EUSTORY Network Meeting 2016
From 27 April to 1 May, EUSTORY competition organisers gathered in Moscow for their Annual Network Meeting. The conference was hosted by The MEMORIAL Society Moscow, a non-governmental organisation focusing on history, education and human rights, and coordinator of the Russian history competition. Representatives from the EUSTORY member countries discussed the potential of different reference points for historical analysis and education in the EUSTORY history competitions throughout Europe.
Europe’s history in the first half of the 20th century is marked by the suffering that two world wars brought over the continent and the world and during which the European states were profoundly hostile to each other. Yet the history of Europe also unites the countries of the continent if you look at the peace processes after the wars and the growing together after the break down of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain. In the individual countries and among the European countries there is some disagreement about the history. There are disputes about the interpretation of the events and about the lessons learned. When nationally oriented trends use interpretations of the past to fight for a withdrawal from the European idea and for the strengthening of the nation-state, a dangerous dispute about history may be looming.
At their annual network meeting in Moscow, EUSTORY organisers experienced first hand how history can polarise. The conference was clouded by, in the true sense of the word, close contact in the battle for sovereignty in interpreting history in Russia: Nationalists attacked guests as they were entering the House of Cinematography to attend the Russian history competiton.
Among the victims were EUSTORY competition organisers and the Russian writer and competition juror Ljudmila J. Ulitzkaja. Inspite of this incident the award ceremony went ahead as planned. The German and Polish Embassadors explicitly expressed their solidarity with the Russian competition and its aims.
Before the ceremony, EUSTORY competition organisers had time to talk to the Russian awardees who presented their research during a very intense seminar week spent together in Moscow. The history competition “Man in History - Russia in the 20th century” has been organised by the human rights organisation MEMORIAL since 1999.
The annual meeting of EUSTORY member organisations brings together active institutions engaging in historical-political education from twenty-five European countries. In Moscow, representatives of these organisations addressed the challenges of one-sided representation and propagandistic use of history and worked on strategies to counteract the nationalist tendencies in public historiography through education. „Especially for the young generation it is important to see history as a discourse which opposes tendencies to put up walls and which frees oneself from nationally focused self pride.” This is how one history competition organiser explains the shared EUSTORY approach. The meeting made again clear that the strength of the network is to create space for an equal exchange and to learn from experiences from different countries.
Being in Moscow, the group disputed about country-specific interpretations of the past during the visit of an international school book exhibit that was presented in the rooms of MEMORIAL. Using the second world war as an example, the exhibit portrayed how much national considerations of the common European history can diverge from one another in school books of different countries.
By offering history competitions for pupils and follow-up offers for young Europeans within the scope of the History Campus, the EUSTORY network intends to stimulate an open and differentiated approach to Europe’s history. The aim of this network is to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation among European citizens, organisations and nations when it comes to the common past.