Anne Applebaum Wins the German Book Trade Peace Prize

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The journalist, essayist, and author Anne Applebaum wins the German Book Trade’s Peace Prize for her work’s focus on democracy and peace.’

Anne Applebaum

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘An Eminent and Indispensable Contribution’
This morning in Germany (June 25), it’s been announced that the Polish-American journalist, historian, and essayist Anne Applebaum has won this year’s €25,000 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association which administers the program, has confirmed that the award ceremony is set for the close of Frankfurter Buchmesse, on October 20, when ARD, the German public television network, will broadcast a live feed from the event held at Frankfurt’s landmark Paulskirche.

A Penguin Random House author, Applebaum’s newest book, Autocracy Inc.: The Dictators Who Want To Run the World, is set for release on July 23 from Penguin Random House, and it follows her pivotal 2020 release, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (also Penguin Random House, July 2020).

Many of our Publishing Perspectives readers are also familiar with her books including Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine; Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956; and her 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag: A History. Other awards for Applebaum in the past have most recently included this year’s Carl von Ossietzky Prize.

Applebaum addressed the Association of American Publishers at its 2022 annual meeting, saying, in part, “My view is that all of us in the publishing world especially should be encouraging the existence of an alternative Russia. By which I mean we should be giving voice, we should be amplifying, we should be publishing and supporting those Russians who have a different vision of what their country should be. And there are such Russians, we all know them.”

Our readers will also remember Applebaum as a 2020 juror with Canada’s US$75,000 Cundill History Prize.

During her work on that jury, she told Publishing Perspectives in an interview that part of the jury’s attraction to Paul Lay’s Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell’s Protectorate (Head of Zeus) had to do with a reminder about religious extremism for the British, saying. “I think it’s important for the British, and of course for everyone else, to remember that they are not somehow genetically exempt from religious fanaticism or extremism; they have suffered from both in the past; Providence Lost is a useful reminder.

“Of course it may be that experience that helped inoculate them against some of the madness of the 20th century.”

And about another Cundill shortlistee that year, Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation by Roderick Beaton (The University of Chicago Press/Penguin), she told us, “At base, all nations are constructs—’imagined communities’ as Benedict Anderson famously put it—which doesn’t make them any less real.”

Applebaum is, herself, the 2013 winner of the Cundill, for Iron Curtain. In the citation for that book’s win, the Cundill jurors that year wrote, “In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete.

“Anne Applebaum’s landmark history of this brutal time shows how societies were ruthlessly eviscerated by Communist regimes, how opposition was destroyed, and what life was like for ordinary people who had to choose whether to fight, to flee or to collaborate.”

The 2023 laureate of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade was another Penguin Random House author, Salman Rushdie.

Applebaum’s Work at ‘The Atlantic’

Applebaum is closely followed in the United States as an incisive and fearless leading staff writer with The Atlantic. Her work is read by policymakers, national politicians, political pundits, and international relations specialists with interest, which is why she has become one of the most widely quoted commentator in the US media.

She appears as a frequent interviewee on many of the States’ top mainstream news media, one of her most recent appearances having been written up on Saturday (June 22) by The Atlantic’s editors, who quoted her from NPR’s Washington Week With the Atlantic  ahead of Thursday’s (June 27) widely anticipated US presidential debate.

In her commentary on that upcoming debate, Applebaum talks about what it may preview about the American electorate, saying, “One of the things that’s at stake in this election is: Do we vote on policy, do we vote on what’s really happening in the economy, or do we vote on bombast and identity politics and, essentially, lies that suit whatever biases you have? The debate might show that.”

And earlier, on the approach of the European Parliament elections, Applebaum published Trump Is Not America’s Le Pen: He’s Worse, writing: “Donald Trump is not like these politicians. The former president is not tacking to the center, and he is not trying to appear less confrontational. Nor does he seek to embrace existing alliances. On the contrary, almost every day he sounds more extreme, more unhinged, and more dangerous.

“Meloni has not inspired her followers to block the results of an election. Le Pen does not rant about retribution and revenge. Wilders has agreed to be part of a coalition government, meaning that he can compromise with other political leaders, and has promised to put his notorious hostility to Muslims “on ice.” Even Orbán, who has gone the furthest in destroying his country’s institutions and who has rewritten Hungary’s constitution to benefit himself, doesn’t brag openly about wanting to be an autocrat. Trump does. People around him speak openly about wanting to destroy American democracy too.”

A Journalist Since 1988

Born in Washington, DC, to Jewish parents, Applebaum studied Russian history and literature at Yale University before shifting her focus to international relations in London and Oxford. In 1988, she began a career in journalism, working as a foreign correspondent in Poland for the British magazine The Economist.

In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she reported for that magazine on-site from Berlin. She then went on to work for other British newspapers, including The Spectator, The Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. For four years starting in 2002, she was a member of the editorial board at The Washington Post and was also active there as a columnist until 2019, a tenure that has prompted her essay on Wednesday (June 23) at The Atlantic, Readers Don’t Trust Dirty Tricks: What Worked for British Tabloids Won’t Work for The Washington Post.

In 2012, Applebaum held the Philippe Roman Chair of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously, in 2011, she became director of the “Transitions Forum” at the Legatum Institute in London, an international think tank at which she headed up a two-year program examining the correlation between democracy and growth in Brazil, India and South Africa. Together with the magazine Foreign Policy, she also developed the “Democracy Lab”, which sheds light on the ways in which states become more democratic or more autocratic.

In 2014, Applebaum anticipated today’s debate surrounding fake news with the launch of a series of broadcasts on propaganda and disinformation called the Beyond Propaganda program. Because of the increasing Euroscepticism of the Legatum Institute, she returned to the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2017 as a professor of practice. In 2019, she relocated the Arena research program on disinformation and propaganda in the 21st century, which she’d conceived at Legatum, to the Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Applebaum, who has lived on and off in Poland for the past 30 years, gained Polish citizenship in 2013 in addition to her American citizenship. She has been married to the Polish politician Radosław Sikorski since 1992. Sikorski was foreign minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014 and assumed this office again in 2023. The couple has two sons.

‘The Interplay Between Economy and Democracy’

In announcing Applebaum as the Peace Prize laureate today, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, the president of the Börsenverein and chair of the Peace Prize’s trustees, says, “With her profound analyses of communist and post-communist systems in the Soviet Union and Russia, Anne Applebaum broadens our horizon and thereby reveals the mechanisms by which authoritarians grab hold of power and maintain their control.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

“She also records and presents several witness testimonies that allow us to comprehend these mechanisms and gain further insight into them ourselves.

“Applebaum’s research into the interplay between economy and democracy, as well as her work on the effects of disinformation and propaganda on democratic societies, sheds light on how fragile these societies can be—especially when democracies are eroded from within by the electoral success of autocrats.

“In her publications on autocratic forms of government and their internationally operative networks, Applebaum succeeds at combining historiographic insights with highly alert observations on the current state of our world. At a time when democratic values and achievements are increasingly being caricatured and attacked, her work embodies an eminent and indispensable contribution to the preservation of democracy and peace.”

Board members led by Schmidt-Friderichs are Klaus Brinkbäumer; Raphael Gross; Moritz Helmstaedter; Nadja Kneissler; Jagoda Marinić; Ethel Matala de Mazza; Mithu M. Sanyal; and Christiane Schulz-Rother.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Anne Applebaum is here, more on nonfiction is here, more on book and publishing awards in the international industry is here, more on the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is here, more on politics and world publishing is here, and more on the German market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.