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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Russians to clone legendary tree
Aleksandr Pushkin
Pushkin was said to have been inspired by the tree

Scientists in southern Russia have started work on an unusual project to clone one of the country's most famous trees.

The old "oak" tree of Taganrog is thought to have inspired the 19th Century Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin to write verse.


There is a green oak by never-never land, There is a golden chain on that oak

Ruslan and Lyudmila, by Pushkin
But last month the tree burnt down and it was feared a famous piece of Russian history could have been lost forever.

Legend has it that this was the tree which inspired Pushkin to write one of his most famous poems - all about an oak with a golden chain.

Not that the old "oak" of Taganrog is really an oak - it's a mulberry tree.

But then, as the people of Taganrog will tell you, Pushkin wasn't exactly an expert when it came to biology.

Cultural heritage

Now there could be life in the ancient tree yet after a group of local businessman vowed to raise it from the ashes, using the very latest technology.

A team of scientists from the city of Rostov-on-Don has been brought in - their mission: to clone the tree using living tissue recovered from the stump.

Leonid Matusevich, head of the Taganrog Union of Businessmen, told the BBC there was no question of profiting from the project - local businesses simply felt a duty to protect their country's rich past.

The tree's reappearance, he said, would herald a spiritual revival across the whole of Russia.

See also:

02 Jun 02 | Health
27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
11 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
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