Facing the past – searching for the future

He has been in Budapest since the 10th. until 13 June 2009 A scientific meeting was held in the organization of the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation from Novi Sad and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation from The Hague.

Facing the past, searching for the future

History of Yugoslavia in the twentieth century

He has been in Budapest since the 10th. until 13 June 2009 In 2008, a scientific conference was held under the title “Facing Simplicity – Searching for the Future – History of Yugoslavia 20. century. 

The gathering was organized by the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation from The Hague .

Experts from the fields of history, political science, sociology and anthropology from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, the United States of America and Serbia participated.

At the meeting, the results of the work of the teams involved in the project were presented. An outline of further steps in the research of national identities, memories of the Second World War and the problematic of Josip Broz Tito’s relationship to the national question is also given.

Also, three new teams that joined the project were presented.

One of them deals with the research of Yugoslav-Albanian political relations in the 20th century. century.

The second team deals with the issue of the history of victims in Croatia and Serbia in the 20th century. century.

The third team deals with political myths from the 1990s. century until today. The goal of this team is to recognize the key myths that have led not only to wars and hatred in these areas, but which even today play a significant role in the democratization processes of these societies, as well as in their efforts to move towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

Research of Yugoslav-Albanian political relations in the 20th century. century

The formation of a team composed of Albanian and Serbian historians. This is the kind of team first formed. Its existence represents not only a serious step towards the readiness of historians to jointly approach the research of the past, but also a signal to their politicians that historical science is ready to strengthen the paths that Albania and Serbia are moving towards good neighborly relations.

On that occasion, historians from Serbia and Albania agreed on the following:

Sonila Boci pointed out that Albanian and Serbian historians decided to tackle the topic “Historiography – versus the memory of the past in the 20th century”. century”. They decided to find the main theses in Albanian and Serbian historiography for the next meeting, which will be related to Albanian-South relations.

Ljubodrag Dimić added that historians from those two countries had a constructive conversation. “We heard and understood each other.” This is the first meeting of Albanian-Serbian historians. We agreed to create and exchange lists of literature and names of researchers dealing with those topics. The idea is to collect materials and come up with a joint collection on Serbian-Albanian relations in the 20th century. century. We will probably start with the period from 1918. years. We invite other colleagues to join us, but it would be good if they were colleagues from Kosovo and Metohija.”

Scholars had a constructive discussion regarding the problems of writing joint reports, the concept of “reconciliation” and the state of historical science in the region.

Discussing finding ways to write impartially about the past, Mile Bjelajac asked whether it is possible to change views on the past. The problem lies in the fact that historians are biased, they contain the characteristics of national identity. The question arises as to whether it is possible to change anything because we are taught “enraged or ideologised history”.

Mira Radojević warned about the problem of limited sources, the problem of mythomania and the necessity of basic archival research.

Ljuba Dimić insisted that the writing of the text should be preceded by the categorical locating of the apparatus we will use, because we do not understand each other. We use different terms for the “same things”. The relationship between fact and interpretation is also important. If you stay on just one, history will be only raw material. Therefore, a serious measure should be found in order for the interpretation to be serious. Finally, how do we change our own minds? Probably through confronting the opposing party’s documents. This can only be achieved through dialogue. The truth is the first stop on the road to reconciliation, and if there are more truths, everything else is illusory.

Joint reports - The importance and correctness of the use of the term reconciliation

Elazar Barkan pointed out that the nature of historians is such that they often perceive the past in an individual way. There are historical commissions that produce reports that many people work on. Writing joint reports has difficulties because it comes after a time when two or more parties have been in conflict.

Darko Gavrilović noted that the “Dialogue of Croatian and Serbian Historians – Historians” represented the beginning of the exchange of scientific knowledge between Serbian and Croatian historians after the War in Croatia. In “Dialogues”, historians from two countries presented their research related to the history of Serbs and Croats. They exchanged scientific knowledge and experiences.

At the meetings organized by the CHDR, the policy of regional stability and reconciliation is implemented. It is reflected in the cooperation when writing joint reports related to the problems faced by the scientific community in the region of the former Yugoslavia.

Just as politicians should improve interstate relations in the policy of regional stability and reconciliation, so scientists at our gatherings write joint reports through which sensibility for cooperation and mutual support in unhindered scientific and research work is awakened.

In those reports, freedom of thought is necessary, even if there are disagreements. We don’t need one mind. No need for uniformity. Diversity of opinion and respect are necessary for a healthy society.

Joint reports will initially show us how far we have drifted from each other during the wars. But as time passes, it will also show us how close we are to each other. Writing joint reports on the problems of contemporary historiography, on the one hand, will bring us closer to the truth about how much work was done in the nineties on our divisions. On the other hand, it will also show us the truth about how much we can understand and support each other.

Then Đorđe Borozan highlighted the importance of the term “reconciliation”, stressing that it is important to emphasize intentions, “and our intention is to face the past.” We have both scientific and other experiences about that past. We must make an effort to remove that past from politics as much as we can. To make it as scientific and rationalized as possible. I see meaning and purpose in that, and that’s the only way I want to participate.”

Finally, Elazar Barkan concluded, “We all come with our own histories, but there are varying levels of fear of the possibility of creating uniform narratives.” Atonement is a religious concept, but I do not believe in the exclusive right of religion to use it. It is similar to historical truth. Reconciliation is a process similar to something we strive for but never reach. The difference between dialogue and reconciliation is ambition. What you all have been explaining today is largely reconciliation. The most we can expect from reconciliation is to have compassion and appreciation. To accept different perspectives, and not to speak on behalf of the victims and their understandings.”

This meeting represents a significant contribution to the process of regional stability and reconciliation policy in the former Yugoslavia , because the cooperation of historians from different countries of the region is key to building common historical awareness and understanding.

Only in this way can we face the past and build a common future.

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