A record price was realised at auction for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to Russian journalist and Laureate Dmitry Muratov. The gold medal was sold in its original box together with the honourary certificate for an astonishing and record-breaking U.S. $103.5 million and auctioned in aid of UNICEF’s humanitarian efforts primarily for Ukrainian children. The event was conducted by Heritage Auctions Monday evening in New York City coinciding with World Refugee Day; the successful bidder stated they wish to remain anonymous. As motivation for auctioning his Nobel Peace Prize medal, the journalist who is based in Moscow emphasised the most important message today for his actions is that of a war going on in Europe. He also stressed that everyone must do what they can to help people who are suffering the most, especially Ukrainian children. After the medal’s sale, Muratov commented he had hoped there would be interest and a great amount of money raised but he hadn’t anticipated such a huge amount. All of the proceeds from the sale, as well as the buyer’s fee, will be donated to the UNICEF Child Refugee Fund. Heritage Auctions also communicated later in the day they had worked to ensure the winning bid is already in UNICEF’s possession.
Muratov, the 60-year-old journalist and editor of Russian-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, broke with his government’s policy when his newspaper ran the front-page story about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The headlines of the 24th February first edition ran with “Russia Is Bombing Ukraine,” with articles printed side by side in both Russian and Ukrainian. The headlines resulted in the newspaper having to cease operations for the first time with their last edition published on the 28th March of this year.
The outspoken opponent of the president of Russia’s foreign and domestic policies has on many occasions found himself at odds with government authorities, with Novaya Gazeta criticising many Russian authorities for corruption, electoral fraud, and human rights violations. Sadly, there have been six journalists associated with this newspaper who have lost their lives because of critical articles on Russian military operations, notably in Chechnya and the Caucasus, the best known of them was Anna Politkovskaya.
Muratov’s career as a journalist began before the dissolution of the former Soviet Union when he was assigned to a local newspaper. After the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, he and other journalists co-founded the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The daily publication soon became a leading advocate for democracy and freedom of expression in Russia with Mr. Muratov acting as editor-in-chief for most years since 1995. The Soviet Union’s last leader and the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, not only supported the newspaper financially, he became co-owner in 2006.
Dmitry Muratov was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside Filipino journalist and former CNN correspondent Maria Ressa for their work in promoting independent reporting in the face of growing authoritarianism. Disapproval of Ukrainian policy of the government and the president, in particular, is not new to Muratov as he has on several occasions criticised Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the government’s use of military force, both in and outside Russia. As such, he and Ressa were voted to be the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize of 2021 with their certificate stating:
For their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
The exclusive medals, which weigh 175 grams of .750 fine gold, are produced by the Norwegian Mint in Kongsberg. They were awarded in person to both journalists on the 10th December 2021 at City Hall in Oslo in the presence of HM King Harald V and HM Queen Sonja. In his acceptance speech, Muratov commented:
Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and a strong grip, but we are the prerequisite for progress. We are the antidote against tyranny.
– Dmitry Muratov, Oslo, 10th December 2021
Prophetically, his speech also gave a dire warning about the potential for a war between Russia and Ukraine. As the Russian government were amassing a military build-up on the border with Ukraine and despite the efforts of western diplomats to avoid an invasion of Ukraine, the threat became real on the 24th February.
Muratov not only auctioned off his gold medal in aid of UNICEF’s humanitarian efforts for Ukrainian children, but he also donated his entire U.S. $1 million monetary prize to various charities in Russia. One of which was a health foundation in aid of journalists as well as the Anna Politkovskaya Prize Foundation. A further portion of the prize money also was donated to a children’s hospice in Moscow and a clinic where children with leukaemia are treated.