Doll of Happiness

May 2013

Galina Averina, the mother of a large family, who moved to the central part of Russia from Chukotka embarked on the semi-forgotten craft of ragdoll-making in Maryino village of Kursk region.

куклы своими руками

The town of Pevek on Chukotka could be reached only by air or sea because it is surrounded by tundra. Galina Averina moved to the "main land", namely, to the Kursk region under the government's resettlement program. After living for some time in Maryino, she was touched by the fact that there were people in the backwoods who continued the Russian traditions: wood carvers, needlewomen, potters, smiths and stove setters. She felt as if their creations had an aura of goodness. Then she happened to read an old book describing how to make dolls...

The large family has always cherished folk toys. Once her uncle, a sea captain, gave her a doll as a present. Then the doll came from one her daughter to another. The toy was lost during the moving, but the craftswoman passes the warmth of her dear thing to new dolls. Now Galina's collection contains a good deal of dolls.

"Helpers", as they have been nicknamed for their useful properties, are made of bast and hemp fibre, and rags. Simplicity, the lack of pretentiousness, is akin to Galina's personality. That is why the woman can easily turn ordinary fabric in protective items, which are said to cure ailments and to protect from an evil eye, to guard the house from intruders and to foster a good harvest.

"When people started to follow Feng Shui they forgot that Russia had always had cult things meant to bring happiness," she says. In the meanwhile, her dolls, one by one, filled the table. There is a doll called Kapustka ("small cabbage head") that was used by girls to attract suitors by placing it on the windowsill. There is a pocket doll called Pridorozhnitsa ("road mate") that was taken by travellers on long journeys. A flip-over doll will remind you that youthfulness is not long: lo, a young woman turns into an old one! Or a doll called Kubyshka-Travnitsa ("Chest with herbs") containing thyme and jasmine invokes pleasant dreams when put in a child's bed. Blagopoluchnitsa ("Happiness-teller") tells whether a daughter-in-law lives happily in a new family: if her skirt is wrinkled it means the woman complains to the doll, if not then the marriage is happy. And Kursk doll Stolbushka ("Pillar-looking") attracts a warm weather and springtime. It is best made when larks return.

Some protective dolls are made without the use of needles. An easy to make figurine of string knots was the first doll of Slavic girls, which they made at an age of three as a thank-you gift for their mother who'd given them birth. Galina's youngest daughter Arisha was three in April. She coped with the doll just fine.