Money is so often used negatively. It's used to command power, it inspires feelings of greed, and it's all too easy to envy those who have more money than we do. However, sometimes money is used for a purpose that is nothing but good. Such is the case with Dmitry Muratov, who recently auctioned his Nobel Peace Prize for a beautifully noble cause. In doing so, he raised $103.5M to help the people of Ukraine.

The Struggle for Russian Freedom of the Press

Once the Soviet Union had dissolved in 1991, journalist Dmitry Muratov left his job writing for Soviet newspapers and co-founded the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which is now the last independent media outlet in Russia. The publication found almost immediate success and soon became a leading beacon for both democracy and freedom of expression in Russia.  Since 1996, Mr. Muratov has spent most years as editor-in-chief.

Led by Mr. Muratov, Novaya Gazeta has criticized the Russian authorities for corruption, electoral fraud, and human rights violations. This has been a risky and dangerous mission; six of the newspaper’s journalists have been murdered because they wrote articles critical of Russian military operations in Chechnya and the Caucasus. The best known of them is Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist who reported on political events in Russia and was assassinated on her way home to her apartment in 2006.

The Nobel committee chose Mr. Muratov as a co-winner of 2021's Nobel Peace Prize. The committee praised the Novaya Gazeta for defending the freedom of speech in Russia "under increasingly challenging conditions."

Upon winning the award, Mr, Muratov dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize to Politkovskaya and the other Novaya Gazeta journalists and contributors who had been killed for their work, saying,

"I am not a proper beneficiary of the prize. Yesterday, it was the 15th anniversary since Anna Politkovskaya's murder. I think, since the Nobel Prize is not given posthumously, they decided to give the prize to her and our other slain journalists via other people. The prize is also for our brilliant journalists working with us now."

Dmitry w Medal

Heritage Auctions Announces Sale of Russian Journalist Dmitry Muratov’s 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Medal for $103.5 Million

Muratov announced on March 22 that he intended to auction his medal, along with all proceeds, to support humanitarian relief efforts for Ukrainian child refugees and their families. Muratov’s announcement garnered the interest of every major auction house in the world.

Muratov announced, “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. 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.”

From Heritage's press release on this unique auction:

“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 Officer 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 Tuesday night 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 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.

The winning bidder wishes to remain anonymous. The funds have already been remitted to UNICEF.

Muratov and the 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.

In an interview last month, Muratov said the auction was “an act of solidarity” with the 14 million Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion, which he called “a tragedy”.

“If we look at the number of refugees, we basically have World War three, not a local conflict,” he said. “This has been a mistake, and we need to end it.”

Bring the good.

Most of us will never have millions of dollars to use the way this buyer did, but that doesn't mean we can't do good where we can with what we have. Let Dmitry Muratov be an example of what can be accomplished with good intentions and a good heart. Spread the good.