The 1990s

Starting from 1990 three new positive phenomena appeared vis-a-vis history teaching and textbooks. Globalization played a role in this. First, international and local organizations involved themselves in this domain and made their views heard. Second, the issue was thoroughly discussed in conferences at local and international level. And third, Greek and Turkish historians met and exchanged views on history teaching and textbooks.

UNESCO organized and/or supported meetings where mostly representatives of the Balkan countries discussed textbooks with the goal to improve them. In the conference, Cyprus in Textbooks-Textbooks in Cyprus, organized by the Georg Eckert Institute in Braunschweig on 27-30 April 1994, academics from Greece and Turkey had the opportunity for the first time to discuss textbooks and history teaching. The Georg Eckert Institute published two volumes, one on the French Revolution and textbooks worldwide and one on Balkan textbooks (Hopken, 1996; Riemenschneider, 1994). An international conference in Greece in 1994, Ethnocentrism and Education., organized by the University of Athens, Department of Preschool Education, brought together many academics who discussed, among other topics, Greek and Turkish textbooks. A conference titled History Teaching and Textbooks was organized in Izmir, Turkey, in 1994 and an international one in Istanbul in 1995 titled, History Education and the Other in History, organized by the Economic and Social History Foundation of Turkey. The meeting notes of both conferences were published in Turkish (Ozbaran, 1995). This second meeting was actually a Greek-Turkish encounter since the Greeks and the Turks formed two groups with eight participants each. Another symposium, Turkish-German relations through Texbooks, was organized in Istanbul in 1997 by the Goethe Institut, Georg Eckert and the History Foundation of Turkey. The same year, in an international conference in Thessaloniki, Culture and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe, Greek textbooks and history teaching were among the topics discussed.

Various books appeared in this decade on history teaching and textbooks as well in Greece and Turkey (e.g. Copeaux, 1998; Frangoudaki & Dragona, 1997; Kaplan, 1999; Kokkinos, 1998; Ozbaran, 1992; Tekeli, 1998). Loris Koulapis wrote his PhD dissertation, The Appearance of the Ottoman History in the Schoolbooks ofGreece and Turkey. Similarities and Differences of Two Opposing Nationalisms (Koulapis, 1993). This is one of the rare comparative studies with an insight in the tendencies of the two nations to interpret history differently.

In other words, during the decade of 1990, discussions on history teaching and history school books gained a new impetus. These issues attracted the attention of academics more systematically. Also agents, institutes, and foundations active in history teaching and peace initiatives organized meetings where representatives of the various countries met to exchange views. The internationalization of these matters had a positive impact. The media dealt with these issues too. All these developments created a new milieu where a new critical perspective appeared. The new tendency was an explicit criticism of ethnocentrism, stereotyping, and nationalism that prevailed in history education in Greece and Turkey. In other words, it was in this decade that the traditional and dominant nationalist efforts to produce history textbooks and to enforce history education with nation-building in mind were challenged systematically. This was made possible and more influential by the participation and encouragement of international institutes and agents as mentioned above. Actually history teaching in Greece and Turkey in these years had been internationalized, thus making it a problem that interested people that lived outside the national borders of these two countries as well.

One of the reasons of this rather sudden interest and affluence in critical approach vis-a-vis nationalist history teaching was the academic input in this decade. The publications of Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson, which tried to give a historical meaning to nations and nationalism, had an impact in Greece and Turkey. Up to that time the “critical views” against nationalism were mostly inspired by Marxist historians and were targeted against “nationalist wars” and prejudices related to the “other”, actions which were perceived as “alienation”. In this period, class struggles were considered as the genuine efforts that paved the way for “normal” social developments. Books such as Nations and Nationalism (Gellner, 1983) and Imagined Communities (Anderson, 1983) reinterpreted the historical phenomenon of nationhood: nations, nation-building, and nationalism were presented as social movements that could be studied and understood; not readily discarded as anomalies.

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