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Home > Shopping > Russian Nesting Dolls (Russian wooden stacking dolls)

Russian Nesting Dolls
History and information about Russian dolls

Russian nesting Dolls...you either love them or loathe them, whichever, here is some background information:

The Russian doll was copied from a Japanese toy originating from the country’s Honshu Island. These Japanese dolls depicted a bald Buddhist figure known as Fukuruma. Stacked inside, the subsequent nested dolls depicted a progressively younger looking Fukuruma, with a beard and hair.

So why aren’t they called Japanese Dolls?
There’s a twist to the story, the person who created these “Japanese Dolls” was a Russian monk! So Russian dolls originate from Japan, but were created by a Russian. How this Russian ended up on a remote Japanese island making toy dolls is another story.

Fukuruma was given a Russian make-over and sex change in a Moscow workshop in the 19th century. This workshop was founded by Anatoly Mamontov who was the brother of a famous Russian industrialist Savva Mamontov. Savva actively promoted the renaissance of the Russian traditional and folk art and no doubt had a hand in Fukuruma’s transformation into "Matryoshka".

Why "Matryoshka"?
At that time, a common Russian name for a girl was Matryona or Matrona its diminutive is Matryoshka.

Original Russian Doll
It is also suggested that a tenuous connection may have also influenced the choice of name. Matryona also apparently derives from the Latin word for mother, "mater", and is associated with a symbolic meaning of fertility, as does the "egg-like" shape of the classic Russian doll. (I know it looks more like a pear-like shape!)

Regardless, Matryoshka was a Russian girl carrying a cockerel; she wore an apron over the traditional Russian dress, the sarafan. Seven nested dolls, inside, were depicted as her family, the smallest was a sleeping baby.

The first Russian dolls were too expensive to use as toys, but quickly became popular collectables in Russia and Europe.

Today, the nesting feature and general shape of the Russian doll remains, where as the painted designs have definitely moved on, anything that can be painted onto a Russian doll probably has been!

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