Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was shared by human rights activists from three countries — Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — who stood up for the right to criticize power and represented a challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s aggression.
The awards to Memorial, a Russian organization; the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine; and Ales Bialiatski, a jailed Belarusian activist; were not without controversy. Though many Ukrainians rejoiced at the Center for Civil Liberties’s award, some saw the shared honor as reinforcing Mr. Putin’s narrative that Russia and Ukraine are “brotherly nations.”
Others saw the prize as supporting defiance across borders against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The winners “have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said at last year’s ceremony.
Here’s a closer looks at 2022’s Nobel recipients:
Center for Civil Liberties
Founded in 2007, Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties had been documenting human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine years before Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.
When Russia forcibly occupied Crimea in 2014, the group documented the disappearances of activists, journalists and dissidents. Since last year, that work has expanded, as the group has partnered with national and international groups to continue documenting Russian war crimes against Ukrainians.
The group restarted its Euromaidan SOS project last year, with several hundred local volunteers gathering testimonies of rights violations. The project was first established after protests in 2013 and 2014 in Kyiv’s Maidan Square, monitoring abuses carried out by the security forces of the country’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The organization has also campaigned for Ukraine to become affiliated with the International Criminal Court. It is still not a full member, but Ukraine has since 2013 accepted the court’s jurisdiction over crimes on its territory.
Memorial, a Russian rights group founded in 1988, spent decades educating the Russian public about Soviet political repression by publishing history books, hosting exhibits and educating schoolchildren.
But as President Vladimir V. Putin has cracked down on dissident speech, Memorial’s pursuit of truths about Russia’s history has not gone unpunished.
The group was outlawed by the Russian government a year before it won the Nobel Peace Prize. And last year, on the day the prizes were announced, members of Memorial were fighting in court to preserve the last of their office space in Moscow after their liquidation the year prior; as expected, the judge ruled against them.
It was the second year in a row that the Nobel Prize was given to a Russian. In 2021, one of the laureates was Dmitri A. Muratov, the editor of the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Six of its journalists have been murdered.
Mr. Bialiatski, the 61-year-old Belarusian laureate, had been involved with human rights movements since before Belarus gained independence from Soviet control. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the Belarusian authoritarian leader, assumed power in 1994, Mr. Bialiatski founded another rights group, called Viasna, or Spring.
He was arrested after testifying on behalf of another activist and was soon put on trial himself for trumped-up charges of tax evasion. After serving a four-and-a-half year sentence, he was released on amnesty in 2014.
Now, he has been jailed without formal charges and is under investigation with other members of Viasna, one of many targets for dissident speech that came after 2020 protests following a landslide victory for Mr. Lukashenko in an election widely seen as rigged.
The Belarusian foreign ministry mocked the award in a post on X, formerly Twitter, writing that the awards had become so politicized that Alfred Nobel was “turning in his grave.”