Three Vilnius-Published Prints of the January Uprising -- Polish National Uprising in 1863.
A highly unusual, early Lubki (popular graphic) series, locally-published in Vilnius, Lithuania and depicting a contemporary nationalist revolt by the indigenous Polish population.
The series consists of three prints showing the beginning, middle, and end of the Polish-Lithuanian uprising against conscription in the army of the Russian Empire:
1. прошу пaновъ до лесу "The people go to the forest"
This print shows Poles taking up arms against and going to the forest to start their guerrilla campaign. They are marching out of a burning town and appear to be in good spirits, led by a Catholic priest. Many are depicted as overweight.
2. русские мужики и бабы берут и вяжуть иовстанчевь Динабургскошь уъздъ весну 1863 года. "Russian peasant men and women take and bind up insurgents near Dinabourg in the spring of 1863"
In this scene, the rebels have been discovered in the forest by Russian peasants, They are disarmed, flogged, and tied up by the peasants and a Cossack. Female peasants play an important role in the drama, one woman is grabbing the main insurgent, while another has wrested his rifle from him.
3. прошу пановъ съ лясу "The people come from the forest"
In this scene, the rebels are led out of the forest looking downtrodden and starved compared to when they entered. They are being led off by Cossacks, presumably to execution or exile in Siberia.
Each print is priced at 7 kopeks. All of the prints are marked "дозволено цензурою" ["Allowed by the Censors"]. They were published in March and April of 1864.
This series was produced under the supervision of M. N. Muravyov-Vilensky and lithographed later in 1864 as a propaganda tool aimed to destroy the image of the Polish insurgents. The first run was printed in Vilnius in 1864 in an edition of 8,974. They were available both for sale and free distribution. The second run was to number 10,000 copies, be printed in Moscow in 1865, and find distribution in major cities. Apparently, however, the censors saw the Polish caricatures as too redolent of Russian nobility and landlords and was thus not marketed in major cities but again in the Russian northwest territories.
The January Uprising (Polish: powstanie styczniowe, Lithuanian: 1863 m. sukilimas, Belarusian: Паўстанне 1863-1864 гадоў) was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (present-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, parts of Ukraine, and western Russia) against the Russian Empire. It began on 22 January 1863 and lasted until the last insurgents were captured in 1864.
The uprising began as a spontaneous protest by young Poles against conscription into the Imperial Russian Army. It was soon joined by high-ranking Polish-Lithuanian officers and various politicians. The insurrectionists, severely outnumbered and lacking serious outside support, were forced to resort to guerrilla warfare tactics.
Public executions and deportations to Siberia led many Poles to abandon armed struggle and turn instead to the idea of "organic work": economic and cultural self-improvement.
A lubok (plural Lubki, Cyrillic Russian: лубо́к, лубо́чная картинка) is a Russian popular print, characterized by simple graphics and narratives 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 woodcuts, then engravings or etchings were typical, and from the mid-19th-century lithography. They sometimes appeared in series, which might be regarded as predecessors of the modern comic strip. Cheap and simple books, similar to chapbooks, which mostly consisted of pictures, are called lubok literature or (Cyrillic Russian: лубочная литература). Both pictures and literature are commonly referred to simply as lubki. The Russian word lubok derives from lub - a special type of board that pictures were printed on.
We have found no records of this series in instituitons nor of it ever having come to market. Pre-1900 Lubki are rare, and still more so when they feature interesting political subject matter.