The Battle of Augustów


This print showing the Battle of Augustów (in present-day Poland) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “The Germans' attempt to cross the Neman River and enter the rear of our armies in Poland, by cutting the railroad lines from Moscow to Petrograd, ended in a great defeat. Driven from the Neman, the Germans made ​desperate attempts to slow the offensive by our troops. A particularly intense battle took place near Augustów. The Germans were defeated by our artillery fire and by bayonets, and were thrown back to their own border. The total losses of the Germans in the battle of the Neman, even under the most conservative estimates, were 65,000 dead, wounded, and taken prisoner. We also captured guns, machine guns, and armored cars.” In the bottom middle of the picture appears “№ 32,” meaning that by the time this print was published, this printing house had produced more than 30 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