Further | Trading gold for food: what is peace worth?

In a surreal spectacle that managed to juxtapose the best and worst of abstruse humanity – its big heart beating alongside its persistent inequalities and its tendency to wage brutal and unnecessary wars – an international audience of 1%ers was kindly haggled for a while on Monday before one of them bought the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize won by freelance Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov at auction for a record $103.5 million, which will now be used to help Ukrainian children displaced by war; Muratov also earlier pledged to donate his $500,000 prize to give refugee children “a chance for a future”. Muratov is the longtime co-founder and editor of Novaya Gazeta, which was established in 1993 after the breakup of the Soviet Union with – ironically – former President Mikhail’s Nobel Peace Prize money. Gorbachev, and one of the last major Russian media outlets to criticize the Kremlin. For years Muratov had challenged tightening of restrictions – and occasional painting attacks – produce Novaya Gazeta articles on corruption in Russia, the wars in Chechnya and Crimea, and Putin’s growing abuses. It survived long after most other outlets were closed or blocked after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but in March, finally suspended both print and online operations after it became a felony punishable by 15 years in prison for reporting anything about the war that deviated from the government line. In today’s Russia, says Muratov, “independent journalism is impossible.”

Last October, Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. Each received their own medal to honor their fights to preserve freedom of expression in their respective countries, despite ongoing harassment, censorship and death threats. Muratov dedicated his award to the memory of six Novaya Gazeta journalists murdered for their work, including some of the country’s most prominent Putin critics. In his Nobel lecture in December, Muratov struck down “aggressive commercialization of war” by those in power. “Ideologues today promote the idea of ​​dying for your country instead of living for your country,” he said on what was then the 116th day of the Ukrainian war. “Obviously freedom of thought has seen better days, and world peace was a fragile thing.” Despite what he describes as waning support for the war in Russia, Muratov sees little hope for political change: “The powers that be (have) never been so monolithic… They are like the crew of ‘a submarine with no escape’. This prisonerless unit, combined with “the tragedy” in Ukraine of so many civilians killed or fleeing, pushed him desperately to act. ” What can you do when you feel helpless? “, does he have request in a video. “I have never felt so helpless in 60 years.” Arguing that “the world has no more foreign refugees”, he had the idea of ​​selling his Nobel prize at auction as “an act of solidarity” with the approximately 14 million Ukrainian refugees.

His 23-carat Nobel prize, “the famous heavy gold medal”, went on sale with Heritage Auctions in New York on Monday, to coincide with World Refugee Day; all proceeds will go to UNICEF to help refugee children. “We thought long and hard about what we could do, and we thought that everyone should give something dear to them,” said Muratove, who hopes the act will serve as “the start of a flashmob” to inspire people to do good. In the auction world, there was enthusiasm for what a spokesperson for Heritage called “a unique item sold under unique circumstances”. In video from auction, a palpable buzz emanates from the small, quiet crowd, many of whom have phones pressed to their ears to connect with still-nameless, super-wealthy shoppers looking to score a Nobel Prize and feed children at the same ultra-capitalist moment. . Early Monday, the highest bid was just $550,000. In spurts, to applause and cheers from the crowd, it went up: $750,000…$1.45 million…$2 million…5 million. Suddenly a new bidder called “$103.5 million”. Gasps and cheers. Previously, the highest-paid Nobel Prize was $4.76 million in 2014 when James Watson, who co-discovered the structure of DNA, sold his 1962 medal. Heritage’s Joshua Benesh was stunned, flabbergasted “I don’t really know what happened in there.” Honestly, neither do we. But Muratov was happy. His country, he argued, had taken the past from too many children. “We want to give back their future,” he said. “The most important thing we want to say and show is that human solidarity is needed.”

Garland K. Long