A Heroic Fight of the Cossack Kuzma Kryuchkov with 11 Germans


This print showing a lone cavalryman inflicting mortal wounds on the enemy is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “All of Russia knows about the feat of Kuzma Kryuchkov, a Don Cossack. He valiantly upheld the military glory of Russian Cossacks, who instill fear in the enemies of Russia. A squad of six Cossacks, including Kryuchkov, was sent scouting from Kolvari near the Prussian border. They stumbled upon a detachment of Prussian cavalrymen consisting of 27 men. Two Cossacks immediately set off with a message to their superiors. The remaining four engaged in a fight with the enemy, made them retreat, and chased them for 12 miles. Kryuchkov faced 11 Germans alone, and a fierce battle broke out. The Germans stabbed him with their lances, and he fought first with his rifle. When his rifle was knocked from his hands, he began to chop the enemy with his saber. He then snatched and used a German lance. This Cossack hero received 16 wounds, but came out the winner of the fight, having killed 11 Germans by himself. For his outstanding bravery Kryuchkov was the first person to be awarded the Saint George's Cross during this war.” 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