Matryoshka, Russian traditional doll

02 September 2013

One of the most distinctive and recognizable items produced in Russia is the Matryoshka doll (матрёшка). A Matryoshka is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size, each one depicting the same subject, placed one into the other. The most common subject is a Russian countryside woman in a traditional red dress. However, the themes of the doll can vary.

Craftsman Vasily Zvyozdochkin (Василий Звёздочкин) was the first to carve a Matryoshka doll at the end of the 19th century. The doll was inspired a 7-figure nested doll by a Japanese artist, Fukurama. Zvyozdochkin tried to make something similar, but with Russian peculiarities. Since then, the art of Matryoshka evolved, and the doll became a household name in Russia. More subjects appeared, and now it is possible to find dolls depicting fairy tales characters, Soviet leaders, Tsars and even famous celebrities and singers.

The number of nested dolls is at least five, but it can be much more. Traditionally, the more pieces a matryoshka contains, the more precious and luxurious it is. The doll has also a metaphorical meaning, commonly known as the “matryoshka principle”.

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