Matreshka is a wooden Russian doll inside of which there are other similar dolls of smaller size. They can be three, usually five and etc till the smallest one.
How it appeared?
The first Matreshka appeared in Russia in 90s XIX century. It was the time of rise of national self-consciousness in our country when the interest to the Russian culture in general and to the art particularly was growing in the society. In one of the workshops dedicated to the Russian toy a professional artist Sergey Malutin created a wooden doll in the national costume. The idea was prompted by a Japanese toy brought from the island Honshu. It was a figure of the old wise man Fukurama inside of which there were some more figures, one in another. The Japanese say that the first such toy was turned by an unknown Russian monk.
The first matreshka of Malutin was a round-face peasant girl in the embroidered shirt, sarafan and an apron with a brightly colored headscarf on her head and a black cock in her hands.
Traditionally the name Matreshka comes from the Russian female name Matrena very popular in XIX in Russia. This name was associated with mother of a big family having good health and portly body. Afterwards this name became common. Till now Matreshka is a symbol of maternity and fertility because the doll with her numerous family inside expresses perfectly figurative principles of this oldest symbol of the human culture.
How is it made
The principle of production remains constant till today conserving all the methods of turning art of old Russian masters. Traditionally Matreshka is made from alder or oak. To prevent the wood from losing its properties, it is covered with lime and after drying with lacquer. After that the doll is decorated manually with gouache or pokerwork.
Nowadays Matreshka remains a favorite toy of the Russian children which is beautiful, ecological and very useful for early development and of course it is always a symbol of Russia, a perfect souvenir that should be brought from the Russian land.
There are some museums of Matreshka and Russian toy in Moscow and Sergiev Posad, homeland of first Matreshka.
Till the first Matreshka created by the artist Malutin, many versions of Matreshka appeared. For example, here is also a traditional Russian hero Cheburashka. This personage is not so old than Matreshka. He was created by a Russian writer Uspensky in 1966 as an exotic animal who arrived in a soviet shop in the box of oranges. Cheburashka and his friend crocodile Ghena became very popular after the cartoon of the same name.
There is a superstition that if to put into Matreshka a piece of paper with a wish, it will for sure come true.