The 19th Ceremony of the Yasnaya Polyana Book Award

Moscow, October 26, 2021 – The 19th Ceremony of the Yasnaya Polyana Book Award established by the Leo Tolstoy Estate Museum and Samsung Electronics took place at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. 

The winners are:

-          Herman Sadulaev for his book Gothic Letters (Modern Russian Fiction Award)

-          Julian Barnes for his novel Nothing to Be Frightened Of (Foreign Fiction Award)

-          Dmitry Simanovsky and Sergey Polotovsky for their translation of the novel Nothing to Be Frightened Of into Russian (Foreign Fiction Award)

-          The book Every Day Anew: Valentin Rasputin and Valentin Kurbatov – A Forty Year Dialogue (Event Award). 

-          Marina Stepnova for her book The Garden (Readers’ Choice Samsung Award)  

"We are very happy that the Yasnaya Polyana Award ceremony is happening this way – at the Bolshoi Theatre with real guests. I thank those who organized it, and those who were able to come and be with us tonight. As always, the jury says that this year we had the hardest choice – they say that every year. But, indeed, it was a very difficult decision, there were two strong, brilliant long lists," said Vladimir Tolstoy, Chairman of the Jury and Advisor to the Russian President on Culture.

The Modern Russian Fiction Award is the main category of the award. It celebrates outstanding works by Russian authors that are important to read today because they define current literary trends. In total, over 200 books were nominated for the award in 2021. Forty-five of these were selected for the long-list in this category and, subsequently, seven of those made the short-list. The winner Herman Sadulaev

"Lydia Ginzburg had a wonderful book called Literature in Search of Reality. I think literature today is in search of genres. The seven works that made the short list are not just written in different styles, they are written in different genres. These genres are difficult to compare, and therefore it was difficult to choose a winner," commented Pavel Basinsky, a member of the jury of the Yasnaya Polyana Book Award.

The Readers’ Choice Samsung Award was also presented at the ceremony. Marina Stepnova’s The Garden received over 2,500 votes, becoming the winner of this prize. the Readers’ Choice Samsung Award was established in 2015 to celebrate a shortlisted book most voted by the readers. Its author is awarded a professional trip to South Korea. 

The winner of the Foreign Fiction Award is Julian Barnes for his novel Nothing to be Frightened Of, alongside his translators Dmitry Simanovsky and Sergey Polotovsky. The prize in this category is given for the most significant foreign book of the XXI century and its translation into Russian. The winner of the Foreign Fiction Award receives a prize of 1.2 million rubles. Translators will share 500 thousand rubles. In 2021 the Foreign Fiction Award long list consisted of 43 books by foreign authors from 20 countries – this is the most extensive list in this nomination in the history of the award.

"British people admire and revere Russian art and culture. We adore Chekhov as being the greatest playwright in the world – apart from Shakespeare, of course. Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Gorky and so on – they all feel as much a part of our literary culture as they do of yours. I am very honored and also deeply moved to be awarded the Yasnaya Polyana Award for my book Nothing to be Frightened Of. I would like to thank the judges of the prize, my publishers Azbooka-Atticus, who supported me strongly in these past years, and of course, the Tolstoy family itself. Thank you very much!", - said Julian Barnes in a video message at the ceremony.

"Julian Barnes is very difficult to translate, because his books have a deceptive lightness and at the same time the kind of paradoxicality that generally distinguishes British literature. The fact that the Yasnaya Polyana presents an award not only to a foreign author, but also to his translators, is extremely important and a real blessing," commented Mikhail Shvydkoi, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation.

"This year Samsung Electronics is celebrating 30 years in Russia. Since our earliest days in Russia, we have supported the rich cultural heritage of this country. Throughout this time Samsung has built strong partnerships with Russia's leading museums, theaters and cultural institutions. Moreover, thanks to our fruitful long-term partnership and friendship with the Leo Tolstoy Estate Museum, Yasnaya Polyana has become the largest and most respected international literary prize in Russia. We are proud of this achievement and express our sincere gratitude to the jury members of the Yasnaya Polyana Award and personally to Vladimir Tolstoy for their continued efforts in preserving the literary legacy of the great writer and supporting the works of contemporary authors," commented Kim DaeHyun, President of Samsung Electronics CIS.

This year was also the first time that the ceremony recognized the best literary reviews of the Yasnaya Polyana Award short-list. Participants of the School of Literary Criticism published their reviews on the Gorky website. Evgeniya Lisitsyna and Ivan Rodionov won diplomas for the best reviews of Marina Stepnova's The Garden and Herman Sadulaev's Gothic Letters. In addition, this year saw the creation of an Instagram book club @knigi_na_polyane to support reading and engage readers in a discussion of the prize books this year. As part of the competition, readers and bloggers posted their reviews of Yasnaya Polyana Award books. The best review was singled out by the jury; its author, Maya Stavitskaya, will receive an out-of-competition place at the second School of Literary Criticism, which will be held in the summer of 2022 at the Yasnaya Polyana Estate Museum.

The Yasnaya Polyana Award has been conferred since 2003 to writers whose works carry on the traditions of classical literature. The Yasnaya Polyana Award brings together key experts and acts as a navigator of contemporary literature, forming lists of the best books in Russian and in translation. There are two main categories –Modern Russian Fiction Award and Foreign Fiction Award. The prize fund of the Yasnaya Polyana Award is 6.7 million rubles. This is the largest literary award in the country.

The novels by past Yasnaya Polyana laureates, Laurus by Yevgeny Vodolazkin and Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes by Guzel Yakhina, were the first works of contemporary Russian literature to be added to the Live Pages mobile application, an interactive encyclopedia, through which users can study classical works of Russian literature in a new format. The Live Pages project was launched in June 2015 by Samsung Electronics together with Tolstoy Digital experts with the support of the School of Linguistics of the National Research University Higher School of Economics and ABBYY.

A recording of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award 2021 announcement ceremony can also be viewed on the main page of the award's website.