Matryoshka nesting dolls – when the largest of the wooden dolls “the mother” is opened a smaller doll inside is revealed. Each doll in turn reveals the next smallest doll until the baby of the dolls “the seed” is revealed. The baby doll (seed) is the end of the line. These dolls represent the carrying of babies down the family line.

Matryoshka in Russian and Latin translate to “mother” and “mater”. You may also know these dolls as Babushka which translates as Grandmother or Old Woman.

The first set of Matryoshka nesting dolls was created in 1892 and consisted of 7 dolls in total. Originally the dolls depicted Russian peasant life but these days can have any highly decorated design. Matryoshkas are still produced to be sold worldwide, some are handmade and painted whereas the majority are mass produced in factories to export as souvenirs.

The smallest doll is the first of the dolls to be produced from a piece of solid birch or linden wood. Once all the dolls are created, they are oiled so that the wood doesn’t dry out and then decorated.
This set pictured only consists of 4 nesting dolls. The happy mother has been decorated differently to the other dolls and the baby is depicted as undressed with very little decoration.


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More information:

Date 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s
Material(s) Wood
Item number MBPO347

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Have you ever played with a set of wooden dolls like these?
  • Can you remember what colour or design they were in?
  • How many dolls do you think were in the set?

User Stories

My daughter had a lovely set of dark purple, beautifully decorated dolls like these. We still have a Father Christmas set that we would have purchased in this country & not Russia – Memory Box Volunteer

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