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I’m not much of a one for hokey tourist souvenirs but I did know that the one thing I had to buy in Moscow was a Matrioshka doll. I was utterly fascinated by them as a child, and always wanted one very, very badly. So I thought it would be good to find one for my little god-daughter Amelia, who turned five in December.

We were going to buy them from one of the souvenir stalls that line Revoylutsi Place, just by Red Square, but when we emerged from GUM late afternoon they had all been swept away in a security alert and all that was left in their place were small groups of hardcore looking security forces dotted around the square. Instead, we went into the underground shopping mall hiding in plain sight underneath Revoylutsi Place, and there found several kiosks with a vast assortment of Matrioshkas.

So here it is. I didn’t go for a super huge family, running all the way from huge to teeny tiny baby as Amelia has a toddler brother and I can see that it would be asking for trouble to introduce very small wooden parts to their household. I also ignored all the many painted variations (everything from football players to intricate Christmas themes) and went for the traditional decorated ones. (They are extraordinary: each Matrioshka is turned from a single piece of wood, otherwise the pieces won’t fit together.) I think this cost 350 roubles, about £8.

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I spotted these later on.

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Medvedev and Obama. Witty but not something I’d want in my living room.

LLG was a guest of Mango in Moscow

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21 comments

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I also wanted one badly as a child! What a lovely idea to buy one for your god daughter, I’m sure she’ll love it! If I ever make it to Russia (hopefully next year) I’ll definitely have one on my shopping list. De x

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@Notting Hill Girl: I’m starting to realise that they were a must-want for most of my generation. LLGxx

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@Notting Hill Girl: I’m starting to realise that they were a must-want for most of my generation! LLGxx

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I wanted a set of traditional matrioshka dolls as a child too. They’ve always been expensive when I’ve come across them in the UK, but a great buy for £8. Would love to get some for my nieces.

Not at all keen on the novelty celeb ones though!

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@Akeela: Nope, there was no way that Obama was coming home with me either! LLGxx

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Ooh, I love Matrioshka dolls, they’re bewitching little things. Although I haven’t yet been to Russia,I have quite a few scattered about the apartment, probably because, like you, I wanted a set so very much as a child. There’s a set on my dressing table holding different hair bands, clips, bobbins, pins and beads; a set on my desk holding pencil stubs, sticks of gum, ink cartridges, rubber bands and paperclips; and a set of white melamine ones in my kitchen. The kitchen ones are measuring cups and currently my favourite thing in there! I think they’re a design classic – not twee or cutesy, just simple and clever. They’re U.S. measurements – I use them frequently for interesting American recipes I find online and am too lazy to bother converting. You can find them online for around a tenner. Twas most good of you to buy those for your god-daughter and not yourself 🙂

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@tiggyt: oh I LOVE the idea of them as measuring cups! I’m so going to look. Thanks for the tip! LLGxx

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I have 3 of these dolls, all with a story. They are timeless gifts.

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@Mo Thompson: You are so right Mo – it’s always the story behind a gift that counts.LLGxx

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I have always wanted to visit Russia- Moscow and St Petersburg particularly. It’s so exciting that you have Russian heritage, it must explain your beautiful long blond hair

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@Rose: Thank you! I have a lot of Danish too – so I am clearly a genetic throwback! LLGxx

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I like the traditional ones best too. I had a set when I was little which got played and played with. The paint is rubbing off and there are cracks where they have been dropped, but I’ve still held onto them (safely home in Australia at the moment, until the time I can bring them back here). I’ve always wanted to buy myself another set for mantelpiece display, but will wait until I get a chance to visit Russia and buy some direct from source!

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@Penny Dreadful Vintage: They were truly the only souvenir I wanted from this trip. I just love them. LLGxx

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oooh, I just loved these as a kid. I remember them from my kindergarten and I found it utterly fascinating to peel off the layers until I got to the smallest baby one.

I actually have a modern version of them standing on my mantelpiece today, but the traditional ones are so much nicer. What a great gift for a little girl!

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@Mette: I really wanted to buy a set with a teeny tiny baby but the thought of little Charlie swallowing it held me back! LLGxx

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Ah that is a wonderful gift! I had one as a little girl and I loved it. I still collect them and adore them. The insides smell so beautifully of wood and the tiniest one inside is incredible. I was always fascinated by the details of their decoration and how there are subtle differences between each one.
xxx

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@laura: I love that you all had or wanted these! And, yes, I remember the smell so strongly. I stuck my nose in these ones too for the memory. LLGxx

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My grandmother went to Russia circa 1970 and brought me a set. I still have it, though my golden retriever puppy once thought that the outer doll was a bone.

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@Miss Cavendish: Hmmm….gd point. I shall not be letting these within a 100yards of PB! LLGxx

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The Obama and Medvedev ones look kind of phallic.

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