Matryoshka dolls, Russian culture and Communism

The 19th century Russian artist Sergei Malyutin sketched the concept then painted the first nesting doll which V. Zveydochin had turned on a wood lathe. This first set still survives and is on permanent display in the Zagorsk Museum of Toys.

The nesting sets are turned of seasoned Linden wood. They are known as Matryoshka dolls. A Matryoshka is the most honored and revered elderly woman of a village.

In Russia, the dolls are given as gifts to children.  In the rest of the world, the dolls are collected by adults and children alike.  Some dolls are blond and others are dark-haired, depending on which region’s inhabitants they’re modeled after.

The doll on my bookshelf is from Semyonov, Russia.

The picture of the Matryoshka doll with the teeth is actually a poster seen by a buddy of mine a few days ago while on a vacation trip to Prague.

It’s interesting to me how such a lovely artistic symbol, honoring village elders and representing a grand cultural diversity, is perceived as a symbol of evil by an formerly-occupied society.

It’s a good study in perspective.  I suppose cultural icons can represent bliss and tragedy both at the same time depending on who has done what to whom.

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