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28 LUBKI: Russia, Cossacks & Ottomans



A series of 28 Russian lubki showcases the main protagonists of the Caucasian war, battles with the Ottomans, and Cossacks.

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A series of rare 28 photolithographed lubki includes images of the main protagonists of the Caucasian war, presentation of uniforms, special emphasis on the role of Cossacks in the war, commemorating the Cossack heroes from the 16th century on, and portraits of other Russian heroes somehow involved in the battles with Ottomans in the past).


1 . Его Сіятельство Князь Михаиль Семеновичь Воронцовъ Наместникь Кавказский. [Ego Sіjatel’stvo Knjaz’ Mihail’ Semenovič’ Voroncov’’ Namestnik’ Kavkazskij / His Illustrious Highness Prince Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov Viceroy of the Caucasus].

Shows prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov (1782 – 1856) with marching troops. Vorontsov was a Russian prince and field-marshal, most famous for his participation in the Caucasian War from 1844 to 1853.


2. Осада крепости гуниба и взятие въ плѣнъ шамиля [Osada kreposti Guniba i vzjatie v’’ plen’’ Šamilja Siege of the fortress of the Gunib and capture of Shamil].

The image showcases Imam Shamil surrendering at Gunib in the Republic of Dagestan in Russia, on August 25. 1859, to the Russian commander, Prince Alexander Baryatinsky. Imam Shamil (1797 –1871) was an Avar political and religious leader of the Muslims of the Northern Caucasus. He was leading an anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War.


3. Генераль Лейтенант Кнйезь Василий Осиповичь Бебутовь [General’ Lejtenant Knjez’ Vasilij Osipovič’ Bebutov’ / General Lieutenant Count Vasily Osinovich Bebutov].

The print shows a Russian general from a Georgian noble family, Vasiliy Osipovich Bebutov (1791 –1858). He fought in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29 and in 1830 he was made the governor of the Armenian Oblast. Between 1844–1847 he fought Imam Shamil, the leader of an anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. He was awarded the Order of Saint George of the second degree for his services after he defeated the Ottomans in the battle of Başgedikler during the Crimean War.


4. Его Императорское Величество Александрь Николаевичь. Изволить Осматривать Государственное Подвижное ополчение въ С. Петербургіь Маiя 27. д. 1855 г. [Ego Imperatorskoe Veličestvo Aleksandr’ Nikolaevič’. Izvolit’ Osmatrivat’ Gosudarstvennoe Podvižnoe opolčenie v’’ S. Peterburgі’ Maija 27. d. 1855 g. /  His Imperial Majesty Alexander Nikolaevich. Examining the State Mobile Militia in St. Petersburg. May 27, 1855.]

The print shows the Emperor of Russia, Alexander II (1818 – 1881) examining the troops in St. Petersburg on May 27th, shortly after his coronation on March 2nd, 1855.


5. Е. И. В. Велики Князь Николай Николаевичь [E. I. V. Veliki Knjaz’ Nikolaj Nikolaevič’ / H. I. H. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich].

Shows Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–1891) was the third son and sixth child of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna. He commanded the Russian army of the Danube in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878. In 1856, he became a general Inspector of engineers and in 1864, a commander of the Imperial Guard.


6. Его Императорское Высочество Великій Кнйезь Константинь Николаевичь [Ego Imperatorskoe Vysočestvo Velikіj Knjez’ Konstantin’ Nikolaevič’ / His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich].


Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich of Russia (1827 – 1892) was the second son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.


7. Николай 1й Императорь Исамодержець  Всероссийскоий [Nicholas I Emperor Isamoderzhets (sic) All-Russian / Nikolas I, Imperator Autocrat of All-Russia].


Nicholas I (1796 – 1855) was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855.


8. Бљсљда Русскихъ Воиновъ въ Лагерљ [Bisida Russkih’’ Voinov’’ v’’ Lageri / Arrival of the Russian Soldiers to the Camp]


A broadside showcasing a scene of arrivals of Russian soldiers to a camp, presents various uniforms and ranks of the Russian army under emperor Alexander I.

Number 1 marks a kavalergard  (Кавалергард or Chevalier Guard), number 2 a hussar (лейб гусар), number 3 a transformer (Преображенец) smoking a pipe, number 4 a dragoon (лейб-драгун), no. 5 a Cossack (Линеиньіи Казак), no. 6 a sapper (Сапер), no. 7 a Don Cossack (Донскои Козак), no. 8 a lancer (Лейб Улан), no. 9 a cuirassier (Кирасир) and no. 10 a musician (фленщик).


9. Ермакъ Тимофеевичь Покоритель Сибири [Ermak’’ Timofeevič’ Pokoritel’ Sibiri / Yermak Timofeyevich Conqueror of Siberia]


The print shows a 16th century Cossack leader Yermak Timofeyevich. Timofeyevich (1542 –1585) started the Russian conquest of Siberia, in the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. The actions of Yermak redefined the meaning of the word Cossack. He transformed the image of the Cossack overnight from a bandit to a soldier recognized by the Tsar of Moscow. 


10. Князь Италийский Графъ Александръ Васильевичъ Суворовъ Рьимникцкий [Knjaz’ Italijskij Graf’’ Aleksandr’’ Vasil’evič’’ Suvorov’’ R’imnikckij / Prince Italian Count Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov Rymniksky]


Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (1729 or 1730 – 1800) was a Russian military leader and a national hero, Prince of Italy, and the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire. He was named Count of Rymnik (Rymniksky by Catherine the Great after his victory against the Ottomans at the Battle of Rymnik (today Romania), and Count of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Joseph II.


11. Генерал-Леутенандь Ивань Никитичь Скобелевь [General-Leutenand’ Ivan’ Nikitič’ Skobelev’ / General-Lieutenant Ivany Nikitich Skobelev].


General Ivan Nikitich Skobelev (1778– 1849) was a Russian military leader, who distinguished himself in many battles against Napoleon. He was also author, writing under the pseudonym ‘the Russian invalid’. Skobelev, who was during his military careerwounded in the chest and lost two fingers on one hand, had to have his other arm was amputated, during which operation, it is said, he sat on a drum and dictated his final orders – a scene depicted on this broadside.


12. Анекдотъ Суворова [Anekdot’’ Suvorova  / Suvorov’s Anecdote]


The broadside showcases an anecdote between Russian military leaders Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (1729 or 1730 – 1800) and Grigory Potemkin (1739-1791) at the battle of Izmail (Ukraine) with the Ottoman army in 1790. 


13. Александрь Александровичь Бибиковь [Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Bibikov]


Alexander Alexandrovich Bibikov  (1765-1822) was a Russian military leader from a noble Tatar family.


14. Генералъ отъ Артиллерін Алексий Петровичь Ермоловъ. Въ окресностяхъ Кавказа въ 1824 [General’’ ot’’ Artillerіn Aleksij Petrovič’ Ermolov’’. V’’ okresnostjah’’ Kavkaza v’’ 1824  / General of the Artillery Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov around the Caucasus in 1824]


Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov (1777 – 1861) was a Russian Imperial general, who commanded Russian troops in the Caucasian War. 


Lubki: Prints for the Russian Masses

Lubok (лубо́к; Lubki, plural) were extremely important elements of Russian poplar visual culture from the second half of the 17th Century until the Russian Revolution.  They are broadside prints usually featuring simple graphics, often accompanied by explanatory text.  They focused on a variety of topics including, sacred religious icons, pre-Christian Pagan imagery, folk tales, satire, political propaganda, and humour (which sometimes crossed the line into the ribald), amongst other subjects. 

Importantly, lubki were amongst the only Russian prints targeted towards the lower and middle classes.  They were cheaply produced, and thus affordable, featuring narratives generally comprehensible by images alone (for the benefit of the illiterate), while the text was usually written in vernacular language, accessible to everyman.  In this sense, they were the forerunners of the comic strip.  They were often sold at public markets, and were displayed on the walls of inns and private homes.  In many cases, lubki were the only artworks affordable by the masses. 

The first lubki were produced as woodcuts during the second half of the 17thCentury, and while inspired by popular Western European prints, from the outset that assumed their own distinct Russian style and content.  The earliest lubki followed the ‘Old Russian’ style, as see on church frescoes of the Upper Volga, and as popularized by the Koren Picture-Bible (1692-96).  Tempera paints were often applied, in resplendent hues, lending flair to what were often simplistic, albeit beautiful, deigns.  Russian scholar Alexander Boguslavsky observed that lubki are “a combination of Russian icon and manuscript painting traditions with the ideas and topics of western European woodcuts.”  While most lubki were privately printed, from the Napoleonic Wars onwards, they were issued by the Tsarist regime for propaganda purposes.

During the 18th Century, the style and colouring were maintained, yet the diversity of subject matter increased, while the medium changed to engraving and etching. 

Many 19th Century lubki followed a traditional design and colouration scheme, yet were printed through modern techniques, such as lithography and photoithography.  Printed on cheap paper, and hand coloured, such lubki are of an extraordinary appearance and tactile quality, unlike anything printed in Western Europe or America.  Their archaic style, mixed with modern techniques, often leads uninitiated Westerners to mistakenly believe that they are 19th reproductions of much earlier prints.

During the second half of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the imperial government and patriotic printers sponsored ‘war lubki’, explaining military events and the exploits of the Russian armed forces.  While some lubki-like prints were produced in Russia after the 1917 Revolution, Soviet propaganda poster and flyers largely replaced the genre.

While many individual lubki were produced in sizeable quantities, their ephemeral nature has ensured that their survival rate to the present day is very low.  Indeed, any recorded titles are now thought lost, and many existing piece are known in only a single or handful of examples.  Unlike most historical Russian books and manuscripts, which were geared towards elite audiences, lubki provide unparalleled insights into the beliefs, customs and humour of the Russian masses during era when their thoughts and aspirations were seldom recorded. 


The prints are not signed, but are almost identical to lubki, signed by V. A. Vasil’yev and Ivan Dmitrievich Sytin (1851-1934), mad between 1887 – 1889 and held in the New York Public Library.


References: Alexander Mikaberidze, Russian Officer Corps of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 2005.

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