Dmitry Muratov, the Russian journalist who surprisingly received the gold medal of the Nobel Peace PrizeIn October 2021, he put his award up for auction, saying the proceeds would go to Unicef to help children displaced by war in Ukraine.
The Nobel Peace Prize medal sold for $103.5 million (£84.5 million), breaking the record for a Nobel.
According to an EFE dispatch, the bid, which was conducted by the Heritage auction house, lasted 20 minutes in which the price of the medal rose from 787,000 dollars to 15 million, when suddenly an anonymous buyer communicated by telephone that he was paying $103.5 million, ending the sale.
Muratov was invited by Heritage to the bidding at an event where he was cheered practically like a rock star, with continual “waw” from the audience, but he said that for him “it was not a party”, but that he wanted to talk “about human solidarity and difficulties».
EFE points out that Muratov was visibly out of place at the cocktail that Heritage had organized prior to the auction, and where the glasses of champagne, the music of a piano and the songs of the public they had little to do with Moscow from which Muratov arrived or the Ukrainian children for whom this act had been conceived.
“I was hoping there would be an enormous amount of solidarity,” a surprised Muratov said after the sale. “But I did not expect this to be such a large amount,” the AFP agency said.
Previously, the highest paid for a Nobel Prize medal was in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his medal for $4.76 million. Three years later, the family of his co-beneficiary, Francis Crick, received $2.27 million in a bid by Heritage Auctions, the same company that put Muratov’s medal up for auction on Monday, World Refugee Day.
Muratov was one of the founders of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it closed in March, amid the Kremlin’s crackdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It was Muratov’s idea to auction off his prize, having announced that he would donate the accompanying $500,000 cash prize to charity. The idea of the donation, he said, “is to give refugee children a chance for the future.”
Muratov has said the proceeds will go directly to Unicef in its efforts to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine. Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold contained in the Muratov medal would be worth about $10,000.
The medal was sold to an unidentified telephone bidder. The auction in New York City was lively, with much applause and bidders egging each other on to increase the total. Muratov was seen recording videos of the bidding screen and those in the room.
When the final offer came in, tens of millions of dollars more than the previous offer, many in the room expressed surprise, including Muratov. “I’m just as surprised as you are in that regard,” he said through a translator after the sale.
When asked why he chose Unicef as the recipient of the funds, Muratov said: “It is essential for us that this organization does not belong to any government. It can function above the government. There are no borders for it”, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
In an interview with the Associated Press before the auction, Dmitry Muratov had expressed concern about children orphaned by the conflict in Ukraine. “We want to give them back their future”, he had declared.
He added that it was important that international sanctions imposed against Russia did not prevent humanitarian aid, such as drugs for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants, from reaching those who needed it.
“This,” he said, referring to the donation, “has to become the beginning of a flash mob as an example to follow for people to auction off their valuable possessions to help Ukrainians,” Muratov said in a video posted by Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale but does not keep any part of the profits, according to AFP.
a shared prize
Dmitry Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year with journalist Maria Ressa from the Philippines. The two journalists, who each received their own medals, were honored for their battles to preserve freedom of expression in their respective countries, despite being subjected to harassment from their governments and even death threats.
Dmitry Muratov has been an acid critic of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the war that started in February that caused almost 5 million Ukrainians to flee to other countries for safety, creating the largest humanitarian crisis of countries in Europe since the Second World War.
Independent journalists in Russia have come under the scrutiny of the Kremlin, if not directly targeted by the government. Since Putin came to power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who had worked for Muratov’s newspaper.
In April, Muratov said he was attacked with red paint while riding a Russian train.
Dmitry Muratov left Russia for Western Europe on Thursday to begin his trip to New York City, where live auctions began Monday afternoon. The online offers began on June 1 to coincide with the celebration of International Children’s Day.
As of early Monday, the highest bid was $550,000. The purchase price was expected to spiral up, but not more than $100 million.
Astonishment by collection
“I can’t believe it, I’m in awe,” Joshua Benesh, director of strategy at Heritage Auctions, said after the auction. “Personally, I’m dumbfounded… I really don’t know what happened there.”
“We knew there was a huge groundswell of interest in the last few days from people who were moved by Dimitry’s story, by Dimitry’s act of generosity, that the global audience was hearing tonight.”
When he received his Nobel, Dmitry Muratov said that the world has fallen in love with democracy and is attracted to dictatorship, while war has begun to seem acceptable under the influence of “aggressive marketing”.
“Governments and propagandists close to them bear full responsibility for the militaristic rhetoric on state TV channels,” he said. “Current ideologues are promoting the idea of death for the country, not life for the country.
“The hybrid war, the tragic, ugly and criminal history with the Boeing MH-17 destroyed the relations between Russia and Ukraine, and I do not know if the next generations will be able to restore them… Also, in the sick heads of geopoliticians, the war between Russia and Ukraine has stopped looking impossible,” added Dmitry Muratov.
Since its inception in 1901, there have been nearly 1,000 Nobel Prize winners honoring achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and the advancement of peace.