The painting “Attack by surprise” was painted by the artist in 1871. This work is included in seven etudes about the unequal battles of the Russian squad with enemies. This is a real battle painting, conveying an atmosphere of fear and pain.
The author tried to show the resilience of the Russian soldier. Despite the numerical minority, they proudly defend their right to be called a soldier. Quite unexpectedly, in the middle of a mountain valley this bloody battle begins. Enemy squads ride horses with bare swords. But a handful of fighters were not at all frightened. On the contrary, the men rallied and are ready to give the last repulse to the ill-wisher.
Vereshchagin was able to convey this important point. In the face of every Russian soldier undisguised fear is visible, but bravery does not allow to run up and hide between the rocks. Enemies with a solid line extending beyond the horizon, attacking a small detachment. We see weapons and banners that are being raised by desperate horsemen. Russian fighters run out of tents to help their loyal comrades. Already there are the first victims, someone at this very moment dies under the horse’s hoofs.
Nature on this day is bright and calm. Mountain peaks are covered with light haze, and the skies are blue. It seems that in the distance only the world and beautiful landscapes. This is in the foreground a bloody battle and yellowed grass under the feet of soldiers. The tops are covered with snow and do not foretell anything bad, they sleep peacefully, and they are not interested in the war taking place below.
This is the overall impression of the author’s Turkestan war. The plot does not bear any historical fact. Such situations were everywhere during that period.
Stories have repeatedly studied this canvas, but did not find certainty in the depicted slaughterhouse. But this was not what the author wanted to convey; he wanted to portray the courage and patriotism of the Russian soldier. That it can not be broken, even when thousands of enemy units are approaching.