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Inquiry of Russian Nesting Dolls

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Amelia Rutherford

on 19 February 2015

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Transcript of Inquiry of Russian Nesting Dolls

Inquiry of Russian Nesting Dolls
Amelia Rutherford
The primary source that I will be investigating is a set of Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka).
My Primary Source
Essential Framing Question
What is the origin of the matryoshka- Russian nesting dolls?
Formulating Questions
Primary Source Information
Secondary Source Information
Essential Framing Question
I will be attempting to discover the history behind the matryoshka dolls, and how they fit into Russia's cultures and traditions. I will also be exploring the significance of traditional versus modern views and styles.
Focus Questions
- What does matryoshka mean?
- Why are they also called babushka dolls?
- Were the dolls originally made in Russia?
- Are there any stories or legends connected to the dolls?
- How long have matryoshka dolls been around?
- How did matryoshka dolls become a symbol of Russia?
- Do different colours or designs mean different things?
- How are the dolls used today?
Specific Thinking Concept
Significance
- This concept requires students to determine the importance of something.
- The significance of something is generally determined by its short- and/or long-term
impact on people and or places.
Front View
Top View
Back View
Side View
Social Studies Questions
- Who made the dolls?
- What is the origin of the matryoshka dolls?
- Who buys these dolls, and how much are they?
- Are there any traditions or stories connected to the dolls?
- What are they used for?
- What designs are made traditionally or in modern times?
- Is it always a female shown?
Science Questions
- What kind of wood is used for making the dolls, and is it always the same?
- How would the dolls fair in various temperatures?
- What country did the dolls come from?
- What kind of machines are used for creating the dolls?
- What kind of paint is used for decorating the dolls?
Math Questions
- How many matryoshka's are made a year?
- What is the biggest/ smallest nesting doll set ever made?
- How far did the doll travel to get to Ontario?
- How long does it take to make a nesting doll set?
- How long does it take to carve and paint the dolls?
- How much does it cost to make a set?
- How can these dolls represent fractions?
The Arts Questions
- What kind of paint is used to decorate the dolls?
- Is there a traditional decorating style?
- What do the dolls visually represent?
- Are they still hand crafted or made in a factory now?
- How detailed can the smallest doll be?
- How do the dolls represent balance?
Language Questions
- What kind of words could be written on it?
- Where is the authors signature?
- Could the dolls be used to store poems or messages inside?
- What would the dolls look like if there was writing in Russian vs. English?
- How are the dolls represented in literature?
Media Literacy Questions
- How are these dolls marketed?
- How do these dolls contribute to Russia's image?
- Are these dolls used to show modernity or traditions?
- Do these dolls have any political connections?
- Is the image of a female important to the idea of the nesting dolls?
Interpreting & Analyzing Information
Evaluating Evidence
Front View Observations
- The entire surface is painted
- It is a woman
- There is a face painted on it
- The eyes are blue, the hair is golden, and there are red lips
- It's red, black, gold, green, yellow, white, and blue
- About the height of my palm
Back View Observations
- There is a high gloss finish
- Paint job includes cherries and leaves
- Red painted section looks like a shawl
- The doll is made from wood
- There is a seam running around the doll horizontally
Side View Observations
- There is a left and right hand
- It looks like she has lace sleeves
- She is wearing a kind of headdress or kerchief
- Her shawl has tassels
- Both the left and the right are almost identical (except for the shawl pattern)
Top View Observations
- The shape is like a pear
- Round and smooth design
- Very detailed brush work
- Most likely made by hand
- The doll rattles when it is shaken lightly
- There are red curls or decorations in the dolls hair
General Observations
- Each doll is smaller than the last
- All of the dolls are painted
- The dolls are all the same colours
- The dolls are all of the same woman
- There are ten dolls in all
- There is less and less detail as the dolls get smaller
- Nine of the ten dolls open
Social Studies Thinking Concepts
The matryoshka Russian nesting dolls are linked to several of the social studies thinking concepts.
Significance
The social studies thinking concept significance requires students to demonstrate the importance of something. The matryoshka dolls are important in different ways to different people. I think of my dolls as a symbol from a trip and family. To people in Russia it is a part of there heritage, tradition, art, and a symbol of their country.
Continuity and Change
The social studies thinking concept continuity and change requires students to determine what has stayed the same and what has changed over a period of time. The matryoshka dolls have changed over time in their colouring and subject matter. My doll set is depicting a traditional peasant woman. Other Russian dolls today can show families, politicians, TV characters and more. The doll shape and nesting abilities stayed the same though.
Patterns and Trends
The social studies thinking concept patterns and trends requires students to study characteristics that are similar and that repeat themselves in a natural or human environment. The dolls themselves are a pattern or a copy of each other in a smaller form. The folktale of the dolls shows that they believe every generation of family members are copies of each other and follow the same trends.
Perspective
The social studies thinking concept perspective refers to the ways in which different individuals view something. It would be interesting to investigate how Russian citizens (young and old) view traditional and modern matryoshka dolls and how they represent Russian culture. As a Canadian with no strong connections to Russia I view the dolls from a curious interest, but did not know the rich history behind them.
Cause and Consequence
The social studies thinking concept of cause and consequence requires students to determine the factors that affect or lead to something as well as its impact or effects. The Japanese artist who made the first nesting dolls did not know when he went to Russia for the art show that it would become a national Russian symbol. My dolls also came to my house through a chain of cause and consequence of family travel.
Citizenship
My matryoshka dolls represent several different aspects of citizenship. In terms of power there could be a gender relation with traditionally only women depicted. As well, it was the Russian rural poor who were painted not the elite. A sense of responsibility is shown in the fable about the family members looking after each other. I do hold a privilege to own such a finely made hand crafted item that was purchased during a trip through expensive travel and airfare. These thoughts could lead into discussions about the right to access and engage with traditions, what any one person feels responsible for, and how power dynamics do or do not change over time.
Curriculum
References
Janes, B. (2011, January). Babushka or Matryoshka?. Retrieved from: https://vodkatraintravel.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/babushka-or-matryoshka/.

Berge, A. (2004). Russia ABCs: A book about the people and places of Russia. United States: Captstone Press. Retrieved from: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/russia-abcs-ann-berge/1006109763?ean=9781404803602.

Bliss, C. D. (1999). The Littlest Matryoshka. United States: Disney-Hyperion. Retrieved from: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/littlest-matryoshka-corinne-demas-bliss/1014257662?ean=9780786801534.

Holmes, G. S. (2014, August). Matryoshka doll. Retrieved from: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Matryoshka-Doll.html.

Lewis, A. V. (2010). Preserving Russia’s past: The history of the Russian nesting doll. Retrieved from: http://www.goldencockerel.com/en-us/info-desk/the-history-of-the-russian-nesting-doll.html.

Mayer, M. (1994). Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave. Canada: Harper Collins. Retrieved from: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/baba-yaga-and-vasilisa-the-brave-marianna-mayer/1100009022?ean=9780688085001.

Obgurn, J. (2000). The Magic Nesting Doll. United States: Penguin Young Readers Group. Retrieved from: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-magic-nesting-doll-jacqueline-k-ogburn/1103542032?ean=9780803724143.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Social studies curriculum. Printed Edition.

Soloviova, Larissa, and Marina Marder. Russian Matryoshka. Moscow, Russia: Interbook, 1993.

Unkown Author. (Unknown date). Happy Together. Retrieved from: http://k12east.mrdonn.org/russiandolls.html.


Measuring Cups
These measuring cups show that the nesting dolls are in societies and countries other than Russia. Unlike my original nesting dolls this set is plastic and are not painted so that they can be used for measuring food and are easy to wash. When researching I also found that there are egg timer nesting dolls, and finger puppets. This shows the different ways the dolls are used today.
Folk Story
There is a legend that many people believe inspired the nesting dolls about a young girl who wandered too far from home and her sisters, mother, aunts, and grandmother ran after her. They all came back home in a line of women- one smaller than the last. My dolls depict all one female, but could be representing a family line. This shows that the dolls are connected to Russian folklore.
Modern vs. Traditional
Traditional Russian nesting dolls are of all females in peasant clothing with red as part of the colour palette (like mine are). Modern nesting dolls can be any colour and depict several different images on each doll related to sports, families or even politics. All of the nesting dolls are the same smooth pear shape and open in the middle horizontally. This shows that the dolls show different meanings depending on the artist or the purpose.
Name Meaning
The common name Russian nesting doll refers to the dolls looking like traditional Russian peasant women. The actual name for the dolls is matryoshka which derives from maternity, and the dolls nesting inside each other is linked to fertility. My nesting doll set is curved like a maternal woman. This shows that while the nesting dolls have progressed outside of Russia they are still preserving the tradition through the craft and name.
Name Comparison
Babushka means grandmother or old woman in general. While there are mostly women painted on the Russian dolls, they do not have to be old, and the original set Therefore the correct term is matryoshka, but the term babushka is also commonly used as well. My set of dolls is all of the same young woman. This shows that it is important to know the proper terminology for something.
History & Russian Connection
It is believed that a Japanese artist made the first set of nesting dolls, brought them to a show in Russia where a monk saw them. The monk made his own set depicting a traditional rural Russian woman, with each doll holding another symbol of poor country living. My matryoshka set came from a small village in Russia near Japan. This relates to the dolls in their history.
The Littlest Matryoshka
This story is about a set of nesting dolls (six sisters) that are created in Russia and travel to a store in America. One of the sisters is lost and must find her way back. I would use this story for demonstrating family and friendship bonds. I could also use this story to show travel or immigration and the separation that is often felt.
The Magic Nesting Doll
This story is about a young girl who has a set of nesting dolls that can grant three wishes before a curse is released. She uses the dolls to rescue a prince that has had an evil spell cast upon him. I would use this story to show perseverance. I could also use this story to show that all different countries and cultures have fairy tale stories with princes and princesses.
Russia ABC's
This book is an alphabetical exploration of the geography, animals, plants, history, people, and culture that make up Russia. I could use this book as an engaging teaching tool for younger students to spark their interest in other communities. I would also use this book for comparison between Canada and Russia.
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
This story is about sweet Russian girl named Vasilisa who lives with her jealous step mother and step sisters. The step mother sends her on an errand to the evil witch Baba Yaga in hopes that Vasilisa will not return, but she does with the help of her doll. I would use this book to discuss family dynamics and relationships. I could also use this book to discuss traditions in connection to folklore and like it to the Russian nesting dolls.
Grade 2
A: Changing Family and Community Traditions

A1 asks students to compare traditions among diverse groups, and the matryoshka dolls are an opening hook to Russia traditions.
A2 requires the use of the inquiry process to look at traditions in the past and present as well as their own families, and the matryoshka dolls are one example of family connections.
A3 asks the students to describe groups in their community and how traditions are passed on, and the dolls are a physical example of folklore and traditions.
Grade 2
B: Global Communities

B1 has students describing some similarities and differences between other global communities have adapted, the dolls show a typical historical peasants clothing from Russia and their lifestyle.
B2 asks children to use inquiry to look at the relationships between people and the environment, what the dolls are made of shows the kind of raw materials available in Russia.
B3 has students identifying physical features in selected communities and the way of life for the people, the folklore story talks about the physical terrain and environment and can be investigated through the dolls.
Grade 6
B: Canada's Interactions with the Global Community

B1 asks students to explain the importance of international cooperation, the modern matryoshka dolls can be linked to designs of the Russian leaders and their interactions with Canada and Canadian policy.
B2 has students use inquiry to look at global issues and their impact of global community, the dolls could help transition thinking into Russia in the international stage with Ukraine and other military actions.
B3 has student describe aspects of Canada's involvement in regions around the world, the dolls would be a way to discuss Canadian trade with Russia and Canadian involvement in the Olympics and military actions.
After completing my interpretation of the dolls I tentative answer for the framing question: what is the origin of the matryoshka Russian nesting dolls. I believe that the answer cannot be summed up into one answer, but is instead a series of events and stories that lead up to what nesting dolls are today. The concept for nesting dolls might have originated in Japan, but it is the rich folklore and culture of Russians that created the matryoshka dolls. The dolls were symbols of rural, poverty, women, families, relationships, and fertility, as well as being carefully crafted works of art. Today the matryoshka dolls are embraced as part of Russia's past traditions, and also included in Russia's culture today. The dolls also have also been taken in new directions in modern times, with their classic shape and design being combined with politicians, cartoons, graphic designs, and more practice uses like measuring cups or egg timers. In summation, the matryoshka dolls are Japanese in design, Russian in tradition, and are spreading and changing culture slightly wherever they travel to.
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