The Russian doll - Matryoshka

Some believe that the art of wooden Russian dolls dates back to slavic Rus. Others are sure that these dolls are a relatively new invention, created specifically as souvenirs. Despite any disagreements, one thing is agreed on by everyone: The Matryoshka doll has become an internationally recognised symbol of Russia.

It is believed that the first ever Matryoshka was indeed created in 1890 in the workshop of the Abramtsevo estate owned by Savva Mamontov, a famous industrialist and philanthropist. Some say that a Japanese wooden toy, a figurine of a bald old man, the sage Fukuruma, ended up at the workshop. This doll consisted of seven figures folded into each other. The artist was fascinated by it and decided to create something similar, only with a Russian twist.

Why is the doll called ”Matryoshka”? Matryona was a very popular name for women in Russia. It is derived from the latin “matrona” – a free-born married woman of good reputation and belonging to the upper class in Ancient Rome. Later in Russian, the word started being used to describe a respected woman, the mother of a family. From the term "matrona" came the Christian female name Matrona - in Russian, Matryona.

The first Russian doll consisted of eight dolls and depicted a peasant family - a mother and 7 daughters. This set and some other sets are now kept in the Toy Museum of Sergiev Posad. The traditional Matryoshka depicts a young Russian woman dressed in national costume with a scarf on her head. In classic matryoshka dolls, all the dolls in the set look almost identical, and the number of dolls in the set varies from 5 to 30.

In the beginning there was the Sergiev Posad Matryoshka, then the Nizhny Novgorod Matryoshka, and then the Semenovskaya Matryoshkas appeared. Thereafter, more exclusive ones began to appear, created by artists in the style of the best traditions of different painting schools, from Khokhloma to Zhostovo. The 21st century has added new themes to the old art craft: family, political, and event collections of dolls. Unique Russian dolls are often parts of collections around the world.