The first Babushka Russian Nesting doll was born in 1890 in the workshop “Children’s Education” situated in Abramtsevo estate new Moscow. The owner of Abramtsevo was Sava Mamontov – industrialist and a patron of the arts. The end of the 19 century in Russia was a time of great economic and cultural development. Mamontov was one of the first who patronized artists who were possessed by the idea of the creation of a new Russian style. Many famous Russian artists worked along with folk craftsmen in the workshops of Mamontov.
Once at a tradition Saturday meeting somebody brought a funny Japanese figurine of a good-nature bold head old man Fukuruma. The doll consisted of some other figurines nestled one another. It had 7 figurines. That was the fist known nesting doll. On other hand there was a legend that the first doll of such type (nested wooden doll) was brought on the Japanese island Honshu (where Fukuruma was made) by unknown Russian monk. Really, this type of nesting toys was well known before – Russian crafter’s turned wooden Easter eggs, apples.
One of artist of Mamontov’s artistic surrounding Sergei Maliutin was intrigued by the Fururuma nesting doll and he decided to make an something similar but with Russian peculiarity, an own Russian nesting doll. The doll should have its own Russian spirit and to represent specific Russian cultural and people art traditions. So Sergei Malytunin made a sketch of such doll and asked to help him to make a wooden form for the nesting doll the crafter by name Vasiliy Zveydochin. Zveydochin turned at his lathe the first wooden nested dolls of soft linden wood.
The principle of making dolls remains unchanged until the present time, keeping all the tricks of turning skill of Russian craftsmen. Usually a turner uses such wooden materials as lime and birch. Timber that is intended for the manufacture of dolls, usually is cut down in early spring, purified from the bark, leaving in some places of the log rings of bark to prevent during drying cracking of the wood. Prepared in this way the logs are stacked in piles, between them there is a gap for air flow. Usually timber is kept in the open air for several years to bring it up to a certain condition, avoiding not proper drying. Only an experienced master can determine the readiness of the material. Ready to process the logs are sawn into billets for future dolls. The doll blank overcomes though up to 15 operations in the hands of a turner before becoming a finished doll.
Maliutin painted the dolls in accordance with his own design. The first Russian nesting doll described a peasant family – a mother with her 7 children. The nested doll consisted of 8 pieces. This set and some other ones old matryoshkas are displayed in Sergiev Posad at the Museum of Toys . There in the museum we can see many old Russian nesting dolls like “An old man”, set of 8 pieces matryoshka, “Getman”, 8 pieces se of nested doll, matryoshka “The tale about turnip”.
Why it is called “Matryoshka”
It happened so that the wooden toy was Matryoshka (or matrioshka, if you wish) and there is no information who was the first to call the nesting doll by this name. Definitely the name Matryoshka goes from Russian female name Matriona. In old Russia among peasants the name Matriona or Matriosha was a very popular female name. Scholars says this name has a Latin root “mater” and means “Mother”. This name was associated with the image of of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in a such way that they could taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another. but babushkameans granmother so its very close in meaning