Hear the Tolling of the Russian Bells

An agreement was signed recently to return centuries-old bells to Moscow from where they were rescued during Stalin's purges against religious groups.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The bells of Moscow's Danilovsky Monastery will return home after more than 70 years in America at Harvard. This week the university signed an agreement to return the 18 enormous brass bells to the Russian Orthodox Church. Chicago industrialist Charles Crane had rescued the 18th and 19th century carillons in 1930, when Joseph Stalin was leading a Soviet campaign to murder thousands of monks and destroy their monasteries.

The bells are considered singing icons and are etched with images of Christ, Mary, angels and scrolls. The largest weighs 13 tons. Now, for decades they've tolled the hours from towers at Lowell House and Harvard Business School's Baker Library. The university will get 18 new bells in return. They're now being cast in Russia. Russian industrialist Viktor Vekselberg is paying for the exchange. And the agreement apparently includes training for Harvard's bell ringers. Diana Eck, a master of Lowell House, told The Boston Globe, when you hear Russian bell ringers, you know there's a lot to learn. We hope to learn a lot.

(Soundbite of bells)

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