"panic" toys are particularly appropriate for small
children. The solid mass of the toy exhibiting no sharply defined
features awakens the fantasy of a child who can invest any imaginay
traits into it. Most importantly, a child is able to fashion
a similar primitive toy by himself
In addition to the Northern Russian
villages, wooden toys were widely popular in the Volga region
(they were manufactured in the towns and villages of Lyskovo,
Gorodets, Semenov, and Fedoseevo). Human-, horse-, and bird-shaped
figurines were in the greatest demand in that region, too.
The origin of the primitive wheeled figurines of horses can
be traced back to the pre-Christian time. The horse symbolizes
the sun in the Slavic mythology and these toys were often
decorated with ornament of disks and segments which are traditional
representations of the solar disk.
The toy horses and carriages made by the Gorodets
craftsmen obviously belong to a different epoch. The coachmen
urge on horses with elegantly arched necks pulling carriages
lavishly decorated with the famous Gorodets rose ornaments.
The village of Fedoseevo near the town of Semenov
was the birthplace of the Fedoseevo toy style. The Fedoseevo
toys are assembled of smooth wooden planks. The toys are painted
over in yellow and bright ornaments which are drawn with a
goose feather against the yellow background. The types of
Fedoseevo toys include the traditional wheeled horses, merry-go-rounds,
mills, furniture for dolls, and even cars, airplanes, and
steamboats. These are primarily model toys.
The town of Sergiev Posad was the most prominent
center of wooden toy production in Russia. The monks of the
Troitse-Sergiev Monastery and the commoners of the surrounding
town were engaged in the trades of wood turning and carving
since the monastery establishment in the 15th century. The
local craftsmen manufactured icons, icon cases, scoops, walking
sticks, and spindles. Such articles were bought by the pilgrims
who were drawn to the monastery in large numbers. There is
a legend that the first wooden toy was made by Saint Sergiy,
the monastery founder. According to a generous Russian tradition
a traveler returning home from a pilgrimage, a trip to a fair
or somewhere else brought presents for children. As early
as in the 17 century the Troitse-Sergiev Monastery became
a major center for manufacturing such wooden toys as toy wheeled
horses and carriages, figurines of horses, and birds.
In Middle Ages children from all classes of
the community in Russia played with the same kinds of toys.
Even in later periods children from the serf families and
Tsar's children could be playing with toys made by the same
craftsmen. The craftsmen from Sergiev Posad were especially
famous for their toys. The recorded descriptions of the toys
with which Peter the Great played and the toys bought for
his children, namely toy horses, figurines of cows, deer,
cockerels, and ducks demonstrate that they were identical
with the Sergiev Posad toys known to us. The Sergiev Posad
toy craftsmen had their own characteristic woodworking techniques
they refined through the centuries of the trade development
and growth. The toy makers started with a triangular wood
wedge as a blank and carefully modeled the upper part of the
figurine while the lower part was roughly fashioned with wide
sweeping cuts of a blade. The typical figurines manufactured
in Sergiev Posad were those of noble ladies, foot soldiers,
monks, and peddlers.
The craftsmen of the village of Bogorodskoe
near Sergiev Posad were also making wooden toys from times
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. Usually, the toys were assembled in Bogorodskoe
and then delivered to Sergiev Posad for ornamenting and selling.
Traditionally the toy-making trade was practices by whole
families in the village of Bogorodskoe. Children were trained
in wood-working skills from an early age. Each family tended
to specialize in making a certain type of toys. For instance,
K.T. Boblovkin carved bird figurines while Ya,P. Boblovkin
carved figurines of various animals. P.I. Chushkin carved
human dolls and M.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.
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 Bogorodskaya wooden figurines also depends
on the wood blank properties which are more important to the
carver than any preconceived artistic concept.
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.
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. The reason is
that until they reach a certain age children prefer playing
with archaic toys than with more sophisticated ones. 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 "noble lady" and "cavalryman"
toys fashioned from triangular wedges of wood reminiscent
of the pre-Christian idols disappeared in early 20th century.
The toys of the third type had gradually lost
some of its sculptural sophistication during the 19th century.
An art historian noted that "these toys have lost the
last vestiges of delicate sophistication in form (elongated
body proportions, fine face features resembling icon painting,
and so on) while the human figures are appearing more powerful
and robust in their stature, posture, and movements."
The Bogorodskaya toys are manufactured
of various kinds of wood, such as lime tree, ash tree, or
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 t craftsman
is typically sitting on a low bench hoi ing the wood blank
on his lap. The surface of semi-finished toy is finely carved
to represent t fur of a bear, the feathers of a bird, or the
mane a horse. The toys are distinguished not only by t. skilful
carving but also by highly original meet nisms. The toys have
moving parts, they may counterbalanced and activated by hidden
sprin pushbuttons, and so on.