Awardee 2024

Anne Applebaum

The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen the Polish-American historian Anne Applebaum to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The award ceremony will take place on Sunday 20 October 2024 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main.

Statement of the Jury

With her profound analyses of communist and post-communist systems in the Soviet Union and Russia, this Polish-American historian and journalist broadens our horizon and thereby reveals the mechanisms by which authoritarians grab hold of power and maintain their control. 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.


The American historian, author and journalist Anne Elizabeth Applebaum counts among the world’s most important chroniclers of autocratic systems of government. She is a leading expert in eastern European history and was one of the first to warn of Vladimir Putin’s potentially violent expansionist policies. Applebaum has consistently garnered considerable international attention for her work, in particular for »Gulag (2003)«, »Iron Curtain« (2012), »Red Famine« (2019) and »Twilight of Democracy« (2021), each of which traces the mechanisms of authoritarian power. She has also received several prominent awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and most recently the Carl von Ossietzky Prize in 2024.


Born on 25 July 1964 in Washington, D.C., to Jewish parents, Applebaum studied Russian history and literature at Yale University before shifting her focus to international relations at the London School of Economics 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, immediately following the fall of the Wall, she reported for that magazine on-site from Berlin. She then went on to work for other British newspapers, including »The Spectator«, where she was also deputy editor, »The Evening Standard«, where she was associate editor from 1996 until 1997, and as a columnist for »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. Since then, she has mainly written for the American magazine »The Atlantic«.

Throughout her career as a journalist, Applebaum gave a number of guest lectures at different American and European universities, including in Heidelberg and Berlin. In 2012, she held the Philippe Roman Chair of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science for one year. In 2011, she worked as director of the »Transitions Forum« at the Legatum Institute in London, an international think tank where she headed up a two-year programme 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. As early as 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» programme. Due to 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 programme on disinformation and propaganda in the 21st century, which she’d conceived at Legatum, to the Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University.


In her first book »Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe« (1994), Applebaum describes how she experienced the emergence of nationalism in the new states of the former Soviet Union on a three-month trip through eastern Europe in 1991. In that book, she provides insight into the lives of individuals who worked for or against the regime, but also into the lives of the majority of people, that is, those who remained silent and now found themselves pawns in a global conflict.

In 2003, she published »Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps«, a detailed study of the system of labour and penal camps in the Soviet Union, and it was for this work that she received a Pulitzer Prize in 2004. In »Gulag«, Applebaum combines documentary material – primarily from the archives at Gulag headquarters and several camps – with the personal accounts she’d collected over the years. As the first comprehensive history of the camp system, this book garnered a great deal of attention outside of Russia.

Applebaum followed that book with an anthology titled »Gulag Voices« (2011), in which a number of personalities recount their memories of imprisonment in the Gulag, including the renowned literary scholar Dmitri Lichatschow as well as Anatoli Martschenko (the son of illiterate parents) and Alexander Dolgun (an American citizen). In doing so, she sheds light on the oddly moral universe of the camp as well as on the relationships of the prisoners to one another, to their guards and to professional criminals.

Eastern Europe was the focus of Applebaum’s subsequent book as well. In »The Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1946-1956« (2012), she traces the Stalinisation of the GDR as well as in Hungary and in Poland in the years 1944-1956, showing how it was carried out politically and economically and – with the help of the fates of individual people – revealing how Communism was able to penetrate all areas of life. In addition to describing the political measures taken by the new power holders, she also examines the lives of individuals who were forced to adapt to the communist systems controlled remotely by the Soviet Union.

For her 2017 essay »Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine«, Applebaum received a number of honours, including Canada’s Lionel Gelber Prize and Britain’s Duff Cooper Prize. Referred to as the Holodomor, the famine caused by the forced starvation of more than three million Ukrainians via the forcible collectivisation of agriculture, the deportation of the kulaks, the crushing of resistance and Stalin’s general assault on Ukrainian culture has become anchored in the collective consciousness of the peoples of eastern Europe and continues to have an impact to this day. Once again, Applebaum draws on the perspectives of the perpetrators and the victims to reveal the structures of Stalinist terror.

Applebaum’s subsequent work was 2021’s »Twilight of Democracy«, which examines the question of why so many people desire to return to authoritarian, anti-democratic forms of government. She also uses several examples to demonstrate the key role played by social media, conspiracy theories and nostalgia in this setting. By carefully examining in detail the influence of today’s intellectual spin doctors, she shows how people are manipulated and also reveals which financial interests are behind these efforts, thus painting a threatening scenario for the future of democracy.

Applebaum is set to publish her latest book in 2024, this time a work about the abuse of political power: »Autocracy, Inc.: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World« will be released this summer.


Applebaum has lived on and off in Poland for the past 30 years, and in 2013 she gained Polish citizenship in addition to her American nationality. 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, Aleksander and Tadeusz.


2024 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
2024 Carl von Ossietzky Prize
2022 Order of Princess Olga, second class, Ukraine
2021 ICFJ International Reporting Award, USA
2021 Francisco Cerecedo Prize, Spain
2021 Premio Internacional de Periodismo de EL MUNDO, Spain
2019 Order of Princess Olga, third class, Ukraine
2019 Premio Nonino “Master of our Time”, Italie
2018 Person of the Year, Gazeta Wyborca, Poland
2018 Honorary Fritz Stern Professor, University of Wrocław, Poland

2018 Honorary Doctorate, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
2018 Lionel Gelber Prize
2017 Antonovych Prize, Ukraine
2017 Duff Cooper Prize
2017 Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa, Georgetown University
2013 Duke of Westminster's Medal for Military Literature
2013 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature
2012 Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
2010 Petőfi Prize, Hungary
2008 Lithuanian Millenium Star
2008 Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Estonia
2004 Pulitzer Prize (General Non-Fiction)
2003 Duff Cooper Prize
1996 Adolph Bentinck Special mention Award
1992 Charles Douglas-Home Memorial Trust Award


»Autocracy, Inc.: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World«

Doubleday, New York 2024 (to be published in July 2024)

»Wybór« (Choice)

by Anne Applebaum and Donald Tusk, Agora S.A., Warszawa 2021

»Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism«

Doubleday, New York 2020

»Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine«

Penguin Random House, New York 2017

»From a Polish Country House Kitchen«

by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden, Chronicle Books, San Francisco 2012

»Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956«

Allen Lane, New York 2012

»Gulag Voices: An Anthology«

Translated from Russian into English by Jane Ann Miller, Yale University Press, New Ha-ven 2011

»Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps«

Doubleday, New York 2003

»Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe«

Pantheon Books, New York 1994