A Battle at the Austrian Border


This print showing a battle near the village Gopka at the Austrian border is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains, in the words of a report from Odessa: “Our troops reached Gopka on August 13 at night; an intense firing of weapons began. A fierce battle began before dawn and lasted for 18 hours. The battle ended with the defeat of the Austrians, who abandoned many guns. The number of dead and wounded Austrians is 2,000, with 4,000 taken prisoner. The Austrians are terribly afraid of and deliberately avoid bayonet fights. When faced with a bayonet attack, they scream in broken Russian, ‘Ne Koly (Do not stab)’.” 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