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6 Aug, 2007 01:36

Chinese Matryoshkas upset Orthodox Church

One Chinese town has been flooded with Russia's wooden Matryoshkas. But inside them you will find not the usual nesting dolls, but something absolutely different – so different that it's caused outrage in Russia.

It's been a symbol of Russia since the end of the 19th century – a wooden doll neatly carved and hand-painted which opens up to reveal another wooden doll inside, which in turn splits in two. Matryoshkas are intended to be enjoyed both for their craft and as a toy.

In China this kind of folk art has been made into a trash bin. The town of Heihe not far from Russian border decided to decorate its streets with ornate garbage cans.

Locals like the idea. But just over the river, in the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk, the reaction has been quite the opposite.

The people are disgruntled that their national symbol is being used for rubbish.

The faithful are the most furious because Orthodox symbols like onion-shaped domes and crosses are depicted on the Chinese bins.

Russian tourists in Heihe are also displeased with the innovation.

The row has reached the Russian Foreign Ministry, and diplomats had to contact their Chinese colleagues to look for a way of settling the cultural misunderstanding.

The Russian side says, the trash-matryoshkas must stay put and not spread beyond Heihe.

“Our stance is that this destructive idea should not catch-on in other regions of China. Its public should be aware they shouldn't infringe Russia's interests in such a manner,” says Leonid Bazarny, Foreign Ministry representative in Blagoveshchensk.

Heihe authorities say they didn't intend to do any wrong and considered Matryoshka litter-cans a good way to combine utility and beauty.

“There's nothing improper about it. We've made it to mark Russia and China friendship, and also for our children, so that they learn about Russian culture from childhood,” stresses Hao Hueilun, Heihe city council secretary.

Chinese authorities have promised that the problem will be solved in the near future. Matryoshkas will stay but now only as a decoration.