What is exile?

   Exile is the banishment from one's country by authority or by voluntary withdrawal, either permanently or for a limited period. It is usually a means of avoiding punishment for crimes of a criminal or political nature. In Homeric Greece punishment for homicide was handled by the family of the slain man. When a money payment could not be made by the slayer to the family, he often went into voluntary exile to avoid being murdered himself. The ancient Hebrews and Romans generally followed the same custom.
   Political exile also dates from ancient Greece, where it was used as a device to prevent subversive elements from endangering the Greek democracy. With the development of national states and the concept of nationalism, the use of exile as a punishment grew less frequent. In more recent times, however, political exiles, both voluntary and involuntary, have increased. The conformity necessary to dictatorships has resulted in numerous exiles of political opponents. Such practice was common in czarist Russian and later under the Soviet regime when great numbers were exiled to Siberia because of political activity. During times of civil war, a frequent occurrence in many Latin American countries, the number of voluntary exiles usually increases. When the Hungarian revolt took place in 1956, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians fled their native country in voluntary exile.