The Exiled Bell

Emily Hirsch | May 15th, 2019

Yes, an object can actually be tried and exiled. Which is exactly what happened back in 1584, when Ivan the Terrible died and left his two sons behind Fyodor and Dimitri. Now Fyodor was actually mentally handicapped, and Dimitri was just an infant. This meant that Dimitri became the next czar.

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However given his young age and inability to rule, Boris Godunov became his regent to protect his rule but the power quickly went to his head. Dimitri was known to be a bright child, so he was exiled and kept in captivity with his mother, eventually being exiled to Uglich.

Of course, Russian history is nothing if not brutal and bloody, on May 15, 1591, an eight-year-old Dimitri was found dead. His throat had been cut by a knife wound, naturally, his mother and supporters believed he had been murdered. As a result, they summoned the whole city of Uglich together by ringing the church bells and started a rebellion.

The small rebellion was nothing for the mighty Russian empire, and Boris simply despatched some troops to Uglich to shut it down. The rebellion was ended quickly, and Dimitri’s mother was sent to a monastery. Nearly all the residents of Uglich were either executed or exiled to Siberia. And even the church bell was not spared. The bell was accused of sounding the rebellion and starting the whole ordeal.

Reports show that the bell was even flogged and then they removed the inside tongue part. Eventually, they removed the whole bell from the church and exiled it to Siberia also. Then Boris Godunov reported that Dimitri had simply suffered an epileptic attack while playing with knives, historians are not really sure what is the right answer. This all happened during a time of unrest in Russian, a particularly bloody period known as the Time of Troubles.

By the early 17th century Uglich was known as a pilgrimage site and Dimitri had become a saint, with a memorial church being built in his honor.

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