Even scientists don’t know exactly, how the West-European custom of peal came to Rus. Some of them think, that the Western Slavs played a role of mediators by spreading of bells, the other think, that Russian bell -casting art was adopted from the Baltic Germans.
The ancient Slavic tradition of peal throws back. The Arab writer Al-Masudi wrote in one of his works in the middle of the 10th century: “The Slavs are divided into many folks, some of them are Christians… They have many towns and churches, where they hang bells, which they strike with a hammer like our Christians maul a plate.”
There are essential distinctions in the way of the ringing in the West and in Russia. Already by first appearance of bells people called them tongue bells. A clapper is the most important part of the bell, because the peal is caused by the strike of the clapper upon the cupola of the bell. It should be noted, that only this method makes it possible to create different difficult rhythmical patterns. The western tradition suggests the
contrary method: the sounding of the bell is caused by swinging of its body, which strikes against the clapper. Such passive position of the tongue in correlation with the body of the bell determines the original character of the sounding of the western bells. By the sounding you can hear only modulations of timbre without that great powerfulness of tongue bells in Russia. Strong, impressive, overpowering ringing of bells, melodies, harmonies, rhythms are created by the system of strikes by the tongue against the body of the bell, which gives the sounding a festal inspiring colour. It was mostly typical for the epoch of baroque in the 17th -18th centuries. Small bells were wide-spread at that time. Bells have become more and more adorned since that time.
It is difficult to say, why exactly the tongue method of ringing was used in Russia. But one of its advantages is that the swinging of a tongue does not make such a destructive effect against the bell tower as the swinging of its body, that makes possible to cast and to place bells of great dimensions. The following of the western tradition in the Middle Ages led to using of the western method of swinging of the bell. . The bell is one of the oldest musical instrument in the world. Unconditionally bells have their own peculiarities in different countries. In Russian the word “bell” is spoken like “kolokol”. The etymology of this word dates back to the Old Indian word “kalakalas”, that means “noise”, “shouts”. In Greek the word “ kaleo” means “call”. The Roman Catholics said “kalare”, that meant “to assemble”. When we generalize the information, we will understand the first function of the bell, which is assembling and proclaiming.
Some people could think, that bells appeared in Rus together with the Orthodoxy. But this assertion is not quite right. On the huge territory of Russia people find often small bells by excavations of ancient settlements. Archaeologists dig them out the oldest graves and barrows. That is the evidence of the fact, that small bells were used in everyday life of the Slavs at the pre-Christian period, but scientists can only suspect, which functions they had. According to one of suppositions, which was expressed by N. Findejsen, the bells, found in barrows, were the first attributes of the liturgical cult, which is similar with the cult of shamans nowadays.
42 bronze bells were found in a grave in the excavations near Nikopol. Some of them had even fragments of tongues and small chains, which people used to carry the bells on the clothes. These bells had different forms, some of them had cuts in the body. Archaeologists find such bells everywhere, even in Siberia.