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#6 - JRL 7003
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 2003
From: "Nicolai N. Petro" <kolya@uri.edu>
Subject: Whose Bells? (Comment on JRL 6600)

Dear David,

Perhaps its the thought of exams coming up, but the staff at the Harvard Crimson seem to have lost their usually keen sense for the absurd and the ironic in the editorial comment Our House, Our Bells (December 13, 2002). After all, what could be more absurd than a plea of poverty from a university with an endowment of more than USD 17 billion? And what could be more richly ironic than to hear the students of an institution expressly established for the purpose of training Christian ministers, admonish Russians that they ought to concern themselves less with the salvation of their souls and more with the filling of their stomachs. A less than generous soul might even wonder whether any of that 17 billion could be put to better use feeding some of Bostons poor and homeless, but a wise Russian proverb warns us not to count the money in another mans pocket.

Ultimately, of course, the issue of restoring the bells to the Danilov monastery is not a pecuniary matter, but a matter of moral and historical propriety. For if indeed they were purchased to save them from a regime hell bent on eradicating the Churchs very existence, then today Harvard has the opportunity to rejoice in their safe return, and all Russians to gratefully acknowledge their debt to Mr. Crane and the university for saving these treasures from the folly of their ancestors. But if they were purchased mainly to profit from the chaos that followed the October Revolution, then the argument against their return can more aptly be summarized as: We stole em, fair and square.

With best wishes,

Professor Nicolai N. Petro
Department of Political Science
Washburn Hall
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881 USA
Voice: 401.874.2290 Fax: 775.659.5343
Home page: www.uri.edu/artsci/psc/nickpage.htm

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