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Ippolit Giliarovsky was the second in command as a frigate captain of the Battleship Potemkin during the mutiny. He more than anyone was held responsible for the uprising due to his brutal treatment of the sailors. He was killed during the mutiny. Ippolit Giliarovsky was a tall, thin, autocratic officer who fantasized about killing anti war liberals. He was decorated for his part in the Battle of Chemulpo Bay during the Russo-Japanese War. He routinely brutalised the sailors. Once he punched a sailor in the face for not knowing his name.[1]

Giliarovsky was made the executive officer on the Potemkin, which meant spying on the crew, searching them regularly along with administering punishment. Captain Golikov actually complained to his superiors that Giliarovsky was too harsh. On 27 June [O.S. 14 June] 1905, the crew refused Borscht made with maggoty beef. Gilirovsky demanded to know why they were only eating bread and butter. He informed the ship's Doctor Smirnov.[2] He said: "I already told them the meat is fine. The maggots are nothing more than larvae eggs that flies had laid there. They simply need to be washed away with salt and water. The cook did this on my instructions. If the crew continues to refuse to eat, then it is they who are spoiled. That's it." He then went to the captain, saying "We have to teach them a lesson." The captain summoned the crew, threatening any who didn't accept the borscht. Giliarovsky screamed "Come on, come on,hurry up!" but only 12 came forward. He ordered the boatswain to take all the rebels' names. The marines were called, the sailors scattered. He then shouted: "So it's mutiny is it? Alright we know how to deal with that. If you think there's no discipline in the navy, I'll show you how wrong you are. Bosun, bring the tarpaulin." This was stretched on the floor for sailors about to be shot so the deck stayed clean.

The sailors armed themselves, Giliarovsky grabbed a guards' rifle and ordered them to shoot. He shot Grigory Vakulinchuk, a revolutionary sailor, in the chest. He wrestled the rifle off him and was then shot in the back by a petty officer. Afanasi Matushenko fired and missed, Giliarovsky ordered the guards to shoot, they ran away, he tried to shoot them but 2 sailors fired. His last words were: "I know you, you scoundrel. You may escape from the ship now, but I'll find you." He was tossed overboard by the sailors.[3] His body was found at sea by a marine transport "Gonets" in August 1905.

Author Richard Hough gives a more favorable appraisal of Giliarovsky's orders during the mutiny. Hough argues that Giliarovsky took reasonable action to maintain order and discipline after the captain's weak response to the crew’s refusal to eat the Borscht. Giliarovsky’s initial threat to shoot crew members was a bluff that exceeded his formal authority. When the majority of the crew under the leadership of Matushenko again refused to obey orders and became threatening, Giliarovsky felt compelled to try to carry through on his threat. According to Hough (pg. 23), ‘Discipline in the Imperial Navy was no more and no less severe than in the British or United States navies…’[4][5]



  1. Bascomb 2007, p. 43.
  2. Bascomb 2007, p. 61.
  3. Bascomb 2007, p. 85.
  4. Hough 1961, p. 23.
  5. Hough 1961, p. 12,18-26.

Literature cited

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