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«Nobel Prize of Discord»: How Muratov's award was received in Russia

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and US-Filipino journalist Maria Ressa « for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace». Novaya Gazeta is one of the last independent outlets in Russia not labelled as a «foreign agent». The Nobel Committee's decision triggered mixed reactions from Russian journalists and public figures. Some of them saw in it a desire «not to make the Kremlin angry» or even corruptive overtones. After the announcement of the winners among the Nobel Peace Prize nominees, the Russian authorities added 9 more journalists and three organizations to the list of «foreign agents» on the same day.

Political scientist and journalist Kirill Rogov: «I would be very happy if the award was given to Alexei Navalny, who to a significant extent looks like the world's politician of the year today. But I wouldn't oversimplify the interpretation of the Nobel Committee's logic so much. The Russian dictatorship is by no means one of the most repressive, and, in general, the severity of the political conflict within the country looks fairly moderate. It's not that Navalny isn't Valensa, it's that he doesn't have something akin to Solidarity behind him.

And it certainly seems wrong to me to compare Navalny and Muratov. What I want to remind you of is not even the role that Novaya Gazeta plays in Russian journalism, it's the role it plays in combating violence in the North Caucasus and in Russian penal colonies and prisons. It seems to me that these aspects were the ones that were most important for the committee. Equally impressive is the list of the paper's journalists killed for their work. It's a slightly different award, it's about something else than what was expected in Russia, yet by no means less important.

This award is, in a sense, a compromise. I don't know anything about whether there were any behind-the-scenes considerations behind this compromise, but I see the substance and logic in this compromise. I regret that the prize was not given to Navalny, but I am genuinely happy that it was given to Muratov. It's the same war.»

  • Six of the paper’s reporters and contributors have been murdered for their work, including Anna Politkovskaya

Journalist and human rights activist Zoya Svetova:

«The prize that has been given to Muratov has also been given to Novaya Gazeta, and in the person of Novaya Gazeta it has been given to free and independent journalism, which is being destroyed in our country today. So, I think it is very important that the Western public noticed it, that the West public understood it and that by giving this award they let Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin and the Russian authorities in general know that they are aware of what is happening in Russia and that journalism is being destroyed in Russia and that journalism is becoming a banned profession. And they don't agree with that.

It probably seems to us that it would be fair if the Nobel Peace Prize were given to Navalny or Svetlana Tikhanovskaya or Maria Kolesnikova. Both Navalny and Kolesnikova are political prisoners. Kirill Rogov wrote very well about this, he wrote that the West probably believes that Russia is not yet in a situation where it is necessary to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a political prisoner. I regret to say that such times are gradually coming, and it is quite possible that in the near future Alexey Navalny will also be given a peace prize if he continues to stay in a Russian prison and gets an even longer sentence than he has now. I think that's the logic of the Nobel Prize jury. It's not a momentary decision. Because giving a prize to Navalny would be such a momentary thing, here and now. And giving the award to Dmitry Muratov is a kind of symbolic prize».

The West probably believes that Russia is not yet in a situation where it is necessary to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a political prisoner

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov: «We can only congratulate Dmitry Muratov, he has consistently worked according to his ideals, he is committed to his ideals. He's talented, he's brave. Of course, that's high praise. We congratulate him.»

Dmitry Kiselev, general director of the Rossiya Segodnya news agency and a TV propagandist:

«The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most controversial nominations on the Nobel Committee. Such decisions devalue the prize itself, it's hard to be guided by it anymore.»

Olga Romanova, journalist and executive director of the «Russia Behind Bars» movement:
«If I were the Nobel Committee, I would give this year's prize to Navalny. An umbrella is needed for a rainy day, an egg is a dearest at Easter, and the prize should be awarded now, not when the idiotic incident with Amnesty International has been forgotten. If I were the Nobel Committee, I would have awarded the prize to Muratov a long time ago. But it's good now, too. He's done a lot, he is doing a lot, and will do even more now with this status, including for Navalny. The Nobel Peace Prize is always about politics. They chickened out and didn't give the prize to Navalny, and it's a bad thing. Giving the prize to Muratov is a good thing. It's also funny that there are now two Nobel Peace Prize laureates in the same editorial board - Gorbachev (Novaya Gazeta Supervisory Board) and Muratov.

They chickened out and didn't give the prize to Navalny, and it's a bad thing

They won't be able to smother Novaya Gazeta. At any rate, it will be more difficult for Kadyrov, the National Liberation Movement (NOD) and all kinds of evil scum. And Navalny should be free. Like all political prisoners.»

Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina: «Wow! I read this: «Muratov does not support the current government, yet he and his publication have not been severely repressed (although many Novaya Gazeta journalists have been killed, shall we say, under suspicious circumstances)...» It's a strong statement, however... I would like to ask the author and the others: How about a business trip to Chechnya? There's a couple of important lawsuits coming up. At the same time, let us ask Magomed Daudov, for example, what is his definition of «severe repression»?

Muratov and the team of "Novaya Gazeta"
Muratov and the team of "Novaya Gazeta"

Alexander Baunov, editor-in-chief of «Many people underestimate how toxic the topic of nationalism is to modern Western institutions. It seems it happened long ago, but my Western interlocutors continue to ask about Navalny's nationalism years later. In a sense, you can be a one-time nationalist. This does not preclude support, sympathy, numerous awards, but for an award with a humanistic message that purports to set a global frame of reference, it can be an insurmountable obstacle. Besides, Navalny is an active, struggling, and fairly young politician; it is hard to predict what methods he will use, and the Nobel Committee has already made several hasty decisions. If anything, there's still a chance to reward him. The Nobel Prize is not at all about encouraging young people, but about perpetuating merit. «In this respect, Novaya Gazeta is a well-established institution, equal to itself, with its own credo, stable course of action and style, tried and tested in various conditions, and the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's murder reminded us of this institution».

Writer and journalist Mikhail Zygar:
«Muratov is a Nobel laureate» is, for me, a formula for happiness. This sentence alone makes me happy. Everyone who knows Dima knows that he is an incredibly kind, humble, and open person. He is the best symbol of Russian quality journalism. Today, all honest journalists in Russia (and in the world, too), may well say «I/We are Dmitry Muratov», because along with Dima, of course, they have also been awarded. Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered 15 years ago. The entire editorial staff of Novaya Gazeta. All the newly minted foreign agents who keep working as journalists for all intents and purposes. The editors of Dozhd, Meduza, Important Stories, and Mediazona (you know, they all perform these very functions of foreign agents) all won their Nobel Prize today. Guys, I congratulate every one of you on getting the prize. Dima deserved it and everyone deserves it.»

Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora International Human Rights Group: «Today journalism in Russia is the profession most persecuted by the authorities. It is this journalism that has won the Nobel Prize - Russian journalism that is being destroyed by the authorities, killed, blocked, declared undesirable, stigmatized as foreign agents, crushed by criminal cases, and bankrupted by fines and corporate raids with impunity. This is the line of direct confrontation today. We will defend journalists and freedom of speech at all times».

Economist and professor at the University of Chicago Konstantin Sonin: «For the first time I believe that the Nobel Peace Prize decision is not just stupid but corrupt. I don't know, but so I believe. Peace Prizes did feel strange before - when they were given to former terrorists or failed politicians or god knows who else. Or to someone who deserved them, but for the wrong reasons. President Obama would have deserved an award for overcoming racial barriers, it was truly revolutionary, but for some reason he was given one for «contributions to peace,» and that in his first year as president after a short Senate career.

If they gave the prize to Novaya Gazeta as an organization, that would still be understandable. I wouldn't have done it, but I get it. But Dmitry Muratov is a completely inappropriate figure - the fame of Novaya Gazeta is linked to other people, on a different scale. (Full disclosure: I have a small personal score to settle with the editor of the newspaper, who published material with my last name beginning with a small letter. However, he kind of apologized afterwards, saying it was imposed on him by the newspaper's owner Lebedev. Well, I let it go.)

If someone came up with this plan, to give the prize to a loyalist from Russia, to stop it by any means from being awarded to Navalny or some other political prisoner or political emigrant, it is a diabolically sophisticated blow to our country, our present and future. If someone arranged it as a «compromise» - like, well, let's take care of these Russians, but let's not poke the bear - well, it would have been even stupider».

Grigory Yavlinsky, politician and leader of the Yabloko party: «Not many people in our country know about the merits of Dmitry Muratov. But now they have been revealed - and not only in Russia, but all over the world. The editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Muratov became the third recipient of this award in our country after Sakharov and Gorbachev. And that's fair.

It was Muratov who preserved Novaya Gazeta as the last bastion of honest journalism in Russia. It's Muratov who has been saving journalists from death threats for years. It is Muratov who literally with his own hands, constantly risking his life, has been defending freedom of speech in our country. Congratulations to Dmitry Andreevich on his well-deserved award! P. S. And, of course, it is very nice that the 2021 Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov is a long-time member of the Yabloko party».

Political scientist Fyodor Krasheninnikov: «Freedom reigns in Russia. The ruthless investigator and editor of the most oppositionist newspaper lives quietly in Moscow. Rumors of independent media and critics being harassed by the authorities are greatly exaggerated. The main problem in Russia is that members of the Moscow intelligentsia voted for the Stalinists, as Mr. Muratov told us in his recent column. Such conclusions follow from the decision of the Nobel Committee. P.S. Most importantly, no one from Russia will receive the Nobel Prize in the foreseeable future. A great success for the Kremlin, I must say.»

No one from Russia will receive the Nobel Prize in the foreseeable future. A great success for the Kremlin, I must say

Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of the Ekho Moskvy radio station: «I hope Alexei Navalny will congratulate Dmitry Muratov on the Nobel Peace Prize. And that will shut the mouths of the jerks who yelp at the editor-in-chief of the excellent Novaya Gazeta».

Poet Andrei Orlov: «Muratov is now a foreign agent!

The tower clock chimes broke the news:

He doesn't live by toil, he lives by frigging Nobel prize handouts».

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