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A History Schoolbook to Learn Peace in the Balkans
an article by Kiki Chauvin, Paris

My attention was caught by an article by Irina Novakova, of Sofia, published in the French journal "Courrier International", because it presents an interesting initiative for the culture of peace. It concerns a history schoolbook to learn peace in the Balkans.

The usual history books in Albania, Serbia and Croatia do not say the same thing as those in Greece or Turkey, because there are as many versions of history as there are Balkan peoples. Today, if everyone has their own version of the past, there is no idea on how to live together in the present.

To go beyond these various versions of history and the hatred that they can generate, sixteen historians present a schoolbook of history common to the countries of the areas of Balkans. Rather than underlining the divisions and particularities, they highlight what these peoples have in common.

An illustration from one of the books
(click on photo to enlarge)

The project is being published by a non-governmental organization, the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE). It is meant to serve as a history book of the Balkans for secondary schools. Financed by the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, it has just been presented to the European Parliament in Brussels.

The authors of the book think that the teaching of the past is deformed and incomplete, thus maintaining hatred and violence between the peoples of the Balkans. They preferred to teach history from a point of view that is comparative and multinational in scope. They think that a schoolbook presenting a common and objective history of Balkans will help the pupils to better understand the past by becoming aware than it is necessary to learn how to live with it.

The project cannot escape the issue of nationalism. According to Christina Koulouri, a co-author of the book, "history is a political tool that every state uses to make itself look good. Today, what is needed is that this tool serve the purposes of reconciliation and of a common European future."

In the end, while learning about others, one learns much about oneself.

The handbook is being published in English, and six Balkan languages (Greek, Serb, Croatian, Bosnian, Albanian and Macedonian) and other editions in Bulgarian, Rumanian and Slovenien will appear soon. The English version can be downloaded free from the CDRSEE website at


Question(s) related to this article:

What is the best way to teach peace to children?,

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Maria Montessori believed that peace was innate within children. Her timeless educational philosophy was developed around this basic understanding. Perhaps all we need to do as teachers is to provide stimulating learning environments that validate this knowing and understanding and nurture it. We may not have to actually teach it,  Sharing peace-building stories gently attends to this. Strong, creative and imaginative peace-building characters who focus upon win-win and have faith in peace being possible are at the centre of the story plots. In Hassaun Ali-Jones Bey's (Boundless Gratitude ) unique and mesmerising story, Black Ink is such a character who bravely crosses the universe seeking validation of what he knows in his heart. The magical character also models all the important peace-building values, understandings and actions needed for peace-building. I believe also that peace-building must be modelled and the whole teaching-learning environment should reflect similar values, understandings and is the primary focus of the Save the Children Australia UN Global Peace School Program upon which I am presently fortunate to be working. . ...more.

This report was posted on April 6, 2008.