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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.
But Alan J. Stone, the University’s vice president for government, community and public affairs, said that he was not sure what the feasibility study might uncover or who would conduct the study.
“Part of what we have to do with the analysis of the situation is to see if there are any obstacles and what [they] might be,” Stone said.
University President Lawrence H. Summers was more concrete this summer. He said that he thought the cost of removing the bells might be an unavoidable obstacle.
Former Lowell Master William H. Bossert ’59 has estimated the cost of transfer in the tens of millions of dollars—professional bell movers contacted by The Crimson were somewhat more conservative, projecting costs closer to $1 million—but Bossert also said that costs could be overcome.
“I had understood that there are some important individuals in Russia who would like to gain favor with the Russian Orthodox Church [by paying for the bells],” Bossert said last year.
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