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Another Russian Exile

In response to:

The Rights of Gorbachev from the February 16, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

In discussing the celebration of Human Rights Day in Moscow, I.F. Stone writes (NYR, February 16): “Pushkin’s statue has been a source of subversive reflection for many years. Perhaps the police could take a leaf from their czarist predecessors. Twice they banished the poet to internal exile. Why not exile his statue, perhaps to Gorki?”

The suggestion may be closer to the mark—and to Russian history—than I.F. Stone knows. When prince Dimitri, son of Ivan the Terrible, was assassinated in 1591 the towns-people of Uglich (near Moscow) rang the church bell as a signal of insurrection. The authorities hauled down the bell, accused it of treason, and sentenced it to perpetual banishment in Siberia. It was conveyed with other exiles to Tobolsk. After a long period of solitary confinement it was partially rehabilitated and, as it were, allowed out on furlough—being suspended in the tower of the Tobolsk church. But not until 1892 was it fully pardoned and restored to its original place in Uglich.

The story is told in E.P. Evans’s The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906, reissued by Faber and Faber, 1987). I have checked with friends in Moscow, who have been to Uglich, seen the bell and confirmed that the history is as described.

Nicholas Humphrey
Department of Philosophy
Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts

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