Russian Matryoshka Babushka Nesting Dolls
A History Rich In Tradition: Russia's Wood Dolls
The small Russian doll sets that stack one inside the other have captured hearts the world around. Generally made in the theme of a mother doll, fairy tale characters, or well known political figures, the dolls are made of hollowed wood and designed in graduated sizes to nest one inside the other.
Known as Matryoshka, Babushka, or simply as Russian nesting dolls they are a traditional Russian toy which has thrived through the passing of time.
Generally dressed in brightly colored peasant clothing the dolls have become a very distinct symbol of Russian culture often purchased by visiting tourists.
The First Russian Nesting Dolls Were a Set of Eight
Carved by Vasily Zvyozdochkin in 1890 the original set of Russian dolls was modeled from a design by folk craft painter Sergey Malyutin who also painted the dolls once they were complete.
This first set of nesting dolls includes 8 figures. The mother doll is dressed in traditional clothing and holds a chicken under one arm. The set of smaller dolls are all images of children with the smallest doll being a tiny baby carved from a single piece of wood.
The uniqueness of each set of nesting dolls lie in the painting of the figures. Traditionally they often depict characters displayed in Russian dress, color, or design. Grandmother, mother, and child dolls are very popular as well as are sets of political figures or fairy tale characters. Each hollow doll opens to stack one inside the other working in graduating sizes down to the tiniest figure which is carved from a solid piece of wood.
The Craftsmanship in Creating the Russian Nesting dolls
Translated Meaning of Matryoshka
Matryoshka was a very common name for women in early Russia. It would be close in translation to Mary, Martha, or Marsha.
Because this name was so common among peasant women it came to be also known as another term for mother or respected maiden. The name applies very appropriately to the set of Russian nesting dolls as the largest doll is often depicted as the mother and the smaller dolls as her children.
Babushka is another term often given to the nesting doll sets and in Russia this is a term used to describe a grandmother figure. Thus the grandmother or a respected elderly woman would be the largest doll of the set.
Matryoshka Doll Market in Russia
A Symbol Recognized as Originating in this Country
It would be difficult to envision Russia without the symbolic Matryoshka dolls representing their cultural heritage. It is a toy that brings Russia's unique dress and culture into focus.
Although these dolls have only been in existence now for a little over a hundred years they have become a very popular and recognized souvenir item of this country. Alongside vodka, caviar, and the Ushanka, the nested doll sets are now some of the most commonly purchased items by visiting tourists.
The History and Tradition of Nesting Dolls
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