Belarus: Flax violinist

Front view

General description: Male violinist lost in the depths of his music.

Dimensions 19 x 10 x 6 cm

Date when acquired 1985

Original Date 1985

Source Bought from a group of Belarus folk musicians at the Falun Folk Music Festival in Falun, Sweden.


Back view


The doll apparently has a wire base which is covered with flax fibres to form the body and the clothes. The head is made of a ball of light wood. The features are painted on. His violin and bow are made of wood.


Side view


This violist is wearing the traditional clothes of Belarus but exactly which area they are supposed to represent, I am not certain. His hat, long-sleeved tunic, waistcoat and trousers appear to be similar to those from Buda-Kashaleuski. He is wearing the traditional Belarus bast shoes (luptsi) with white cloth leggings that are possibly like the Russia onuchi (see Russia).

The front of his waist coat and the hem of his tunic are decorated with white braid with a red design embroidered on it. Belarus at one time had hundreds of different styles of embroidery and in some regions only red and white as on this doll were used. Red and white are the colours on the old flag of Belarus; white is an important colour as this is related to the name of the country, White Russia (see below).



Violin and bow.


Background information

Belarus has been an independent state since 1991. Before this time, however, it was part of Soviet Union. The history of Belarus and Russia have been intimately involved with each other since the 5th century CE when the Slavic tribes took over the area from the Balts.

Flax is the plant from which linen is made and this plant has been used by humans for at least 30,000 years. During the Tsarist regime (ca. 1500—1917), white clothes were made out of linen in this region and that is how Belarus (White Russia) got its name. All of non-Soviet cultural symbols were heavily oppressed during the Soviet regime (1922—1991), and only since that period have flax dolls such as this violinist become a typical symbol for the cultural and national identity of present-day Belarus. Such dolls are all completely handmade and are dressed in traditional Russian clothes, which symbolise the Russian influence on Belarus for a long time.

A collection of Belarus flax dolls

Flax dolls have a long history in the region as part of symbolic rituals. Male flax dolls (Kupalo) or pairs of male and female (Morena) dolls were made to burn in the Midsummer’s Eve bonfires. At the Kostroma (a Slavic fertility goddess) festival, dolls in the form of Kostroma herself or Iarilo (Slavic god of vegetation, fertility and springtime) were made to burn, bury or drown to replace the human sacrifices used previously.


Source(s) of information

Russian Folk Art by Alison Hilton





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