Right now we are going to the village Polkhovskiy Maidan of the Nizhny Novgorod region to show how the main Russian souvenir is made.
Life has not been changing for hundreds of years in this village. The same wood houses with ornamented tiles, the same bad roads, the same linden wood, the same craft. For the fourth century the main souvenir of Russia has been made here. Of course, we are talking about matryoshka. Local peasants learnt the craft from the monks of the Sarov monastery. In the beginning of the twentieth century wooden handicrafts were burnt out, some time later – painted. This is when the unique Maidan ornament and the landscape composition were formed.
They used to have a special factory for this but it was closed when the Soviet Union collapsed. Now villagers make matryoshkas at home. It’s private businessmen who keep these traditions today. The secrets of the craft are handed down from generation to generation, from father to son, from mother to daughter.
People live their plain life and work hard in the village. They lumber and use wood for wooden utensils and toys. Those who don’t want to go to forests, buy timber usually ordering a full truck (in winter it costs 570 dollars, in summer – 670 dollars). But that timber is not always of a good quality. Besides, villages lumber illegally, if they are caught they should pay a fine of 3330 dollars).
The turnery for the men is like the second home. They spend here 10-12 hours a day. Otherwise they won’t earn enough.
They should have a strong body and be strong in spirit.
They look like twins, but you won’t find two identical ones – it’s totally a handwork.
The working day is irregular and they don’t have days off. Even being hungry these strong guys keep working.
The manufacture process starts from choosing timber. Linden is chosen from many types of wood because it is soft enough and easy to work with. The best time for lumbering is early spring. Wood has to dry to take a better shape then it becomes ready for sawing. The lower part of a matryoshka is made from wood that has been drying for several years. The upper one – from wet wood because it will dry and two parts of a toy will be tightly connected. The first to be made is the smallest matryoshka – which represents a solid workpiece. The second is a toy consisting of two parts – all wood is removed from inside in order a smaller one could be easily inserted. When all elements of a matryoshka are ready, they are covered with oil paints and lacquer.
“Granddad did it, dad did it and I do…”
They have to inhale a lot of dust.
The children are being told what each element of the ornament means.
These people are so friendly and hospitable!
This is a village store. Women can buy cosmetics here, but they make up toys more often than their own faces.
But whose faces do inspire them to draw toy ones?
It’s the village House of Culture. Young people usually go to the city, they are bored in the village.
“School” bus stop.
Maidan wooden toys used to be sold only in the neighbouring villages. But when lathes became electric ones, remote cities of Russia and other countries also saw the local toys. From markets of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod they go to so many places of the world.
But for a matryoshka it is not easy to find a new home. It has a long way ahead. It is carried in Chinese bags, dragged along impassable roads… Rain or snow they keep standing on the counters and wait for a moment when they are chosen from hundreds of competitors.
Matryoshkas trade is not a place for creativity, it’s pure business. Toys consisting of five elements cost from 9 to 235 dollars in souvenir shops of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
They are sold next to other numerous souvenirs.
Wooden toys fashion is changing, demand breeds supply.
… Once daddy Carlo made a little boy from a log…
Maidan villagers lathed and painted a girl – smart and beautiful. It gave jobs to all the villagers and became the symbol of the great country.