What is the cost of peace?
That question may be addressed in part on Monday night, when Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctions off his Nobel Peace Prize medal. The funds will go straight to UNICEF to assist children affected by the Ukrainian conflict.
Muratov, who will get the gold medal in October 2021, was the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian daily Novaya Gazeta when it was down in March during the Kremlin’s crackdown on journalists and public dissent in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Muratov decided to sell off his trophy after previously announcing that he would donate the matching $500,000 cash reward to charity. He explained that the contribution is intended to “give the young refugees a chance for a future.”
Muratov told The Associated Press that he was particularly concerned about orphaned children in Ukraine as a result of the fighting.
“We want to give them their future back,” he stated.
He noted that it is critical that international sanctions imposed on Russia do not impede humanitarian supplies from reaching people in need, such as treatment for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants.
“It needs to become the start of a flash mob as an example to follow so that others auction their expensive items to help Ukrainians,” Muratov said in a video published by Heritage Auctions, which is overseeing the sale but will not get any of the money.
Last year, Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa.
The two journalists, who each earned their own medal, were recognised for their efforts to protect free expression in their respective nations, despite abuse, political pressure, and even death threats.
Muratov has been harshly critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as the February conflict that has forced almost 5 million Ukrainians to migrate to neighbouring countries for safety, resulting in Europe’s worst humanitarian catastrophe since World War II.
Independent journalists in Russia have come under investigation from the Kremlin, if not been designated as official targets. Nearly two dozen journalists have been assassinated since Putin took power more than two decades ago, including at least four who worked for Muratov’s daily. Muratov claimed in April that he was assaulted with red paint while riding on a Russian train.
Muratov departed Russia on Thursday for Western Europe, where he will begin his journey to New York City, where live bidding will begin Monday afternoon.
Online bidding began on June 1 to coincide with International Children’s Day. Monday’s live bidding coincides with World Refugee Day.
The highest price was $550,000 as of early Monday morning. The buying price is projected to skyrocket, maybe into the millions of dollars.
“It’s a highly unique contract,” said Joshua Benesh, Heritage Auctions’ chief strategy officer. “Not everyone in the world has a Nobel Prize to auction, and a Nobel Prize does not cross the auction block every day of the week.”
Since its founding in 1901, approximately 1,000 people have received the Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, or the development of peace.
The highest ever paid for a Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him the Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his medal. Three years later, Heritage Auctions, the same business that is auctioning off Muratov’s medal, paid USD 2.27 million to the family of his co-recipient, Francis Crick.
The 175 grammes of 23-karat gold in Muratov’s medal, melted down, would be worth almost USD 10,000.
The current crisis in Ukraine and worldwide humanitarian efforts to ease the suffering of those impacted are certain to pique interest, according to Benesh, who added that it’s difficult to anticipate how much someone might be ready to pay for the medal.
“I believe there will be some excitement on Monday,” Benesh said. “It’s such a one-of-a-kind object being sold under one-of-a-kind conditions… a major act of charity, and such a significant humanitarian situation.”
Muratov and Heritage authorities emphasised that even individuals who did not win the auction may contribute by giving directly to UNICEF.