Studying the history rather than rewriting

International school of historians brings together students and teachers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, in Minsk

International school of historians brings together students and teachers
International school of historians brings together students and teachers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, in Minsk


Inside the workings of school life

This year’s forum of historians was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War. Vyacheslav Danilovich, Director of the History Institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, tells us, “Such meetings, which bring us together to share the results of our research and our opinions, and to discuss problems, are very important. Preserving our historical memory, as well as objectively and impartially outlining events, is especially vital.”

It’s no secret that, from the moment of finally destroying fascist Germany, there were attempts to reinterpret the role of the USSR in World War II. This issue is especially relevant today, 70 years on. History isn’t just being suppressed; it’s being re-written in favour of a political situation. It’s an issue of dignity to defend the truth and honour the memory of our ancestors. It’s vital that young historians join our forum, shaping how their children and grandchildren will see the world.

Belarus cherishes the tragic memories brought to light over the past year. The huge volume of literature and scientific research shared is proof of interest, with Russian colleagues praising Belarusian work in this sphere.

Participants visit Trostenets Memorial

Victor Ishchenko, the Deputy Director for Scientific Work at the World History Institute (part of the Russian Academy of Sciences), tells us, “Meetings of historians from post-Soviet countries were launched in 2003 but only held sporadically. Since 2007, our forums have been held annually and organised in various capitals. This is the second meeting in Minsk. We’re always eager to come here and are very grateful to our colleagues from Belarus for their huge contribution to the study of the history of the Great Patriotic War, the history of the USSR and, even, the history of the Russian Empire.”

The meeting was held under the slogan ‘The Soviet Union in the Second World War: Acute Problems of History and Historical Memory’. History and historical memory differ slightly, explains Mr. Ishchenko, saying, “Each nation and state has its own ideas about an event. Historical memory, like human memory, is selective. WWII events aren’t unambiguous. For example, Poles feel the loss of the ‘eastern territories’, which they believe to be theirs. Everyone has their own position.”

Theoretically, history, as a science, should be single; however, it is not mathematics, where twice two is four. Historians yet believe that a unified viewpoint is needed: a consensus uniting us rather than dividing. Over the last 5-10 years, such terms as ‘historical policy’ have appeared, describing the purposeful manipulation of historical facts.

We aim for a common approach towards our common history, since post-Soviet space nations are connected not only by their USSR history but by a far more remote past. As in all big families, not everything goes smoothly and misunderstandings do occur, as do conflicts. Nevertheless, to settle everything and reach a common decision, we need to make time for discussion. Schools of historians provide the perfect venue for this.

By Olga Bebenina

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