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What is a Matryoshka Doll?

6. October 2009 by Christy 0 Comments

If you’ve ever visited Russia, you probably came home with a matryoshka doll. The colorful matryoshka dolls, otherwise known as Russian nesting dolls, stacking dolls, or babushka dolls are one of Russia’s most popular souvenirs.


A matryoshka doll set is a set of ever shrinking wooden dolls placed one inside the other. A large doll houses a smaller doll which houses an even smaller doll and so on. Most sets contain five figures, but unique super matryoshkas can have up to 60 pieces.


Contrary to popular belief, matryoshka dolls have only existed a hundred years or so. A Russian artist created the first matryoshka doll in 1890 at a children’s education workshop owned by Sava Mamontov, industrialist and great patron of the arts. The first matryoshka dolls were said to be inspired by souvenir dolls from Japan.


Over the years, artists have created several different styles of dolls with common themes including political figures, animals, musicians, and movie stars. After the fall of the Soviet Union, matryoshka sets featuring the Communist leaders of Russia became popular collector’s items. Visitors can see several of these themes on display at The Museum of Russian Matryoshka which opened in Moscow in 2001. 


If you’re ever in Russia, be sure to check out this traditional Russian craft. These unique dolls will make a great gift for friends and family at home.