A Battle with the Germans on the Bzura River


This print showing a battle taking place on the Bzura River is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “The second onslaught of the German troops on Warsaw and the Vistula River was stopped along the line of the Bzura River and its tributary, the Rawka River. Further to the south, the line of defense continued along the rivers Pilica and Neda, to the confluence of the latter with the Vistula. The Russian army stood there like an impenetrable wall. The Germans made many desperate attempts to move their forces across the Bzura and the Rawka. Our heroes deliberately allowed the Germans to cross the river, sometimes with large units, only to attack without firing a single gunshot, stabbing and dumping the Germans into the river. Sometimes our incomparable artillery waited for the Germans to set up pontoon bridges and begin crossing the river, and then, with precise and fierce fire, they destroyed the bridges and drowned the infantry and artillery in the river. The Germans suffered enormous losses in dead and wounded.” 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