Russian Ships Shot down the German Cruiser "Magdeburg"


This print showing a ship in flames at sea is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “On the night of August 13, the German cruiser Magdeburg got stranded in dense fog in the shallow water of the Gulf of Finland. Attempts to move away from the shoal were unsuccessful despite assistance from German destroyers that arrived at the accident site. By morning, the fog lifted, and two of our cruisers opened fire on the Magdeburg. The Magdeburg fired back, but soon was forced to cease fire. Pipes were destroyed on the German cruiser during the battle and an explosion on the bow destroyed the ship as far as the front bridge. Only the commander, two officers, and 40 sailors were captured by us and survived. The other officers and the entire crew died.” 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: September 11, 2015