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A lubok is a Russian popular print
Popular print
Popular Prints is a term for printed images of generally low artistic quality which were sold cheaply in Europe and later the New World from the 15th to 18th centuries, often with text as well as images. They were the first mass-media...

, characterized by simple graphics
Graphics are visual presentations on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, computer screen, paper, or stone to brand, inform, illustrate, or entertain. Examples are photographs, drawings, Line Art, graphs, diagrams, typography, numbers, symbols, geometric designs, maps, engineering drawings,or...

 and narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

s derived from literature, religious stories and popular tales. Lubki prints were used as decoration in houses and inns. Early examples from the late 17th and early 18th centuries were woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

s, then engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

s or etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

s were typical, and from the mid-19th century lithography
Lithography is a method for printing using a stone or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface...

. They sometimes appeared in series, which might be regarded as predecessors of the modern comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

. Cheap and simple books, similar to chapbook
A chapbook is a pocket-sized booklet. The term chap-book was formalized by bibliophiles of the 19th century, as a variety of ephemera , popular or folk literature. It includes many kinds of printed material such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales,...

s, which mostly consisted of pictures, are called lubok literature or (Cyrillic: ). Both pictures and literature are commonly referred to simply as lubki. The Russian word lubok itself means the inner bark of the linden tree and refers to a technique of woodcut from the bark of the linden tree, which used to be a common material in Russia for manufacturing various items: bast shoe
Bast shoe
Bast shoes are shoes made primarily from bast - fiber from the bark of the linden tree or birch tree: they are a kind of basket woven and fitted to the shape of a foot. Bast shoes are an obsolete traditional footwear of forest areas of Northern Europe, formerly worn by poorer members of the Finnic...

s, basket
A basket is a container which is traditionally constructed from stiff fibres, which can be made from a range of materials, including wood splints, runners, and cane. While most baskets are made from plant materials, other materials such as horsehair, baleen, or metal wire can be used. Baskets are...

s, chest
The chest is a part of the anatomy of humans and various other animals. It is sometimes referred to as the thorax or the bosom.-Chest anatomy - Humans and other hominids:...

s, etc.


Russian lubki became a popular genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 of during the last half of the seventeenth century. Russian lubok was primarily influenced by the "woodcuts and engravings done in Germany, Italy, and France during the early part of the fifteenth century". Its popularity in Russia was a result of how inexpensive and fairly simple it was to duplicate a print using this new technique. Luboks were typically sold at bazaar
A bazaar , Cypriot Greek: pantopoula) is a permanent merchandising area, marketplace, or street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold. The term is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work that area...

s and other marketplace
A marketplace is the space, actual, virtual or metaphorical, in which a market operates. The term is also used in a trademark law context to denote the actual consumer environment, ie. the 'real world' in which products and services are provided and consumed.-Marketplaces and street markets:A...

s to the lower and middle classes. This type of art was very popular with these two social classes because the lubok provided them with an inexpensive opportunity to display artwork in their houses.

The original lubki were woodcuts. The Koren Picture-Bible, 1692-1696 established the most prominent style, an "Old Russian" rendering of international iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 and subjects, most closely related to the fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s of the Upper Volga. By mid-18th century, however, the woodcuts were mostly replaced with engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

 or etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

 techniques, which enabled the prints to be more detailed and complex . After printing on paper, the picture would be hand-colored with diluted tempera
Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium . Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist...

 paints.. While the prints themselves were typically very simplistic and unadorned, the final product, with the tempera paint added, was surprisingly bright with vivid colors and lines. The dramatic coloring of the early woodcut prints was to some extent lost with the transfer to more detailed engravings.

In addition to the images, these folk prints would also include a short story or lesson that correlated to the picture being presented. Russian scholar Alexander Boguslawski claims that the lubok style "is a combination of Russian icon and manuscript painting traditions with the ideas and topics of western European woodcuts". Typically, the lubok's artist would include minimal text that was supplementary to the larger illustration that would cover the majority of the engraving.

Lubok genres

Folklorist Dmitri Rovinsky is known for his work with categorizing lubok. His system is very detailed and extensive, and his main categories are as follows: "icons and Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 illustrations; the virtues and evils of women; teaching, alphabets, and numbers; calendars and almanacs; light reading; novels, folktales, and hero legends; stories of the Passion of Christ, the Last Judgement, and sufferings of the martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s; popular recreation including Maslenitsa
Maslenitsa . Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday. The Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date. In 2008, for example, Maslenitsa was celebrated from March 2 to March...

 festivities, puppet
A puppet is an inanimate object or representational figure animated or manipulated by an entertainer, who is called a puppeteer. It is used in puppetry, a play or a presentation that is a very ancient form of theatre....

 comedies, drunkenness, music, dancing, and theatricals; jokes and satires related to Ivan the Terrible and Peter I
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

; satires adopted from foreign sources; folk prayers; and government sponsored pictorial information sheets, including proclamations and news items".Jewish examples exist as well, mostly from Ukraine. Many luboks can be classified into multiple categories.

War lubok

The satirical version played an important role in the luboks from Russian wartime. It is used to present Napoleon in a satirical manner while portraying the Russian peasants as the heroes of the war. This also inspired other Russians to help fight the war by attempting to, “…redefine Russian national identity in the Napoleonic era
Napoleonic Era
The Napoleonic Era is a period in the history of France and Europe. It is generally classified as including the fourth and final stage of the French Revolution, the first being the National Assembly, the second being the Legislative Assembly, and the third being the Directory...

” (Norris 2). The luboks presented a manner for the Russians to mock the French enemy, while at the same time display the ‘Russianness” of Russia. “These war luboks satirized Napoleon and depicted French culture as degenerate” (Norris 4). The lubok was a means of reinforcing the idea of defeating the French invaders and displaying the horrible destruction Napoleon and his army caused Russia. To help rekindle the Russian spirit the luboks displayed “The experience of the invasion and subsequent Russian winter rendered Napoleon and his troops powerless, and the luboks illustrated this view by depicting the French leader and soldiers as impotent when confronted by peasant men, women, and Cossacks” (Norris 9). All the different representation of the Russian heroes helped define and spread the belief in Russian identity.

Russo-Japanese War lubok

The Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 of 1904-1905 began on February 8, 1904, at Port Arthur
Lüshunkou is a district in the municipality of Dalian, Liaoning province, China. Also called Lüshun City or Lüshun Port, it was formerly known as both Port Arthur and Ryojun....

 with a surprise attack by the Japanese navy. At the time, “Russia was an established European power with a large industrial base and a regular army of 1.1 million soldiers. Japan, with few natural resources and little heavy industry, had an army of only 200,000 men”. Because of the staggering difference in military defense, Russia assumed itself to have the upper hand before the war ensued. Luboks depicting the overconfidence of the Russian army were created because censorship laws at the time did not allow satirical magazines to subsist.

With the use of satirical cartoons, luboks displayed pictures such as, “a Cossack soldier thrashing a Japanese officer, and a Russian sailor punching a Japanese sailor in the face”. These luboks, produced in Moscow and St. Petersburg, were anonymously created and recorded much of the Russo-Japanese War.

Perhaps due to the Russian’s overconfidence, “During the battle, the Japanese generals were able to size up their opponent and predict how he would react under certain circumstances. That knowledge enabled them to set a trap and defeat a numerically superior enemy”. Therefore, the Russian government eventually stepped in with its censor laws and stopped the creation of more satirical luboks. All in all, around 300 luboks were created during 1904-1905.

Pagan heritage

A theme that is presented in luboks is paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 and other religious elements. Some of the woodcuts refer to sorcery
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

 and create links to pagan cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

. Certain luboks display Hell through Last Judgment
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

 scenes and some of the woodcuts present the underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

. Wolves, horses, reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

 and other animals are considered to be the ‘helping animals’ to the sorcerers in the woodcuts.

Another common element that is shown in the luboks is the portrayal of Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga or Baba Roga is a haggish or witchlike character in Slavic folklore. She flies around on a giant pestle, kidnaps small children, and lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs...

 fighting the guardian of the underworld who has reptilian features. Baba Yaga is dressed in distinctive costumes of elaborate embroidery
Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins....

 and is related to folklore in her being presented as good sometimes and evil at other times. She is also frequently shown riding a pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 as an identifying trait confirmed by, “Riding pigs was a prominent part of Maslenitsa (the Russian pre-Lenten carnival), and in another luboks a personification of Maslenitsa
Maslenitsa . Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday. The Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date. In 2008, for example, Maslenitsa was celebrated from March 2 to March...

is shown riding into Moscow on the back of a pig to initiate the festivities” (Farrell 735). On the other hand, there is a lubok that presents the entrance to the underworld through Baba Iaga’s mouth, but it is disguised as a pig’s mouth.

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