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Background: Harvard has a set of 18 Russian bells purchased from the Soviet government in 1930, one of only five complete, intact sets of pre-revolutionary Russian bells left in the world. They came from Moscow's oldest monastery, which is now also the Patriarch's residence. The monastery has been trying to get the bells back for the past 20 years, but they have become part of Harvard's culture too, and the university is not just hoping to get rid of them. Also, the towers would have to be dismantled in order to remove them. Nonetheless, the dialogue has been amicable, and Harvard is willing to entertain the idea of their return.


December 18, 2002

Klappermeister Offers Poem Lauding Bells

To the editors:

As many Crimson readers know, the Patriarch of the Russian Church has appealed to have the Lowell House Bells returned to the Motherland. We regret to inform the Patriarch that we are too noisily a-pealing ourselves to pay much attention to his own outrageous appealing. We thank The Crimson for its support of the Lowell House Bells and offer the following “Mini-Epic of the Lowell House Bells” as a token of our appreciation of The Crimson’s eloquent and highly persuasive argument on our behalf (Editorial, “Our House, Our Bells.” Dec. 13, 2002).

Old Stalin caused religious frictions:
He, spiting monastic traditions,
Forced tearful farewells:
Monks gave up their bells
And melted them down for munitions.

But one ringing zvon was a-sav³d
From Russia’s dictator deprav³d:
’Twas bought for a song
And ere very long
Was brought where the Stars and Stripes wav³d.

It now seems some Russian Patriarch
Would topple our Towering Landmark
To take back the bells
He says he knows wells
And claims are Saint Danilov’s trademark.

Our bells, we are pleased to inform,
Will remain in the Lowell House Dorm.
They’re ours and not yours,
(Though we offer tours)
And on Sundays at one we perform.

In all seriousness, we naturally recognize that the Russian Church’s claim to the Danilov Bells contains more than a measure of legitimacy. Nevertheless, there is something irresistibly comic in the Church’s implicit demand that because we can send men to Mars, we ought to be able to dismantle the Lowell House Bell Tower and send the bells back to Russia in time for the 700th anniversary of Saint Danilov’s death, three months from now.

It has been our honor to steward the Bells during their exile from Russia, and we hope that a mutually satisfactory agreement will be reached between Harvard and the Russian Church concerning the future of the zvon. In the mean time, the Lowell House Bells will continue to ring every Sunday from 1 to 1:15 p.m. and on special occasions. We welcome visitors at these ringings, and invite any souls brave enough to try their own hands at ringing the Lowell House Bells.

Benjamin I. Rapoport ’03
Dec. 16, 2002

The writer is klappermeister of the Lowell House Bells.


Copyright © 2003, The Harvard Crimson Inc.


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