A Battle at Gorodok


This print showing a battle with cavalry at Gorodok (present-day Horodok, Ukraine) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains, in the words of an August 6 report from the General Staff at Saint Petersburg: “At noon on August 4, an Austrian division approached the line at Gorodok-Kuzmin. Our cavalrymen initiated a fight with the enemy at Gorodok, which lasted for five hours. Our fire and cavalry attacks inflicted losses on the enemy. The whole field is covered with the enemy corpses, while our losses are insignificant. Around 7:00 p.m. that same day the damaged Austrian division retreated, pursued by our cavalry.” 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