The Demidov Prize is one of the oldest and most prestigious non-governmental scientific prizes in Russia which is awarded to members of the Russian Academy of Sciences for outstanding achievements in natural sciences and humanities. The prize is a successor to the same-name award which was founded by Ural industrialist and patron of the arts Pavel Demidov in 1831. No Demodov prizes were awarded between 1866 and 1992. In 1993, the Demidov prize tradition was restored, on the initiative of the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and as a result of joint efforts by Ural scientists and businessmen. The Demidov Prize always comes unexpected for its recipients. Candidates don’t apply for it. The choice is made by an expert panel which consists of celebrity scientists and academicians. That’s why the award is known as “the Russian Nobel Prize”.
Count Pavel Demidov was a representative of the Demidov family of miners who came to symbolize Russian business, wealth and generosity and were known all over Russia and abroad at the late 18th – early 19th century. In 1831, Demidov established a scientific prize in his name to support “those who were devoted to science and enjoyed the modest fame of scholarship”. The Demidov prizes which were awarded until 1865 were the largest in terms of prize money – 25,000 rubles annually – and were of great significance for the development of domestic science. Had the Demidov family continued to award the prizes, the award would have become as popular in Russia as the Nobel Prize in the West. Among the winners of the Demidov Prize in the 19th century were the creator of the periodic table of elements Dmitri Mendeleev, the founder of field surgery Nikolai Pirogov, seafarers and geographers Ivan Krusenstern and Ferdinand Wrangel.
For his efforts to promote scholarship Pavel Demidov was elected an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In 1993, the Demidov Scientific Foundation which was set up to contribute to the economic and cultural revival of Russia restored the Demidov Prize. The first prize was awarded in Yekaterinburg.
The Demidov prizes are awarded for achievements in earth science, physics, mathematics, economics, entrepreneurship, and humanities. Scientists are awarded not for a separate scientific treatise, but for a whole number of works. The recipients are not picked on the basis of a competition. They selected on the basis of expert opinion. The final judgment is passed by five panels and a prize committee which consists of prominent scholars. The prizes are financed by the Demidov Scientific Foundation. The prize includes a diploma, a gold medal in a malachite case, and between $10,000 and $15,000.
The 2011 Demidov Prize winners included physicist Alexander Andreyev, who was awarded for his contribution to low temperature physics; biologist Yuri Zhuravlyov, who received the prize for biology and ecology research in the Russian Far East; and geographer Vladimir Kotlyakov, who was honored for achieving a breakthrough in the study of regularities and mechanisms that control natural geosystems.