The European War. The Belgians Explode their Own Dams and Defeat of German Units near Mechelen


This print showing German troops caught in an unexpected flood in Belgium is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “As German units were bypassing Antwerp in the direction of Dendermonde near Mechelen, they were caught off guard by a flood caused by the blowing up of the dams by the Belgians. The whole area was flooded. While the Germans were trying to rescue their weapons, the Belgians opened fire on them from the Antwerp forts. Meanwhile the water level kept rising, covering both people and weapons. The Belgians’ heroic sacrifice will teach Germans a lesson—they will understand who they are dealing with and will teach to their descendants not to infringe on the freedom and independence of this remarkable nation, whose heroism was admired by all Europe.” Lubok is a Russian word for popular prints created from woodcuts, engravings, etchings, or later, by using lithography. The prints were often characterized by simple, colorful graphics depicting a narrative, and could also include text. Lubok gained popularity in Russia beginning in the late 17th century. The prints, which often depicted narratives from a historical event, literature, or a religious tale, were used to make such stories accessible to illiterate people. These expressive prints had a wide range in tone, from humorous to instructive to sharp political and social commentary. The images were clear and easy to understand, and some of the pictures were serialized, predecessors of the modern comic strip. Prints could be reproduced inexpensively, and were thus a way for the masses to display art at home. Initially, this artistic style was not taken seriously by the upper classes, but by the end of the 19th century, lubok was so well-regarded that it inspired professional artists. During World War I, lubok informed Russians about events on the frontlines, bolstered morale, and served as propaganda against enemy combatants.

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Publication Information

M. A. Strel’tsov Lithography, Moscow


Title in Original Language

Европейская война. Взрыв бельгийцами своих плотин и гибель немецких отрядов под Малином

Type of Item

Last updated: November 14, 2017