We are all conscious that we live times of an extraordinary historic intensity: terrorists attacks almost everywhere in the world, rise of fanaticisms, questioning of certain fundamental liberties in democratic countries raise questions. If we decided to participate in this meeting of the workgroup, it is because we are conscious that better understanding history or the histories will give citizens of democratic societies the possibility to protect themselves against the Manicheanism and the manipulations as well as to deepen the fact to live together.
For that purpose, we believe that an approach in multiperspectivity is essential to better know and better understand those with whom we share the common space.
During this meeting of the workgroup, we had a dialogue with Mr Jean-Philippe Restoueix who presented us an underestimated aspect and nevertheless so important which differentiates the cultures of Western Europe and Eastern Europe. We also studied Jean-Claude Gonon’s document on Commemorating World War One to extract from it what establishes the essence of multipespectivity. We evoked our work plan & including the various contributions, the relations with the Council of Europe, the methods of our work.
Mr Restoueix began by moving our perspectives by asking us who knew Michel Ange. Everybody raised the hand. Who knows Sinan? No hand gets up. Nevertheless, Sinan is an architect contemporary to Michel Ange & a major cultural reference in Turkey. He invented one architectural style which can be found in a large number of mosques in Turkey, in Istanbul Edirne and Bursa. By this example, he shows us that the Byzantine and Ottoman inheritages are not taken into account at all in the European historiography from a western perspective. Some examples of our relationship to History on the short duration or on the very long-lasting one also allows us to draw perspectives. The custom of the only child in Limousin takes root in the obligation inherited from the French Revolution to share the family properties between the children and the local necessity of protecting the landed properties. One other example concerns the orthodox worship which was defined in 787 in the Council of Nicée: Impossible to break it still today.
In the same way, we have to understand that a part of European History is forgotten in the West, the one who concerns the History of Byzantium and Ottoman Empire. The European History is too often seen from the western standpoint.
Two fundamental points enlighten the bad understanding between Western & Eastern Europe: the césaro-papism and the relationship to image.
The Byzantine Emperor has an important function to gather peoples and churches. The 4th crusade is a point of major obstacle between Eastern Europe & Western European. The raid committed by the Venetians on the territory of East Roman Empire pushed some people to say ” The Turban of the Turk rather than the cowl of the pope “. In the Byzantine Empire, there is no separation of the Church and the State. The Orthodox Church is a guarantor for the national unity. It explains why they do not pay taxes in Greece as well as the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the political power in Russia.
The relationship to image is very different in Eastern Europe and in Western Europe. This question brings us back to the quarrel of the iconoclasts in VIII ° and IX ° centuries. The divinity of Christ cannot be imprisoned into an image. Consequently it is necessary to destroy the images. That is what thinks iconoclasts. Iconodoules think that the icon is the presence of the Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to worship icons as representation of the divinity. After several decrees of destructions and restorations of icons they were definitively established as honorable by Empress Theodora at the end of IX ° century. This cult to icons translates a relationship to the sacredness. However in this context, the image keeps the memory of the sacredness. Oleg Arbore, curator to the Musée du Louvre, reminds in « he image in Islamic countries » that there were very few destructions of images in the Muslim world.
It is necessary to accept the pluriperspectivity not as a sum of the national stories but to write a polyphonic history by involving the perspectives of masters and slaves, of conquerors and losers, majorities & minorities, etc. … The transversality of the cultures requires a decentering of the Western History justifying the West. The historical telling cannot be any more a universal narrative justifying the power of the West. What is at stake in the question of the representations is the following one: we do not see the world in the same way because our relationships to image are not the same. It is not a problem but we have to be aware of it. In educational terms the following questions have to arise: what does the image mean? What is my relationship to image? What can be unveiled? Hidden?
Four points of conclusion:
1) The historic work must be based on values. For example, must we display the world seen by the Nazis? These fundamental values are the ones of the Council of Europe which we can summarized in two pillars: all human beings are equal in dignity and in rights; you will not make to others that you would not like that other make to you.
2) History up to here was very centered on nations. It would be necessary to refocus History on the human beings, rooted in nations but most of all in their relationship to the world. How could countries review their national novel?
3) It would be necessary to emphasize what is permanent in the histories. Abi Warburg (Hamburg – London), whose life is authentically a novel, wrote an Atlas of art history. He emphasizes how gestures can be permanent throughout centuries & continents. Georges Didier Hubermann is an important heir of his work. How can we educate to image, to its history, to the relationship human beingshad with it ?
4) OING are a privileged place of this exploration as States cannot raise the questions because they are blocked in their national novels. OING can open and take into account a maximum of elements. They can articulate a a stumbling speech, hesitant, fragile … it is called poetry.
The questions which were then raised return back to themes developed above by mister Restoueix.
The question of a European History and that of a world story is raised. The History was established as a science at the same time as the nationalities. The vision of the national novel is rather recent and for this reason should be easy to deconstruct.
The migratory movements of this oriental world make eminently current this presentation.
There is a big stake, that of teaching of the religious fact. Our reflection is rooted into our religion background, independently of the fact that we believe or not.
The national novel had its utility. Watch out, to deconstruct the national novel it also is to legitimize it as it had its utility but is built on lies, oversights, interpretations, etc. …
For example Crémieux decree, giving the French nationality to the Jews from North Africa, is lived as a liberation by some while others, in particular the Muslims of North Africa, see it as having dug an abyss between Jewish and Muslim populations. France has a post-colonial complex which is fed by this kind of historic facts.
The Edict of Nantes (1585) is also very interesting from the point of view of the relationship to History because it stipulates that we cannot make reminder of what happened previously. And we go back to the notions worked by Paul Ricoeur – History, memory, forgetting.
The Ottomans opposed to Byzantium but were fascinated by the Byzantine Empire, until adopting the customs, the rites, the manners to manage and some Ottoman firmans are signed from « Constantinople », the city being nevertheless called Istanbul by them from the beginning.
The question of historical memory laws is also accurate: History being a science, it is essential that the academic freedom and the freedom of research are respected. However, remembrance can very painful. But to live together, it is necessary for us to recognize that we cannot play with the painful memory of others. If a recognition of a painful fact is essential to live together, then the intercultural dialogue has to guarantee it. It needs to go via a law is not certain. But it can be a justification in certain occasions. But in any cases it cannot be the only answer.
The academic freedom also has to reveal the lies and dishonesty. We go back here to the question of the values and to live together.
We can also ask ourselves the questions: what are the imperatives of the research? Who pays the research? How we finance it?
Jean-Claude Gonon presented us his text on the Remembrance of Wold War One. This document was written two years ago. It tries to answer the question: which angles of approach can we adopt to commemorate the memory of World War I in the European space. JC Gonon defines first of all some concepts: identity, a process of membership of the person; the identity is narrative; memory, which can be instrumented for example in explaining the facts that prepared the Second World War; heritage, which goes with our representations of the world, but also our dreams, our shared projects.
One’s involvement for a common project is an essential dimension of citizenship.
He invites us to accept the weight of our past errors, to transcend the memory of past sufferings in celebrating the reconciliation. Do not celebrate the end of the War because it had in fact only losers, which is not what our national novels invite us to believe. It is the memories of both World wars and of their horrors which brought to the creation of the Council of Europe and the European Community which became the European Union at the end of the last century. Studying together the common responsibilities in the unleash the wars, the manipulation of the public opinions by the censorship and the propaganda, the fragility of the testimonies with the question of truth and lie in History, the treaties: that is an moral imperative, maybe still not enough taken seriously by historians.
We need to remind that the historical fact is told by a Historian. The historical fact still remains to be uncovered. It is necessary to overpass the weight of our tearings and to accept the inheritage.
Numerous members of the workgroup mention the too nationalist approach of the celebrations of November 11th in France.
Richard Pirolt asks the question of the accessibility of the historical sources. He questions: on the cathedral of Vienna there are cannibal Turks statues. What shall we do with it? It is necessary to arouse the children so that they raise questions.
Laurent Grégoire thinks that it is necessary to make youth understand History. As a Founder of the European Parliament of the Youth, he notices that they want to discuss History. There are initiatives to have them implement.
Christian Colpaert reminds that Bismarck was a pioneer of the European Social Security. He also underlines, supporting with a poignant personal testimony, the moral strength of the German Nobility against the Nazism. He asks for repair for the memory of the baron von Holover.
There is a very important emotional aspect of History.
JPh Restoueix underscores that no punishment excuses any punishment. It is however necessary to name the victims and to name the executioners.
Bettina Hahn reminds the innocence of the women raped during the invasion of Germany by the Soviet troops in 1945. This is too little known.
Diane Murphy calls tells that « the first casualty at war is actually truth ».
At the end of meeting we looked at the project of the Council of Europe ” Education in the diversity and in the democracy: teaching History in contemporary Europe ” in particular the phase 1 of the project over 2016 – 2017. We envisage together at which levels we can get involved. The meeting of January 27th with Tatiana Milko will be a base ground for this.