First consultative meeting held regarding the content of history textbooks
The Humanitarian Law Center held the first in a series of consultative meetings titled History Textbooks in Serbia: Education for Reconciliation? on Monday June 8th, 2015 in Novi Sad. The meeting was held in the Media Centre of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (IJAV), and the opening remarks were made by Marijana Toma, HLC Education Director, and Dinko Gruhonjić from the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad. The speakers at the meeting included Nedim Sejdinović from IJAV, Željko Stanetić from the Vojvodinian Civic Centre, and Norbert Šinković, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad.
While speaking about the consequences that the armed conflicts left for young generations in Serbia, Dinko Gruhonjić emphasized mental isolation as one of the most serious problems that they deal with because of the refusal of the government and political elites to initiate a comprehensive process of dealing with the past.
During the presentation of the “Analysis of the Content of History Textbooks in Serbia Regarding the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia in Light of the Facts Established Before the ICTY,” Marijana Toma stated that in Serbia, as well as in other countries of the former Yugoslavia, there is a noticeable trend of avoiding “controversial topics” by presenting facts about them inadequately and often falsely or by leaving these topics for the end of the school year when there is often not enough time for careful analysis of them.
During the second session, youth representatives, Željko Stanetić and Norbert Šinković spoke about what future the distorted history offers. Both of them stressed the problems and obstacles that young generations deal with when analyzing the history of the recent and immediate wars – from the refusal of older generations to discuss the topic with them to the completely conflicting versions of the past that they encounter.
In late April 2015, the HLC organized an international conference on history textbooks in which it presented its “Analysis of the Content of History Textbooks in Serbia Regarding the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia in Light of the Facts Established Before the ICTY.” The consultative meetings initiated by the meeting in Novi Sad are aimed at presenting the “Analysis” to as many interested actors and gathering recommendations which will be embodied in the draft practical policy on the need for change of the content of history textbooks regarding the wars waged in 1990’s.
The next consultative meeting will be held in Niš on June 16th, 2015, after which meetings in Novi Pazar and Kragujevac will be organized.
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Education for Reconciliation is the HLC’s program of informal education on dealing with the past. A series of regional and national seminars have been organized as part of this program for students, young professionals in government institutions, and civil society activists.