Matrushka Dolls

 Matrushka dolls are almost symbolize Russia as much as winter scenes, St. Basil’s, borscht, and fur hats. While I was in Russia, I learned some of the history of the matrushka dolls. They had two traditional shapes, a short, plump, round shape and a taller bowling pin shape. Originally they started as a toy for poorer children whose family couldn’t afford a fabric doll, which also means that their decoration is very minimal and simple, like this one:
traditional matrushka doll with St. Petersburg colors

traditional matrushka doll with St. Petersburg colors

Also each city or region has a color that they’re known for, for example, the one above is the blue of St. Petersburg, while Moscow is known for red matrushka dolls.

 After a while, the dolls became very popular with the richer families, but they wanted slightly different ones to buy for their daughters. So these are more detailed and have far more complexed designs like this one:
modern matrushka doll

modern matrushka doll

In the back of the main section of Izmaylovo Market there’s a path leading to another section, where the Disney-live turrets were, there was this guy selling the really unique matrushka dolls, instead of buying five or seven almost exact replicas, each were individually different. My friend talked to him and found out that these matrushka dolls were uber-traditional and his wife runs a craft school that specializes in making them. She had actually studied the long-forgotten traditions of what the traditional matrushkas looked like. Everything was done by hand, he even helped out by finely hand sanding the dolls.

ubertraditional matrushka dolls

ubertraditional matrushka dolls

I would have posted this a while ago, but I decided to wait until I could get into my old office so I could scan the information, because I really can’t read the husband’s handwriting too well. But the scanner was broken and then I remembered that I could take a picture of it, crop, and upload, just as good as a scan. So if you ever want an uber-traditional matrushka doll: call Sveltvana at:

Svetlana's name, school's name, and cell number

Svetlana's name, school's name, and cell number

When buying matrushka dolls a few important notes:

  1. Check all of the dolls before you actually buy them, there can be funny faces (I saw one with possessed looking eyes), bad paint jobs, scratches, non-matching dolls, etc.
  2. The rounder ones can hold more dolls but if you have a smaller one, the smallest may look like a colored pencil lead.
  3. Don’t immediately buy one from the first vendor that you see, the chances are good that you’ll find the same exact one or one extremely similar to the one that you like at another booth for a lower price.
  4. The vendors are more than willing to bargain. With the exception of the last guy (the one with the uber traditional matrushkas, he never budged on price but he had lower prices to begin with and much better matrushkas dolls as well) I never said anything and they were already lowering the prices.
  5. If you’re not interested in traditional matrushka dolls, you can find ones with world leaders, communist leaders, famous people, variety of athletes, like:


Colt McCoy (UT quarterback) matrushka doll

Colt McCoy (UT quarterback) matrushka doll


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