Russian Railroad Troop Transport and Soldiers Crashing through Ice


The Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) was documented in various forms of media, such as woodblock prints, photographs, and illustrations. The victories of the Japanese military in the early stages of the war inspired propaganda prints by Japanese artists. This print forms part of the series, Rokoku seibatsu senshō shōwa (The expeditionary war against Russia: tales of laughter). The illustrator is Utagawa Kokunimasa, also known as Baidō Bōsai or Utagawa Kunimasa V (1874–1944). The satirical writer Honekawa Dojin (pseudonym of Nishimori Takeki, 1862–1913) supplied each illustration with an accompanying humorous description. The series mocked the Russians for their perceived military weakness, conceit, and cowardice. The text has puns throughout that play on Chinese characters that indicate negative meanings, such as death and suffering, or names of battle locations. Here two Japanese muse that it was not only the strength of the Japanese army that won battles, but the recklessness of the Russians who had built a railway on Lake Baikal. After seeing a train sink, they consider rescuing the drowning soldiers, but the Russians are “too fearful of Japan to raise their heads, and too helpless to reach out their arms.”

Last updated: March 2, 2012