The road to reconciliation that is based on the 20th – century history is shown only to those who have reconciled with their own past.
Shared Narrative is one of the possible directions to reconciliation that requires each participant to leave behind one’s own biases and prejudices.
Taking this path means going toward the past from which we can learn something for our future.
PhD. Darko Gavrilovic,
Director of CHDR
From the beginning of the 20th century, the process of modernization of the societies in the Western and mid Balkans (i.e, ex – Yugoslav countries) was focused on the state. At the same time, civil society was forgotten. This continuing lack of civil society in the region requires the urgent initiation of projects that will change the current post-conflict situation. During the 20th century, the peoples of the former Yugoslavia survived two world wars that both divided and united them, and were characterized by war crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing. They shared a common history in two Yugoslav states which ended in fragmentation and the creation of new national states. Unfortunately, the most enduring and bloody of the ethnic crises at the end of the 20th century in Europe occurred in Yugoslavia, where in 1991 festering differences once again resulted in war, barbarity, hatred, fear and rampant chauvinism.
Because of that, we made decission to open The Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation (CHDR). Our projects promote a multinational, multiethnic and nonpartisan history in attention to help the process of democratization and reconciliation in our region. We seek to dispel the public myths about historic legacies in our societies divided by ethnic conflict. Also, we support development and stronger connection between Holocaust education and Human rights education in the region. Our opinion is that the Holocaust Education and Human Rights Education will preserving and respecting the memory of the victims, by rescuing their individual identities and developing empathy with them. Also it will bring attention on commemorations of the victims of the wars in FRY. Strong connection between Holocaust education and Human rights education will eliminate instrumentalisation of victims in order to legitimize communist post-war states, and it will create empathy with victims. This process will be support by the fact that the Human rights education is not only about appreciating and respecting human rights, but also about stimulating personal action in order to guarantee these conditions. Our projects are very important for the people in our region. Projects will help in understanding each other and to accept differences, promote similarities in cultural, religious, social and political life. Furthermore, our projects constantly challenge the chauvinistic history which helped foment violence in the former Yugoslavia.
The central theme of work in the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation (CHDR) is to foster cooperation in the divided region and to promote democratic values and reconciliation. The CHDR have a modern, democratic political influence on our societies which emphasizes tolerance. The establishment of this Center, and its work, contribute to the creation of a more positive political climate in the region that is much closer to Western standards of democracy. The CHDR work on changing the dominant collective and patriarchal identity into an individual civil identity by expanding the presence of civil society in the former Yugoslavia.
How to attain the goals
- Initiate research projects on political and social history, with a special emphasis on the history of Yugoslavia in the 20th century and the broader southeast European region. In the next three years, CHDR located four different project groups that it will support:
- World War Two, including topics such as the role of fascism and antifascism, divided memories of the conflict, Holocaust, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide. The rise of nationalism, anti-semitism in the 1990s and historical revisionism have made these issues relevant once more. World War Two is still one of the most important dividing points in process of reconciliation and restitution in our region. At the same time, this is the one of the most important aspects of the work of the CHDR.
- Myths and stereotypes of communism and nationalism which are still alive in our region. Some historians still use these myths and stereotypes in their scientific work. CHDR will encourage researchers on the project “Myths in politics and modern history” to challenge these controversial aspects of the past which have been repeatedly manipulated for political purposes.
- The Establishment and Disintegration of the Yugoslav States include research topics on the Yugoslav state between 1918 and 1941, and Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1991. Areas of focus include the different viewpoints in the organization of the Yugoslav states, different and competing national interests in the framework of one country, factors of unity and disunity, and the impact of various economic interests.
- The CHDR work on history teachers’ education through cooperation with organizations such as the George Eckert Institute on history school textbooks. The CHDR promote alternative history textbooks in cooperation with non-partisan publishers in the region. Our activities aim to develop training through modern history textbooks in providing additional innovative teaching materials for parts of the history curriculum which particularly relate to the development, acquisition and application of democratic values, as well as critical and analytical thinking skills. We promote intercultural education which aims at a mutual understanding between pupils from different backgrounds, which combats nationalism, anti-semitism, discrimination and racism, and fosters positive images of others in the region. The CHDR foster cooperation between research projects and the educational system (for example, “World War II – antifascists and fascists” can contribute to making history school textbooks). In attention to work in that direction, the CHDR work with teachers in the region, and organize round tables, seminars, workshops and presentations for them.
- Media promotion is the one of the most important parts of our work. We ware working on strengthening the network among the different media organizations in the region in the course of promoting the CHDR’s work. In that sense, media liaisons for each country help to arrange visibility of the CHDR in the press, and preparing and informing the media about the CHDR’s various projects, public events and journals (Polis Culture, published since 2003, and the Journal of CHDR). The goal of the journals is to publish material after each round table or conference in the region. The CHDR’s website provide information about the Center’s steering committee, research fellows and donors, results of round tables and meetings, articles and news from various media. The information are placed on web site as written documents, audio recordings, photos and digital video.
- The CHDR will make connections with parties and politicians in our region who have a willingness to cooperate with the Center and support its ideas. This cooperation will generate support for the CHDR’s work, and ultimately disseminate the democratic and tolerant values into the political arena.
- The CHDR promote religious dialogue between the different religions and confessions in our region. Furthermore, the Center work on strengthening the multicultural and intercultural relations that provide protection for minorities. The inter-religious dialogue will likewise function through round tables, meetings and the Center’s various publications.
Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation adopt these five strategies in the effort to promote tolerant and democratic values in the societies in the region. The CHDR work closely with Alliance for Historical Dialogue, Columbia University and European Network Remebrance and Solidarity .
Above all the societies in region, scholars, students and pupils will be the beneficiaries from this project. Our projects help them in dismantling the nationalist ideological processes of the past two decades and bring them much closer to the democratic values of European societies. We find that the making of the modern democratic society in region will open the possibility for faster economic development and long term stability.