Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov's selfless decision to sell his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal to help Ukrainian refugees has raised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid.
The medal sold Monday night for $103.5 million, handily smashing the record for a Nobel medal.
Heritage Auctions, which facilitated the sale, said the Nobel medal sold to an anonymous buyer at a live global auction event in New York, and that the funds have already been remitted to UNICEF to aid Ukrainian children and their families displaced by Russia’s invasion of their country.
“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 Monday night. He is editor-in-chief of the paper. “We decided to sell our Nobel Peace Prize medal through Heritage Auctions, which managed the process very efficiently and waved 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 Office at Heritage Auctions.
Bidding on the medal opened June 1, Children’s Day in Ukraine, and concluded Monday night, June 20, with a live auction and global broadcast at The Times Center in Manhattan on 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.
Muratov and 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 said, “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 discusses why he decided to sell his medal in this Heritage Auctions' video:
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 TIME 100's Most Influential People of 2022.
The previous record for auctioning off a Nobel medal was in 2014, when the prize belonging to James Watson, who shared in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, sold for $4.1 million ($4.76 million, including buyer's premium).
Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale of Muratov’s medal, has sold five former Nobel Prizes, including the one awarded to Watson’s co-discoverer, Francis Crick. That medal sold for $2.27 million in 2013.
“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,” said 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.”