Russian Stacking Dolls

I'm grateful that we're made in the image of a creative God. That aspect of our human nature displays itself in so many interesting ways.

And one form or creativity I especially enjoy is the humble stacking doll that originated in Russian folk art.

I've collected stacking dolls for over 30 years and would love to share my collection with you!

I bought this beautiful 12 piece doll (the smallest doll isn't shown) in Sergiev Posad, a town about 45 miles from Moscow where the nesting doll originated. In 1994, I bought the doll at an outside market from the artist who hand-painted it.

We were in Russia on a tour, and one purpose of our trip was to see our children who were attending a mission training school in Kiev at the time.

There are a wide variety of artistic skills and styles represented in my collection.

A friend brought me the large doll (in the center) when she and her husband went to Russia to pick up their son from an orphanage.

The doll to the left I bought on a street in Moscow from the woman who'd painted it. I think there is something especially sweet about the doll with her little handkerchief.

This is my finest doll which I bought in St. Petersburg, but it was also made in Sergiev Posad. It has 10 pieces.

Each doll has a different hand-painted country scene on her dress.

Sometimes scenes from Russian folk tales are depicted on nesting dolls.

And they are just as beautiful on the back. 

I love the baby even though I rarely display her for fear she'll fall and get sucked up in my vacuum.

Right: The bigger of these two dolls I purchased last fall in a Budapest thrift shop for $10. It has straw embossing. The doll was used and is scuffed in places, but it's still an interesting doll, and one I can let the older grandkids take apart and put together.

I also wanted to display 4 little pins I purchased in St. Petersburg.  As you can see from the back, they were very simply made with some kind of plaster, but they were so sweetly painted. 

I bought the one with the letter in her hand to represent the precious communication we had with our children at the time. This was before email was affordable/available everywhere, so I wrote my children in Ukraine long letters several times a week and sent an occasional fax. 

The dolls above highlight the way atheistic communism limited  creativity. All of these dolls were made before Communism fell. Before the wall came down, it was rare to find a doll that wasn't the typical pattern--white and red flower design. 

The colorful wood-burned doll (front left) was an unusual find during that time period. I bought her in East Berlin in 1980. Crossing from West to East Berlin at that time in history was like going from a color photo to a black and white photo. That contrast is similar to the difference I felt when I accepted Christ and went from spiritual death to spiritual LIFE!

This is my little historic nesting doll with 3 Russian leaders: Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Lenin. When we were in Moscow, we saw Lenin's tomb where his body has been on display since his death in 1924.  I found it a bit creepy, especially knowing the evil form of government he promoted.

Thanks for letting me share my collection and my March mantle with you. Since you've already taken a look at my stacking dolls, please stay awhile and check out the rest of my blog, especially my home page which features one-minute devotions each weekday. I'd love to have you subscribe to these devotions. It's free and you can find out how HERE
If you liked this post, please take a look at my one-minute devotion about my collection:  Nesting Dolls.

I have a large collection of stacking dolls that I think you'll enjoy seeing. And these dolls have special meaning to me! Do you know what it is?

I have a large collection of stacking dolls that I think you'll enjoy seeing. And these dolls have special meaning to me! Do you know what it is?


  1. Enjoyed this post. I liked learning a bit about the history of these dolls and the object lesson shared about our freedom in Christ.

  2. This is a great analogy - I have two sets of stacking dolls. One I bought in the Ukraine in 1991 when I went with my college Jazz band on a tour of the USSR, and one from 1999 from our Russian exchange student. I love your display, and your story.

  3. This post brings back wonderful memories of the time I spent in Moscow in 1994. I have two Matryoshkas which I dearly love. They are both beautiful and meaningful.

    I use a little double sided tape to keep the tiny ones in place in my china cabinet. It works very well.

    Love your collection. Thanks for sharing:)

  4. What beauty and meaning. They look wonderful on and around your mantle. I've given each of my three daughters stacking dolls, but they were purchased at a store specializing in Eastern European goods right here in the midwest. Enjoyed the tour here!

  5. Gail, I enjoyed reading about the history of your stacking dolls. They're beautiful, as are the displays you've arranged. You're very creative!

  6. Thamk you for sharing your dolls. My grandmother came from Ukraine when she was 12 years old, 1937. They lost everything in the war. I wish I had some reminders of her childhhod simce she would never talk about it.

  7. Thamk you for sharing your dolls. My grandmother came from Ukraine when she was 12 years old, 1937. They lost everything in the war. I wish I had some reminders of her childhhod simce she would never talk about it.

  8. Beautiful! I have a mantle in the house I moved to two months ago, and I haven't decided what to do with it yet.

  9. Wow - these are some really beautiful dolls. Thanks for taking these wonderful pictures and showing them off. I have more of an appreciation for the art of hand painting these dolls now!

    Thanks for linking up to the Take it on Tuesday blog hop!

  10. Hi Gail...I LOVED your post, because I LOVE these dolls!!! I actually made a large embroidered stuffed doll for a cousin's daughter years ago...before I would have thought of taking a picture of it! I sure wish I had, and now I want to make some more of them!

    I loved your sharing from going from death to life!!! How awesome is our LORD, and the power and life of His Spirit!!!

    I found your blog just tonight through Shanda's site
    and your blog was the very first I looked at because of your dolls!!! Just HAD to check them out! Like have lived and very interesting life!!! ♥♥♥

  11. Your dolls are beautiful. I was very surprised when a friend gave our twins some of these dolls for their 4th birthday. I never viewed them as toys. However our girls have played with them for hour after hour. They have been great for fine motor development as well as their imagination. They are really special.

  12. You have a beautiful collection. I have a typical nesting doll set with red scarf and red flowers. It was given to me by a family that I attended for home birth. Now my granddaughter likes to take the dolls out, lining them up on a table.

    I will read your devotion about nesting dolls!

  13. I LOVE nesting dolls! What fantastic pictures. Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!

  14. Hi Gail - I have always been fascinated by those stacking dolls but never found any and i haven't travelled. But i think I will let my fingers do the travelling and see what i can find out there in cyber space. your collection is awesome
    God bless

  15. Love your matryoshka collection. I have a modest collection myself. Since I am Russian, I have a special love for them and the lacquer boxes as well. Unfortunately, it continually shrinks as I pass some on to my daughter. My son prefers the lacquer boxes. All but a very few were well before the "wall" came down.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely collection!


  16. Gail, We got some of those little magnet ones too when we were in Russia. Fun!

  17. Thank you for sharing, Gail! These dolls are absolutely beautiful and I so enjoyed reading about the history that goes with them.

  18. What a beautiful collection of dolls you have. I am so glad that Jesus lives in both of our lives. To be transformed by God's love is a desire that covers my entire life. Thank you for sharing your God's truth and for sharing your collection.