The Incredible Nesting Dolls History You Didn’t Expect To Be Real

The Incredible Nesting Dolls History You Didn’t Expect To Be Real

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Where did the nested doll come from in Russia, who was its ancestor and where is Japan? The most famous toy, which is considered to be one of the symbols of Russia all over the world, in fact, if you dig deeper, it will turn out to be not exactly Russian.

The appearance of the Nesting dolls

In Russia, the nested doll appeared relatively recently at the end of the XIX century. The device of the doll was not quite normal – inside the doll, divided into two halves, hid a few more dolls of smaller size. From then on, many changes on the evolving face of nesting dolls can be observed.

The idea of creating a new toy originated in the heyday of interest in Russian culture. In Moscow, in the workshop “Children’s Education”, they created dolls dressed in various Russian costumes. It was here that the artist Sergey Malyutin presented the first matryoshka dolls, which got its name from the Old Russian provincial name Matryona.

However, the idea of creating a Nesting dolls belonged not to Malyutin. Moreover, the Nesting dolls in principle have little to do with Russia.

East is a delicate matter

The idea of creating the famous Nesting dolls came to Sergey Malyutin when he met a figure of an Eastern deity brought to the estate near Abramtsevo from Japan Buddhist saint Fukurum.

The figure was brought from the island of Honshu. Like the nested doll, it was divided into two halves, and inside the old man turned out to have five more of the same smaller figures. Inside the sage, his whole family was hiding.

There is a legend that the very figure of the Japanese sage has quite Russian roots. According to one of the versions of the origin of the Japanese toy, it was invented by a Russian monk fleeing to Japan, who once carved a figure of a Buddhist deity of happiness and longevity Fukuruma-dza from a tree. The figure depicted a wise man, whose head stretched up from many thoughts. However, no one has yet been able to confirm or deny this legend. The split toys themselves were quite popular in Japan. Besides, directly, Fukurma, there were figurines with the image of another Buddhist saint – Daruma.

Russification of nesting dolls

Impressed with a strange toy, Sergey Malyutin draws turner Vasil Zvezdochkin to his creation, which carefully grinds the figurines of a new toy on the machine. Malyutin himself creates Nesting dolls costumes. He “dresses up” each doll in a special way the biggest one was holding a rooster in her hands, the other the sickle, the third was carrying a loaf. Later nesting dolls begin to gain more popularity and begin to paint them completely differently. Initially, they were dressed in national costumes of Russia, after years nesting dolls began to appear, depicting sportsmen, political figures, fairy-tale characters and animals.

Currently, there are several types of dolls: Sergievskaya, Semenovskaya, Tverskaya, Vyatskaya and Maidanskaya. Each of them is distinguished by its type, outfit, ornament and shape. Everyone thinks that the Nesting dolls appeared a long time ago. Few people know that in fact they appeared only at the beginning of the 20th century.

It all began when the wife of the philanthropist Savva Mamontov brought the progenitor of nesting dolls from Japan the figure of furukum (the image of a sage, old man). Inside this sage sat other figures. It is curious to note that the legends vary. It is said that in Japan the Russian master cut out the furukum.

Artist Malyutin was the first to paint the Russian nesting doll the way it appears to us now. Nesting dolls are of different types. There are dolls of both classical schools and individual author’s works. Nesting dolls can be divided into classes, be dressed in warm or light clothing. And for some, the whole story can unfold! Russian fairy tales, plots of village life, views of cities and even paintings by famous artists. All this can be seen on the aprons of wonderful Russian nesting dolls.

In nesting dolls everything has its meaning, even color. For example, the southern Nesting dolls are brighter than the representative of the northern schools. For example, the nesting doll peasant.

Finger prints (“fingerprints”; pay attention to “Sudarushka”) on nesting dolls also have their own history, because they say that when one artist finished painting this Nesting dolls, the children ran into the workshop and left “fingers” behind them. Now this is done not with your fingers, but with a piece of folded paper.


One Nesting dolls can cost a little less than another, and the third is several times more than combined. It all depends on the shape of the tree. For example, pot-bellied floral nesting dolls are more difficult to draw and cut than the classic ones. Nevertheless, you can still give nesting dolls as gifts.

All nesting dolls are safe for children, which is another advantage. As a matter of fact, the nested doll was initially conceived as a child’s toy, because the first workshop was called “Children’s creativity” where teaching yoga using nesting dolls were done. Because of this, it is common to see kids playing nesting dolls.

The staff in nesting dolls souvenir shops undergo an extended course of study, which allows more successfully not only to sell and make revenue, but also to tell and show the history of this or that souvenir to foreigners, revealing to them the features of our culture. This is important because they get to preserve its story.

Although this nesting doll looks small, there are 9 pieces inside it. The smallest is with the “nail”. It is also very labor intensive. In addition to classic nesting dolls, surrealistic nesting dolls are especially popular. They are from the same tree, but stylized differently. They are mega-popular among tourists from Europe, South, and North America. These are Disney characters, politicians, sportsmen and so on. Nesting dolls with the image of athletes, along with a portrait of Vladimir Putin, is very popular with foreigners.

These nesting dolls are decorated with a patal (foil consisting of alloys of copper, aluminum and sometimes some 5% gold). Three artists paint such a nesting doll: one person draws faces; because this is the most significant part of the nesting dolls, and the faces are always the same (each set of dolls has its own face). Another artist paints the main part of the doll and is considered its main author (the name of the author is indicated on the bottom of the doll).