On a picturesque hill on the bank of the left inflow of the river Dubna the ancient village Bogorodskoe stands (in Sergiev Posad province near Moscow) which is considered to be the cradle of the wonderful national craft of carved wooden toys and sculptures.
In the middle of 15th century the village belonged to the Moscow boyar Pleshcheev who bequeathed it to his senior son Andrey, who in his own turn, in 1491 left it to his son Feodor. Later, in 1595 Bogorodskoe village was passed to the Troitso-Sergiev monastery, one of the largest centers of handicrafts in the history of Russia.
According to a popular legend the history of Bogorodsky toys started in the middle of 18th century in a small village near the modern Sergiev Posad in a poor peasant family: once upon a time the mother of the family made a doll to entertain her numerous children. First she made it from scraps of fabric but the little ones tore it apart almost immediately. She made another doll, this time from straw, but by the evening it was scattered all over the place. The peasant woman then cut out a toy from a wooden chip. The children named it "Auka" and played with it for some time, but then got bored with the doll, and the head of the family took it to a village fair. Accidentally a merchant who did business at the Lavra liked the toy and bought it from the peasant. He put it on his counter as an ornament but it was soon bought with a great benefit for the merchant. The encouraged merchant ordered to the peasant to make him a dozen dolls. Since then, as the legend tells us, the majority of Bogorodsky peasants have been engaged in the "toy" craft.
Traditional Bogorodsky toys are funny unpainted figurines of people, animals and birds, or scenes from the life of Russian peasantry, folk and fairy tales. The moving toys are especially interesting: the figures have different mechanisms to set them in motion: fixed on wooden planks, ruled by balance or have a secret button to press. These simple but witty designs make the toys expressive and attractive both for children and adults. The mobile composition "a peasant and a bear" in its various combinations has become the symbol of the craft as well as another mobile toy "blacksmiths", which is more than 300 years old. The toy "chickens" is also a veteran of the craft, it was popular already in 19th century, during the times of great Russian poets Pushkin and Lermontov.
Crafting of a toy involves several stages and begins with a well dried log of some soft wood (for example linden or aspen). Toys may be made by machine processing (details are turned on the lathe, then assembled, and sometimes painted and covered with varnish) or made completely by hand, which is significantly more labor-consuming. Carvers process each toy individually. First they prepare the work-piece by cutting it out of a log with an axe or a hacksaw according to the set pattern. Then finer work starts – carvers use chisels and special Bogorodsky knives with very sharp edges (called "pikes"). Until the end of 19th century toys had been made in the traditional technique – by making a series of rough shallow grooves, carving out only the most essential details so that it was just about possible to recognize who or what the toy represented. Quite often these details were emphasized with bright garish colors. Since the end of 19th - beginning of 20th century the old technique has given way to more detailed elaboration of the features. Sometimes the toys represent scenes from peasant life or folk or fairy tales, and in the soviet era used to illustrate episodes from modern history.
The modern Bogorodsky toys are not limited to any genre or form of expression. They have organically integrated into the modern Russian art, at the same time keeping old traditions of the national craft.