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Russian historian Irina Sherbakova receives Carl von Ossietsky Prize

The Russian historian and author Irina Sherbakova has received the 2014 Carl von Ossietsky Prize for Contemporary History and Politics. The award is named after the German pacifist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The award's jury said Sherbakova, pictured, received the prize for the passion and expertise in which she has advocated the study of Russia's "turbulent and torn" history in the 20th century. In addition, the jury said, the German Literature expert used this to foster understanding between Russia and Germany.

"In addition to her academic work, [Sherbakova] draws from her extraordinary commitment to civil society - not only in documenting the individual experiences of violence and suffering of those affected, but equally the associated current human rights issues in the Russian Federation.

The award is endowed with 10,000 euros ($13,870) and will be awarded to Sherbakova on Sunday during a ceremony in the northern German city of Oldenburg.

Irina Sherbakova was born in 1949 as the daughter of Jewish-Communist parents in Moscow, where went on to study German and received her PhD in 1972. Following this, she mainly worked as a translator of German fiction and as a freelance journalist, as well as editing literary magazines.

Since the late 70s, Sherbakova has also researched Russia's past, in particular the policies of Stalinism and the Gulag forced labor camps. Currently she works for the human rights organization Memorial, heading its education programs and coordinating historical projects.

'Flourishing nationalism' in Russia

The historian and activist recently warned against Russian culture policy being ideologized, in light of new policies recently developed by the government. Speaking to German radio, Sherbakova described this as a rejection of Western values, such as democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.

"The rejection of modernization of the country" was particularly dangerous, Sherbakova said, and described a "flourishing nationalism" in Russia that was stronger than anything she had previously experienced.

The Carl von Ossietsky prize is named after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former chairman of the German League for Human Rights. Von Ossietsky had been suggested for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934 and 1935, but the Norwegian government had caved to pressure from the Nazi government to not award it at that time.

At the end of 1936, due to a campaign by German-in-exile and future German President Willi Brandt, Ossietzky received the prize retroactively for 1935. But the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, refused to allow Ossietzky to leave the country.

Ossietzky died on May 4, 1938, due to complications from tuberculosis he contracted during earlier time spent in a concentration camp.

jr/ccp (dpa, epd)

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