The Russian folk doll is rich in tradition and history.
Creating dolls for spiritual, ritual and magic purposes,
every little detail of these handmade dolls is meaningful and has its purpose.
The skirts of some dolls have plain edges because it is believed that clothes for dolls,
especially those aimed at enhancing fertility, should be made without a needle and scissors
so that the life of the person for whom it is made is neither stabbed or cut.
Dolls were never left lying upside-down in a house,
but were carefully kept in a basket or in coffers with embossing,
or in chests to be passed on from one girl to another.
In old times peasant families were very large, up to 11-15 children in each home
and believed that in order to become a good mother in future, a girl was to play dolls.
Russian folk dolls are not just for admiration;
they are first of all ritual and playing.
According to the old superstition it was said,
“To play no dolls means not to have any children in the future. The girl will be a bad mother.”
A majority of rag-dolls, as a rule, are without faces:
there shouldn’t be any unnecessary eyes at home.
Faceless dolls were seen as blind, deaf and dumb, so it is believed safe.
On this very reason dolls didn’t get names were just called “Doll”, “Matrjeshka” etc.
When the dolls lost their ritual meaning, the doll was given a face and became a present, sold at the fair;
but were austere and without smiles on their faces.
A plait was a must and according to the hair-style the doll was a girl, a bride or a mother.
Dolls were improvised of anything available at hand to the maker:
straw, clay, wood, bast, corncobs, grass roots, cinder, branches and boughs of trees, and whatever else they could find.
While making a doll, tradition was that the fabric was torn, but not cut to frighten away evil spirits.
Russian folk dolls usually have unusually big breast in honor of women’s beauty and women’s nature.
The large breast symbolized ties with Mother Nature and why women kept the doll’s traditions.
Pillar forms on the doll points to its phallic nature – a unity of masculine and feminine symbolism.
Traditionally, only female images were made - both for rituals and for children’s play.
If a male doll was needed for acting out a role in a game, a simple wooden stick was used.
Of course, sometimes male figures were made as well but mostly as spirit dolls.