A Battle with the Turks


This print showing a battle between Cossacks and Turks is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “Taking advantage of the night darkness, the Turks, dressed in white cloaks, stole up to the location of the Cossack outpost and attacked the Cossacks with bayonets. At the same time a Kurdish cavalry unit attacked them from the flank. A terrible massacre began. The Cossacks then broke through the lines of the Turks, took the hill, and entrenched themselves. In the morning our artillery and infantry arrived. Turks and Kurds fled, leaving a trail of corpses on their way.” In the bottom left corner of the picture appears “№ 96,” meaning that by the time this print was published, this printing house had produced more than 90 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