Let’s Talk About the Soviet Past in Schools
Located in one of Georgia's famous wine growing areas, the small village of Ikalto recently became the setting for vivid discussions and various ideas on how to deal with a Soviet past and its traumatic aspects that are brought up in school lessons. 18 teachers, accompanied by Georgian and Armenian practitioners and leading scholars, gathered from 3 to 6 August 2022 to address controversial aspects of the Soviet heritage. Over the four days, the group touched upon a variety of topics, ranging from memory landscapes to repressions, from history textbooks' narratives to the ups and downs of young people’s engagement in history studies in general.
The whole event was facilitated by Amiran Jamagidze, a history expert from the Tbilisi State University, and it consisted of lectures, discussions, practical assignments, and group works. The individual sessions covered a variety of subjects, ranging from more general themes such as “How to develop liberal, democratic, human values in students and how to fight against stereotypes, myths, and wrong understanding of history”, to more concrete topics such as “Stalin’s repressions in Georgia”.
Having tutored the best student entries in their national competitions, the six teachers from each country were eager to exchange their experiences and gain new knowledge through the Summer Academy. Karine Qochoyan, a participating Armenian history teacher, noted: ”It was important to discuss more thoroughly the teaching of a traumatic past. It was very interesting to learn about public history, the role of oral history in history studies, interviewing skills, etc., which will surely help us to do our job more effectively and purposefully in the future. The group works were very effective because cooperation in the multinational groups made it possible to better understand each other's approaches.”
Viorel Bolduma, a history teacher from Chişinău, was convinced that “only through such competitions and seminars can we contribute to the objective historical education, based on historical truth, of young generations.”
In addition to the professional input, the setup and background of the Summer Academy were also praised, for example, by the attending Moldovan history teacher Lucia Dima: “I appreciated the international exchange when I joined my colleagues from Armenia and Georgia to learn about some sensitive issues in the educational system in a friendly, jovial and very constructive atmosphere. I learnt about new views and approaches to history, I enjoyed the memory of history from the visits, discussions and connections. A great experience.”
On the last day of the Summer Academy the participants visited the Tsinandali museum complex – the estate of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, a prominent figure of aristocratic Georgian society of the time who turned his family estate into a cultural-intellectual center boasting a magnificent garden. The participants visited the famous wine cellar for a wine tasting session and headed to a traditional restaurant for a Georgian-style dinner – ending the academy in a particularly positive way.
Still, the event was overshadowed by the absence of the Ukrainian colleagues, as they weren’t able to join the Summer Academy due to the ongoing war in their country. But to compensate for this, the project team in Ukraine organised an academy for the Ukrainian teachers on 16-17 September 2022 in Lviv.
The Summer Academy for Tutors in Georgia was implemented by DVV International Georgia together with its national partners GAHE (Georgian Association for History Educators) and SovLab (Soviet Past Research Laboratory) and with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office.