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Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena by Franz Josef Sandmann (de) (1820)
Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena by Franz Josef Sandmann (de) (1820)
The First Night in Exile - This painting comes from a celebrated series illustrating one of Hinduism's great epics, the Ramayana. It tells the story of prince Rama, who is wrongly exiled from his father’s kingdom, accompanied only by his wife and brother.
The First Night in Exile - This painting comes from a celebrated series illustrating one of Hinduism's great epics, the Ramayana. It tells the story of prince Rama, who is wrongly exiled from his father’s kingdom, accompanied only by his wife and brother.
Dante in Exile by Domenico Petarlini (es)
Dante in Exile by Domenico Petarlini (es)

To be in exile means to be away from one's home (i.e. city, state, or country), while either being explicitly refused permission to return or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return.

In Roman law, exsilium denoted both voluntary exile and banishment as a capital punishment alternative to death. Deportation was forced exile, and entailed the lifelong loss of citizenship and property. Relegation was a milder form of deportation, which preserved the subject's citizenship and property.[1]

The terms diaspora and refugee describe group exile, both voluntary and forced, and "government in exile" describes a government of a country that has relocated and argues its legitimacy from outside that country. Voluntary exile is often depicted as a form of protest by the person who claims it, to avoid persecution and prosecution (such as tax or criminal allegations), an act of shame or repentance, or isolating oneself to be able to devote time to a particular pursuit.

Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

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  • The Way of the Exile


In the year 587 BC, the city of Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian empire. A year later the city and the temple were plundered and burned. Thousands of Israelites were taken from their homes and relocated all over ancient Babylon. They became exiles. So now, they are a minority, surrounded by a new culture with new gods. Some Israelites chose to resist Babylon by revolting or withdrawing. Others gave in, adopting the babylonian way of life and accepting these new gods as their own. You might think those are your only two options. But the prophet Jeremiah told them to do something totally different and surprising: to settle in, build houses, plant gardens, grow families and most surprisingly, to seek the well being of Babylon and pray to the Lord on its behalf. So, this is like a third way. Yeah, it is not compromise or revolt. What does it look like? There is a whole book of the Bible, that explores that question. It is the story of Daniel. Daniel was one of the Israelites taken into the babylonian exile. Because Daniel had a royal heritage and education, he was recruited along with some friends to work in the high court of Babylon. Work for the enemy? That would be compromise. Or, they could gain the king's trust and take him down from the inside. That is what you might expect. Instead they take Jeremiah's advice and choose the third way. They serve the king of Babylon, taking on babylonian names and even clothing style. So, they seek Babylon's well-being... But, by doing so, aren't they just giving up their heritage? It could seem that way, but actually they are not. As you read on, the story focuses on moments where they draw the line. They choose faithfulness to their God and resist the influence of Babylon. So, for example? Like when they are commanded to bow down to the idol of Babylon, and give allegiance to the king as if he is a god. Wow, they won't go that far. Right! This is where you see their true loyalty. It requires them to critique Babylon's idolatry of power, its arrogance, its injustice. But, they do it non-violently by laying down their lives. So God vindicates Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness. So, they would serve Babylon, seek its well-being, but their loyalty was always to God. Yeah! This is what Jeremiah was envisioning. The way of the exile is a combination of loyalty and also subversion. So, they are still exiles. But, don't Daniel and his friends long to go home? Yes. In fact, Daniel believed that God was going to send a ruler to bring down Babylon and create a true kingdom of peace. Wow! When did he think this ruler would come? Well, at first he thought within his lifetime. But, then he had a dream where he found out that after Babylon would come another oppresive empire. The another... then another. So, Babylon did fall. And Israel did get to go back home. But, now they are ruled by Babylon's successors. So they maintained the mindset of an exile, waiting for their true home to come to them. They continued the same practice of loyalty and subversion to any new versions of Babylon that came along. This leads us to the time of Jesus. The empire of his day was Rome, ruled by Caesar. Some Israelites wanted to resist, while others gave in and adopted Roman culture and its gods. But, watch Jesus carry on the subversive loyalty of Daniel. Like, when he said: "It is fine to pay taxes to Caesar. Give him back his coins." But, then he said, "Do not mistake Caesar for God! God is the one who deserves your total life and allegiance". So, the way of Jesus is the same mix of loyalty and subversion. Yeah! He taught his followers to love and even bless their enemies. But he also got arrested for speaking out against the corrupt leaders of Jerusalem and Rome. He critiqued their idolatry of power and it cost him his life. But, God vindicated him by raising him from the dead as the true King of the nations. The King that Daniel had hoped for. Right! And, Jesus promised that one day, his kingdom would prevail. So, until then his followers are living in a type of exile. Yeah, this is why the apostle Peter calls followers of Jesus "foreigners" and "exiles". He told them to respect the authorities of whatever place you happen to live, to honor and love all people. But then he reminds them that this is not their true home. They are still living in Babylon. But, well, they are not living in Babylon. Babylon does not exist anymore! Or, does it? In the Bible, Babylon has become a symbol that describes any human institution that demands allegiance to its idolatrous redefinitions of good and evil. Okay, so we all live and work in Babylon. How do I seek the well-being of Babylon while my allegiance is to some one greater? Yes, Jesus' followers are called to live in that tension between loyalty and subversion. That is the "Way of the Exile".


For individuals

Exiled heads of state

In some cases the deposed head of state is allowed to go into exile following a coup or other change of government, allowing a more peaceful transition to take place or to escape justice.[2]

Avoiding tax or legal matters

A wealthy citizen who moves to a jurisdiction with lower taxes is termed a tax exile. Creative people such as authors and musicians who achieve sudden wealth sometimes choose this solution. Examples include the British-Canadian writer Arthur Hailey, who moved to the Bahamas to avoid taxes following the runaway success of his novels Hotel and Airport,[3] and the English rock band the Rolling Stones who, in the spring of 1971, owed more in taxes than they could pay and left Britain before the government could seize their assets. Members of the band all moved to France for a period of time where they recorded music for the album that came to be called Exile on Main Street, the Main Street of the title referring to the French Riviera.[4] In 2012, Eduardo Saverin, one of the founders of Facebook, made headlines by renouncing his U.S. citizenship before his company's IPO.[5] The dual Brazilian/U.S. citizen's decision to move to Singapore and renounce his citizenship spurred a bill in the U.S. Senate, the Ex-PATRIOT Act, which would have forced such wealthy tax exiles to pay a special tax in order to re-enter the United States.[6]

In some cases a person voluntarily lives in exile to avoid legal issues, such as litigation or criminal prosecution. An example of this is Asil Nadir, who fled to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for 17 years rather than face prosecution in connection with the failed £1.7 bn company Polly Peck in the United Kingdom.

Avoiding violence or persecution, or in the aftermath of war

Examples include:

For groups, nations and governments

Comfortable Exile

It is an alternative theory recently developed by a young anthropologist, Balan in 2018. According to him, comfortable exile is a “social exile of people who have been excluded from the mainstream society. Such people are considered “aliens” or internal “others” on the grounds of their religious, racial, ethnic, linguistic or caste-based identity and therefore they migrate to a comfortable space elsewhere after having risked their lives to restore representation, identity and civil rights in their own country and often capture a comfortable identity to being part of a dominant religion, society or culture.” [10]

Nation in exile

When a large group, or occasionally a whole people or nation is exiled, it can be said that this nation is in exile, or "diaspora". Nations that have been in exile for substantial periods include the Jews, who were deported by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC and again following the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Many Jewish prayers include a yearning to return to Jerusalem and the Jewish homeland.

After the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, and following the uprisings (like Kościuszko Uprising, November Uprising and January Uprising) against the partitioning powers (Russian Empire, Prussia and Austro-Hungary), many Poles have chosen – or been forced – to go into exile, forming large diasporas (known as Polonia), especially in France and the United States. The entire population of Crimean Tatars (200,000) that remained in their homeland Crimea was exiled on 18 May 1944 to Central Asia as a form of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment on false accusations. At Diego Garcia, between 1967 and 1973 the British Government forcibly removed some 2,000 Chagossian resident islanders to make way for a military base today jointly operated by the US and UK.

Since the Cuban Revolution over one million Cubans have left Cuba. Most of these self-identify as exiles as their motivation for leaving the island is political in nature. It is to be noted that at the time of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba only had a population of 6.5 million, and was not a country that had a history of significant emigration, it being the sixth largest recipient of immigrants in the world as of 1958. Most of the exiles' children also consider themselves to be Cuban exiles. It is to be noted that under Cuban law, children of Cubans born abroad are considered Cuban citizens.

Government in exile

During a foreign occupation or after a coup d'état, a government in exile of a such afflicted country may be established abroad. One of the most well-known instances of this is the Polish government-in-exile, a government in exile that commanded Polish armed forces operating outside Poland after German occupation during World War II. Other examples include the Free French Forces government of Charles De Gaulle of the same time, and the Central Tibetan Administration, commonly known as the Tibetan government-in-exile, and headed by the 14th Dalai Lama.

In popular culture


Rama on the way
Rama on the way

Exile is an early motif in ancient Greek tragedy. In the ancient Greek world, this was seen as a fate worse than death. The motif reaches its peak on the play Medea, written by Euripides in the fifth century BC, and rooted in the very old oral traditions of Greek mythology. Euripides’ Medea has remained the most frequently performed Greek tragedy through the 20th century.[11]


Exiled Klaus Mann as Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army, Italy 1944
Exiled Klaus Mann as Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army, Italy 1944

After Medea was abandoned by Jason and had become a murderer out of revenge, she fled to Athens and married king Aigeus there, and became the stepmother of the hero Theseus. Due to a conflict with him, she must leave the Polis and go away into exile. John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), the English Pre-Raphaelite painter’s famous picture Jason and Medea shows a key moment before, when Medea tries to poison Theseus.[12]


In ancient Rome, the Roman Senate had the power to declare the exile to individuals, families or even entire regions. One of the Roman victims was the poet Ovid, who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was forced to leave Rome and move away to the city of Tomis on the Black Sea, now Constanta. There he wrote his famous work Tristia (Sorrows) about his bitter feelings in exile.[13] Another, at least in a temporary exile, was Dante.

The German language writer of novels, Franz Kafka, called "the Dante of the twentieth century"[14] by the poet W. H. Auden, describes the exile of Karl Rossmann in the posthumously published novel Amerika.[15]

During the period of National Socialism in the first few years after 1933, many Jews, as well as a significant number of German artists and intellectuals fled into exile; for instance, the authors Klaus Mann and Anna Seghers. So Germany’s own exile literature emerged and received worldwide credit.[16] Klaus Mann finished his novel Der Vulkan (de) (The Volcano. A Novel Among Emigrants) in 1939[17] describing the German exile scene, "to bring the rich, scattered and murky experience of exile into epic form",[18] as he wrote in his literary balance sheet. At the same place and in the same year, Anna Seghers published her famous novel Das siebte Kreuz (The Seventh Cross, published in the United States in 1942).

Important exile literatures in recent years include that of the Caribbean, many of whose artists emigrated to Europe or the United States for political or economic reasons. These writers include Nobel Prize winners V. S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott as well as the novelists Edwidge Danticat and Sam Selvon.[19]

See also


  1. ^ William Smith (1890), "BANISHMENT (ROMAN)", Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed.), pp. 136–137
  2. ^ Geoghegan, Tom (2011-04-14). "BBC News - What happens to deposed leaders?". Retrieved 2014-05-12.
  3. ^ Stevie Cameron, Blue Trust: The Author, The Lawyer, His Wife, And Her Money, 1998
  4. ^ Robert Greenfield, Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones, 2008.
  5. ^ Kucera, Danielle. "Facebook Co-Founder Saverin Gives Up U.S. Citizenship Before IPO". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  6. ^ Drawbaugh, Kevin (May 17, 2012). "Facebook's Saverin fires back at tax-dodge critics". Reuters. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  7. ^ Mills, Andrew (2009-06-23). "Iraq Appeals Anew to Exiled Academics to Return Home". Reuters via Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  8. ^ Rocker, Simon (2011-03-10). "Libyan exile plan for UK's frozen assets". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  9. ^ Fisher, Dan (1990-01-20). "For Exiled Nuns, It's Too Late : Banished by the Communist regime, Czechoslovakia's sisters of Bila Voda were symbols of persecution. Now most are too old or weak to benefit from the revolution". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  10. ^ Balan, Binesh. "Making of Comfortable Exile through Sanskritization: Reflections on Imagination of Identity Notions in India". Contemporary Voice of Dalit, Sage Pub. 10 (10).
  11. ^ Cf. Helene P. Foley: Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage. University of California Press, 2012, p. 190
  12. ^ Cf. Elisabeth Prettejohn: Art of the Pre-Raphaelites. Princeton University Press, London 2000, pp. 165-207. ISBN 0-691-07057-1
  13. ^ "Tristia by Ovid – high drama and hoax".
  14. ^ Quoted after Harold Bloom: Genius. A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds. Warner Books. New York 2002, p. 206. ISBN 978-0-446-52717-0
  15. ^ Cf. an unabridged reading by Sven Regener: Amerika, Roof Music, Bochum 2014.
  16. ^ See Martin Mauthner: German Writers in French Exile, 1933–1940, Vallentine Mitchell, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-85303-540-4.
  17. ^ which he started in September 1936, when he came to New York. Cf. Jan Patocka in: Escape to Life. German Intellectuals in New York. A Compendium on Exile after 1933, ed. by Eckart Goebel/Sigrid Weigel. De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston 2012, p 354. ISBN 978-3-11-025867-7
  18. ^ Cf. Klaus Mann: Der Wendepunkt. Ein Lebensbericht. (1949), Frankfurt am Main 2006, p. 514.
  19. ^ See Timo Müller, “Forms of Exile: Experimental Self-Positioning in Postcolonial Caribbean Poetry,” Atlantic Studies 13.4 (2016): 457-71.

External links

Media related to Exiles at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 4 November 2018, at 03:29
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