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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.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

University To Study Return of Bells

Contributing Writer


As a delegation of Russian monks left Harvard yesterday after a weekend visit, the University announced that it would commission a study to determine the cost and feasibility of returning the Lowell House bells to their ancestral home in a Moscow monastery.

A joint statement issued by the University and the delegation from the 721-year-old Danilov Monastery said that Harvard’s only expenditure for a return of the bells would be the cost of the study.

“Costs such as construction, transportation and bell-replacement would be borne by the Russian side,” the statement read.

The bells that currently hang in Lowell House were purchased from the Soviet Union by American industrialist Charles R. Crane and donated to the University 73 years ago.

Danilov representatives say the Soviets looted the bells and have sought their return for almost 20 years. Their quest intensified last year before the 700th anniversary of the death of St. Danil, the monastery’s founder.

“The parties have agreed...that it is necessary and timely to settle the question of the return of these bells to the Danilov Monastery,” the statement read.

Archimandrite Alexy Polikarpov, the father superior of the monastery, was optimistic that the issue could be satisfactorily resolved.

“We’re actually at the beginning stages of an evaluation, an assessment of the problem,” Polikarpov said through a translator.


See also: Harvard officially announces feasibility study

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For a history of Harvard's acquisition of the bells, see