Valdai Bells

Here’s an animated short that takes as its subject the so-called ‘legend of the Valdai bells.’ Variously told, the legend goes something like this. In the 1470s, Prince Ivan III of Moscow ordered the great bell of Novgorod—used to summon the city assembly, or veche—pulled down and brought to Moscow, to hang there among the bells of the other Russian lands, brought under Ivan’s authority. But the Novgorod bell did not survive the journey. Instead, it fell and broke, near a town called Valdai; and from the pieces that were left behind the local people began to make sleigh bells, for which Valdai became famous.

Valdai Bells / Валдайские колокольчики from Zoya Kharakoz on Vimeo.

I rediscovered it recently while researching sleigh bells (more about that later). It occurs to me it might make for a good classroom discussion, on the interplay between legend and history (and between multiple legends and multiple histories) in contemporary Russian life. Anyway, long story short: I like it. What do you think?

By John Randolph

John Randolph is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois.

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