Russia. Matryoshka (or your "babushka-toy")

Jan 5, 2017, 1:30 PM |

And once again in one my dialog with West people I faced with this West definition “babushka-toy”.

In the brain wearily thought  moved: «Another victim of zombie-box!…. When people will start to learn to use the Internet for self-education, and not for sharing by politicized nonsense?……...»


Such a strange and warped notion: the toy of old woman, with that children play? Your children play with toys which are “old men” or “old women” ?!…...



 This article dedicated to one of our national hand-crafts and symbols – Мatryoshka (in original).


Let’s go in series.



What is it?


Matryoshka is a wooden doll, the souvenir which is famous throughout the world.


The name

 Some historians argue that the name is derived from the loved one in Russia name Maria, Manya; others - that the name is derived from the female name Matrona, the name "Matrona" then was wide spread.


Babushka” literally in Russian means “grandmother”.

Where on a pictures below you can see on this toys the face of OLD woman?

Right, there are not. And can’t be.

Be course every time when we say "matryoshka", we immediately imagine a pretty Russian girl in bright folk costume.

Not a grandmother, guys, GIRL !

And it’s NOT a symbol of “Cult of Dead” or “Cult of Mother”.

It’s a symbol of Russian Beauty and eternal Youth.






 Russian matryoshka appeared in Russia in the late 19th - early 20th century and quickly gained a lot of popularity and recognition.

Principle and technology of cutting of matryoshka’s blanks remained virtually unchanged since those times, when began to produced the first Russian matryoshka. The main condition for the manufacture of matryoshka - the use of a correctly prepared and dried wood.




From which material

 The best material for matryoshka carving is a linden - lightweight and compliant material. Sometimes they use alder and birch, but these types of wood can be made matryoshka with a small amount of places in the set, as it is difficult to get a thin wall, besides matryoshka of these breeds produced heavy.


Trees for cutting of matryoshka cut down in early spring when the sap flow has not started yet. They debarked the logs, leaving several places in the ring in order to prevent cracking during the drying of logs. Drying is conducted outdoors, but under the awning that protects the logs from rain and direct sunlight. These conditions ensure the gradual drying of the wood, which lasts 2 years and more : the more the diameter of logs, the more time is required for its drying.

When the log is dried, they cut it to chocks in length = 50 centimeters. If you want to cut doll large diameter, the chock is used as it is, and if less, then chocks are splitting into several parts, and then you’re hewing it with an ax, trying to give a round shape.


Then the workpiece is fixed in a lathe.

That machine is simple, self-made. The drive uses an electric motor and a belt transmission, which transmits the rotation of a so-called “glass”, the steel hollow cylinder, in which master puts a wooden workpiece. The main feature of matryoshka’s cutting is that the wooden workpiece is not fixed at two points, as it usually done in carving wood products, but in one - in that “glass”.

To it is given a strictly circular shape. Then with the triangular cutter machined outer contour of matryoshka. 

After that with special hooks-shaped cutter ("a hook") is chosen interior.

Matryoshka is done from bottom to top: first machined the lower part, after - the head, sequentially, as both sides have precisely adjusted to each other in order to closed tightly.

A good master does everything "by eye", catching a few tenths of a millimeter, and all matryoshka(s) produced equal, almost the same size!


The first is making always the smallest in a set, one-piece matryoshka, which can be quite tiny - like a grain of rice.

In general, the cutting of matryoshka is a delicate arts, which is studying over the years; some craftsmen-turners are learning even to cut “in blind”!

 The smallest Matryoshka(s) is producing this way:



 Before painting matryoshka are primed, after painting - are lacquered.

In the nineteenth century for painting these toys used gouache.

Now unique images of matryoshka also are creating with aniline colors, tempera, watercolors. But gouache still remains a favorite paint of artists, painted this wooden dolls.

First paint the face of toys and apron with a beautiful image, and then - the kerchief and sundress.


Shortly after the dolls, painted flower ornaments, there were matryoshka, decorated with beautiful scenes from fairy tales and legends. These matryoshka "tell" the whole story or illustrate a fairy tales.

National Fairy Tails 

In national dresses

With national patterns


Since the mid-twentieth century dolls were not only paint, but also to decorate: with pearl plates, strips, and later – with crystals and beads... But it was not these ornaments at the first matryoshka, and the "real" traditional Russian matryoshka still considered as a wooden painted doll, without encrustations and "overlays".

At the very beginning of its path matryoshka was an expensive toy - and this doll, intended for children, mainly the art lovers bought.




Where in Russia

 In Russia there are several towns and villages, where traditionally made matryoshka - and all these styles have their own characteristics.


Masters of the village Krutets are experimenting with coloring and even - slightly - with a form of dolls.

The village Polkhovsky Maidan matryoshka - is the support of all the village: its inhabitants live almost entirely on income obtained from the sale of traditional dolls. Matryoshka(s) of this village is famous for its "rose" pictures - a key element of the ornament of these toys is a flower of wild rose.

 Semenov matryoshka - made the city Semenov (in Nizhny Novgorod region), easily recognizable by a fairly large unpainted planes and the lush bouquet of fantastic flowers on a girl“s apron.

They are characterized by their "capacity" - traditionally this is made up of 15-18 matryoshka dolls, and the most capacious in the Russian matryoshka made it in Semenov - is 72 doll, the biggest of which is a meter in height!

The most "northern" in Russian - Vyatskaya matryoshka (from city Vyatka).

And in Sergiev Posad (and Gorodets) the famous bright wooden dolls bought even members of the royal family who had come to worship the holy places of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.


There are the special museums in Russia devoted Matryoshka.


That’s all :-}





Vyatka :







Polkhovsky Maidan:




In several different pattern styles:




With various stories and heroes  from national fairy tales :

Another crowd of "grandmothers" :


Well, Ok, ok!  I'll  offer you ... DEDUSHKA-toy !   X-D