The 2020 Ruritania Prize for short fiction

Panel is pleased to announce a new contest for original short fiction from Central and Eastern Europe. The competition is open to short pieces (between 1000 and 4000 words) of English-language fiction, translated or otherwise, so long as the pieces are previously unpublished.

Why The Ruritania Prize?

In 1894 Anthony Hope published The Prisoner of Zenda. Set in the fictional kingdom of Ruritania, it was a swash-buckling adventure that involved mistaken identities in a small Eastern European country. The book, which became a bestseller, spawned a genre, the Ruritanian Romance. These were books and films—sometimes unselfconscious capers, sometimes self-aware parodies—that were set in imaginary countries that were supposed to exist somewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Other notable entries included Frances Hodgson Brunett's The Lost Prince (Samavia), The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (Freedonia) and Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (Zembla).

Ruritanian fiction has always been emblematic of the West's view of Central and Eastern Europe, crowded by small, unstable states that are full of breathless intrigue, unusual customs and ethnic strife. For those of us that inhabit the real places these fictional countries are said to occupy, the genre is a reminder of the misapprehensions and prejudices the West, as well as the resonant absurdities of life in the East. By its very nature it’s a lazy archetype; Ruritania's quirky locals, hapless foreigners, and strongmen leaders are based on peoples and places spread over more than a million square miles. The Ruritania Prize, then, is a prize for those writing from a place that doesn't exist, English-speakers who are struggling to find their role in a contradictory literary tradition which is simultaneously patronizing and affectionate. Its judges are drawn from a variety of major Central and Eastern European cities, to better reflect the real diversity of the lands in which the Ruritanian romances were (and are) set.

Who can enter:

writers that currently reside or have previously resided in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States, Germany/Austria/Switzerland and the South Caucasus.

How to enter:

via submission form on our website. When you submit, please include “for the Ruritania Prize” with your submission. No more than one story per entry, and no more than one entry per contestant. If you have already submitted a fiction piece between 1000 and 4000 words for publication in Panel's sixth issue, and would like it to be entered into the competition, please contact us at or on our Facebook page.

What we are looking for:

We prefer stories that reflect the environment in which they were written.


The prize will be juried by three writers living in three Central and Eastern European capital cities: Daniel Lamken of Prague, Mitchell Atkinson of Warsaw, and (Panel editor) Duncan Robertson of Budapest. To be certain that the Ruritanian Prize is awarded fairly, all pieces will be submitted to the judges without identifying material. Judges will recuse themselves from considering any work which they believe they recognize.


July 31, 2020.

The short list will be announced a week after the deadline.

Reading fee:

There is no reading fee. To get a feeling for the kind of fiction we like to publish at Panel, we recommend you buy a print copy of Panel at one of bookstores that carry the magazine (see the list on the first page) or online.


The first place winner will receive 350 euros and guaranteed publication in Panel's upcoming sixth issue. Second and third place will receive 50 and 20 euros respectively, and close consideration for publication by the magazine. The results of the competition — the names of the winning authors and the titles of their pieces, as well as runners up — will be listed in place of honor on the Panel website and on a page in the back of the print magazine.

Good Luck,
The Panel Team