The Capture of Yaroslav


This print showing a battle outside the walls of Yaroslav (present-day Jarosław, Poland) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains, in words directly from the headquarters of the Russian General Staff: “Our troops stormed the fortifications on the right bank in Yaroslav, captured 20 guns, and continued the offensive. The enemy tried in vain to stop us by exploding the bridge over the river San. Soon our troops captured Yaroslav, creating a heavy influx of prisoners and captured guns. The disintegration of the enemy forces is evident from their looting that increases confusion as they retreat. Prisoners of war unanimously testify that almost no officers are left among the Austrian troops. Our newly formed regiments valiantly fight alongside seasoned units against the Austrians; these new units became stronger in our victorious battles and many of them already acquired great fame in the army.” 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