Petrushka (Russian: Петру́шка; IPA: [pʲɪtˈruʂkə]) is a stock character of Russian folk puppetry (rayok) known at least since 17th century. Petrushkas were used as marionettes, as well as hand puppets. Traditionally he was a kind of a jester distinguished by red dress, red kolpak, and often a long nose.
Although the Russian word "petrushka" has a homonym meaning "parsley," in this context the word is actually a hypocoristic (diminutive) for "Pyotr" (Пётр), which is Peter in Russian. However, the character has little or nothing in common with such stock characters as Petruccio or Pierrot. Petrushka is rather a Russian Punch or Pulcinella in character.
It was the Empress Anna Ioannovna’s court jester Pietro-Mira Pedrillo from Italy, who served as a prototype for Petrushka.
Petrushka’s voice was created with the help of a special whistle, and the dialogue was based on a momentary change of the pishchik and the “live” voice of other characters. There were a number of basic plots: the medical treatment of Petrushka, his learning of soldier’s service, the scene with his bride, the buying of a horse and testing it.
Initially, Petrushka was a character of typical slapstick comedy targeting the adult audience. As puppet theatre gradually became predominantly children's entertainment, Petrushka became less vulgar and aggressive. In the Soviet Union, Petrushka appeared widely in agitprop theater, defending poor peasants and attacking kulaks.