A matryoshka doll (Russian: матрёшка, IPA: [mɐˈtrʲɵʂkə] ( listen), matrëška), also known as Russian nesting/nested doll, refers to a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. They are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "babushka dolls" (grandmother doll). The first Russian nested doll set was carved in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter at Abramtsevo. Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless traditional Russian peasant jumper dress. The figures inside may be of either gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood. Much of the artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be very elaborate. The dolls often follow a theme, aside from the typical traditional peasant girls, the themes vary, from fairy tale characters to Soviet leaders.
A set of matryoshkas consist of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on. The number of nested figures is traditionally at least five, but can be much more, up to several dozen with sufficiently fine craftsmanship. Modern dolls often yield an odd number of figures but this is not an absolute rule; the original Zvyozdochkin set, for instance, had an even number. The form is approximately cylindrical, with a rounded top for the head, tapering toward the bottom, with few or no protruding features; the dolls have no hands (except those that are painted). Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan. The figures inside may be of either gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby lathed from a single small piece of wood (and hence non-opening). The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate.
Vasily Petrovich Zvyozdochkin (Russian: Василий Петрович Звёздочкин) (1876–1956) was a Russian turning craftsman, wood carver and doll maker. He is credited with making the first Russian matryoshka doll (painted by Sergey Malyutin) in 1890.