South-East Europe Textbook Network
States and Regions
Recent Publications

Dijana Plut et al. (eds), Warfare, Patriotism, Patriarchy: The analysis of elementary school textbooks, Belgrade: Centre for Anti-War Action & Association, 1994.
Wolfgang Höpken (ed.), Öl ins Feuer? - Oil on Fire? Schulbücher, ethnische Stereotypen und Gewalt in Südosteuropa - Textbooks, Ethnic Stereotypes and Violence in South-Eastern Europe, Studien zur Internationalen Schulbuchforschung, Vol. 89, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1996.
International Conference Thessaloniki, Association for Democracy in the Balkans (ed.), Culture and Reconciliation in South-East Europe, Greece, June 26-29, 1997, Thessaloniki: paratiritis, 1997.
Balkan Colleges Foundation (ed.),The Image of the Other - Analysis of the High-School Textbooks in History from the Balkan Countries, Sofia: Balkan Colleges Foundation, 1998.

The historian Marc Ferro wrote: "We should not deceive ourselves: the image of the other peoples or our own image, the one that lives in our souls, depends on how we were taught history when we were children. This remains imprinted in our memory for life" Is that so? As a German textbook author said"(1), Most of all you [textbook writers] suffer from the uncertainty of what you are really causing by writing a textbook"(2). On the other hand, as Wolfgang Höpken wrote, "Textbooks and education in general have their limits, but this of course, should not prevent us from demanding textbooks that encourage reconciliation."(3)

What has been done?
The first step in that direction was to find out what kinds of images and facts history textbooks use. Unlike politicians in South-East Europe, historians and some scholars have made great efforts to "diagnose" the condition of regional textbooks in past and present. Two projects were developed at the beginning of this examination, in 1993: the analysis of elementary school textbooks in Serbia (Center for Antiwar Action and the MOST Group, Belgrade) and the symposium "National Stereotypes and Prejudices in School Textbooks and Popular Literature of South-East Europe" (Georg Eckert Institute, Braunschweig).
The results of the Belgrade project were published in 1994. The textbooks examined were not only history textbooks, but elementary school readers and primers as well. Such an enlargment of the research field proved to be fruitful, for elementary readers are the first (and often only) contact with national and world culture (literature in the first place). In addition, elementary textbooks (including history textbooks) have a crucial influence on the determination of socialization patterns, on attitudes toward war and peace, one´s own and other nations and gender roles. Dijana Plut raises the general question of the nature of school socialization and "cultural reproduction", offering concrete findings on the type of socialization models.
Ružica Rosandic endeavors in her text to follow changes in the transformation of national and patriotic feelings as promoted in school textbooks. Vesna Pesic argues that Serbian elementary school readers give emphasis to a bellicose model of socialization. Isidora Jaric finds that patriarchal models are solidly rooted in elementary school primers and readers.
As for the history textbooks, the most instructive contribution in this volume is written by Dubravka Stojanovic. It is an elaborated analysis of single-minded reductions and misinterpretations of historical reality. The reduction of history to politics and wars creates room for para-historical explanations which are seductive in their simplicity. The national past is idealized and instrumentalized. Dubravka Stojanovic warns: "The textbooks are not a place for a continuation of war".(4)

Oil on Fire, published in 1996, encompasses results of two conferences held by the Georg Eckert Institute. Historians, ethnologists, political scientists and educationalists met 1993 and 1996 in order to talk about the perilous transformation from Fremdbild (image of the other) to Feindbild (image of the enemy), which seemingly occurred in many textbooks from South-East Europe. For example, the image of the Greek in Bulgarian textbooks remained one-sided even after the changes in 1989. The basic perception of national history in Macedonian textbooks was one of successive enslavements, oppressions and injustices committed by Macedonia's neighbours. The illustrations of Balkan Wars in Turkish textbooks depicted only the sufferings of Turkish civilians and Bulgarian atrocities. As for ex-Yugoslavia, "it is also not very likely that the current post-Yugoslav textbooks will contribute to educating people in the spirit of a rapprochment on the basis of a civic society." The only improvement was noticed in current Greek textbooks.(5)

In the following year, 1997, the book Culture and Reconciliation in South-East Europe appeared in Thessaloniki under the imprint of the Association for Democracy in the Balkans. The first part of the book is devoted to the potential role of education.(6) Besides the already mentioned text by Höpken, interesting new ideas on textbook writing are presented in contributions by Hercules Millas, Evangelos Kofos and Büsra Ersanli Behar. Millas proposes the writing of a concise Greek/Turkish history based on a modern concept of the "nation" for educational purposes as well as for the layman. Kofos presents an elaborate blueprint of the research project, "Long Duration CBMs in the Balkans: Re-assessment of the Role of History and Geography Textbooks." According to Kofos, "the omens for meaningful cooperation look brighter in the southern tier of the Peninsula." Bilal expresses the unusual attitude that historical myths are necessary for a sense of belonging at various levels of social life, but believes that they have to be refined. "Myth and method should be coupled" concludes Bilal.(7)

Last but not least, a book entitled The Image of the Other was published in 1998 in Sofia as the result of a research project financed by the European Community under PHARE and TACIS Democracy Program. This book contains an inspiring introduction by Tzvetan Tzvetanski and six contributions dealing with the image of the "other" in diverse Balkan history textbooks: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Turkish and Romanian. The book also presents a very interesting experiment in the mode of "virtual history" ( students were asked to vote for one of two options concerning big political decisions in Bulgarian history). Finally, this book offers a concise list of mutually (or even in some cases multilaterally) disputed historical heroes and events. Whose heroes are Alexander the Great, Janos Hunyadi, Cyril and Methodius? Who is a "liberator", who is a "conqueror"? This book is an important guide for locating such "trouble points" which generate dissonance in historical consciousness.

What is missing?
Undoubtedly, the importance of these four books cannot be overestimated. They are a solid foundation for future research. Precisely for that reason, one should point at unexplored fields. First of all, some countries are missing, while others are overrepresented. Out of 33 works, eight have a regional or comparative perspective, five have a general regional perspective, two compare the situation in the ex-Yugoslavian republics, and one compares educational conditions in Greece and Turkey. Particular countries are concerned, as far as one study is about Yugoslavia before 1941, eight are dealing with Serbia alone, six with Bulgaria, four studies examine Turkish textbooks and literature, two study the case of Greece, two are devoted to Macedonian and one to Romanian history textbooks. One article has a didactic perspective. There is no single work on Albanian or on Kosovo-Albanian textbooks. Croatian and Bosnian textbooks are covered only in articles dealing with all of ex-Yugoslavia (written by Höpken). If one classifies the authors by country, coverage is more uneven: in that case, we see that there are no authors from Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania. Fortunately, its seems that the situation is improving. At the Visby Conference in September 1999, one could already see representatives of the previously "missing" academic communities. The second, relatively unexplored, but promising research area is a multidisciplinary approach, which would primarily search for connection with literature and geography textbooks. First steps have been already made by such authors as Hercules Millas, Evangelos Kofos, Ružica Rosandic, Vesna Pesic, Dijana Plut and Isidora Jaric. At the end, one can conclude that the historians involved in all these projects did their best to defeat stereotypes and prejudices. But historians and textbook writers cannot alone implement this message of reconciliation and understanding. As two of our authors wrote: "Responsibility, therefore, is not only upon the creators of the curricula, textbooks, and not even on the science all of these should be based on." and: "The necessary condition for all this [...] is that political elites are interested in having a society which by the means of critical reflection on the past is also able to critically access the present - something politicians, not only in the Balkans, are often not very fond of."

(1)Marc Ferro, How History is Told to the Children in the Different Countries of the World. M. 1992, 8, cited after Vasko.Arnaudov, The Image of "The Other" on the Balkans Through the Serbian Textbooks of History, in: Balkan Colleges Foundation, p. 49.
(2)Quoted in: Wolfgang Höpken, Textbooks and Reconciliation in South Eastern Europe, in: Association for Democracy in the Balkans, Culture and Reconciliation, p. 68.
(4)Dubravka Stojanovic, History Textbooks Mirror their Time, in: Plut, Warfare, Patriotism, Patriarchy, pp. 81-110.
(5)Cf. the articles in Höpken, Oil on Fire: on Bulgaria and Macedonia by Sofia Vouri, p.78 and 209; on Turkey by Erel Erpulat, p.221; on ex-Yugoslavia by Wolfgang Höpken, p.120; on Greece by Irene Lagani, p. 232.
(6)It contains contributions by Maria Todorova, Wolfgang Höpken, Hercules Millas, Evangelos Kofos and Büsra Ersanli Behar, Culture and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe, pp. 11-97.
(7)Millas, Ibid., pp. 81-84; Kofos, Ibid., pp. 85-90, Ersanli Behar, Ibid., pp. 90-97.
(8)Stojanovic, Oil on Fire, p. 135.
(9)Höpken, Culture and Reconciliation, p. 79.

Predrag J. Markovic
Institute for Contemporary History
Trg Nikole Pasica 11 11 000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia