What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls (2024)

What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls (1)
Photo: Artyom with a 30-piece traditional nesting doll.

  • What is the point of nesting dolls?

    The point of a nesting doll is perhaps the element of surprise. It's a bewildering experience watching a matryoshka doll opening to reveal a smaller doll to a first-timer. Another purpose of a nesting doll is to ingrain certain events and images in wood through painting.

    Custom nesting dolls such as portrait nesting dolls can hold whatever meaning the artist wishes to illustrate.

  • How much are nesting dolls worth?

    Nesting dolls are not everyday commodities. Some people often speculate the value of nesting dolls they've inherited from Russian grandparents. Sometimes a first-time nesting doll buyer is confused at what seems to be varying prices of the same type of nesting doll.

    If you fall into the first category of people, we recommend visiting an art appraiser specializing in Russian art and/or history. However, certain factors determine the value of a nesting doll:

    • Larger nesting doll sets are more expensive than smaller sets. A 10-piece matryoshka set is more expensive than a 5-piece set.
    • Nesting dolls with a greater level of hand-painted details are worth more than those without intricate details.
    • Nesting Dolls made in Russia are considered authentic, i.e., its sentimental value rises.
    • Nesting dolls signed by its artist (with artist's signature at the base) or anywhere else are more valuable than those without a signature.
    • The older a nesting doll is, the more expensive it will become.However, there some other factors that may decrease a nesting doll's value:
    • A nesting doll set loses value when one of its pieces is missing or broken, or its details are fading and/or chipped.
    • The interior parts of the hollow nesting doll are discolored.

    Browse through our inventory of over 1000 nesting dolls with prices ranging from $10 to $11,000.00 to check if your nesting doll is similar to any of ours.

  • What makes a Russian nesting doll valuable?

    Like any work of art, the Russian nesting doll is valuable because of a myriad of factors. Naturally, the higher the quality of the matryoshka doll, the higher the monetary value.

    Photo: Firebird Workshop's nesting doll - peasant woman

    In the previous paragraph, we discussed factors that affect a nesting doll's price. But value is more than just what you paid for— value is also tradition, legacy, and sentiment. So what makes a Russian nesting doll valuable.

    A Russian nesting doll is traditionally valuable if made in Russia by artists who inherited the craft from older generations dating back to Sergiev Posad.

    A nesting doll is sentimentally valuable if it memorializes a particular person, a specific event, or a group of people who share a bond.

    Very valuable nesting dolls are of museum-grade quality, intricately-detailed, and are one-of-a-kind sets.

    Qualities of a valuable nesting doll:

    • They're hand-painted (in contrast to stencil-work)
    • They're produced by an individual artist (in contrast to mass-produced in factories)
    • Protected with lacquer/varnish ( vs. wood-burned)
    • Fine details vs. rough details.
  • How are Russian Nesting Dolls Made?

    While some Russian nesting dolls are made in actual factories that produce bright and cheaper nesting dolls—the famous sem*nov doll— a good number of matryoshka dolls are handcrafted by small workshops or individual artists in Russia.

    • Many small workshops— like our Firebird Workshop— produce blank unfinished nesting dolls by turning naturally-dried linden wood on a lathe. We often call them zagotovki (заготовки), which means blanks.

    • Our artists then get to work by sketching our different nesting doll designs on the doll.
    • First, the unfinished nesting dolls go to artists who specialize in painting matryoshka doll faces. After the face painting is done, the dolls are transferred to artists who specialize in miniature paintings.
    • Our miniature artists, like Artyom, paint the nesting doll's body/costumes with water-based tempera paints. Read more on how to paint a nesting doll here.
    • When the paint is dry, the lacquer master takes the dolls in for lacquering. He/She applies water-based odorless varnish in three or five layers.
    • The finished nesting doll is ready for display or shipping to its final destination—your home.

    It's worth mentioning that the more complex a nesting doll is, the more artists are involved in its creation.

  • How many dolls are in a Russian nesting doll?

    Eight dolls. The first matryoshka doll set—created in 1890 by Sergey Malyutin and Vasily Zvyozdchkin—contained eight individual nesting dolls.

    The biggest doll depicted a Russian peasant woman clutching a black rooster in her left arm.

    What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls (3)

    Photo: The first Matryoshka doll set by Sergey Malyutin

    Seven matryoshka other dolls were 'nested' within each other inside the largest doll. This Matryoshka set had nine characters: six females and one male, the other two—one drawn inside one of the female dolls as if being held by the bigger sister.

    The tiniest doll depicted a baby swaddled in a patchwork blanket. Four of these eight dolls held various items in their hands: the rooster, a scythe, a bowl of porridge, and a broom.

    The largest set of matryoshka dolls in the world is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Yulia Bereznitskaia, completed in 2003.

  • What is the difference between Matryoshka and Babushka?

    Matryoshka is the Russian nesting doll's official name, while babushka is the Russian word for grandmother. People call them babushka dolls because traditional nesting dolls depict women adorning scarves (kerchiefs) like the stereotypical Russian grandma.

    What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls (4)

    Photo: Russian Grandmothers in beautiful scarves

    Perhaps, we call them babushka dolls because grandma owns one or more nesting doll sets.
  • Are matryoshka dolls Ukrainian?

    No. However, matryoshka doll production boomed in eastern European countries after the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, where Savva Mamontov's wife showcased the first Russian nesting dolls.

    Today, you can find nesting dolls in different Eastern and Central European countries like Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belarus. Matryoshka dolls remain popular souvenirs in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

  • What country is famous for matryoshka dolls?

    Russia. When one thinks of matryoshka dolls, Russia comes to mind. After all, the first matryoshka doll appeared on the outskirts of Moscow.

  • How can you tell if a Russian nesting doll is real?

    Well, one can say that anything tangible is real. But what is real is not necessarily authentic or original. So how can you tell if a Russian nesting doll is authentic?

    • Quality Russian nesting dolls usually open and close with some amount of effort—pulling apart the doll by holding both ends to separate both halves at the center.
    • Most of the fake dolls will certainly fracture or break conveniently due to kids opening up and closing the dolls and merely playing with them.
    • Dolls made of Linden wood often tend to be much more sturdy as well as durable. Really high-quality Russian nesting dolls made of Linden timber can last centuries and preserve the high-quality painting and clear lacquer coating.
  • What do Nesting Dolls symbolize?

    Nesting dolls symbolize fertility. Matryoshka nesting dolls are associated with family and fertility. Matryoshka dolls traditionally depict a mother carrying her children within her, representing fertility—carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb.

  • What is the origin of Nesting Dolls?

    Perhaps inspired by the Asian cultures where nesting boxes and f*ckurokuju dolls were also traditional, the Matryoshka doll became a fundamental souvenir in 1890's Russia.

    Matryoshka (little matron in Russian) originates from the female name 'Matrona,' which means 'matriarch.' Local Russian children used nesting dolls as counting toys from an early age. Most Russian families had one or two stacking dolls at home.

    After the Soviet Union fell, western tourists began visiting St Petersburg, Moscow, and the Golden Ring cities in droves. These metropolitan centers hosted thriving souvenir markets—trading mostly matryoshka dolls sprung up— near cathedrals, museums, and major tourist attractions.

    As these tourism markets in Russia boomed, the matryoshka doll trade evolved as highly-skilled artists dabbled in nesting dolls and miniature paintings, giving rise to new designs which are still in production today.

  • How do you pronounce Matryoshka doll?

    Phonetic spelling of Matryoshka:Mah-tree-ohr-sh-ka
  • Are Nesting Dolls good luck?

    The Shichi-f*ckujin or Seven Lucky Gods—who are believed to grant good luck in Japanese mythology—were amongst the first nesting dolls ever. The Japanese god of happiness and longevity, f*ckurokuju, is shaped in a wooden doll that can be taken apart and inside would reveal the six other lucky gods.

    We cannot say if Russian nesting dolls bring good luck, but those that have them are lucky to own a set.

  • Where can I buy Russian nesting dolls?

    Of course, you can purchase authentic hand-painted Russian nesting dolls here at firebirdworkshop.com. We offer thousands of nesting doll designs, all hand-carved and hand-painted by artists in our workshop.

  • How much do Nesting Dolls cost in Russia?

    Nesting doll's prices in Russia are the same as everywhere else if you subtract shipping and insurance costs.

  • Howto fix a Nesting Doll?

    It's not impossible to encounter problems opening or putting back nesting doll together. Read our article onhow to fix a nesting doll here.
  • What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls (2024)


    What Are Russian Nesting Dolls?- FAQs about Matryoshka dolls? ›

    Nesting dolls symbolize fertility. Matryoshka nesting dolls are associated with family and fertility. Matryoshka dolls traditionally depict a mother carrying her children within her, representing fertility—carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb.

    What are nesting dolls in Russian? ›

    To non-Russians, the matryoshka, or nesting doll, is one of the most quintessential representations of traditional Russian peasant life. It appears to foreign eyes as a relic of quaint serf culture. Surprisingly, however, the matryoshka is barely one hundred years old.

    What is a fact about Russian nesting dolls? ›

    The first Russian nested doll set was carved in 1890 at the Children's Education Workshop by Vasily Zvyozdochkin and designed by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter in the Abramtsevo estate of Savva Mamontov, a Russian industrialist and patron of arts.

    How many dolls are in a Russian nesting doll? ›

    The first Russian nesting doll set appeared in Moscow in 1890's. It was carved by Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by a folk crafts painter Sergey Malyutin. The doll set consisted of eight dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other.

    How many matryoshka dolls are there usually? ›

    Matryoshka is the best known and most popular Russian souvenir. It is a set of painted wooden dolls of decreasing sizes one hidden inside another. The number of nested figures usually varies from three to ten, but in some rare cases can reach 50 and even more.

    Why do Russians have nesting dolls? ›

    Each wooden doll is imbued with the symbolism of fertility. The largest doll is considered the matriarch of the family, while the smallest is called the 'seed' and represents the soul. They're seen as a representation of a chain of mothers carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb.

    Where did the Russian doll come from? ›

    Matryoshka is a very famous Russian doll all over the world, but its roots are in Japan! At the end of the 19th century, history shows that a nesting doll from Japan had inspired Russian artists from a Moscow workshop called, “Children's Upbringing,” to create their own version of a nesting doll.

    What is special about nesting dolls? ›

    The Russian nesting dolls, which are better known as matryoshka nesting dolls in their country of origin, embody a young yet still a timeless depiction of a simple and fairytale-like early times. The traditional designs and patterns of the wooden dolls illustrate a scene that once existed in the 1800s.

    How do Russian dolls work? ›

    Russian nesting dolls are little figures that have a figure inside them and, in turn, have a figure inside them. If you line up the figures from smallest to largest, you can see how it works!

    What are matryoshka dolls used for? ›

    Matryoshkas are considered to be both a learning toy and a souvenir. Even now the doll is widely used in preschools as a teaching aid, as it helps youngsters learn their colors, sizes, and shapes.

    Who made the first Russian nesting doll? ›

    Who invented nesting dolls? ›

    artists—particularly Sergey Malyutin—crafted the first matryoshka doll (a wooden nesting doll) in 1890. Matryoshkas were then exhibited by Abramtsevo artists at the 1900 world's fair in Paris, and they continued to be iconic of Russian culture into the 21st century.

    Why are Russian nesting dolls so expensive? ›

    Age - The older a set is, the more expensive it'll be. Russian-made - Nesting dolls that were made in Russia fetch more than reproductions from other countries do. Number of Dolls - Having more dolls in the set, such as those with 13, 15, and even 20 pieces, increases the set's value.

    What is the biggest nesting doll? ›

    According to Official Guinness Records, The largest set of Russian dolls is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Youlia Bereznitskaia (Russia). The largest measures 1 ft 9.25 in (53.97 cm) in height, the smallest 0.125 in (0.31 cm) in height.

    What is the number one doll in the world? ›

    Perhaps no other doll is more famous than Barbie. While many know the statuesque modern version, many don't know the origins of Barbie.

    How many types of doll are there? ›

    Dolls can be categorized by era (antique dolls, vintage dolls, modern dolls) or by material (bisque, wood, wax). You will also find themed dolls (celebrity dolls, Alice in Wonderland dolls) as well as dolls sorted by their function (play dolls, collector dolls, utility dolls).

    What is the purpose of babushka doll? ›

    There are also differences on how each doll is used — while babushkas are generally used as decoration, matryoshkas were originally made to store grain or other food items.

    Are Russian nesting dolls called babushkas? ›

    Matryoshka is the Russian nesting doll's official name, while babushka is the Russian word for grandmother. People call them babushka dolls because traditional nesting dolls depict women adorning scarves (kerchiefs) like the stereotypical Russian grandma.


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