The Battle of Marijampolė


This print showing the Battle of Marijampolė (in present-day Lithuania) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “As Russian troops were retreating for strategic reasons from East Prussia, they had to deal not only with the German troops, but also with civilians in German cities and towns. In a small village, called Darkmen, the entire German population, including young women and 12-year-olds, shot at Russian troops from the windows of houses, the roofs of barns, and cellars. The villagers were armed with military rifles and Mausers. The Russians had to fight on two fronts. Our brave troops did not harm the civilians and did not deserve such insidious violence.” In the bottom left corner of the picture appears “№ 64,”meaning that by the time this print was published in 1914, this printing house had produced more than 60 war-related lubok pictures. This picture, like many others in the collection, was printed in the Moscow printing house of Ivan Sytin (1851–1934). By the 1880s, Sytin was the most popular and successful publisher of lubok pictures in Russia. He also published cheap popular books for workers and peasants, textbooks, and literature for children. The quality of this print is much better than many images from other printing houses—more colors and shades are neatly matched and more small details are available for the viewer. 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. 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