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Meddlesome Medals?

Posted on 11/08/2010

What do the following seven people have in common: Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Peter Ayodele Curtis Joseph, Modibo Keita, Shafie Ahmed el-Sheikh, Samora Machel, Agostinho Neto, Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela?  Well surely many things indeed. 

For example, if you said they were all important African leaders in the second half of the twentieth century, you would be correct.  Each, however, in addition to any other commonalities, received the Lenin Peace Prize—the Soviet Union’s counterpart to the Nobel Peace Prize. Articles and radio broadcasts monitored, translated, and published in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports discuss the Lenin Peace Prize awards.  By searching on the phrase “Lenin Peace Prize” and limiting results to items from Africa, one gets 22 results in the Readex digital edition of FBIS Daily Reports and Annexes, 1941-1996. Searching for “Lenin Peace Prize” in the Readex database without limiting results by location retrieves some 268 results. Here is one example from the Accra Ghana Domestic Service on how the award was perceived in that country in 1962. 

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The fact that the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize was awarded to heroes like Nelson Mandela and tyrants like Samora Machal might cause one to wonder, if not too cynically, what political purposes the awards of the Lenin Peace Prize might have been meant to serve.   How was the awarding of this Prize received and used in the official and unofficial media?

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