On 22 May 2023, the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee announced murdered Ukrainian children’s book author and poet, Volodymyr Vakulenko, as the Prix Voltaire Special Award recipient at the award ceremony held at the World Expression Forum in Lillehammer, Norway.

2023 IPA Prix Voltaire Special Award laureate, Volodymyr Vakulenko, authored 13 books including books about his region’s heritage, poetry, as well as children’s books. He was a winner of several Ukrainian and international literary prizes and was well-known for his strong patriotic stance, his active support to the 2014 Revolution of Dignity and his help to the Ukrainian military in the Kharkiv region since the beginning of the Russian invasion. He was arrested twice following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The second time he was not released. His body was found in one of the mass graves in Izium.

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: Volodymyr Vakulenko is a symbol of the horrific cultural destruction perpetrated by the Russian army in Ukraine. May we hold him in our memory and celebrate the stories and poems he left us before being taken too soon.

 Gvantsa Jobava, Vice President of the International Publishers Association said: Silencing cultural expression is one of the tools of repressive regimes. We must resist their intimidation and celebrate our brave authors and publishers who help us experience and understand the diversity of our cultures.

Accepting the 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire Special Award on behalf of Volodymyr Vakulenko, Ukrainian writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina said: I am a Ukrainian writer speaking on behalf of my colleague Volodymyr Vakulenko who, unlike me, didn’t survive another attempt of the Russian Empire to erase Ukrainian identity. The Ukrainian literary community is grateful for the award. This award is unique, meaningful, and moving to us, partly because no one out of hundreds of other Ukrainian writers who, like Vakulenko, were murdered throughout Ukrainian history ever received such an international award posthumously. I am sure that Volodymyr Vakulenko would like to dedicate this award to them too.

Victoria Amelina brought the Prix Voltaire Special Award back to Ukraine, stopping at PEN Ukraine and then to Volodymyr Vakulenko’s house.

See her posts here and here.


About the Prix Voltaire Special Award

Periodically, the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee may confer the Prix Voltaire Special Award, a posthumous honour for individuals who have died recently for exercising their freedom of expression. The aim of the award is to give visibility to the laureate’s exceptional engagement for freedom of expression and expose how he or she was silenced. The award should promote the laureate’s legacy and support their family, friends and supporters, if necessary, by helping to ensure that the laureate and their case are not forgotten.

Recipients have typically demonstrated a courageous commitment to freedom of speech through lives spent writing, publishing, or in activism, and have been murdered, put to death, or lost their life in prison.


About the 2023 Prix Voltaire

Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers – individuals, groups or organizations – who have typically published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests. Alternatively, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression. For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of ‘publisher’ is an individual, collective or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.

The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a CHF 10,000 prize, is made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire recognizes.

The 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist was announced at London Book Fair on 20 April 2023.

  • Mazen Lateef Ali, Iraq
  • Günışığı Kitaplığı Publishing House, Turkey
  • Mehr Husain, Pakistan
  • Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim Ahmed, Egypt

Mercier Press, Ireland

The current sponsors of the IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order: