On June 20, Dmitry Muratov, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazetaauctioned off his gold Nobel Peace Prize medal for a record $103.5 million, which will go to support children displaced by the war in Ukraine.
All proceeds from the auction, which coincided with World Refugee Day, will benefit the humanitarian response of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the millions of Ukrainian refugee children.
Muratov, 60, received the prestigious award for his journalistic work in 2021, together with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, in recognition of “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, essential for lasting democracy and peace.”
However the Novaya Gazetaone of the most important independent newspapers in Russia, critical of President Vladimir Putin and his government, announced its closure in March this year, after almost 30 years of operations, following warnings from the Kremlin for its coverage of the war in Ukraine.
In an interview given to New York TimesMuratov stated that he was inspired by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who sold his medal to help civilians in Finland after the Soviet invasion in 1939.
Prior to the auction of the 23-carat gold Nobel medal, organized by Heritage Auctions, at the New York Times Center, Joshua Benesh, director of strategy for the company, said that the important thing was not the value of the prize, but the that your sale represents:
I don’t think the prize matters. I think it’s a metaphor, it’s a symbol of something. It’s a chance to stand up and say, ‘This is a cause that has meaning and it’s a problem that a donation can start to fix.’
Originally, the highest bid was $550,000, from there bids increased from $16.6 million to $103.5 million, beating all forecasts. The buyer, who remains unidentified, is believed to be a foreigner as the sale translates to 100 million Swiss francs.
Muratov said he is happy that the final offer exceeded his expectations and hopes that the sale of his Nobel Prize will motivate others to donate to help those displaced by the ongoing war:
I was expecting a huge amount of solidarity, but not that big. The most important message is that people understand that there is a war and that we need to help the people who suffer the most. [Esto] It has to become the start of a ‘flashmob’ or a role model, for people to auction off their valuable possessions to help Ukrainian refugees.
The sale broke the record for any Nobel Prize to have been auctioned in history. The highest previous deal occurred in 2014, when James Watson auctioned off his 1962 prize for $4.76 million for co-discovering the molecular structure of DNA.
I can’t believe it, I’m amazed. We knew there was a huge groundswell of interest in the last few days from people who were moved by Dimitry’s story, by his act of generosity that the global audience heard tonight.
– Joshua Benesh, for ‘The New York Times’