The Role of History Teaching

First of all, allow me, to thank the organisers of this meeting for their initiative and hospitality in this historic city of Prague.

One of the biggest problems in our country is the long- standing issue of history teaching.

How can we teach history bearing in mind the traditional factors in two communities ?. The people are separated by borders and fear for one another. Who is responsible for the necessary changes which are needed to be put forward?

Is the political leadership the main factor responsible that has led the Cyprus society in this deadlock?

Is the system of education so powerful, so that to constantly reproducing the stereotypes of the past?

Whoever responsible, the hard issue is very clear.

The historical events in the recent Cyprus history are interpreted from onesides position, never opening the question of the “other side”.

In the Greek Cypriot community ,there prevails a high ethnocentric approach. Everything which is ours is good, everything in blue colour is excellent. In this way we believe, – that in end of the day our nation is the center of the world, and the “others” especially the Turks are coming from hell .

The stereotypes prevail, the complete absence of communication help’s the myths to create a circle of fears. Furthermore, the other factor that form our public opinion remain immovable. The Greek orthodox church, f.e ., analyses the society via the byzantine dichotomous approach.

“We are the friends of the god, they are the enemies of the same god”.

In the Turkish Cypriot community the main obstacle is coming from Ankara and especially its “deep state”. At Turkish schools at any level there is a kind of military lesson under the title “security lesson”. Under these circumstances the ability of the new generation to hear different things or to exchange different views is very limited. The “security lesson” must get out of the Turkish curricula, as a concrete step creating more open atmosphere at the Turkish schools.

In this respect ,the ethnocentrism is a clear obstacle in the effort to put forward new issues on the agenda. The European way of Cyprus is in front of us and is an attractive way for everyone. How can we overcome these traditional and especially political problems?

Is it now the time to discuss these sensitive issues? In my opinion, every time is time for progress, so I will try presenting the main problems as follows:

It is an illusion to believe that history can be written in the same manner, or from the same point of view that has been written until today. So, what can be done?

We can start to present ,in any case, the “others truth”, the point of view of the others, what the “enemies” believe on the same issue. For example, it is very important to run in this way of history teaching because the Cyprus people have different approaches. So, the school history curricula, textbooks and teachers ignore the reality about some parts of social activities. We have different approaches especially about a number of historical issues.. This is no treason. It’s a method of overcoming the very heavy weight of history. The European way teaches the co-existence of different ethnic groups.

Teaching, learning, discussing diversity means we decide to live together, in a multi – ethnic and multi – cultural societies which is the main characteristic of today’s Europe. The comparative teaching method is the most appropriate for our “special issue”. Those who believe that we can continue to imposed our “clear truth” to the other side, they simply vote for the continuation of this unacceptable situation. We are the only one country in Europe with foreign army dividing our people in two parts.

This type of teaching history and this type of social approach help the development of critical thinking, of understanding of past, and of tolerance to the others. Many of the traditional approaches have got the same motto regarding history’s teaching. If we get into pluralistic interpretations , this process would change the students “mentality” and , surely ,the different opinions will confuse pupils. In my opinion this is what we need: many different ideas, pluralistic interpretations.

We can go this way by using the European process as a historical umbrella for both sides. The Franco – German rapprochement remains as a catalyst for the political elite of Cyprus

Who will take the initiatives?

The politicians, the teachers, or the spiritual leadership as a whole?

I have no answer about these questions. I’m sure that we have to discuss the hard issues without having the fear of what the funs of the status quo would say. The theory of “patriotism on duty” was created during the “Cold War” period, and divided our country into two parts.. Now we have a new open duty ahead of us. Left policies are the policies for peace. When we work creating new opportunities for peace, we, at the same time, work for our common European vision. The South Africa’s experiment has been successful. A special committee had be en created and took the initiative to talk to those who participated in so many crimes against humanity under the apart – hide system.

Because of the backing of the government, because of the open and clear support by Nelson Mantela, the committee helped to change the factors that were responsible for this anti – democratic system.

As a result, the atmosphere has changed and the transformation from one system to the other was completed peacefully. The Anan’s plan to solve the Cyprus issue provided a “Special Committee” in order to create a new relation between the two communities in Cyprus.

It is a high time to extract some special provisions, for example the paragraph for the “special committee” as mentioned above, to work on this today, to proceed with, in the coming months.

The hard issues are in front of us. How can we start? We can start without delay discussing the “lesson from the past”. Maybe this lesson is the most useful for the coming days.

It would be the cornerstone for our creative future.

The happy days are based on a clear past, not on a closed one. The history’s horse , usual , runs very slow. So, I’m optimistic.

The events after the 23d of April 2003 gave us the best lesson in our recent history. We have the duty to seize the opportunity for a lasting ,and viable solution to the Cyprus issue, based on the Anan’s Plan.

Larkos Larkou