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Collecting Russian Nesting Dolls

Updated on March 19, 2010
This is part of the  Tsar Nicholas collection
This is part of the Tsar Nicholas collection
Another part of the collection and this one has 12 panels on it. Beautiful.
Another part of the collection and this one has 12 panels on it. Beautiful.

Beautiful Russian Souvenirs

First the amazing Faberge Eggs

One of the most exciting things about visiting the country of Russia was the souvenirs that I saw everywhere. There are so many different types of souvenirs and they all have such great history behind them. The Faberge eggs are amazing and I saw the most beautiful ones that I have ever seen. Tsar Nicholas started the tradition by having them made for his wife Alexandra and she would always receive the most beautiful Faberge eggs from him.

At the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg they have the collection of the Faberge eggs that Alexandra collected. They vary in size from very small to extremely large. And they can be pretty expensive, let’s just say they can get pretty pricey the more detailed they are.


I gave some like these to one of my sisters.
I gave some like these to one of my sisters.
Example of different scenes.
Example of different scenes.
Here is an example of how they come apart
Here is an example of how they come apart
Here is a simple design but still very nice.
Here is a simple design but still very nice.

The Nesting Dolls


I fell in love with the nesting dolls from Russia. The nesting dolls are wooden painted dolls that come in different sizes and fit inside of each other. They are one of the oldest traditions in Russia and they are all hand painted and quite beautiful. Some are very simple and inexpensive and then there are those that are exquisite with so much detail; some can be laden in gold and you can find ones with various different scenes.

I bought quite a few of them when I went to Russia and gave them as presents to my family, and I have been collecting them ever since. My mother in law sends me a box of Russian chocolate and Russian nesting dolls every year for Christmas. It is such a beautiful gesture on her part and I love her for that.

Now the history of the nesting doll is quite interesting, apparently they started making the nesting doll back in the 18th century, and they were originally called “matryoshkas” but people mistakenly called them “babushkas”, because the origin of the doll was that they represented the simple pleasantly plumb peasant woman (boy say that 3 times) and her children, therefore the largest represented the woman and the others were the children. In Russian the word matryoshka means motherly and that is where the word for the doll came from; it is also the symbol for fertility in the Russian culture as well. Since “babushka” in Russian means grandmother, the name stuck as it looked like a grandmotherly type doll and was probably easier to say for Americans, because whenever I say babushka doll my husband corrects me right away.

The Nesting doll is really quite a remarkable symbol of Russian culture and tradition. Some of the earliest nesting dolls had pictures of fairy tales, war images and also biblical symbols as well. During the 1980’s, political nesting dolls were all the rage and you can still find nesting dolls with president faces on them. I have seen some with American Presidents as well. Sometimes the picture will be the same on all the dolls and some will depict a different picture on each doll, for example one of the prettiest nesting dolls that I have received was of the depiction of “Swan Lake” and it had a different ballerina scene from the play on each doll. This one is definitely my favorite one so far.

Now to collect dolls, you have to make sure that you are getting the authentic doll from Russia or Ukraine because you can find them all over the internet but you may discover that it was made in China, as so many things are. There are many dolls that you can find imported from Russia on EBay as well, but just make sure that you ask if the doll has been authenticated by the Russian symbol on the bottom of the large doll and there should always be the signature of the painter on the bottom as well. I have seen some that go for a few dollars and I saw a set last Christmas on EBay that actually sold for about $1200, so it just depends on the picture on the doll and how rare it is and how much a collector is willing to pay.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    jyladvik 6 years ago

    If the doll does not have a signature on the bottom, does that mean it was made in China? I bought them in the Czech Republic. The people working in the shops told me the dolls were made in Russia, but there is nothing on the doll that states its country of origin.

  • profile image

    Vladimir 7 years ago

    happyjen, ladyjane1,

    the record-breaking nesting doll consists of 72 pieces. They can have as few as 3 dolls and as many as the artists can make, it all depends on their level of craftsmanship. By artists I mean the wood turner and the artist who paints the doll. Big nesting dolls sold in the market today can reach 30-40 pieces, which is also quite a lot...

  • profile image

    Vladimir 7 years ago

    Hello everybody,

    I am now in process of setting up an online store that sells nesting dolls. If anybody is interested, and this information is not in conflict with ladyjane's business interests, please post new 'vote' comments telling whether you want me to come back with the name of the store when it's ready. I am planning to sell mid- to high-priced nesting dolls. Simple and cheap ones are ok too, but they are nothing special from artistic viewpoint and it's not cost-effective to ship them to the States. My fascination is with the expensive collectible ones, it's just amazing what Russian craftsmen can do. I know what I am talking about and can let anybody in on how to buy the right nesting doll making sure that you get top quality for your money.

  • happyjen profile image

    happyjen 7 years ago

    Thanks, ladyjane1, from 5-9 are usually what I see as well, but I've seen as few as 3 that are still considered a set. Would be fun to find out if there is a record of some sort for the most number of nesting dolls created in the same set (I suppose it would also depend on the size of the figures themselves, too)...

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 7 years ago from Texas

    happyjen thanks for reading and your nice comment. I really have no idea how many nesting dolls is the norm. The collection I have vary in sizes. The largest ones that I have have 8 in them and the smallest ones have 5 so I am not sure. I bet your friend loved the gift. Thanks for the link I will check it out. Cheers.

  • happyjen profile image

    happyjen 7 years ago

    Very nice hub info... I've always loved the nesting dolls (more the traditional ones than some of the recent pop culture ones with famous figures)

    I've bought them for friends before as nice keepsakes, and I had to share with everyone else who likes nesting dolls the cute Russian nesting doll measuring cup set ( I bought a few weeks ago for a friend.

    She has other traditional ones so I thought it would make a thoughtful gift and she really liked it. I told her she can thank me by using it to bake me a batch of yummy choc chip cookies :)

    Does anyone know if there is a standard number of "dolls" in a traditional nesting set? I've seen them with up to 16 pieces and was just wondering if there was a standard for the original ones?

  • MFB III profile image

    MFB III 8 years ago from United States

    Intricately detailed and a hidden surprise, in each doll opened, like the crackerjack of toys, I own several antique ones that I won't sell, and have always liked the concept

    of toys within toys withing toys...enjoyed this as well~~~~

    ~~~MFB III

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    Hello habee thanks for reading I appreciate it. Im sure your girls enjoyed them while they had them.

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

    My girls had these when they were small. They should have kept up with them!

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    breakfastpop thanks for reading. Find those dolls they may be worth some money lol. Blessing to you.

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    prasetio30 thanks again for reading. I think you would enjoy these dolls very much and they are so much fun to collect because there is so many variations. Good luck to you.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    I had seen these dolls in my television. Those are very beautiful souvenirs from Russia. When I go to Russia someday I'll buy this doll. this is very unique. As an art lovers I have to say "two thumbs up for you", thank you very much.


  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    Hey sis thanks for reading and you know I have so many sisters it is hard to remember who I gave what. Glad you liked the nesting dolls. LOve

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    drbj good afternoon to you its nice to see you and thanks for reading my hub I am glad you enjoyed it.

  • Whidbeywriter profile image

    Mary Gaines 8 years ago from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington

    Beautiful hub, and I am a blessed sister to have had the honor of receiving those nesting dolls from you......thank you sis!!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 8 years ago from south Florida

    Well-written,ladyjane, and the illustrations are beautiful. Thank you.

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    Hi Ann Im glad you liked my hub and I hope you do one day get some nesting dolls they can be the center of attention in any room actually and you can hide stuff in them too. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Ann Nonymous profile image

    Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

    I always always wanted a set of these...instead I had to settle for those boxes within a box set! lol

    Thanks for a great hub and maybe I'll get myself some dolls! You can never be too old for them, as you proved in this nice hub, ladyjane!!!!!

  • breakfastpop profile image

    breakfastpop 8 years ago

    This hub has brought back so many memories. I had these dolls when I was young and loved them so much. Now, I have no idea where they can be.

  • Bail Up ! profile image

    Bail Up ! 8 years ago

    These are really cute nesting dolls. I have a set a friend brought me as a souvenier from Russia while there for a martial arts competition. I just adore them!

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 8 years ago from Texas

    loriamoor thank you for reading and I am so glad you got to see St. Petersburg, wonderful place.

    @Pamela99 thank you appreciate your reading my hub. Blessings.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Wonderful collection. They are really nice. Good hub.

  • profile image

    loriamoore 8 years ago

    When I visited St. Petersburg, Russia last year, I thought these were the coolest things. I bought two small wooden sets as souvenir gifts for my husband and his mother.


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