South-Eastern European Joint History Project
Workshop II: Teaching Cyprus - in search of tolerance and understanding
Pyla, Cyprus, 28-29 February, 2000
The aim of the Workshop was to investigate: (a) How the two Cypriot communities are mutually presented in their respective history textbooks with regard to a shared and/or conflictual past; (b) How Cyprus is presented in Greek and Turkish textbooks and what is its place within the framework of Greek-Turkish historical relations; (c) The possibilities of a revised view of a common past both for the two Cypriot communities and for Greece and Turkey. The Workshop was chaired by Professor Halil Berktay, associate professor of history at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.
Two introductory addresses were extended: The first by Mr. Costas Carras, responsible for the Joint History Project, who presented the aims of the project, underlining the importance of history teaching in schools for the transmission to young people of ideas and representations about their nation and the other nations, in view of peace and collaboration. The second by Ms Alison Cardwell, Administrator on Educational Policies at the Directorate General II of the Council of Europe, who made a presentation of the Council of Europe's efforts in the Russian Federation on the reform of history teaching and the preparation of new history textbooks in view of peace and collaboration among neighbouring countries. An interesting example was presented concerning new thematic history books, such as 'History of the Black Sea' or 'Caucasian History', as an alternative to the national history textbooks, in order to avoid the bias of a nationalistic conception of history.
Participants had received ahead of time a questionnaire investigating the way Cyprus and its history are presented in the Greek-Cypriot, Turkish-Cypriot, Greek and Turkish curricula and textbooks. Most of the presentations represented the answers to the questionnaire.
Session I: Cyprus in Cyprus
The main programme started with the presentation by the post graduate student Mr Loris Koullapis (Greek-Cypriot) of a critical analysis of the Greek-Cypriot history textbooks. His analysis showed how the Greek-Cypriot textbooks lay emphasis on the hellenisation of the island in the 12th century BC and construct an unbroken (hellenised) continuity from that time up to the present. The Republic of Cyprus has been functioning since 1963, in educational and ideological matters, as a second Greek national state. Through the educational system, it has been receiving ideology and history perception emanating from Athens for the ideological needs of the Greek state.
Then followed a presentation, by the teacher and researcher Mr Ulus Irkad (Turkish-Cypriot), of biases in history books with regard to the documentation and memories of violence and bloodshed between Cypriots of the two communities in the past. He chose to present a specific event that took place in March 1964 and how it was interpreted by the two communities in their official discourse. They both refrained from giving an objective interpretation of the facts. They both tried to prove how justified they were in acting in the manner they did, and to teach it to their children accordingly.
Mr Muharrem Faiz (Turkish-Cypriot) presented a critical analysis of the Turkish history textbooks introduced and taught in the Turkish-Cypriot schools.
The last paper before discussion was given by Dr Neshe Yashin (Turkish-Cypriot at the University of Cyprus) on symbolism and rituals in Turkish-Cypriot schools. She showed how school rituals in several Turkish-Cypriot schools, photographs of atrocities and nationalist poetry operate as a means of reproducing the paradigm of conflict and justifying the status quo.
The discussion focused mainly on two issues: (a) The great similarities the nationalistic discourse has (both in the cases presented and in all other countries) in always presenting the national self as a victim of other parties' action, and without any responsibility for negative facts, through silences, omissions, and a very partial view of the past. (b) The bias of national identity in both the Greek-Cypriot and the Turkish-Cypriot communities, where the Cypriot common identity is over-determined by the ethnic Greek and Turkish one.
The programme continued with the following presentations. Sia Anagnostopoulou, assistant professor at the University of Cyprus, presented a paper on the propagation of conflictual national memory in Cyprus. She analysed the negative effects on students' conception of history caused by the a-historical dimension of time, presented as eternal, as far as the narration of national history is concerned. Moreover, she laid emphasis on the memory of being a victim which is perpetually propagated to the Greek-Cypriots, a memory of national injustice which ultimately relieves the population of the responsibility vis ࠶is history.
Dr Nergis Canefe, research associate at the London School of Economics, presented some of the results of a research project among Turkish-Cypriot immigrants in the UK, concerning the presence of the Ottoman Empire in their discourse, appearing to be a legitimation of their identity. She examined how the two legacies (Turkish nationalist and Western orientalist) affect the Turkish-Cypriot nationalist discourse, and in particular the articulation of the premises of a 'just' and 'good' society among Turkish-Cypriots. Referring to the history textbooks used in Cyprus on Ottoman history, she postulated that there is an extensive permeability between micro-histories, individual histories and official/national textbook histories.
Dr Hercules Millas, presented a critical analysis of well known literary texts and the way Greeks and Turks are represented in history up to the present. He advocated that jointly developed projects can help in the understanding of the shortcomings of one's own historiography and in enhancing an empathic approach.
The discussion focused on the importance of school narratives about the past and the national self on the production of representations and ideas among individuals. It also focused on the problem of how to deal with atrocities committed by violent acts in the past, and how to use them without harming students, but without silencing history at the same time.
Juliette Dickstein (anthropologist, teaching at Intercollege, Cyprus) presented a case study of a Jewish family in Cyprus highlighting ethnic identity and national belonging in Cyprus. The paper was less of a socio-historical investigation of the Jews of Cyprus than a critical examination of the figure of the "rootless", "displaced" Jew who, today, lives in a land wrought with ethnic and national conflict.
Martin Strohmeier, (professor at the University of Cyprus) presented a critical analysis of the Turkish history textbooks (used both in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus) underlying the predominance of political-military history and the under-representation of the social and economic history, as well as the absence of people in the textbooks' narrative. He stressed the difficulty in revising textbooks and curricula as long as there are no changes in the political and social sphere, but also proposed a multiperspectival, structural-historical approach in overcoming the ethnocentric concept of history.>BR> Georg Stöber, research fellow at the Georg Eckert Institute in Germany, presented a theoretical paper on history textbooks and the possibilities of their revision. His case did not concern Cyprus in particular but was an overall problematic. He talked about the procedure of textbook production and he laid emphasis on the teacher's and the pupil's role respectively.
The discussion focused mainly on two issues: (a) The relation of nationalistic discourse, contained in school textbooks, with all kinds of discriminative and racist attitudes and prejudices, (b) the importance, for all pannelists, of re-contextualization of the contents of school books by the teachers, hence the parallel issue of teacher training in order to have alternative history teaching in schools.
The Chair Halil Berktay, presented the paper of Dr Gul Barkay, who was prohibited to attend the meeting. He presented a critical analysis of the Turkish school history, and the way the military intervention in Cyprus in 1974 is narrated.
Thalia Dragonas, (professor at the University of Athens) presented the paper prepared jointly by herself and professor Anna Frangoudaki, on the analysis of the Greek history textbooks and how they depict Cyprus, its history and the present situation. Cyprus is presented as an unquestionable part of Greece. There is no Cypriot identity mentioned separately from the Greek one. All the problems are projected onto the Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey who are said to have been systematically helped by international treaties. There is no mention of responsibility of the Greeks, and there is no acknowledgement of the perception of the other side.
Etienne Copeaux, research fellow at the CNRS in Lyon, presented the Turkish account of history and the perception of the Greek and Christian otherness as they are transmitted to the pupils and the Turkish population. He focused on Turkish nationalism, its history and its current phase through rich documentation, including the evolution of cartography and the absence and presence of Cyprus in maps.
The final paper was delivered by Maria Hatzipavlou-Trigiorgi (lecturer at the University of Cyprus). She presented a new educational paradigm towards conflict prevention and conflict resolution in Cyprus. She explored the main ideological underpinnings of the educational systems in each Cypriot community and proposed a model for educating the young generation in a way that both respects the other's cultural identity and prepares them for citizenship in a future democratic, federal and multicultural Cyprus. Within this paradigm, she addressed some of the bi-communal educationalists' recommendations and highlighted the main obstacles and constraints in the realisation of the proposed paradigm shift.
The discussion focused mainly on the biases in both Greek and Turkish nationalist narrative, as far as Cyprus is concerned, and the fact that in the schoolbooks of both countries, although Cyprus is presented as an independent Greek and Turkish state, its autonomous existence is indirectly undermined, and its Greek or Turkish identity is put forward, silencing the important Cypriot dimension.
The last session, a round table entitled 'How to reconcile the present with the past?' put forward most of the main issues of the workshop, and focused on propositions and ideas of how to produce an alternative history for schools in view of a peaceful future.
Alison Cardwell, summarising her experience of the workshop, proposed that, as far as teaching of history in schools is concerned, targets are both textbooks and teachers. She concluded that her experience from the efforts of the Council of Europe in Russia, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland, consolidates this dual importance of the necessity to change schoolbooks, but at the same time, to train teachers in an alternative way to understand history as well as to explore their own national identity.
Niyazi Kizilyurek summarised the outcomes of the workshop, as far as the Cypriot identity is concerned, focusing on the absence of a common identity, which is denied by the nationalistic discourse of both sides, and should be cultivated as a 'togetherness'. He underlined the lack of effort in both Greek and Turkish-Cypriot historiography to narrate history including the other without distorting the image of the other or demonising the other's past. He concluded that a rewriting of Cypriot history is needed, which would include the silenced events and would present conflictual events from both sides, using the exchange of memories from both Communities in order to transform from each side the other into a 'subject'.
Christina Koulouris concluded that the trauma of the violent conflicts of the past and the presence of the Turkish army, having become an ideological identity for the two Communities, need to be re-transformed into history. Thus, revision of method and contents is needed. Referring to the ethnocentric history as a fact in schools of all European countries, she proposed that a harmonious picture of a conflictual past is impossible, so that school should teach students how to interpret conflicts of the past, and insist on the history of everyday life. Such a history teaching needs profound changes in books, curricula, and perceptions of teachers.
Halil Berktay summarised his experience of the workshop by underlying that, as most of the documentation presented shows, the authoritarian narrative included in the school textbooks of the nationalist state goes hand in hand with authoritarian teaching practices. Without believing that new practices automatically change the minds of students, he proposed the avoidance of one and sole narrative and the juxtaposition of multiplicities; the posing of questions to be answered through sources, and the indirect production of change in thinking by exposing students to the various and juxtaposing versions of past events. He stressed how important it is for students everywhere to learn about the existence of others, and how this should start at a very early age, at the very beginning of schooling, when pupils are first introduced to loving their own country.
Costas Carras closed the workshop by extending thanks to participants and organisers respectively. Moreover, he expressed the intention to extend complaints for Gul Barkay's obstruction for coming. He also stressed the importance of producing thematic history that will be underlining democracy and human liberties and the need to include conflict resolution as part of the curriculum.
Prof. Thalia Dragonas
University of Athens
Navarinou 13 10680, Athens/Greece