The Nobel Foundation has decided to reverse a controversial decision to extend invitations to Russia, Belarus, and Iran for this year’s prestigious awards ceremony in Stockholm. This reversal comes in response to the widespread criticism and concerns expressed, particularly within Sweden.
In a statement, the foundation acknowledged the strong reaction within Sweden and reconsidered its earlier stance. Last year, Russia and its ally Belarus were not invited due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Iran was excluded because of its human rights record. Ukraine had voiced its objections to this year’s decision and hailed the subsequent U-turn as a “victory for humanism.”
The Nobel Awards ceremony, held on December 10th, marks the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, the philanthropist who established the Nobel Prize. During this event, the King of Sweden bestows laureates in various fields, including medicine, physics, literature, and economics. Simultaneously, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place in Oslo, Norway.
In its Saturday announcement, the Nobel Foundation defended its initial decision, emphasizing the importance of spreading the values and messages associated with the Nobel Prize widely. They cited last year’s peace prize awarded to human rights advocates from Russia and Belarus and Ukrainians involved in documenting Russian war crimes as an example of this approach. However, the foundation acknowledged that the controversy had overshadowed this message.
Consequently, the foundation decided to repeat last year’s exception to its regular practice, meaning that the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus, and Iran will not be invited to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. Nonetheless, all ambassadors will still be welcome at the ceremony in Oslo, according to the foundation.
It’s worth noting that Saturday’s announcement did not address another aspect of the initial decision that had raised additional concerns in Sweden. This particular aspect pertains to the invitation extended to “all parties that have parliamentary representation in Sweden through democratic elections,” which includes the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. This party, founded by individuals with Nazi sympathies, had been marginalized by mainstream politics for decades but garnered roughly a fifth of the votes in the previous year’s general election. Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, declined the invitation to the awards ceremony, stating on Facebook that he was “unfortunately busy that day.”