Lubok Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lubok Literature


cheap popular publications in prerevolutionary Russia, first appearing in the second half of the 18th century after lubok pictures had begun to circulate. Lubok literature consisted of adaptations of fairy tales and bylinas (folk epics), romances about knights-errant (Prince Bova and Eruslan Lazarevich), historical tales (the founding of Moscow, the battle of Kulikovo) adventure stories (such as those about the English milord George), lives of saints, songbooks, collections of anecdotes, and fortune-telling and dream books. Lubok works were usually anonymous, although some literary works found their way into these publications, including novellas by N. M. Karamzin and works by A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, and N. V. Gogol. These works were often altered and distorted, omitting the author’s name. The large size of the editions assured the publishers of huge profits.

The fake folksiness and banality of many lubok books infuriated V. G. Belinskii, N. G. Chernyshevskii and other progressive cultural figures in Russia, who nevertheless realized that lubok books were often the only ones to which peasants had access. N. A. Nekrasov dreamed of the time

When the muzhik will take home from the market
Not the silly milord or Blücher
But Belinskii and Gogol …
(Poln. sobr. soch. i pisem, vol. 3, 1949, p. 186)

In Russia the publication of lubok literature ceased in 1918. The October Revolution of 1917 made possible the mass publication of literary classics. Publications similar to Russian lubok literature were issued in many foreign countries.


Bakhtin, V., and D. Moldavskii. Russkii lubok XVII—XIX vekov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.