Nesting Dolls in Soviet Times

The communist focus on mass production and pure factory output did not mesh well with the careful patience and expertise required to make truly authentic nesting dolls. The Soviet government actually tied to create and sustain factories that mass produced items like nesting dolls that were not suited for mass production. The government soon learned that handmade goods that are truly unique and have the authentic character of nesting dolls could not be made in factories. Even is the few instances where factories were constructed and nesting doll production was attempted, the products completely lost their uniqueness and character, and the Russian people, along with foreigners lost interest in these items.

Despite this, the Soviet government made private production and small private factories illegal. If craftsman wanted to work, they had to take a job at one of the government's toy factories. During the roughly 82 years of strict communist rule in Russia, the art making and painting nesting dolls was maintained by artisans that worked under the limited protection of the churches and monasteries, as well as those artisans that broke the government rules and continued making these dolls in private.

For Russian artisans that did not want to risk jail or other government actions by working at home, it was easier to work at the factories of Semenov where many new types of wooden toys were created. These toys (and Russian nesting dolls among them) were exported to many countries of the world. In spite of that all dolls were very similar to each other, they looked alike and they lacked the warmth of hand made goods.

Nevertheless, the Russian artists and craftsmen who worked in factories and at home ensured that the great craft and the historic accuracy of nesting dolls was carried forward. Many of the same individuals still make nesting dolls today, and pass on their skill to family members and others who want to learn this unique craft.

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