Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whose history?

Several years ago the chief ideologue of the Moldovan communist party, Victor Stepaniuc, imposed a major change on the teaching of history in Moldovan schools, replacing the "History of the Romanians" subject with "Integrated History", the (ostensible) idea being to create a course that was more inclusive of all of Moldova's ethnicities.

It sounds innocuous, however it was quickly observed that the purpose of Stepaniuc's history course was to force his 'Moldovenist' prejudices on unsuspecting schoolchildren.  Remember this is the man who claims that Romanians and Moldovans are ethnically different and speak different languages, the man who sees Moldovan history in a Slavic rather than a Latin context.

Well, now the other lot are back in power and along come Bujor and Filat with statements about the need to toss out Integrated History (agreed) and bring back History of the Romanians (not so sure).  Lupu has chimed in by asking for the "History of the Republic of Moldova" to be taught instead.  He has also requested that any contentious bits (er, isn't it all contentious?) be left out.

While I understand the need for a 'return of the truth', history is a very hot potato in Moldova and needs to be handled extremely carefully.  For example, one part of society considers that Soviet advances in World War II were a 'liberation' and a great victory over the German nazis and their Romanian fascist allies.  Another part of society seems the very same actions as acts of conquest, enslavement and estrangement from their Romanian brethren.  Which is right?  Maybe both, maybe neither, maybe one or the other...

Ultimately I think it is unreasonable to expect a common position ("the truth") to be found in the teaching of history, especially in this part of the World.  Probably the best we can do is establish an agreed set of facts (e.g. "Soviet forces entered Moldova"), present as fairly as possible all interpretations of those facts ("It was an invasion", "It was a liberation" or "It was a transition from one totalitarian regime to another"), give the kids tools to apply to the problem (research, debating, comparitive analysis etc...) and then ask them to figure it out for themselves.

Another thing that would be useful in the Moldovan context would be to avoid navel-gazing.  It is important to know your own history, but it is equally as important to know the history of your region (e.g. how does the Ottoman empire continue to influence us today...) and of the world in general (What were the founding fathers thinking when they wrote the American constitution?  What is the meaning of the economic rise of China?  etc. etc.).

What we need therefore is a history subject which doesn't just serve up a bunch of facts about dead princes, but instead seeks to understand the econonmic, political, demographic & scientific forces that contributed to a particular event, a history which encompasses differing opinions and encourages debate and research.  Teaching this wider, more critical form of history will better equip young Moldovans to deal with a difficult world.

And deal with it they must.

1 comment:

  1. Teach them italian history, this will prepare them for life ! :)

    As to "It was a transition from one totalitarian regime to another", you should consider that Romania was considered as beeing democracy during the period of time between first and second WW. An imperfect democracy according to today's standards but one of the most progressive of its time ! Garda de Fier and Antonescu took the power after the Dictate from Wien in August 1940 !