The Germans' Retreat in East Prussia


This print showing German soldiers retreating from advancing Russians is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “Our troops captured Bakałarzewo and seized large quantities of weapons, equipment, and ammunition. Some of the weapons were seized in the aslant position. On the left bank of the Vistula River, the Germans hastily continue moving to the border. A sharp turn is evident on the East Prussian front since October 21. The enemy, who took the defensive along the entire front line, has begun to retreat in many areas. This retreat is especially evident on the right flank, where the enemy is pushed to Byala and Lykа.” 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