Museum of the Dolls


I decided to go on a whim. It was something I had passed by before while wandering through Chistye Prudy, thought looked both interesting and unsettling, and then passed by. It’s small enough that you might miss if you’re not looking for it, marked by a small sign on the front window: The Museum of Unique Dolls.

The museum is a private collection, amassed by theater artist Yulia Vishnevskaya. It’s small inside, staffed by just one person at the ticket desk. The atmosphere was extremely quiet, there were two people there besides me talking in barely audible whispers.

The museum of dolls consists of just one room. I had read earlier that there was an additional room where some of the objects were restored before being put on display, but this was apparently closed, and only staff could access the rooms beyond the main hall. The walls are lined with glass cases packed with dolls from German, French, and English makers as well as Russian, all turned to look at visitors in a way I found distinctly disconcerting when I first came in. There were dollhouses in corners, tea sets, doll-sized sewing machines and miniature furniture – the museum’s contents ranged wildly from nineteenth century porcelain to modern plastic dolls to a Picasso print of a doll hanging above the display cases.

The dolls themselves were divided into different sections, grouped according to maker and time period. Some were preserved very well, with lace hemmed-dresses still intact, others looked like they were deteriorating, with paint chipped off or part of a hand missing. In all there are a good five thousand or so objects packed into the cases, most ranging from the seventeenth to twentieth century with a few modern pieces thrown in. The modern dolls and toys – including an electronic carousel that is the exact same model as one my grandparents gave to my sisters and me about ten years ago – looked a little out of place, and maybe not as unique as the older toys depicted on the sign outside.


Some of the notable pieces, from what I gathered from an information card that was full of text yet only described a tiny fraction of the pieces in on display, were rare antiques by Russian makers, and a few dolls with heads that could be turned to reveal multiple faces with different expressions. There’s even a small bear that has accompanied Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev into space, and resided for a short time at the International Space Station.

What struck me the most, aside from the sheer quantity of dolls packed into one room, was the attention to detail. Many were equipped with tiny, to-scale accessories of parasols or intricately decorated hats, or standing next to masses of miniscule pots and pans. Everything is packed so closely together I got the impression that observing each thing would have taken me far too long. If you’re coming in because you want to see something weird and vaguely scary, the initial view of the interior is enough to satisfy that – not only are the walls completely lined with displays, there are also a few larger dolls in a case on the upper level which stare down at visitors as they circle around the room. But if you’re interested in antique toys, the displays are definitely worth a close look.

Article written by kaumeheiwam

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