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Russian folk art

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G ames and toys are as old as anything in the human world. They emerged at the dawn of human civilization and were important instruments in the processes of socialization, upbringing, development, and education of human beings. The ancient toys were typically made of the two materials most common in Russia, that is, wood and clay.
    These days, hundreds and even thousands years later, we encountering the types of toys that emerged ancient times. The more developed a civilization is in material terms, the more sophisticated are the toys produced by it. The centers of traditional manufacture typically coincided with the centers of traditional earthenware crafts and wood working trades. The craftsmen manufactured various utensils and other useful articles in the workshops while women and children made toys from the same materials. In the distant past toys had many uses, magical, domestic, and artistic. The magical use of toys in rituals was of a primary importance at the earliest stages of human civilizations. The artistic attributes were of primary importance, too.

P.Yeroshkin. "How the Mice buried the 

Pilipp Yeroshkin. "How the Mice buried the Cat"
19th century

    The public interest in toys typical for differ nations and times has been rapidly growing in recent period. The ever-accelerating tempo of contemporary life makes the humans realize that their childhood experiences and impressions have shaped the most intimate components of their personalities. The contemporary Russian culture is unique that it simultaneously sustains age-old folk and crafts and modem art trends, which stem from and develop folk traditions. Craftsmen are
manufacturing folk toys in traditional styles and materials while the best custom-made toys car regarded as masterpieces of modern art.
    The wooden toys are very ancient in origin. The traditional centers of the toy trade in Russia are the Northern Russia, the Volga region, and the Moscow region.The craftsmen of the village of Bogorodskoe near Moscow were making wooden toys from rimes immemorial though they typically did not decorate them with painting. The village was on the land of the Troitse-Sergiev Monastery and there obviously was a ongoing cooperation between the craftsmen

A.Zinin. "The Marvellous Fish-Whale"

Alexander.Zinin. "The Marvellous Fish-Whale". 1947
(after the tale of P.Yershov)

    Traditionally the toy-making trade was practices by whole families in the village of Bogorodskoe. Children were trained in woodworking skills from an early age. Each family tended to specialize in making a certain type of toys. For instance, K.Boblovkin carved bird figurines while Y. Boblovkin carved figurines of various animals. P.Chushkin carved human dolls and M.Pronin carved carriages driven by teams of three horses.
The Bogorodskoe toys can be classified into three types each of which represents a certain stage in development of the art of Russian wooden sculpture through the centuries.
    The first type includes the traditional toy consisting of two rocking figurines of blacksmiths balanced on two opposite ends of a plank. The toy represents the early stage of sculpture development, the figurines are primitively modeled, the shapes are roughly fashioned and the figures are quite flat. These toys are very common as they are largely easy to manufacture.
    The second type includes the toys made of triangular blocks of wood. The toy shapes are reminiscent of the pre-Christian Russian wooden sculpture. The sculpture style of the toy "noble ladies" and "cavalrymen" is similar to that of the ancient wooden idols found near Novgorod. The nameless Novgorod wood carver aimed at revealing the inherent nature of wood in his sculptured shape. He made a creative use of the twigs, branches, etc. of the tree trunk he was carving. The modeling of the Bogorodskoe wooden figurines also depends on the wood blank properties which are more important to the carver than any preconceived artistic concept.

Forgeron "Deux ours"

"Two bears". 1936

    The third type includes the toys whose fully developed sculptural forms are rooted in the Moscow art style of the second half of the fourteen-century. The reason is that until they reach a certain age children prefer playing with archaic toys than with more sophisticated ones. When one traces the evolution of these three toy types with time one sees that the primitive "blacksmith" toys remain popular even at the present time. Here we encounter one of the oldest and most fundamental functions of the folk art as it fulfils its educational mission. The contemporary child easily relates to the primitive types of folk art that arose at the dawn of humanity.
    The Bogorodskoe toys are manufactured of various kinds of wood, such as lime tree, ash tree, or willow tree.The primary tools used by a toy maker are a hatchet, a special knife with a short curved blade and a wooden handle, and a set of round cutters of different sizes. A wooden blank is first cut to size with a hatchet and the remaining work is completed mostly with the knife. While working the craftsman is typically sitting on a low bench holding the wood blank on his lap. The surface of a semi-finished toy is finely carved to represent the fur of a bear, the feathers of a bird, or the mane a horse. The toys are distinguished not only by the skilful carving but also by highly original mechanisms. The toys have moving parts, they may counter balanced and activated by hidden springs pushbuttons, and so on.

M.Barinov. "The carriage"

M.Barinov. "The carriage". 1979

   With time there was a gradual renewal of the interest in the toys, in particular, toys from the rural regions. In the Soviet period that started in 1917 and ended in the late eighties the handmade toy trade prospered largely at the centers of folk arts and crafts. The village of Bogorodskoe in the Moscow region became a major center of manufacturing of the carved wooden toys. The "Bogorodskoe Wood Carver" cooperative was set up in the village in 1923 and the school of wood carving art was established there where the best craftsmen in whose families the skills were passed on from one generation to another trained the students. The Bogorodskoe wood carving traditions, style, and motifs were preserved in their totality as an art. The Soviet government allowed the trade to live and develop for several decades because the folk art was rooted in the peasant environment. The Bogorodskoe toys depicting wild animals, cattle, and scenes of rural life presented no ideological threat to the regime. Such toys as "Blacksmiths", "Tea drinkers", "Cattle herd", "Three horses","Firewood sawing", etc. are still manufactured the Bogorodskoe craftsmen.

T.Phlenova.  "Chicken and cockerel;".  2004

"Chicken and cockerel".  2004

    In the Soviet period the most popular Bogorodskoe toys were the so-called "motion" toys (operated by balances and counterbalances, springs strings, etc.) and decorative figurines. New toy motifs and images taken from classical Russian literature, fairly tales and everyday life were added the traditional ones. Starting from 1960s the majority of toys involved an image of the bear who is the principal character in many Russian legends fairy tales, and folk songs. In ancient Russian mythology bear was regarded as a special beast which was the closest in character to humans was not accidental that the most popular Bogorodskoe toy known as the "blacksmiths" features the counterbalanced figures of a bear and a man sitting alternately an anvil with a hammer. The modern Bogorodskoe toys often feature the bear "human" situations. After the Russian cosmonaut became the first man to make a space flight 1961 the Bogorodskoe craftsmen made a toy presenting a bear navigating a spaceship. In more recent Bogorodskoe toys bears are featured a sawing firewood, operating a computer, playing chess, piano, cello, or a balalaika.
    The contemporary Bogorodskoe toy makers M.Smirnov, M.Dvornikov, M.Orlov, and S.Pautov are still employing the traditional wood carving style and use the old motion mechanisms

T.Phlenova.  "Bear woodcutter;".  2004

"Bear woodcutter".  2004

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 The russian toys
  - Bogorodskoe
  - Dymkovo
  - Modern folk art toy
  Rostov enamel
  Vologda lace
  Pavlovsky Posad shawls

P.Yerochkin. "How the Mice buried the 

P.Yeroshkin. "How the Mice buried the
Cat" (fragment). 19th century

I.Stulov. "Masha and the bear"

I.Stulov. "Masha and the bear". 1948

I.Stulov. "Tsar Dadon and the Astrologer"

I.Stulov. "Tsar Dadon and the Astrologer". 1944
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)

Y.Rachev. "Goat"

Y.Rachev. "Goat". 1900s

N.Maximov. "Tsar Dadon and the Astrologer"

N.Maximov. "Tsar Dadon and the Astrologer". 1950
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)

I.Stulov. "The axe soup"

I.Stulov. "The axe soup". 1966

M.Barinov. "Priest and Balda"

M.Barinov. "Priest and Balda" 1964
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)

Y.Arshinov.  "Tsar Saltanquot;. 1998

"Tsar Saltsn".  1998
(after the tale of A.Pushkin)

T.Phlenova.  "The goosequot;. 1998

"The goose".  1998