A Battle Near Vladimir-Volynsk


This print showing a battle near Volodymyr-Volynsky (present-day Ukraine) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “Enemy artillery, firing over its own cavalry, shelled the trenches in front of the city occupied by our troops. The Austrians were quickly approaching. A terrible moment arrived. Hungarian cavalry, arrayed in a wide semi-circle in front of the city, bravely raced forward. It seemed that after a few minutes they would enter the city. But loud sounds and strange crackling were heard: machine guns from our trenches started firing, and something terrible and unforgettable happened. Cavalrymen fell like mowed grass. Horses fell at full speed and falling riders were seen tumbling several times to the ground. The screams of dying people, horses neighing, and the moaning of dying men were heard. Within three minutes the cavalrymen dashing into attack turned into a pile of bodies, and individual riders rushed back to their own lines in frantic terror.” 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.

Last updated: April 3, 2015