Nesting dolls reveal layers of Russian history

Tom Crann and Jeff Jones, Minnesota Public Radio
December 18, 2009

As toys go, none are more closely associated with Russia than the Matryoshka. The colorful wooden nesting dolls have become an icon of the country and are wildly popular souvenirs for visitors. Today, the dolls depict everything from folk tales to Presidents to sports teams.

An exhibit of Matryoshka is bringing many visitors to the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. The dozens of sets displayed there -- all on loan from an avid collector in San Francisco -- include some of the earliest examples of the form, the mass-produced products of the Soviet era and striking examples of the creativity of artists in the post-Soviet era.

What looks like a long-standing folk craft is, in fact, just over a century old. Tom Crann toured the exhibit with curator Maria Zavialova to learn how the story of the Matryoshka mirrors the story of modern Russia.