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Rattle. Early 20th Century."Skimmer" Rattle. 1988The "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.

Horse and Carriage. 1930s. GorodetsThe 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 willow tree.
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.

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