А Bloody Battle with the Germans at Vítkovice


This print showing a battle between Russians and Germans at Vítkovice is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “Bloody Kaiser Wilhelm II had long promised his barbaric hordes that they would one day plunder the beautiful Warsaw. Twice, the Germans rushed to the city, but each time they were repulsed with heavy losses. A trench war began. The rivers Bzura, Rawka, upper Pilica, and Nida marked the line of contact between us and the Germans. The Germans wanted to break our positions on the Bzura and obtain access to Warsaw at all costs. On January 20, 1915, they began an unprecedented attack. Along the ten miles of front line they put forward about 130,000 people and 600 guns. A man was positioned at every yard of the line, and a total of 12 such lines followed one after another. After a terrible hurricane of fire, these dense columns of Germans rushed to our trenches. Our heroes met them with machine gun and rifle fire, resulting in piles of bodies. With a counterattack, our men stopped the Germans, pushed them back, and captured two lines of trenches. At the same time, our wonderful heroes moved to the left bank of the estuary of the Bzura (occupied by the Germans), destroyed a German detachment, and captured Vítkovice, an important strategic gain. German losses were more than 40,000 people, most of whom are dead.” 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