Dolls from Russia

What can these dolls from Russia tell us about Russian culture?

Matryoshka Dolls

Photo: Creative common license 

Matryoshka Russian nesting dolls represent motherhood and fertility by portraying the biggest doll as the mother and the smaller dolls inside her as her children. In fact, the name “matryoshka” comes from the word “mater,” which in Latin means “mother.” In Russia, it is common and highly valued to have a big family, therefore women, being the child bearers, are very important members of society. Essentially, the Matryoshka Russian nesting dolls are representative of a woman’s roles in society - to have children and create a family. 

“Each member of the family is believed to have their own unique role in the household, and it’s the mother who serves as the foundation of the home” - Mary Stillwell 2019

It was common for women in Russia to wear some type of headdress to shield themselves from the cold and indicate their marital status.

Female doll from Russia 

Photo: Temple Anthropology Museum 

How can children or individuals who are not familiar with Russian culture learn from these dolls?

Giving a child a matryoshka doll, specifically a girl, introduces them at a young age to the importance of maternity and family in Russia. It encourages them to focus on the ideals of family and eventually become the foundation of their own home. The second doll can be used as reference for young girls to learn what type of outfits they may be expected to wear. 


Kotar, Nicholas. “5 Kinds of Folk Hats Russian Women Wore.” Nicholas Kotar, 15 Oct. 2020, 

Stillwell, Mary. “The Meaning and Symbolism of the Matryoshka Nesting Dolls.” Nesting Dolls, 

Temple Anthropology Laboratory and Museum 

Gladfelter Hall- Lower Level, Temple University

1115 Polett Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19122

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