If anyone's had an un-peaceful last year on the world stage, it's been Russian President Vladimir Putin, right? Setting aside differing opinions about geopolitics, he's certainly not who you'd take for some kind of serene advocate for nonviolence, as the ongoing militarized tumult in Ukraine lays bare. And yet, that isn't stopping him come awards season: Vladimir Putin is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2014, and that's pretty crazy. The news has predictably roiled a lot of people across social media. Is there any possible explanation for nominating this guy for a peace award?
Well, actually, there is! Sort of, at least. When it's said that Putin is "nominated," it's easy to lose sight of just what the "nominee" status entails, and how relatively easy an achievement it is. Specifically, he's been nominated by Beslan Kobakhiya, the head of the International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World, according to ThinkProgress' John Israel. And as he helpfully details, the barriers to nabbing a Nobel Peace Prize nomination are actually a lot less than you might assume. Basically, a whole host of different people, including just individual academics, can file a nomination and get somebody's name in the running, whether or not they have any chance of securing the win.
In short, Putin's nomination doesn't in any way reflect his likelihood to, you know, actually win it. Though even if he did, he wouldn't be the only highly controversial selection — former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his work brokering an end to the Vietnam War, in spite of his role in the Nixon administration's secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia. In addition to other myriad allegations in Chile, East Timor and beyond, Kissinger is considered a war criminal in various parts of the international community, so much so that if he travels to the wrong places, he risks legal intervention.
That said, with the annexation of Crimea combined with Russia's repressive attitude towards LGBT citizens, it seems like a stretch to think we'll see square-jawed old Vladimir giving a speech in Oslo this year. There are, however, some other nominees this year who've drawn more attention, and likely more deservedly.
At age 17, Malala Yousafzai has lived a more tumultuous life than many people would've by 80 — her work as a blogger back in 2002 writing on the necessity of women's education in Pakistan spurred the Taliban to try to kill her in 2012, with a gunman firing a shot into her head. But Malala survived, and has since become one of the most tireless and high-profile advocates for the educational rights of women and girls across the world.
The former NSA contrator-turned-leaker, Snowden's inclusion among the nominees is inevitably controversial, as he's a very polarizing figure in the United States — while many viewed his disclosures as vital and admirable in light of the intense secrecy policies of the U.S. government, others branded him a traitor to his nation for unmasking the means which it uses to monitor people. Snowden continues to reside in Moscow, Russia, in hiding from potential U.S. detainment and prosecution.
If there's one thing that's been pretty clear this last couple of years, it's that people are pretty into the new pope. As least as compared to the old one — Pope Francis' relatively brief tenure has shown far more aesthetic and rhetorical humility than his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI's did, perhaps best exemplified in his oft-reported 2013 remark about homosexuality and spiritual fulfillment: "Who am I to judge?" The change in tone, if not in doctrine, was what moved LGBT magazine The Advocate to name Francis man of the year for 2013.
The former U.S. Army intelligence analyst is currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, as well as a video depicting the killing of a Reuters journalist and 10 more people at the hands of a U.S. helicopter in Iraq. Manning rounds out the Nobel field as yet another polarizing domestic figure, with the same circles of political thought that hate Edward Snowden feeling more or less similarly about Manning. Her recent op-ed on confronting ISIS also stoked controversy, suggesting that ceding gains to the group and allowing it to burn itself out was more prudent than airstrikes or military action.
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