Russian Matryoshka Nesting Dolls

Author: Clock Shop   Date Posted:6 October 2023 


Russian Matryoshka Nesting Dolls are a beloved symbol of Russian culture that have long captivated people around the world with their intricate design and unique nesting capabilities. But what is their purpose and do they have any significance behind their design, or are they simply a decorative item that has been loved by many households over the years? 


Otherwise known as babushka dolls or Russian nesting dolls, the very first Matryoshka nesting doll was made in 1890 by a Russian craftsman named Vasily Zvyozdochkin, who was inspired by a set of Japanese nesting dolls that he saw at the World Fair in Paris in 1889. Zvyozdochkin collaborated with a Russian painter and designer named Sergey Malyutin to create a set of nesting dolls that depicted a traditional Russian peasant girl. The set consisted of eight dolls, with the smallest one no larger than a grain of wheat. The dolls were a huge success and were exhibited at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, where they won a bronze medal for their design. Since then, Matryoshka nesting dolls have become a popular symbol of Russian folk art and culture, and are now produced in a wide range of styles and sizes, featuring both traditional and modern designs to suit a wide range of interests. 



Image: The original matryoshka set by Zvyozdochkin and Malyutin, 1892


Origin Of The Name


Matryoshka dolls are a traditional Russian handicraft that consists of a set of wooden dolls in decreasing size. The largest doll, forming the outermost doll, is often painted to resemble a woman wearing a traditional Russian costume, with a scarf or kerchief on her head. This doll can be opened up to reveal a smaller doll inside, painted in a similar style. This process can be repeated until the smallest doll is revealed. These dolls are usually sold in sets of three or more dolls, however the numbers can vary widely with some sets containing up to 50 or more dolls, with the smallest dolls sometimes being no larger than a grain of rice!


The name "Matryoshka" was first used for the nesting dolls in the early 20th century and is thought to have been chosen because of the dolls' maternal associations. Matryoshka nesting dolls got their name from the Russian female name "Matryona" or "Matryosha", which is derived from the Latin name "Matrona" meaning "mother". The name was a popular one among peasants and is associated with the image of a strong, nurturing mother figure. The largest outermost doll is often depicted as a mother or grandmother figure, with each smaller doll inside representing a child or grandchild, next in the ancestral lineage. The name Matryoshka thus reflects the dolls' traditional role as a symbol of family and maternal love.


Authentic Matryoshka Dolls


When searching for an authentic Matryoshka doll set, it's important to ensure that they are made by skilled craftsmen in Russia using traditional techniques. These dolls are traditionally made of wood from lime or birch trees. The dolls are then carved into a female shape with the head and body forming the largest part of the doll. The dolls are then painted in bright, non-toxic colours and adorned with traditional Russian motifs such as flowers, birds, or geometric shapes. In many cases, the artist will also leave their signature or a stamp on the base of the bottom doll, indicating that the item is authentic and handmade. Many authentic Russian Matryoshka dolls are popular amongst collectors worldwide, especially the earlier versions from the 20th century. 


Keeping Up With Modern Times


In addition to the traditional designs, Matryoshka dolls have also been widely adapted to feature modern and popular culture themes, making them appealing to a wider audience. For example, there are Matryoshka dolls featuring famous celebrities, cartoon characters, and even political figures that are widely available today. There is almost a Matryoshka doll for every famous cartoon or celebrity out there if you look hard enough. 


Matryoshka nesting dolls are very popular both in Russia and around the world. They are widely recognized as a symbol of Russian culture and have become a popular souvenir item for tourists visiting the country. Overall, Matryoshka nesting dolls continue to be a beloved symbol of Russian culture and remain a popular item among collectors and enthusiasts around the world.


Clock Shop proudly stocks a huge range of authentic Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls. These beautiful pieces are handcrafted in Russia, and are available in a huge range of styles and themes, ranging from traditional painted dolls through to fairytale characters, children’s characters, and even celebrities. Some designs even include Christmas motifs that feature Santa Claus, snowmen and Christmas trees, specifically designed for the festive season. Check out our extensive range of authentic Russian Matryoshka dolls online or in store today at the Clock Shop. 


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