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Potemkin


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More properly Kniaz Potemkin Tavricheski, a Russian battleship of the Black Sea Fleet. She was named after Prince Potemkin, the commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet under whom the naval officer John Paul Jones served in 1788. The Potemkin was the scene, in June 1905, of a famous mutiny, the ostensible reason for it being bad meat brought on board to be made into borscht, which the men refused to eat. The ship's commander, Giliarovsky, considering this refusal amounted to mutiny, and acting in accordance with an old Russian naval custom, ordered that a number of men should be selected at random, covered with a tarpaulin, and shot. The men selected to do the shooting refused to fire. This account was later denied by officers of the ship who survived the mutiny, but one rating named Vakulinchuk was undoubtedly shot by Giliarovsky, whereupon Giliarovsky, the ship's captain, the chaplain, and four other officers were killed by the crew. When the Potemkin returned to Odessa, Vakulinchuk's body was exhibited to the crowd ashore and rioting followed, some 5,000–6,000 people losing their lives mainly during the famous charge of mounted Cossacks down the Richelieu Steps. After meandering round the Black Sea in search of support the battleship was scuttled by her crew in shallow water off Constanza, but was later raised and refitted. She was broken up after the First World War (1914–18).

The mutiny is the subject of the Soviet film Bronenosets Potemkin (The Battleship Potemkin) which was made in 1925. It is now part of cinema history, although the ending, showing the Russian fleet rallying to the Potemkin's leadership, is pure fiction.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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