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Matreshka

Matreshka Matreshka, or Babushka, like some foreigners call this toy, is the most popular souvenir brought home from Russia. By the way the word "babushka" is not right, in Russian it means "grandmother" or "old woman", while matreshka is never depicted old - it's a large-sized stout young woman - the ideal of a wife in the 19th century Russia. In the notion of that time a woman should have been first of all healthy to be able to give birth to many healthy children and to work no less than a man. Life was hard in villages and the more people - both men and women - worked, and the more children they had to help them, the easier it was for the family to survive in those harsh conditions. That is why, unlike in our days, thin women were not popular and they would probably get no husband. To be stout was the synonym of being beautiful - rosy cheeks, long plaids, bright garments, great stature - peasants would probably not understand our worshipping of pale, slim and sophisticated Barbie who would never in her life be able to work hard on the land and strive to survive.

When travelers come to any town of Russia and go shopping for souvenirs, from a huge variety of them they first of all opt for matreshkas. It is because this doll has since long ago become the symbol of Russia and is both a souvenir and an ecology-friendly toy made of wood and brightly painted. This toy is popular here in Russia as well - parents buy it for educational purposes of their children - babies learn shape, size, color, number with the help of this bright and joyful doll.

The history of Matreshka.

It is believed that the fist "nesting doll", how matreshka is sometimes called, appeared at the end of the 19th century in Moscow. It was carved by a person named Zvezdochkin (zvezdochka in Russian means "little star") and painted by Sergei Maliutin. But we dispose of data that the first matreshka was made in Japan on the Honshu island, though it didn't look as it does today. It was in the form of a kind-looking bald old man - A Buddhist wiseman Fukurma. Though it looked completely different from our matreshkas, the principle was the same - there were several smaller dolls fitted into each other inside of the first one. But actually the invention does not altogether belong to the Japanese as this first doll was carved by a Russian master living on the island!

Where does the name "matreshka" come from? It is a derivative of the name Matrena, or Maria, that was the most popular girl name in Russia for centuries. It is actually a translation from the old language of the Slavs and means "mother". As a rule matreshkas had from 2 to 24 dolls inside of each other, but there were also ones that had 48 and even 60 of them in one piece that were easily put one into another!

A notable fact is that in 1900 at the World Exhibition in Paris our Russian beauty Matreshka won a medal and received an all-world recognition!

Matreshkas depicted not only women, but also men and even animals. This tradition has been revived at the end of the 20th century when there appeared Eltsin, Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev and other famous Russians in the form of a matreshka for humorous purposes. You can even find a doll with Vladimir Putin's face, and inside of it there are all his predecessors, the smallest one being Tsar Nicholas the Second!

Matreshkas are usually made of birch, larch or linden tree. The wood is thoroughly chosen so that there weren't any knots, cracks or fissures. At first the master carves the smallest doll that can sometimes be less than a fingernail, and then, one by one - all the others. Then he hands the dolls to the painter and he or she "dresses them up" in bright garments, "puts" embroidered shawls on their shoulders, decorates them with flowers, motives of traditional Russian legends and fairy-tales... Every doll has its own face expression - now happy, now sad or pensive. After the dolls are painted, some of their parts are also gilded, and then they are lacquered. The artists are highly skilled and use a great variety of classical and personal painting techniques. There are works that are unique and replicas can only be made on somebody's personal request.

When you are here with us, upon your wish we can take you to places where you will be able to choose your own exclusive matreshka or even order it painted for you. Or else, you can choose a doll for your every relative and friend from the ones that are already on show, and nonetheless be satisfied with your choice made with the help of experienced assistants.