From the largest country of the world comes this charming legacy, delicate to handle and enthralling to see, the bright and smart matrons, the Matryoshka Dolls. A beautiful bring-back from Russia, these sets of wooden dolls nested one into the other are a very adorable representation of Russian Culture and Tradition, handcrafted and embellished with bright colours and filled with a load of the crafter’s love.

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With its humble beginnings in 1890 by Vasily Zvyovdochkin and Sergey Malutin for the Children’s Education Workshop with a vision of instilling a patriotic feeling amongst the children. The first Matryoshka set consisted of eight dolls the outermost peasant girl with a red combed rooster and the innermost being one of a baby. The idea of nesting feature was inspired by the Chinese boxes and the Japanese Honshu dolls. This first Matryoshka Doll set earned a bronze medal in the Exposition Universelle in Paris in the year 1900 after which production began for this chubby dolls.

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Contemporarily that these dolls are shipped all around the globe, the ingredients that go into its making should withstand the trial of time and travel, hence, focussing on the wood and paints used, yet, very slightly altering the chiselling of it. These dolls of a varying number of dolls are made of the wood of the Linden trees. These felled tree logs after passing the quality standards are cut into blocks and the carver then lathes them to shape one-half of the largest doll and then another block for the other half and so on. The final little fella tucked inside is carved out of one block of wood only.

These chiselled dolls make up only half of the process, the other half is sprucing up the blank dolls, known as Zagotovki, with colour and life. The paint scheme is usually fairy-tale inspired or, representing political motifs of the Soviet Leaders. Though these dolls represented the Russian culture and tradition, with an expansion in its market around the world, these dolls also carried the themes of landscape, cartoons, cinema, sports, etc. Nowadays, these can even be customised and hence allows being able to fill in it, our own imaginations and fantasies.

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The Matryoshka is a thing for amusement but at the same time, it also ascribes as a metonymy of not one, but many things, abounding with essences and the impressive insights of life.

To begin with, Matryoshka altered from ‘Matryona’, meaning ‘little matron’ represents the genteel aspect of Russian Culture signifying the role of mothers as the bearers and preservers of life and lineage, which explains the roly-poly shape of the dolls and most often, the last piece being that of a little baby. This glorifies the importance of women and the respect they deserve in this world. These dolls also served the purpose of teaching small children different sizes, shapes and colours.

Another interesting thing these dolls teach us is the awry idiosyncrasy of superficiality. It is absolutely important to absorb the intense meaning of every obligation that we take up in life to the grass-root level and understand the importance and meaning of it and also benefit from it and develop an inner growth and strength in life, just like how one after the other a new form exists into the other and finally ends at the beginning of life, a little baby.

Matryoshka is also used as a metaphor to represent layers in aspects of philosophy and modern information sciences, just like an onion.

Some noteworthy Matryoshka Doll Sets and Themes include the World Record Matryoshka Dolls consisting of 51 dolls, the largest made, hand-painted by Youlia Berezenitskaia, in the United States with the largest doll measuring near to 53.97 cm and the smallest being 0.31 cm. This set was completed on 25th April 2003.

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The Political Matryoshka, effectively known as Gorby dolls, humouring the then-current leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who featured in the largest dolls. These dolls then became a political-parody seeking to express political opinions and the position of the different leaders at that time, playing a part in the freedom of speech and expression. Russian Presidents and prominent leaders also began to be highlighted through these dolls.

Following the Covid-19 Pandemic, the closure of the workshops opened up creative ideas, giving the dolls an added accessory, the mask. In the Russian town of Semyonov, many doll painters like Tamara Koryova have now added masks, depicting Covid-19 caprices.

A deeper and wider understanding of this beautiful petite figurines will come by visiting the Museum of Russian Matryoshka in Sergiev Posad, the birthplace of the dolls. The first exhibit here would be the hundred-and-thirty-year-old first doll set. This place also displays the 1913 48-piece Matryoshka, one of the largest in its kind.

Not only from Sergiev Posad, the Capital of Orthodox Christianity in Russia, this doll-making spread to other regions as well bringing in, its own variations and themes, for example, but the dolls from Seymyonov were slender and the paintings also depicted matryonas holding bunches of flowers, the Matryoshkas from Vatskyaya had big beautiful blue eyes and rosy cheeks, adorned with roses and poppies on their aprons.

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Howbeit, Matryoshka Dolls carry a part of the soul of Russia. They represent a significant part of their rich culture and tradition and a priceless art heritage, a symbol of pride for their history, present and future.
These dolls are unmissable trophies from Russia, a snazzy redolence of the country, adorably adorning the setting and the spreader of wonderful smiles. So, don’t forget to bring them home when you travel to Russia, for a friend, for family and for yourself, and may a beautiful handful of Russia always remain close to you and close to your heart.

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