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Ataka na port-mone [Attack on the wallet] 1904

  • Publisher: Tovarishchestva'. Pechat'i izdatel Moskva [Russian Comradeship (Private) Printing House]
  • Engraver: Tovarishchestva'. Pechat'i izdatel Moskva [Russian Comradeship (Private) Printing House]
  • Date: 1904
  • Dimensions: sheet: 38 x 56 cms


Russian satirical broadsheet, published in 1904 during Russo-Japanese war – miniature Japanese soldiers try to rob giant Uncle Sam

About this piece:

Ataka na port-mone

[Attack on the Wallet / In Pursuit of Money]

Colour-printed “lubok” style broadsheet, printed on relatively thin newsprint paper. With imprint of Moscow censor dated 20th March 1904  at lower right corner. Marked “No.14” at lower left. Wide margins. Some slight foxing to image but otherwise in fine condition.

A precursor and counterpart to a similar caricature of John Bull (V Osadom Polozhenii – Under Siege – September 1904), this satirical depiction of Uncle Sam was first published in Moscow in March 1904, just five weeks after the initial outbreak of hostilities.

It was an early attempt by the Russian propagandists to convey the idea that Japan would be unable to wage the present war against her Russian enemy without the heavy financial support of her “Western friends” – Great Britain and the United States.  The expenditure on the war did indeed proved a heavy burden on the still nascent industrial Japanese economy and her leaders were soon forced to resort to significant foreign loans from John Bull and Uncle Sam.

In this splendid piece of caricature, very much in the style & feel of the age-old traditional Russian lubok, a giant wirey-framed Uncle Sam, resplendently attired in top hat, red coat & tails, green chequered trousers and yellow spats, sits astride an equally large purse, which he holds firmly closed with his left hand. With his right hand he tries to protect his wallet from the combined assault of three lilliputian Japanese soldiers. At the same time, assault parties of further Japanese troops scale ladders up the sides of the purse and launch an assault up his trouser leg and into his pocket! In the background Japanese battleships patrol the coastal waters as the sun rises over the horizon. The rhyming rayeshnik-style verse below the image, which mimics a traditional folk ballad, denigrates the Japanese in both racially derogative terms and as blatant crooks & swindlers, always resorting to conniving tricks. They are also quickly running out of money and being refused loans from all quarters. The final Russian insult is to suggest that their scarce coins have actually been spent on galoshes to protect themselves from the mud of the front-line battlefields.

Refs: Yulia Mikhailova: Images of Enemy and Self: Russian Popular Prints of the Russo-Japanese War [in : Acta Slavica Iaponica, Vol 16 [1998]