Eyes, JAPAN Blog > Insights into Russian history

Insights into Russian history




I bet you recognize this fancy dolls with various color schemes, styles and familiar faces.
Have you asked yourself, have you ever thought for a moment, who, how and why made it and what its origins is?
And, moreover, did you know, that it is best known and most popular of all Russian souvenirs?
Even if you haven’t, I try to tell huge story behind these russian nesting dolls (or simply Matryoshka).

The Story Behind the Name

Old Matryoshka dolls

“Matryoshka” are Russian wooden dolls with smaller dolls stacked within the bigger ones.

In provincial Russia before the revolution the name Matryona or Matriyosha was a very popular female name.
It was derived from the Latin root ‘mater’ which means ‘mother’.
This name was associated with the image of a mother of a big family who was very healthy and had a portly figure.
Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to describe brightly painted wooden dolls made in such a way that they could be taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.

Even now nesting doll is considered to be a symbol of motherhood and fertility.
A mother doll with numerous dolls-children perfectly expresses the oldest symbol of human culture.

The first Russian nesting doll turned by Vassily Zviozdochkin and painted by Sergey Maliutin contaned 8 pieces: a girl with a black rooster was followed by a boy and then by a girl again and so on.
All figurines were different from each other, the last one was a figurine of a baby wrapped in diaper.

Early Nesting doll

Sergiev Posad – the birthplace of the first Russian nesting doll – was a colorful, truly Russian town.
Its Monastery lent a unique peculiarity to it.
The huge market place in front of the Monastery was almost always full of different people: merchants, monks, pilgrims and craftsmen were milling around.

The first nesting dolls of Sergiev Posad portrayed this colorful life: young girls dressed in Russian sarafans carrying baskets, scythes, bunches of flowers or dressed in winter short fur coats and scarves; old believer women in their conservative clothes; a bride and a bridegroom holding candles in their hands; a shepherd with a pipe; and old man with a lush beard.
At the early period of Sergiev Posad technique development along with female images male images were made as well.

Nesting Doll Today

Nesting doll, a doll which looks quite simple but full of unexpected sense, turned out to be the best embodiment of the present time spirit.
Nesting doll as a form of folk art possesses tremendous potential to convey the deepest sense of the events developed in space and time.
The carnival folk element which is seen in the nesting doll decoration allows not only to rise life’s eternal issues, but to realize contemporary life in its everyday and busy form. Nowadays, masters use their imagination to create truly beautiful dolls, reflecting not only modern sense of art, but also various political and widely known events it the world.

Several examples of how one concept applied in a variety of ways:

Snow Maiden
Classic Matryoshka
Star Wars

Historical reference:


Comments are closed.