The Russian-German War. 1914


This print showing the scene of a battle between Russians and Germans in 1914 is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “On August 7, the German army near Gumbinnen introduced at least three corps into battle and tried to encircle our right flank. The battle became extremely tense. We took the offensive in the center and captured many weapons. On August 8, our left flank advanced; when it became dark, we destroyed the enemy. The enemy asked for a cease-fire to remove the dead and wounded, but this request was denied. On August 9, the heroic efforts of our troops resulted in our success. Having suffered huge losses, the Germans retreated, pursued by our troops.” 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: June 9, 2015