Defeat of the German Troops at Gumbinnen


This print showing a cavalry battle at Gumbinnen (present-day Gusev, Russia) is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “In East Prussia on August 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1914, a fierce battle was fought. It culminated in a brilliant victory of the Russian troops on the banks of the Rominte River. German forces consisted of 100,000 men and 384 guns, but our army rapidly took the offensive. After a fierce fight on August 7, we captured Gumbinnen despite desperate German fire from Zeesker Hill. On August 9 the Germans were forced from Zeesker Hill and pushed to the Angerapp River. On the right flank, the Germans were thrown back to the Pregel’ River. The enemy retreated in disorder, leaving many guns and prisoners. The Germans requested a truce to retrieve the wounded, but were denied. Our cavalry is pursuing the retreating enemy.” 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: July 23, 2015