Of Russian origin: Matryoshka
Vodka or bears may first come to mind when you think of Russia, but nesting dolls also known as matryoshkas are perhaps the national souvenir. Sold in many tourist shops and markets, the dolls decrease in size, with the smallest fitting into the next doll and so on until all are hidden away into the largest. Each is wooden and painted brightly, usually with the image of a woman dressed in a large scarf on the outermost doll. However, there are some more modern ones that carry the images of famous celebrities and high-ranking political figures. The dolls come with the same themes such as peasant life or fairytales and are usually in a set of five. Some craftspeople, however, are skilled enough to produce more from one block of wood.
The first matryoshka was produced in 1890 by woodcarver Vasily Zvyozdochkin and designer Sergey Maliutin in a Moscow workshop on the estate of industrialist and patron of the arts Savva Mamontov. The dolls came in an eight-piece set of girls, boys, and a baby. But the largest matryoshka was crafted in 1970. It consisted of 72 pieces and cost 3,000 rubles – at today’s rates, roughly $100, although the money was worth much more back then. At that time, one of the most popular Soviet cars cost around $200 more than the doll. The mammoth matryoshka was dedicated to the birthday of Vladimir Lenin and put on exhibition in Japan.
Matryoshkas are so named based on the Latin “mater”, which means mother. In Old Russian, the name Matryona or Matriosha was very popular among peasants. Thus, the name is connected to the image of a mother of a big peasant family.
Written by Staci Bivens for RT