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Page 19 ( 4 pages)
October is nobel prize season.
It was 1895 when Alfred Nobel – a Swedish chemist and armaments manufacturer – signed the third and final version of his last will and testament, the basic gist of which is familiar to most inhabitants of our planet. After Nobel’s death, his heirs, outraged by the will’s overall intent, tried to contest it, but this did not stop the first Nobel Prize from being awarded in 1901.
From that time forward, the annual announcement of Nobel Prize recipients has been a cause of worldwide speculation, expectation, and consternation.
Russians, who consider Nobel almost a native son, regard the prize with special reverence and affection, and are equally likely to be brought to a state of prideful ecstasy or bitter fury by the announcement of its laureates.
There is a common misconception here that the Nobel Prize was funded by “Russian money.” It is true that Nobel spent part of his childhood in Russia and studied under the renowned Russian chemist Nikolai Zinin. It is also true that, until he invented dynamite, he (along with his brothers) earned most of his fortune from the oil fields of Baku, so it would be more accurate to say that the Russian Empire contributed to his wealth. In reality, Nobel was a citizen of the world who lived and worked in many countries. But that is not really the point.
For the people of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, or the Russian Federation, it has always been exceptionally important who among their fellow citizens was awarded a Nobel Prize and who was not. There’s no denying that Russia has seen more than its share of dramas large and small revolving around this honor.
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