RUSSIAN JOURNALIST DMITRY MURATOV SELLS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE MEDAL TO BENEFIT DISPLACED UKRAINIAN CHILDREN
By Robert Wilonsky
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to independent Russian journalist and Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov fetched $103.5 million from an anonymous Heritage Auctions bidder at a live global auction at the Times Center in Manhattan on June 20.
Proceeds raised from the auction will support UNICEF’s humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine and affected regions. Heritage Auctions donated its efforts to bring worldwide attention to Muratov’s desire to aid those impacted by the war.
“Several months ago, we at Novaya Gazeta asked ourselves what we could do to stop the war and help these civilians get their lives back,” Muratov said during the June 20 event. “We decided to sell our Nobel Peace Prize medal through Heritage Auctions, which managed the process very efficiently and waived all their fees and commissions completely. We thank them for this.”
“We were honored to work with Dmitry, eager to facilitate this opportunity with UNICEF, and we’re completely awestruck at the end result,” says Joshua Benesh, Chief Strategy Officer at Heritage Auctions.
Bidding on the medal opened June 1, Children’s Day in Ukraine, and concluded June 20, World Refugee Day, commemorating the strength, courage and perseverance of refugees.
The medal opened live bidding at $787,500, then quickly reached $1 million; then, $2 million; then, $3 million. And each time bids reached a round number, the auditorium burst into applause. Bidders over the phone and on HA.com eventually drove the price past $16 million. Then, about 23 minutes after the auction began, one phone bidder moved to the front of the line with a bid of $103.5 million. The room erupted.
The winning bidder wishes to remain anonymous. The funds have already been remitted to UNICEF.
Muratov and the staff of Novaya Gazeta already made a charitable donation of the $500,000 cash award presented to them along with the medal. The Norwegian Nobel Institute says it enthusiastically supports the sale of Muratov’s medal. In a letter of support, Director Olav Njølstad wrote, “This generous act of humanitarianism is very much in the spirit of Alfred Nobel.”
Muratov announced on March 22 that he intended to auction his medal with all proceeds going to support humanitarian relief efforts for Ukrainian child refugees and their families, no matter where they are, prompted by the sight of “the wounded and children who need urgent treatment.” Shortly after that announcement, which garnered worldwide headlines, he elected to sell the medal through Heritage Auctions with all proceeds intended to benefit UNICEF, subject to due diligence.
Muratov shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. The Norwegian Nobel Committee celebrated their “fight for freedom of expression in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”
In late March, Muratov was forced to suspend publication of Novaya Gazeta after receiving a second warning from the government agency charged with monitoring Russian news media. Muratov was subsequently attacked when an assailant splashed him with what The Washington Post described as “a mixture of red paint and acetone, leaving his eyes with a chemical burn.”
Muratov was recently named one of TIME100’s Most Influential People of 2022.
“UNICEF is honored, excited and deeply grateful to Dmitry Muratov for his extraordinary generosity, and we are astounded by the unprecedented response to the auction,” says UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This remarkable contribution will help Ukrainian children survive this brutal war and, someday, rebuild their lives. We hope Mr. Muratov’s gift inspires others to support vulnerable children in Ukraine and everywhere. We also want to thank the anonymous bidder, whose winning bid will do so much for so many.”
ROBERT WILONSKY is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.