Sergiev Posad, the birthplace of Russian Matryoshka

Victoria Derzhavina | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Matryoshka or Russian nest doll, a popular souvenir and a symbol of traditional Russian culture, actually is not so old. It was born at the end of the 19th century in Sergiev Posad. It was presented at the Exposition Universelle in 1900 and got a bronze medal and worldwide recognition. In Sergiev Posad, the birthplace of Russian Matryoshka, you can learn more about the life story of the doll and see its very first example and other different Russian nest dolls in the Museum of Russian Matryoshka.

Photo © credits to

The first Matryoshka

In the 19th century, Abramtsevo, a country-house of a railroad magnate and patron of arts Savva Mamontov, became a place where many talented artists and musicians worked. Here, in the atmosphere of deep interest for the Russian art and culture, an artist Sergey Malyutin sketched a nest doll in a traditional Russian dress. Vasily Zvyozdochkin, a turning craftsman who lived in Sergiev Posad, made a doll. The first Matryoshka consisted of eight dolls. The biggest one kept a black cock, others kept a sickle, bread. They also had a brother and a swaddled baby. That very first Matryoshka is exhibited in this museum.

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The Russian tsars bought the Matryoshka dolls in Sergiev Posad

Soon, a workshop for making the Matryoshka was organized in Sergiev Posad. Very skilled icon painters painted the nest dolls. The Russian tsars and noble families visiting the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra bought here the Matryoshka dolls for their children. In 1913, the biggest Matryoshka ever was made. It included 48 dolls, and it is also exhibited in the museum.

Photo © credits to Vlada Lazareva

Peasants and boyars

Matryoshka is a diminutive form of a common Russian female name Martyona. However, even among the first nest dolls, there were both men and women, peasants and boyars. A wonderful collection of the nest dolls from the early 20th century presents the Russian knights, the characters of fairy tales and classical novels and poems as well.

Photo © credits to Natalya Osetrova

Didactic toys

Matryoshka was not only a souvenir. The first Matryoshka dolls were sold in the “Children Development” shop together with other didactic toys. They were used to teach children to recognize different size, forms, and colours. The Matryoshka also helped to explain the Russian culture, traditions and family values.

Photo © credits to vperedsp

An apron with a bouquet of wild roses

For several decades, the Matryoshka dolls were made only in Sergiev Posad, and then this art spread around the country. The nest dolls from different regions have their own specialties. For instance, the Matryoshka from Sergiev Posad always has something in her hands. The doll from Vyatka has big blue eyes, and the one from Polkhovsky Maidan wears an apron decorated with a bouquet of wild roses.

Photo © credits to

In Sergiev Posad, which is considered the birthplace of Russian Matryoshka, not only you will learn about its history and see the nest dolls of the past, but also you can buy a modern Matryoshka made in Sergiev Posad style, or the one of traditional paintings such as Gzhel, Khokhloma or Mezen. If you prefer something unique, you can participate in a workshop in the Museums of Toys and paint one Matryoshka with your own hands or order the Matryoshka family with the photos of your dear and near. Sergiev Posad is also known as the capital of the Orthodox Christianity in Russia, and its main landmark is The Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra.

Photo © credits to Elena Shakhmatova

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