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A Short History of Zagorsk and Sergiev-Posad Folk Art


A national style of woodcarving, painting and pyrography (wood burning, or writing with fire) was dubbed "the Russian style" and surfaced in the 1900s. Decorative themes were architectural landscapes of ancient cities and monasteries (most often Sergiev-Posad), and less often, Russian fairy tales and stylized floral designs works of folk art. Boxes were rectangular or square, with mostly hinged lids, but sometimes lift-off covers. Range of colors were ochre and shades of brown interspersed with greens, reds and blues. The compositions were harmoniously arranged. Most often, the sides of the boxes were decorated as well.

The system of producing arts and crafts of a Russian folk art nature has its roots in pre-revolutionary Russia. In 1891, an educational toy shop opened in Sergiev-Posad, (renamed Sergiyev from 1919-1930 and Zagorsk from 1930-1991). In 1904, "Children's Education", a store with a toy workshop owned by Anatoly I. Mamontov was closed. However, the workshop, or artel (a cooperative association of craftsmen living and working together) was spun off. 

In 1913, an organization "Кустарно - промышленной артели игрушечников" (loosely: "The Artisanal Artel of Toy Makers") was established, subsidized by the Moscow Zemstvo (an elected council established in tsarist Russia to administer local affairs). In 1929, a unified "Sergievsk Handicraft Artel (guild)" as a symbol of the collective work was created and the town was renamed Zagorsk one year later. The artel became "Zagorsk Artel" and later "PKKA" or " Рабоче - Крестьянской Красной Армии", which also loosely is "Workers '- Peasants' Red Army". Right after WWII, the Council of People's Commissars took over the artel and founded and experimental group of master artists to "create artistic designs and unique products.". In 1960, the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR nationalized the artel as a state enterprise and prosaically renamed it "Zagorsk Toy Factory No. 1". After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became "Crafts and toys" and privatized as JSC "Artistic products and toys." Currently the company is the official manufacturer of traditional Sergiyev Posad (Zagorje) matryoshka dolls and dolls in ethnographic costumes of different provinces and districts of Russia.