This year’s Nobel Peace Prize shone the spotlight on the most-talked about ongoing humanitarian crisis right now: the Russia-Ukraine war.
On Friday (Oct. 7), the prestigious award jointly went to one person and two organisations:
🇧🇾 Human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus: an initiator of the democracy movement in Belarus in the mid-1980s, he founded the organisation Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. Viasna became a broad-based human rights organisation documenting and protesting against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners. Arrested and imprisoned multiple times, Bialiatski is still detained without trial.
🇷🇺 Russian human rights organisation Memorial: Established in 1987 by activists in the former Soviet Union—including 1975 Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov—Memorial is the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was kidnapped and killed because of this work. In December 2021, authorities started to forcibly liquidate and shut Memorial but chairman Yan Rachinsky refused to give up.
🇺🇦 Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties: Initially founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine, Center for Civil Liberties has been identifying and documenting Russian war crimes against civilians since Russia invaded the country in February.
Earlier this week, the Nobel prize in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Literature went to Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo, quantum physicists Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger, chemists Carolyn Bertozzi, Barry Sharpless, and Morten Meldal, and author French author Annie Ernaux. The last prize, the economics prize, is due on Oct 10. Each winner gets a medal, a diploma, and 10 million Swedish krona ($901,608).
Unlike the other winners so far, who were picked by Swedish committees, the peace prize winner is chosen by a Norwegian committee. It’s also not presented in Stockholm like the rest, but in Oslo, in the presence of the king of Norway. The arrangement harks back at the time that Norway and Sweden were part of a union, and the latter’s dissolution in 1905.
“By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbour countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Through their consistent efforts in favour of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law, this year’s laureates have revitalised and honoured Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and fraternity between nations–a vision most needed in the world today.” —Norwegian Nobel Committee
102: Nobel Peace Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2021
137: People who’ve been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since 1901
25: Individual organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) won three times in 1917, 1944, and in 1963. The UN, its specialised agencies, related agencies, funds, programmes and staff, have won it 12 times, with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees winning twice, in 1954 and 1981.
17: The age at which Malala Yousafzai accepted the peace prize “for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” making her the youngest recipient of the prize in history. The Pakistan-born education activist was not only the youngest peace prize winner, but the youngest Nobel laureate overall
18: Women who’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize
19: Years no Peace prize was given out
Five-time nominee Gandhi was never awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, which Lundestad acknowledged as the “the greatest omission in our 106 year history” in 2006. The Indian freedom fighter who promoted ahimsa (non-violence) was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before he was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948. In the year of his death, the Norwegian Nobel Committee didn’t give the award on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”. Years later, in 1989, awarding the 14th Dalai Lama the Peace Prize was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”
The former head of the Central Organizing Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam refused the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize that he won with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger “for jointly having negotiated a cease fire in Vietnam.” The revolutionary, politician, and diplomat ran a tough bargain for an armistice, signing the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973. But he refused to receive the Peace Prize on the grounds that “peace has not yet really been established in south Vietnam.” The war didn’t conclude until the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Henry R Labouisse, who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of UNICEF in 1965, was the husband of Ève Curie—the daughter of Physics Nobel prize winners Marie Curie and Pierre Curie and the sister of Irène Joliot-Curie, was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with her husband, Frédéric Joliot.
Nov. 27, 1895: Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist Alfred Nobel, most famously credited with inventing dynamite, gives largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in his last will and testament. His assets—including holdings in Russian oil company Baku Petroleum and a hundred or so ammunition and dynamite factories around the world, a yacht, a stud farm, three apartments scattered around in Europe, and more—amounted to 31 million Swedish krona
June 29, 1900: The Nobel Foundation is established to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes
Dec. 10, 1901: The first Nobel Prizes are awarded. There were five categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace
1968: Sveriges Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, makes a donation to the Nobel Foundation on its 300th anniversary to establish the Prize in Economic Sciences