic complacency of a myopic ruler largely out of touch with the world beyond his gilded palaces. It showed those hungry for revolution that there were thousands of others waiting to join their cause.
History at its best: readable, dramatic and propelled by unforgettable principals.