1940 Korkin Russian Lubok Satirical Look at the Battle of Port Arthur

Хоть мал, да удал. / [Small But Dangerous]. - Main View

1940 Korkin Russian Lubok Satirical Look at the Battle of Port Arthur


Russia the hedgehog!


Хоть мал, да удал. / [Small But Dangerous].
  1904 (dated)     15.5 x 21.5 in (39.37 x 54.61 cm)


A rare 1904 Russian chromolithograph lubok by A. P. Korkin illustrating the Battle of Port Arthur (February 1904), the opening salvo of the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 1905). It is an ironic scene of optimism, indicative Russian arrogance during the first stage of the war. Soon after, in the subsequent battles, Japanese forces soundly defeated the Russian Navy.
A Closer Look
The image depicts the Imperial Japanese Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō Saneyoshi standing on a destroyer looking at his bloodied hand. Port Arthur (modern-day Lüshunkou) is represented as a hedgehog with the face of Vice-Admiral Oskar Stark (1846 - 1928). In the background, the United States and China are dismayed by inactive. Both sides came away from the battle bloodied, but as the Russians effectively beat off a surprise night attack, they are generally attributed a narrow victory. This would not be the case in subsequent battles wherein Russian forces were soundly defeated by the Imperial Japanese.
The Battle of Port Arthur
The Battle of Port Arthur, fought on February 8 - 9, 1904, was the opening battle of the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 1905). On February 8, an Imperial Japanese naval squadron, led by Marshal-Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō Saneyoshi (東郷 平八郎; 1848 - 1934), launched a pre-emptive night strike against the Port Arthur based Russian Pacific Fleet led by Vice-Admiral Oskar Stark (1846 - 1928). Despite the advantage of surprise, the Japanese attack yielded little, and the battle ended indecisively - with both sides claiming victory. Strategically, Port Arthur was important to both the Russians and the Japanese. For the Russians, it was the terminus of the Southern Manchurian Railway, which Russians managed, and which connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway - thus providing an essential warm water port. For the Japanese, taking Port Arthur was a cornerstone of their plans to invade Manchuria and, ultimately, China. Taking Port Arthur was also important in preventing growing Russian influence in East Asia.
The Satirical lubok
The lubok is a Russian satirical print. Such prints were produced in Russia from at least the 17th century and well into the 19th century. Lubki (plural) typically contained a story or lesson and often poked fun at authorities. One of the earliest lubok, from 1760, depicts Peter the Great's burial as teams of mice burying a cat (Peter). During the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 1905) modern printing techniques such as chromolithography were applied to the lubok tradition. Although officially banned, lubok production documented much of the Russo-Japanese War, often portraying the Japanese as small and ineffectual. Others poked fun at Russian overconfidence. Many lubki found their way to Japan, enabling Japanese strategists to better understand Russian attitudes and thereby predict how they would react under various circumstances - leading to a tactical superiority throughout the war.
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War, fought from February 8, 1904 - September 5, 1905, pitted Imperial Japan against Tsarist Russia over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. Both Russia and Japan had grand visions for the region. Russia traditionally had only one Pacific port, Vladivostok, which was operational only during the warm summer months. In 1898, Russia coerced China, then weakened after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894 - 1895), to lease Port Arthur, a warm water port on the Liaodang Peninsula. They also negotiated a right-of-way to connect Port Arthur to the China Eastern Railway, which ran from nearby Dalian (Dalny) to Harbin, a stop on the Siberian Railway. Russia, eager to expand southwards from Siberia, considered Port Arthur the cornerstone of a sphere of influence covering China, Manchuria, and Korea. Japan had its own Imperial ambitions and saw itself as the natural overlord in East Asia. Korea and Manchuria, in particular, were important as steppingstones into China, with its seemly unlimited resources.

There was initially some attempt at negotiation between the imperialist powers, but Tsar Nicholas II arrogantly believed it impossible that Japan could challenge a major European power. Japan proved him wrong, launching a surprise attack on the Russian Eastern Fleet stationed at Port Arthur. Throughout the war, the Russians were repeatedly defeated, humiliating the Tsar and forcing U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt to arbitrate peace, confirmed by the Treaty of Portsmouth. The treaty recognized Japan's claims on Korea and called for the evacuation of Russian forces from Manchuria, including from Port Arthur.

The overwhelming victory of Imperial Japan surprised international observers, being the first major military victory in the modern era of an Asian over a European power. The consequences transformed the balance of power, confirming Japan as the pre-eminent power in East Asia.
Chromolithography is a color lithographic technique developed in the mid-19th century. The process involved using multiple lithographic stones, one for each color, to yield a rich composite effect. Oftentimes, the process would start with a black basecoat upon which subsequent colors were layered. Some chromolithographs used 30 or more separate lithographic stones to achieve the desired effect. Chromolithograph color could also be effectively blended for even more dramatic results. The process became extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it emerged as the dominant method of color printing. The vivid color chromolithography produced made it exceptionally effective for advertising and propaganda imagery.
Publication History and Census
This satirical image was printed in Moscow in 1904 by A. P. Korkin (А. П. КОРКИНА). The map is dated April 21, 1904 with a note suggesting that it passed the censorship board - likely the reason its printer is attributed. We have identified a few examples in Russian historical collections, but none in the US. No market history.


A. P. Korkin (А. П. КОРКИНА; fl. c. 1904 - 1919) was a Russian lithographer and publisher based in Moscow in the early 20th century. Korkin was a master of chromolithography and is best known for his satirical lubki or lubok prints. During World War II, he partnered with A. V. Beideman. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Light toning.