Russian matryoshka – history of origin

(ORDO NEWS) — It seems that we will never know exactly how the matryoshka was born: some ingenious craftsman invented it on his own or only vigilantly noticed and implemented an idea that had been walking among the people for a long time. Now, a complete guide of these dolls can be found all over the world.

Greetings from Japan

The following is most often retold: at the end of the 19th century, one of the members of a large family of industrialists Memento either saw or brought from Japan a figurine of the local holy sage Fukuruma (Fukuruji, Fukurokuju), who had the appearance of an old man with his head extended upwards and completely bald. The product was pulled apart, and another figure appeared inside. There were five of them in total.

On this model in the Moscow toy workshop “Children’s Education” in Leontievsky Lane. 7, and the toy was created.

The date of birth of the matryoshka is more complicated. Some historians call the years 1893-1896, referring to the reports and reports of the Moscow Provincial Zemstvo Council, where this particular period is mentioned, others consider 1898 or 1899 more likely.

The sketch of the curiosity was drawn by the artist Sergei Malyutin, and the figurine was carved on a lathe by the turner Vasily Zvyozdochkin. The latter, by the way, was a native of the well-known skilled turners of the Voronovskaya volost of the Podolsk district of the Moscow province.

There is also no consensus about how many figures that product consisted of. The turner in his memoirs claims that he originally made two nesting dolls – the third one for 6, and the Toy Museum in Sergiev Posad keeps an 8-seat one, it is considered the very first. But in it there is no alternation of dolls based on gender, and this is how, according to some, the very first nesting doll was made. Like, it was the first to depict a girl in an urban folk costume – a flowered sundress with an apron and a scarf, holding a rooster in her hands. The next one looked like a boy, and the last one depicted a baby.

Matryoshka entered the people in April 1900, when it was exhibited at the World Exhibition in Paris and was awarded a gold medal.

“Toy capital” of Russia

By the way, the appearance of nesting dolls in Russia on the eve of the 20th century was not by chance. The country was experiencing an industrial and cultural boom. At the top of the Russian intelligentsia, folk art began to come into fashion. Artistic circles and workshops were organized at the expense of both the zemstvo and patrons of the arts.

In 1904, the Moscow toy workshop “Children’s Education” was closed. All its assortment was “inherited” by the Zemsky Demonstration Workshop in Sergiev Posad, which became the “toy capital”. In the same year, an order was received from Paris for the manufacture of a large batch of matryoshka dolls. Interest in this toy was fueled by a kind of fashion for everything Russian in France. The mass export of nesting dolls began abroad.

The annual fairs in Leipzig contributed to the fame of the matryoshka, and since 1909 it has become a familiar exhibit at the Berlin Exhibition and the annual handicraft bazaar in London. Matryoshka was shown at a traveling exhibition organized by the Russian Society of Shipping and Trade in Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East.

The production of matryoshkas was growing. They depicted women and girls, young men and old people, entire families with a whole range of relatives, as well as the groom and the bride, boyars and merchants. Known thematic series dedicated to the events of 1812 and the centenary of the birth of N. Gogol. The characters of the works of A. Pushkin, “The Little Humpbacked Horse” by P. Ershov, Russian fairy tales and epics did not go unnoticed. The general fascination with Russian history then gave rise to a series of matryoshka dolls in the form of ancient Russian heroes. Ataman Stepan Razin with his associates and the Persian princess was not forgotten either.

The number of inserts also increased – up to 24, and in 1913 the turner Bulychev made a 48-seat matryoshka.

Matryoshka began to be made in Semyonov, Merinov and Polkhovsky Maidan, Nizhny Novgorod region, Tver, Khotkovo, Moscow region, Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo region and Vyatka.

Was there Fukuruma?

The Japanese origin of our matryoshka is thoughtlessly replicated, as if imposed as the only true one. In Japan itself, some researchers argue that the idea of ​​making nested toys, painted under the bald sage Fukuruma, belonged to … a Russian monk who lived on the island of Honshu. His figurines depicted ancestors.

The following fact contradicts the Japanese trace: in 1911, at the Leipzig Fair, a Japanese counterfeit was exhibited, which was almost an exact copy of the Sergievskaya nesting doll (“pirate copy” ?!), which experts noticed.

Neither the artist Milyutin nor the turner Zvezdochkin mention Fukuruma at all. The director of the Toy Museum in Sergiev Posad, Nikolai Dmitrievich Bartram (1873-1931), also doubted it, pointing out that Japanese kokeshi (wooden dolls), in principle, do not look like a matryoshka.

Experts point out that the figurine of the eastern sage is not native to Japan, its traces lead to China and India, and from there to their roots – the Indo-European civilization. In the latter, the idea of ​​a plurality of worlds and human beings, which are embedded in each other according to the principle of matryoshka, is popular.

And Russian craftsmen did not need a foreign tip at all, because for many centuries they had been able to make wooden detachable products, for example, Easter eggs. And from them to matryoshka – one step. At the same time, the manufacturing principle remains unchanged, as well as the techniques of old turning art. This is much more true.

What’s in her name?

Why is the matryoshka named that way? They say that at the sight of the first toy, one of the Mamontovs’ friends exclaimed: “Looks like Matryona! …” – and the doll was called matryoshka.

At that time, the name Matryona was very popular and widespread in Russia. In the folk way – Matryosha, Matyusha, Matusya, Motya, Motrya, in the church way – Matrona. Translated from Latin, mater means “mother”, and “matron” means “mistress”, “noble woman.” In Hindu mythology, Ma-three is “mother”, a female personification of the creative energy of the great gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra. Scandas and others. Their number ranged from seven to sixteen.

A matryoshka is also a “mother”, it symbolizes a family and contains many “essences”. However, the matryoshka is actually a mother: it was she who “gave birth” to another famous toy – the vanka-vstanka. Someone thought of inserting a metal load into the lower, more massive part of the dolls, turning them into tumblers.

Whether it really was so, one cannot say. But one thing is certain: the name of the toy was chosen very well, the people were not mistaken with it. Now it is known to the entire planet.

Macro, micro and others

There are many fans of Russian nesting dolls abroad. There are large collections in Austria, and in the United States there is a collection in which over six thousand of these toys.

More often matryoshka is made with 3-, 7-, 15-seater, but this is far from the limit. At the 1967 Montreal International Exhibition, a 50-seat toy was exhibited. True, then not one person worked on it, but a whole plant.

And in 1970, the Russian nesting doll appeared in the Guinness Book of Records: then the Semyonov toy masters made a true miracle – a 72-seat matryoshka. And each in an original, unique outfit! Eyewitnesses say that the thickness of the walls of each figure was half a millimeter (?!) And they literally shone through. The largest doll was only a meter high and half as wide. This unique nesting doll was demonstrated at the All-Union Exhibition of Decorative and Applied Arts by amateur artists and craftsmen.

In the funds of the Historical Museum, there is one hundred-seat matryoshka. This is generally something mind-blowing! …

And the craftsman of our days Anatoly Konenko made a 4 mm high matryoshka from ivory, and the smallest one in it – the fourth in a row – is only 1, 1 millimeter. This microscope was shown in 2010 at an exhibition in the Omsk museum.

Sometimes the biggest matryoshka in the world is a macro! – they call a figure 30 meters high in Manchuria (China).

Second birth

The matryoshka received its second birth in the second half of the 80s of the last century. Thanks to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the abundance of foreign tourists, toys were snapped up and became a popular commodity. Political nesting dolls have become popular, depicting Russian general secretaries, presidents of the country with a noticeable similarity in portrait. “Personalized” nesting dolls were made – with the face of the customer (!), Others signed under Khokhloma or Gzhel. Shop counters and street boxes were filled with such items.

But gradually traditional canons began to prevail, craftsmen increasingly turned to them. Now most of the nesting dolls have a “classic” look: a woman’s appearance, a sundress, an apron, a scarf on the head. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sergiev Posad and other large cities are engaged in their production.

Matryoshka has long been known all over the world, and after establishing contacts with foreign worlds, perhaps the guests will take our toy to outer space …


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