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Makers of Nesting Dolls Turn to State for Assistance

Published: March 17, 2009 (Issue # 1457)



  • Alexei Polikarpov.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Dolls featuring Obama, Medvedev, the Beatles and Harry Potter?sell in St. Petersburg and Moscow for about 500 rubles.
    Photo: Nadia Popova / The St. Petersburg Times

  • A craftsman working at the Khokhloma Painting Plant in central Semyonov.
    Photo: Nadia Popova / The St. Petersburg Times

  • Molodtsova painting dolls in the Khokhloma workshop in the Nizhny Novgorod region. She earns 3,000 rubles a month.
    Photo: Nadia Popova / The St. Petersburg Times

SEMYONOV, Nizhny Novgorod Region — 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.

Ministries, state agencies, the White House and the Kremlin will all make large purchases of matryoshki and khokhloma dishes to be used mainly for gifts, a spokeswoman for the ministry said.

The measures were announced at a meeting on Wednesday between Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko and 20 souvenir makers.

One of the main measures of support should be state orders, Khristenko said at the meeting, according to a statement on the ministry’s web site Thursday. “We still have to work out the regulatory documents ... and draw up a list of the products the state will buy,” he said.

The state will also help the producers sell their crafts at crafts fairs both at home and abroad.

Speaking earlier this month, prior to Khristenko’s announcement, Alexei Polikarpov was apologetic during an interview in his cold, dimly lit office on the outskirts of Semyonov, the heart of Russia’s nesting doll industry. With sales of the country’s most famous souvenir diving, Polikarpov cut production, leaving fewer wood chips to heat his shop.

Across town at the Khokhloma Painting Plant, the country’s largest matryoshka producer, the situation was no better. Salaries were slashed along with output as the iconic wooden figures piled up on storeroom shelves.

Crafts makers in Semyonov, a town of about 25,000 people 70 kilometers north of Nizhny Novgorod, have been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis. Polikarpov said he saw domestic demand fall 30 percent in November compared with a year earlier, while foreign sales sunk by as much as 60 percent.

In January and February, domestic demand was halved.

“We get fewer orders from souvenir shops, companies and private clients,” Polikarpov said sadly. His company, Dyuna, had almost no sales in December, despite the traditionally lucrative New Year’s holidays.

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.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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