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Russia bails out nesting doll makers

Few countries have as enduring a national cliché or tourist tchotchke as pervasive as Russia has with nesting dolls. So it’s not exactly shocking that the matrioshka industry has been deemed too big to fail by the Russian state: The state will place about 1 billion rubles ($28.4 million) in orders for crafts such as ...

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Portraits of Russian presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev (C) and President Vladimir Putin (R) adorn traditional Russian nesting dolls, matryoshka, in Moscow on February 28, 2008. Voting in Russia's presidential election starts at 8:00 am on Sunday, March 2 in the region of Kamchatka in the Far East (2000 GMT on Saturday) and ends at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT Sunday) in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, next to Poland. Around 109 million Russians are eligible to vote in Russia and abroad. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY KOSTYUKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Few countries have as enduring a national cliché or tourist tchotchke as pervasive as Russia has with nesting dolls. So it’s not exactly shocking that the matrioshka industry has been deemed too big to fail by the Russian state:

The state will place about 1 billion rubles ($28.4 million) in orders for crafts such as nesting dolls and hand-painted dishes and could reduce taxes to support craft makers whose sales have plummeted, the Industry and Trade Ministry said last week Thursday.

It’s been a tough couple of months for nesting doll makers:

Polikarpov used to sell 400,000 rubles ($11,300) worth of dolls per month in Russia and had exports of $10,000 to $15,000 — mainly to Britain, Argentina and the United States.

Now, he said, the company’s warehouses have enough stock to cover sales for the next 1 1/2 months without producing anything. Dyuna had no profit in January and February and has just paid its employees for January. The company cut production by 30 percent this year and has started producing wooden toys such as robots.

Better that the government buy matrioshkas than missiles I suppose.

(Hat tip: Johnson’s Russia List)

DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating