One of Russia’s best-known decorative elements is the Matryoshka. It is a wooden doll, with striking colors and a unique characteristic : each element is hollow inside and inside there are a series of smaller dolls. Thus, each female figure carries its own “daughter” inside to characterize its originality. Although this number can vary, usually the number of units is reduced.
The word Matryoshka comes from Russian and means peasant. These figures symbolize motherhood and fertility, as being one inside the other communicates the idea of giving birth.
Curiosities about Russian dolls
– These figures became known at the end of the 19th century and came from Japan (they soon became popular among the Russian population and soon arrived in toy stores in Moscow). According to another version, its origin is related to Russian folk legends.
– In Russia, when someone receives a Matryoshka as a gift, they have to ask for a wish and when this is fulfilled, it is possible to open their interior to start the same ritual again.
– It is one of the most typical souvenirs that tourists buy when visiting Russia (its decorative elements are the peasant costumes, but there are also figures that refer to nature and popular legends). In recent decades, those representing political leaders have also become fashionable.
– At the 1900 Paris International Exhibition the first Matryoshka was officially presented.
– During the period of the Soviet Union, they were exported to several countries in the West and when the Soviets started their space career they made Russian dolls with the appearance of cosmonauts.
– In the Russian capital there is a museum dedicated to these decorative figures.
Other typical elements of Russian culture and tradition
Favorite sports are ice hockey , football and basketball. Some of its typical dishes are: Olivie salad, herring under a fur coat, black caviar garnished with watercress and a vegetable soup called borsh. Wodka is their national drink and is consumed to ease the cold, even to accompany meals. The most representative dance is the kalinka.
Tourists visiting the country tend to buy objects related to the Soviet period, such as semi-precious stones, hats or ushankas, boots or valenkis and even food products such as zefir and caviar. Finally, in addition to the Matryoshka, other typical souvenirs are the hand-painted wooden vessels, in bright colors, known as khokhlomá.