The 1980s

Nikos H. Ahlis followed by publishing in Greek his study on Greek history textbooks and “our neighboring peoples, the Bulgarians and Turks” in 1983. His content analysis reaffirmed the demonization of the “other” through education and he ended his 73-page study by recommending fighting prejudices in schoolbooks and in education in general to “accomplish peace” (Ahlis, 1983). On the Turkish side, Turker Alkan published his study comparing the Turkish textbooks with those of France, Germany, and Italy (Alkan, 1982).

During the decade of 1980, the Greeks were more active in the field of textbook analysis. The reaction to the conservative/ethnocentric schoolbooks was accompanied by efforts of producing exemplary textbooks. Two initiatives are of importance. The renowned historian L. Stavrianos was assigned by the newly elected Socialist Pasok government to produce a “world history”. The textbook, History of the Human Kind, an exemplary book distant from ethnocentrism, was taught only for a year and was withdrawn upon fierce protests from the political opposition, the Church of Greece and conservative circles (Stavrianos 1984). History war had started in Greece. In 1985 a second attempt was initiated by historian Vassilis Kremydas. The textbook, Modern and Contemporary History, Greek, European, Global, presented Greek history within a broader historical frame of European and World history and did not include national myths and stereotypes. The book was also strongly criticized as anti-national and anti-clerical by conservative groups. It was finally withdrawn in 1991. Another initiative produced more lasting results. A group of Greek historians produced a five-volume textbook series during the years 1982-1985 to be used in private education. These books covered world history through the emphasis on the Greek history and were not characterized with the usual shortcoming of the Greek textbooks: they were balanced in deciding hierarchies, in evaluating past events, and using an impartial language (Kremidas et al., 1982-1985).

Up to this date the general characteristic of textbook analysis in both Greece and Turkey was self-criticism. Each presented the prejudices, the myths, the stereotypes, and the nationalistic discourses that existed in their “own” textbooks. There were two more distinctive features in this textbook opposition: (a) Most of the criticism came from Marxist (or leftist) historians and (b) Indirectly, the mainstream historiography which was mainly nationalistic was targeted, too. This kind of textbook criticism triggered a nationalistic counter-reaction. On both sides of the Aegean there was an effort to show that “strengthening patriotism” through education was required and that in matters of education and schoolbooks the “other side” is the problematic one. The history war in this decade passed the national borders and became part of bilateral skirmishes.

Some Turks and Greeks “studied” the schoolbooks of the other side and concluded that the “other” was distorting history producing negative feelings against “us”. In the years 1986-1988, two Greek books by Simeon Soltaridis and a series of articles by Cem Emre in the Turkish newspaper Zaman are examples of this criticism. These publications are characterized by a one-sided selective approach where the other was demonized, at the same time combined with a systematic silencing of “our shortcomings” (Emre, 1988; Soltaridis, 1986, 1987).

The first comparative analysis of Greek and Turkish textbooks appeared also during this decade in Turkish, Greek, and English (Millas, 1987, 1988, 1991). The textbooks presented astonishing similarities. They praised the “self’ (“our” nation) which was victorious and benevolent all through history, belittled the “other” as barbarous, cruel, and so on, and silenced “our” dark role in history. The human history was presented as a war history. These textbooks were a mere mirror image of each other.

It was during this decade that textbooks started being studied more systematically and academically. A PhD thesis on schoolbooks appeared for the first time in Greece. Christina Koulouri published two books related to her studies, one in Greek and the second in French (Koulouri, 1988, 1991). These were relevant to the Greek education in the period 1834-1914 and showed that eth- nocentrism and nationalist approaches were persistent over time. A study of the same kind, where the past of the Greek educational system is examined in detail, is the book Education and Teaching of Girls, Greek Problematics (1830-1910) (Fournaraki, 1987), sponsored by the Greek state. Salih Ozbaran, a Turkish historian who was very active in textbook criticism in the 1990s, published some of his first related articles in 1987 (Ozbaran, 1987). It becomes apparent from the above that the decade of 1980 was characterized with a series of fights on history teaching and specifically on history textbooks. There was a history war between the (mostly Marxist) left/liberals and the right/conservative groups within Greece; in Turkey there was not a reaction on this topic within the country itself. Next, there was a controversy between the two countries which blamed each other for the textbooks “of the other which did not contribute to peace”. Finally, textbook criticism also attained another dimension: indirectly it triggered criticism against the existing official historiography which was almost in tune with the textbooks (Millas, 2008). The difference between academic historiography and “textbook history” was neither in the content nor in the evaluation of the past, but on style and language used. The discourse in schoolbooks was meant for children and the language was naturally simpler.

The textbook controversy was mainly political and ideological. The same ideological clashes occurred during this decade in other countries, such as Estonia, Germany, the USA, Mexico, and Spain (Carretero, 2011). The Berlin wall was still intact and the left-right controversy was in the fore worldwide. The limited cooperation of the Greeks and the Turks with international agen?cies, the universities, and institutions active in history teaching around Europe was an additional factor which limited the scope of history teaching criticism to political concerns neglecting the pedagogical side of this problem. In the following decade this situation changed and some encouraging developments were experienced.

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