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15 November 2018

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Red Mutiny

by Neal Bascomb

Maggot-infested meat spurred the mutiny of the Battleship Potemkin in June 1905. Such mundane and graphic facts make for a good story, certainly

But in this case, it belies the fact that the bad meat was just a pretext, that events were set in motion long before, and that those events would have great significance not just for Russia, but for the world.

Bascomb knows how to tell a story: through the eyes of well-defined characters. In this case, the characters are the sailors, who get their side of the story recounted for the first time, free of ideological taint. And at the center of it all is the charismatic figure of Afanasy Matyushchenko.

For eleven days, Matyushchenko and the other mutinous sailors sailed the Black Sea, fighting off the rest of the Black Sea Fleet and finally surrendering to local authorities in Romania. Some escaped, many were executed; one later became Soviet ambassador to Britain.

This is a well-crafted story of adventure, hapless revolutionaries and the simple desire for justice in the face of oppression. It has all the makings of a great movie...

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2007