Three Promises: The Kalef family of Belgrade, a Centropa multimedia film

“The film is a valentine to a lost Sephardic world, but one that doesn’t shy away from the horrors that destroyed that world.” Lilith Magazine, New York, March 2016

 

 

I promise I’ll protect our daughters, no matter what happens. I promise I’ll hide you, no matter who comes looking. I promise if I get out of this alive, the world will know about this priest.

Backgound: what makes Centropa different

Centropa was founded in 2000 so that they could interview over a thousand elderly Jews still living between the Baltic and the Black Seas and ask them to tell stories about the entire century, just as they lived it.

Centropa was not founded as a Holocaust-interview project. They did not use video in those interviews. Instead, Centropa’s teams spent a decade sitting in 1,200 living rooms in 15 countries, held up 25,000 old family photographs, and asked their respondents to tell stories about the people in those pictures—from the small comedies of everyday life to the great tragedies that befell them.

You can find the English language online database here. It is also available in German, Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, and other languages. No one had ever captured European Jewish memory in this way before. It is sadly too late to begin such a project now (in 2020).

Using personal stories to bring history to life

That’s why films like the Kalefs of Belgrade is so important. Matilda and Breda Kalef  take us into their Sephardic Jewish community in the 1930s to tell us about cousins, aunts and uncles, Jewish holidays and family vacations. And when the Germans invaded Serbia in 1941, their mother hid her giant family photo album, grabbed her daughters and knocked on the door of a church in a nearby suburb.

In October, 1944, they returned from hiding to find their home wrecked but the photo album still there. Everyone in those photos, however—from babies to great grandmothers--had all been murdered, including all those pictured above.

This is the story Centropa tells in the award-winning film, Three Promises, which has now been shown in six international film festivals.

Teachers — and students — love this film because

  • very few of us have ever seen Holocaust-related stories about Balkan Sephardic families;
  • even fewer have seen photographs of Sephardic women dressed in traditional costume;
  • and most important, this is a film with a strong moral and ethical core to it: of reaching out, leaning in, and saving a life.

There’s a punchline to Three Promises: Father Andrej Tumpej, the priest who saved their lives, always told Breda Kalef she had a lovely voice and she really should do something with it. And did she ever!

Watch the film here:

 

EuroClio’s 2020 6th Regional Summer School

*DATE & LOCATION TBC*

The 6th EuroClio Regional Summer School will take place in the Western Balkans in Summer 2020. Please check our website for updates as we will shortly announce the topic, date and location.

The Summer School is a capacity-building event providing transnational transfer of knowledge and experience. We hope that through lectures, workshops, discussion groups and study visits, participating history and heritage educators will be stimulated to implement innovative teaching practices in their classroom and/or museum/site/institute and to work towards a framework for a common approach for dealing with history. Participants will improve their knowledge of cultures and get acquainted with new educational contents, services, and methods. participants will be able to take part in different formats of exchange and learning and attend lectures, workshops, and study visits to schools, relevant NGOs, memorial sites and museums.

Where and when does the Regional Summer School take place?

The summer school takes place in the central weeks of summer, often in August, each year in a different county. So far, we have been to: Šipovo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Lovćen Mountain (Montenegro), Vlorë (Albania), Metlika (Slovenia) and Osijek (Croatia)

We have learned “history that is not yet history”

“These are the times that try men's souls”

 “In the past year, we organised workshops with several groups, talking about the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990's. We learned about most of the background information for the showcased images by first participating in the workshop ourselves, and later, we were given insight into some further details on their context. Overall, the experience was as challenging and educational as it was entertaining.” I will start with the words of my student Matija, as I think that they are the best indicator of how successful we’ve been while teaching history that is not yet history.

It has been exactly two months since I last entered a classroom that was full of students. Since the school closed, we were obliged to adapt ourselves to this new situation. We reacted without any delay. 

In the same week, I received a call from the principal of the high school in which I am working who asked me to participate in the project “Learn from home” (“Uči doma“). My answer was “Inform me when we are starting.” A couple of days later, I was once more in my classroom, this time standing in front of the camera. My task was to prepare lessons for high school students, I chose to prepare lessons for the third and the fourth grade.

It was a bit difficult to analyse certain historical topics, without anyone there to ask questions or for explanations. To make a comment about something…anything. I had to change the approach and it was obvious for me what was needed. I needed to include my students somehow!

So, phase two started – ‘Let’s try to do some workshops online.’ It wasn’t easy, I can tell you that. But, it was awesome! We connected ourselves through online platforms and started preparing workshops. One day I posted a question in one of our groups which said: “Are we doing the 90s?” 

Well, this is the answer -  Istorija za IV razred opšte gimnazije - Nestanak Jugoslavije (History for the 4th grade of general high school - The disappearance of Yugoslavia)

We decided to use the materials that were created in cooperation with EuroClio. So, all those projects I was involved in, including “Learning history that is not yet history” and EuroClio's cooperation with the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in researching their archives, finally gained wider audience in my country – the most important audience, I would add! We have shown every fourth grader in Montenegro that we can discuss this sensitive period that many of them believed is not yet history. For the first time in history, we have discussed and presented this topic to hundred-thousands people, and this was broadcasted on the national Montenegro television in prime time. The reactions from the student, colleagues and parents were awesome. I would say that we have fulfilled our main task.

The material we have used the most while preparing this lesson was a War(s) in photos workshop. Pupils used visual sources to explain their perspective of the topic, they tried to elaborate how the common people were affected by the war, what was the role of soldiers and what was the role of politicians. I have to say that this wasn’t the first attempt to discuss these subjects with students in a classroom workshop in the past few months, but it was by far the best and most successful one. I was extremely happy and proud that we were able to promote this topic by using a multi perspective approach, not excluding any of the points of views and sides of the people that participated in the war.

Another student that contributed to this workshop, Mina, stated  “I have had an opportunity to be a part of this workshop more than once and every time it was a new experience. As the topic is quite a taboo, I found presenting the facts about the war fairly challenging. But, when you choose the fear of starting a controversial lecture over education, you compromise people's future abilities to understand and forgive each other. In my opinion, this workshop completely breaks the stereotype of this topic as something upsetting that creates divisions, it is a creative way to overcome the limitations and start to openly speak about a topic that is shaping the generations to come. With putting the effort, you can teach in a way that can be only  prosperous and never harmful or offensive.

As I wrote in a similar article a couple of weeks ago, “These are the times that try men's souls.” But these are also the times when we need to show our responsibility. And I think that this was one of the ways we have done it. I will conclude with the words of my student Anja, which wrote about her experience while doing this topic “As important as it is to shine light on the topic of wars of the 90s as a professor it might be even more important to be thoroughly involved in a serious subject such as this one as a student. I personally felt that it was my responsibility to establish the communication with the other peers because it was a crucial part to them understanding and sharing personal opinions and beliefs on this topic, which in the end I think I did well with the help of my friends.”

 

Written by Igor Radulović, history teacher from Podgorica, Montenegro. As a member of HIPMONT (History teachers association of Montenegro), Igor participated in the project “Learning history that is not history”, which won the Global Pluralism Award for 2019. He is also involved as a trainer in EuroClio's collaboration with the UN 's International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. 

 

From Tribunal to Classroom

First round of trainings with UN Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals completed

The UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has partnered with EuroClio in delivering training to history teachers in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Hercegovina, North Macedonia and Kosovo.

With the prosecution work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) nearly completed, its successor body IRMCT, has turned its attention to the ways in which the Tribunal’s legacy can be used in educational settings. The partnership with EuroClio targets educational professionals who are faced with the challenges of teaching students about the recent violent history of the former Yugoslavia.

Facilitated by expert teacher trainers from the History Teachers’ Associations of Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, along with individual teacher trainers from Bosnia-Hercegovina, the first round of trainings was completed in Pristina 1 February 2020. Previous editions of the workshop were held in Belgrade, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Skopje, with a second round commencing in Podgorica 22-23 February 2020.

A session introducing the archives of the Tribunal will also be held in connection with EuroClio’s Annual Conference in Belgrade.

As part of the training workshop, local history teachers are not only introduced to the archives of the ICTY, but also given guidance on how these sources can be used in their classrooms. Aided by the local teacher trainers, they are furthermore offered the opportunity to design their own learning materials with the available sources.

EuroClio is proud to work with the IRMCT in this important work, showing how the sources available from the transitional justice process can be used in a responsible way, instilling students with the critical thinking skills needed for tackling a recent and difficult past still very much felt in contemporary society across the former Yugoslavia.

We direct a particular mention and thanks to the facilitators Natasha Kostic, Emina Zivkovic, Igor Radulovic, Milos Vukanovic, Mire Mladenovski, Donika Xhemajli, Admir Ibricic, and Arna Daguda-Torlakovic, as well as Rada Pejic-Sremac and Anisa Suceska-Vekic from IRMCT.

 

For more information on the project or potential collaborations with EuroClio, please contact Andreas Holtberget at andreas@euroclio.eu

 

EuroClio’s project team “Learning History That Is Not Yet History” announced as winner of the 2019 Global Pluralism Award

Deborah Ahenkorah (Ghana), the Center for Social Integrity (Myanmar) and ‘Learning History That Is Not Yet History’ (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) recognized as outstanding leaders promoting inclusion worldwide.

Ottawa, Canada – October 15, 2019 – On October 15th 2019, the Global Centre for Pluralism announced the three winners of the 2019 Global Pluralism Award: Deborah Ahenkorah – a young Ghanaian social entrepreneur and book publisher bringing African children’s stories to life; the Center for Social Integrity - an organization giving youth from conflict-affected regions in Myanmar the skills and voice to be leaders for change amidst the many overlapping conflicts ongoing in the country; and ‘Learning History that is not yet History’ - a network of history educators and specialists in the Balkans pioneering a new approach to teaching the controversial history of conflict.

The Global Pluralism Award celebrates achievement and excellence in the field of pluralism. The Award is presented once every two years to individuals, organizations, governments and businesses of any nationality. Through their remarkable and sustained achievements, awardees contribute to building more inclusive societies in which human diversity is protected.

The winning project, ‘Learning History that is not yet History’, was carried out by a team (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) of historians and educators who have been working for over 16 years to develop a responsible way of teaching the history of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Recognizing that teachers often feel ill-equipped to teach these sensitive and controversial topics, the network created an online database of free resources and provides training for teachers. They represent the only regional effort to provide a non-biased approach to learning and teaching about the recent wars.

EuroClio wishes to thank everyone involved in this project: the project team Aleksander Todosijević, Nataša Kostić, Emina Zivković, Bojana Dujković-Blagojević, Melisa Forić, Marija Naletilić, Dea Marić, Igor Jovanović, Miljenko Hajdarović, Miloš Vukanović, Igor Radulović, project experts Mire Mladenovski, Marko Šuica, Edin Veladzić, Saša Knežević, Snjezana Koren, Aleksandar Jakir and project managers Jonathan Even-Zohar and Judith Geerling.

Everyone in this project has showed true dedication to working towards an inclusive history teaching and we could not be prouder of  the work that has been produced.

Thank you again to everyone who made this project a success!

“A society where I should be quiet is not a society for me.” Interview with Hrvoje Klasić

Jonathan Even-Zohar Articles , , ,

This summer, historian and EuroClio Ambassador Hrvoje Klasic received various death threats in response to his public speaking on television and in newspapers, in which he sought to provide nuance and ask critical questions on Croatian history. Jonathan Even-Zohar reached out to find out more.

In the interview, Prof. Klasic talks about his involvement with EuroClio and the circumstances surrounding the recent death threats, as well as the situation of history educators in Balkan countries more generally.

Since 2003, Hrvoje Klasic works as a university professor at Zagreb University department of History where his main focus area is Cold War history of Yugoslavia between east and west. He is dealing with sensitive pasts, more specifically, World War II, the Communist period, the Croatian War of Independence (Homeland war), and the situation in the 1990s.

Jonathan Even-Zohar: What is your relation with EuroClio?

Hrvoje Klasic: In 2003, right after I started my new job at university, my colleague asked me if I wanted to go to Sarajevo where EuroClio was starting a project on designing a common textbook[1]. At that time, I had no idea what EuroClio was or what are they were doing but I agreed. Back in February 2003, we met for the first time in Sarajevo and from that moment I've been connected with the network, with EuroClio programs, and some of those colleagues have become very good friends.

For the last 15 years, I have been involved in a couple of projects as a resource person developing a common textbook about Yugoslav history of the 20th century. The other position at EuroClio is connected with my job as a university professor when I was able to help the teachers in elementary and high schools with my knowledge and skills (see list of projects). I am very proud about this connection with my career and I am very grateful for are opportunities that EuroClio gave me. I was able to travel so much from Latvia to Lampedusa, from the Black Sea coast to Cardiff. I would have never expected that I would have been able to go to so many places and meet so many colleagues if it wasn't for EuroClio.

JEZ: Over the last couple of years you have done more of public speaking and have been more present on the international level in dialogue and reconciliation projects. What happened recently and how do you see that in a context of the death threats you have received? Has the situation changed for the worse?

HK: In terms of EuroClio engagement, I thought that we were moving forward. I was in touch with colleagues from the same field who have a similar approach to history, from Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Kosovo. In the past, EuroClio was seen as a center for many history teachers and historians. We could improve our work and widen our connections with other teaches - all thanks to EuroClio. The last few years, however, this process has become more problematic and sometimes - when I listen to radio, watch TV, look at the media, internet, or social networks - I feel like we are back in the 1990s again. You can see that the nationalistic “patriotic” approach is dominant; we are again confined to our borders, our walls. The dialogue has disappeared. EuroClio educated many intellectuals and educators who are now coerced in their society. Even people like me – prominent educators in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, or Slovenia who are willing to deal with the past – are forced to fit into the dominant narrative. The political and economic situation is not going well, especially in the countries which are outside of the EU. Nationalism and populism are dominant approaches in these countries.

JEZ: What happened recently? What is the background of the last death threat? You have been in the public sphere for the last couple of years, so why now?

HK: Actually, nothing changed that much. I have received vulgar letters and people are approaching me on the street calling me a traitor, a fool, not a good Croatian, but this is the first time that I decided to speak openly about this and use my platform. The reason for my decision was triggered by a few incidents last summer, when Croatian nationalists beat up Serbian people in Croatia. At the same time, our Liberal Prime Minister was saying that the atmosphere was good and that there were just some small incidents.

I decided to illustrate that the atmosphere is good for those who don't ask difficult questions or give the wrong answers. People can be bystanders as long as they don't challenge the world they're living in. I wanted to show that even I – a 100-percent Croatian, a volunteer in the Croatian army since age of 18 - can receive death threats as a professor of History for talking about my own research. This shows that something is wrong. If I as a Christian and a veteran am receiving death threats, then how bad is it for minorities? This is the reason why I decided to share the experience of my life from the last few years with the public. Many people responded with surprise and shock when they found out that a university professor can receive so many death threats and can be attacked on the street. I want to make it more clear that this is not just incidental and that we have to do something.

JEZ: Are you able to continue with what you're doing?

HK: I decided not to be only a professor. I wanted to move into the public sphere as an intellectual. That is why I am on the TV and doing interviews, and writing columns on popular web portals. A few months ago, I wrote that it would be much easier for me to live with other people if I stop, but then I wouldn't be able to live with myself. Living in a society where I should be quiet is not a society for me. There are so many people who are supporting me and are approaching me in the street. I know that the radicals and extremists are a small, loud minority. I want to deal with the majority who is silent, to make them more sensitive – and not necessarily active as it's not for everybody to be active and brave, but at least for everyone to recognise that this is not normal. They don't have to write columns or go to the streets, but they can vote for “normal” politicians and parties and not rightists, not populist, and not extremists.

JEZ: You are still lecturing at university, so how does this topic of history being used for nationalistic and/or extremist purposes get discussed with your students? I can imagine there are still those who want to go to study history in order to celebrate their nationalism?

HK: You are right. The majority of the schoolchildren are learning through history to be patriotic and to be good Croatians. Certainly not all, but I think it's a majority. The faculty where I work can be seen as somewhat left-leaning with a majority of liberal professors. The students who choose to study at my faculty are therefore often close to my approach.

Sometimes students like to engage with me and I can see how they often get their information from fake news and false interpretations. On the other hand, when you start to talk with them and you present your case supported with arguments, then you can see that they only have opinions rather than arguments; they are always answering with, “I think…”. This is a challenge for me, because I don't want them to think like I do, I just want them to think. When everybody is wrong and we are good this is a very problematic position and with nationalists this is always the case.

JEZ: Many organizations tried to work with teachers to change the situation, so what do you think is the more difficult job: to be a historian or to be a teacher?

 HK: History teachers! Unlike professors, they have to follow the curriculum made by the government which means that they must present a certain narrative. Right now, we are looking into reforms of the school system but we do not have any political space to tackle complex questions. Why teach history? How to teach history? What should be the impact of history? Is it about making a loyal patriot and a good Croatian? For me, the aim of history teaching is to help young people to become critical thinkers and open-minded learners who could think and read and find themselves in such a complex world, but in the wider Balkan region nationalism and patriotism still dominates the curriculum.

For example, I recently met a teacher who works in a small community school. She was using new perspectives on the Wars of the 90s until one day a father of a student came with his uniform. He was a veteran of the war and he threatened the teacher to be careful with what she was saying.. It's easier for me to be brave than it is for teachers in local communities, because there is a direct connection with the families who may have lost people in those Wars.

JEZ: EuroClio has in the last 15-20 years worked with teachers to build connections, trust, and a larger network. On the other hand, there are groups, as you said, which are maybe more stuck in a “border mentality”. What would you recommend EuroClio and other international organizations to do?

HK: I do think the network building was very important, but unfortunately nothing in this region will go on if there is no top down approach as well. It would be great if some more powerful individuals and organizations are challenged and that not only schools but also universities apply more public pressure on the issue. Personally, I have started to speak more out but I was not trained on how to do this and certainly there are better and more professional ways to do it. What would I recommend? Well, to help teachers as well as academics become more visible in society, not only inside their field, encourage them to make new textbooks and materials, but also how to make public blogs, columns in portals, special posts and videos on social media, how to propose TV documentaries and raise funds or even, for example, to create a regional podcast. There is a gap! I listen to podcasts when I drive and when I run. The problem is that there is no podcast in our language! We must use these new possibilities to engage the public. We should use more historians and teachers in this region who can benefit immensely from this exposure, which is also something I would volunteer for!

 

List of projects

History in Action - Planning for the Future  https://www.euroclio.eu/project/history-action-planning-future/

Enhancing History Education and Civic Society https://www.euroclio.eu/project/enhancing-history-education-civic-society/

Football. A People’s History of Europe https://www.euroclio.eu/project/football-a-peoples-history-of-europe/

History that Connects https://www.euroclio.eu/project/history-that-connects/

Once Upon a Time…We Lived Together (Advisor and Trainer) https://www.euroclio.eu/resource/29666/

[1] Ordinary People in Extraordinary Country; Cooperation between historians from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia was established through joint project “Improvement of teaching history and civil society in the region” in 2004 and continued through 2007 in the project “History at work - preparation for the future of BiH, Croatia and Serbia”. The idea for the joint project originated from European Association of History Teachers - EuroClio, which initiated establishment of history teachers associations in Croatia and BiH and connected them to the Association in Serbia. The goal of the project is to support the development of teaching history and civil society in the said countries, as well as to promote the cooperation, development of critical thinking and mutual understanding, promotion of peace, stability and democracy in the region.

How can Europe Help the Balkans “Consume” its History?

EuroClio Uncategorized ,

On 18 December, EuroClio headed to Brussels along with partners at Centre for Democracy and
Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) and the International Students of History Association
(ISHA) to discuss the difficult and proven at times controversial question of ‘How can Europe Help the
Balkans “Consume” its History?’ This event was hosted at the House of European History and during the
full day event a range of questions were explored regarding the issues facing Southeast Europe today:
What is the European Union’s role in healing the wounds of the 1990s wars in ex-Yugoslavia? How can
History teachers in the region teach about the wars when it still such a controversial subject matter?
How does a nation or region actually “consume” it’s history?

The day started off with a panel with delegations from the European Union including Davide Berton,
Diego Marani, Pavel Tychtl and Walter Zampieri who discussed the EU’s relationship with culture and
history in the Western Balkans, a speech by Costa Carras from CDRSEE, and preliminary research results
presented by Lucija Balikic from ISHA. Throughout the day two separate study results were released;
EuroClio’s Dea Maric and Rodoljub Jovanović presented the report from our ePact project: Education
Partnership for Advocacy, Capacity-Building and Transformation.

Researchers Anja Gvozdanović and Vanja Kukrika from the project “Divided Past, Joint Future”
presented their results from a qualitative study on the Process of Reconciliation in the Western Balkans
and Turkey.”

The day was characterized by lively debate and interesting discussion by international participants on
the role of history in the process of peace and reconciliation in Southeast Europe. If you want to read more about the event in Brussels, click here to read the full report.

Documentary and educational plans: War and Peace in the Balkans

EuroClio Partners , ,

The First World War is associated in people’s minds with the millions who died on the Western Front. In the Balkans, however, war was not waged in the trenches; it passed through towns and villages, radically changing people’s lives. Through rare film archives and expert testimonies, the documentary War & Peace in the Balkans depicts the dramatic changes that swept through the lives of the inhabitants of the Balkans, from Bosnia and Serbia to Bulgaria, Greece and the Ottoman Empire. One hundred years after World War I, the film gives a landmark reassessment of the region’s history, by overcoming national narratives of the war and reaching a common history of the war from a regional ‘Balkan’ perspective.

The film can be licenced for school use here or ordered on DVD from Anemon Productions. An educational programme for children is available for free download in 5 languages from here.
In addition to the documentary, War and Peace in the Balkans consists of a touring exhibition that was in Athens, Thessaloniki, Budapest, Sarajevo and Belgrade. For more information visit the website. The project was produced by Anemon Productions for the Goethe-Institut Athen.

Documenta Active at International seminar on Balkan, Holocaust and the Jews

From 13-16 May 2015 an international seminar for history teachers from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina on “Balkan, Holocaust and the Jews“ was held in Zagreb and Jasenovac, Croatia.  The seminar was organized by Mémorial de la Shoah from Paris in cooperation with Croatian Teacher Training Agency, Ministry of Education of Republic of Serbia and Jasenovac Memorial Site, with the support of European Commission (“Europe for Citizens” program) and Claims Conference. The seminar combined workshops, study tours and lectures on topics of anti-Semitism in the Balkans, Holocaust on the territory of Yugoslavia (1941-1945), culture of memory, and history textbooks in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Marko Smokvina from the Documenta-Center for Dealing with the Past presented the project „My Place through Time“ which deals with the legacy of WWII and the Holocaust in three local communities in Croatia (Čakovec, Dubrovnik, Pula).

Stop to Teach History or More Multiperspectivity? EuroClio Ambassador Klaus Bjerre Reports from Skopje Conference on Historiography and History Education

This report below written by EuroClio Ambassador Klaus Bjerre (Denmark) 

History in the Balkans is dominated by political history. The nation is often seen as a collective agent that has aspired to freedom, sovereignty,and welfare since the very beginning of history. Some aspects of élite culture are included in textbooks, but social and economic history are mostly marginalized. Social history can show that the ethnicities in the Balkans have a lot in common, but textbooks tend to be seen as an instrument for strengthening national consciousness, rather than something that should help young people to have knowledge and values that can help them to live in a multicultural society. Common to the narratives is the claim that the now existing nationalities originated at the time of the birth of humanity, and that the in-group is a victim, the out-group a perpetrator. THEY occupy – WE liberate; WE inhabit – THEY colonize.

Historiography and History Education in the South Slavic- and Albanian-Speaking Regions was the theme at a Conference held in early June in Skopje. The organizers were the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Braunschweig), the Institute for National History (Skopje), and the Institute for Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of the Albanians (Skopje). (ed. Conference is part of this project)

The central theme was Slavic narratives about Albanians, and Albanian narratives about Slavs, in textbooks as well as in academic literature. Narratives from both Albania and Serbia were included, but as the conference was in Skopje, it was natural that Macedonian and Albanian narratives from Macedonia were in focus (Albanians constitute more than a quarter of the population in Macedonia).

Dragi Gjorgiev, from the Macedonian Institute for National History, stated that history teaching in Macedonia lacks a critical dimension, as well as pupils’ activity and involvement. He referred to Joke van der Leeuw-Roord’s report from 2012 “A Key to Unlock the Past, History Education in Macedonia” (ed. which was part of a EuroClio/ANIM Project on History Education) and said that much too little had been improved in recent years.

Teachers in Macedonian schools must choose chapters from the textbooks in order to limit the contents. The result is that ethnic Macedonian students are told an ethnic Macedonian narrative, while Albanian students are told an Albanian narrative (the schools are segregated). Since the 1990s, most derogatory terms have been removed, but the texts still harbor lots of implicit stereotypes and prejudices. Teachers are not allowed to teach any period after 1991.
A lot of time in lessons is spent on “questions and answers”, memorizing the textbook, instead of on discussion or inquiry within the subject matter.
The history curriculum is the only Macedonian curriculum that has not been changed in the last decade. There is a so-called ‘moratorium’, because the issue is politically sensitive.

Textbooks in Albania are ethnocentric as well. Most are written by the same authors who wrote the textbooks in the era of Enver Hoxha. The ideological content has been altered, but much of the structure is the same. The Illyrians had state traditions before the Romans came, the Slavs were barbarians who colonized the Illyrian area and assimilated the northern Illyrians, etc., etc.

At one point, a participant asked rhetorically “Wouldn’t it be better to stop teaching history?” This may reflect widespread pessimism, but one positive aspect was that the participants in the conference unanimously agreed on the need for improvement in history teaching. More multiperspectivity. More social history should be included in textbooks. The tradition of reproduction and learning by heart should be changed. It may be hard work to change textbooks and curricula but, as professor Eckhardt Fuchs (Georg Eckert Institute) said in a concluding remark: use your influences wherever you are, speak out and form strong networks.

The full overview of the project’s activities and outcomes can be found here: https://albanianlanguagetextbooks.wordpress.com/