Matryoshka Doll

A Matryoshka doll or a Russian nested doll is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside another. The plural form Matreshki should be used when referring to more than one doll and they are also called stacking dolls in the United States.

A set of Matryoshka dolls consists of a wooden figure which can be pulled apart to reveal another figure of the same sort inside. It has in turn another figure inside, and so on. The number of nested figures is usually six or more. The shape is mostly cylindrical, rounded at the top for the head and tapered towards the bottom, but little else; the dolls have no hands (except those that are painted). The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate.

Matryoshka dolls are often designed to follow a particular theme, for instance peasant girls in traditional dress, but the theme can be almost anything, ranging from fairy tale characters to Soviet leaders.

Matryoshka dolls are not a traditional Russian handicraft; the first one dates from 1890, and is said to have been inspired by souvenir dolls from Japan. However, the concept of nested objects was familiar in Russia, having been applied to carved wooden apples and Easter eggs; the first Fabergé egg, in 1885, had a nesting of egg, yolk, hen, and crown.

The story tells that Sergei Maliutin, a painter from a folk crafts workshop in the Abramtsevo estate of a famous Russian industrialist and patron of arts Savva Mamontov, saw a set of Japanese wooden dolls representing Shichi-fuku-jin, the Seven Gods of Fortune. The largest doll was that of Fukurokuju, a happy bald god with an unusually tall chin. It nested the six remaining deities. Inspired, Maliutin drew a sketch of a Russian version of the toy. It was carved by Vasiliy Zvezdochkin in a toy workshop in Sergiyev Posad and painted by Sergei Maliutin. It consisted of eight dolls; the outermost was a girl in an apron, then the dolls alternated between boy and girl, with the innermost – a baby.

In 1900, M.A. Mamontova, the wife of Savva Mamontov, presented the dolls at the World Exhibition in Paris and the toy earned a bronze medal. Soon, many other places in Russia started making matryoshkas of various styles.

During Perestroika matryoshka dolls featuring the leaders of the Soviet Union became a common variety. Starting with the largest, Mikhail Gorbachev, then Leonid Brezhnev (Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko almost never appear due to the short length of their respective terms), then Nikita Khrushchev, Josef Stalin and finally the smallest, Vladimir Lenin. Newer versions starts with Vladimir Putin and then follows with Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Josef Stalin and then Vladimir Lenin. Other versions could be a US president version starting with George W. Bush, a British version starting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, A Terrorist/Dictator version starting with Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden or Soccer players, music bands or themes based on TV series as The Simpsons. A doll which represents an old woman is often called baboushka or babushka, that which represents an old man dedoushka or dedushka.

There are several stories that revolve around the origin of Matryoshka dolls, perhaps the most gruesome involving a woodsman from northern Russia. In a time of great famine, Mushkin, as he was called, decided that his survival depended on canabalism. After devouring his family, Mushkin was overcome with guilt and imagined the souls of his family within himself. The idea spawned the creation of the Matryoshka doll.

There are several areas with notable Matryoshka styles; Sergiyev Posad, Semionovo (currently town of Semyonov), Polkholvsky Maidan, and Kirov.

Matryoshkas are also used metaphorically, as a design paradigm, known as "Matryoshka principle" or "nested doll principle". It denotes a recognizable relationship of "similar object-within-similar object" that appears in the design of many other natural and man made objects. The same structure exists in onions, for instance. If you peel the outer layer off an onion, a similar onion exists within the outer layer. This structure is employed by designers in applications such as the layering of clothing or the design of tables, where a smaller table sits within a larger table and a yet-smaller one within that.

* The Higglytown Heroes characters are living Matryoshka dolls.

* Matryoshka dolls appear during the credits sequence of John le Carre's television miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, showing the successive appearance of four dolls, with the fourth doll having no face. In this case, we have a visual cue with the dolls for Russia (as the plot involves Soviet espionage), as well as with the final doll for the unknown mole, a spy who's buried in the deepest.

* In one of the many "couch gags" during the credits of The Simpsons, the Simpson family appear on the couch as Matryoshka dolls.

* An episode of The Amazing Race included the players looking for clues hidden among several thousand Matryoshka dolls.

* Australian composer Julian Cochran wrote a Russian inspired composition titled 'Wooden Dolls' about a group of Matreshki communicating.

* In the episode titled "Grandpa Wore Tights" of The Tick animated series, a character called "The Living Doll" is an elderly superhero living in a retirement home for superheroes along with other members of the legendary Decency Squad. This character's superpower is that he can separate his body like a Matryoshka doll, and his battle cry is "I'm filled with tinier men!".

* These dolls have also appeared in sketches on Sesame Street , as a way of teaching children how to count from 1 to 10 and vice versa.

* In the Nightmare Before Christmas one of the monsters in Halloween town, has a smaller copy of himself hiding in his hat, who in turn has a smaller version yet in his hat.

* The 2005 film Russian Dolls employs the Matryoshka doll both in the title and in the film itself: the lead character Xavier thinks of the women in his life as Russian dolls, each following the other with seemingly no end in sight.

* In the video game Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS, the Matryoshka is one of many items that the player may earn as a reward for helping to repair the character Gulliver's spaceship.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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