June turned out to be a busy month for the authors and organisers of the Touring Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II". On 6-9 June 2016, in the course of the European Parliament plenary session, the English version was displayed in Strasbourg, France. The Russian version was opened on 16 June 2016 at the City Culture Centre within the Summer City Public Festival "Mosty" in Perm, Russia, where it will stay until 31 July 2016.
The “Different Wars” Exhibition explores differences in perception and narration of the history of the World War II by comparing modern high school textbooks from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.
” The school textbooks of today determine the European politics of tomorrow, - said Othmar Karas, MEP, Chair of the Delegation of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, in his address in Strasbourg. - What a child learns about the past forms his or her identity and relation to neighbours. The differences between historical narratives are huge. We should finally come to a common European interpretation of the darkest chapter in our European history.
” The message behind the project is taking individual responsibility to understand the past and to be sensitive about its influence on the present. In that sense, the exhibition is an extremely important public effort to connect the varying national narratives about the war into a common process of coming to terms with the history, - told Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, Senior Project Coordinator at the Forum's Secretariat and one of the authors of the exhibition. - Bringing “Different Wars” to the European Parliament was a historic moment, as we hope that it would let us start this conversation also in the counties and communities that are not a part of our exhibition.
The “Different Wars” Project was initiated in 2014 by the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in close cooperation with historians, civil society activists, history teachers, and enthusiasts from all countries involved.
The research and coordination work was fulfilled by Antikomplex (Prague), the German-Russian Exchange (Berlin), Gulag.Cz (Prague), the KARTA Centre (Warsaw), the Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre (Kostroma), Memorial International (Moscow), Memorial Italia (Milan), the Society of German-Russian Relationship (Münster/Münsterland), and the Youth Memorial (Perm).
” When preparing the exhibition, we were astonished how varied such topics as Holocaust, participation of local populations in Nazi atrocities, or rememberance of the war as a tradegy, sacrifice, or heroic deed are shown in school textbooks. Even the beginning of the war is considered differently: In Russia, it is June 1941, in Poland September 1939, and in the Czech Republic September 1938, - commented Robert Latypov, Chair of the Perm Regional Branch of the "Memorial" Society, an author of the exhibition, who is leading the exhibition tours in Perm. - But despite a plenty of interpretations, all textbooks have one idea in common - our victory over Fascism, and this idea joins us.
“Different Wars” was previously shown at the Charles University in Prague. Its Russian version was already on display in Moscow and Yekaterinburg.
The project is supported by the European Commission, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Georg Eckert Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Oak Foundation.
Some media items on the exhibition might be read here.