January 01, 2002

Travel Notes

Matryoshka Museum

The first museum of Russia’s most famous souvenir, the matryoshka nesting doll, opened in Moscow. It is located in the Fund of Popular Craft, Leontievsky pereulok, 7. The museum houses hundreds of brightly colored dolls, with dozens of smaller figures nestling inside them. The mother of all matryoshkas, a giant red figure at the center of the exhibition, is about one meter high and “houses” 50 smaller dolls inside.

According to director Larisa Solovyova, the museum was originally expected to open last year, on the occasion of the centenary of matryoshkas in Russia. Matryoshkas came to Russian from Japan, and were quickly assimilated here by an artistic movement promoting a return to popular culture. Whereas Japanese dolls portrayed rather somber, bald-headed Buddhist monks, the Russian matryoshka typically features jovial, scarved peasant women with rosy cheeks. In recent years, artists have used the art form to chase fast bucks, emblazoning matryoshkas with such unlikely subjects as the not-so-rosy-cheeked Leonid Brezhnev or tennis star Marat Safin.

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