Series of educational seminars "Culture of Remembrance"

Teaching of history in Ukrainian schools is often marked by political influence. At the same time, it has become such an everyday part of the work process that it is not even noticed by teachers and students. Ukrainian School Online has provided many examples of this fact. Teachers do not always understand that textbooks and plans are designed for a particular political order or reflect the prevailing social stereotypes in the society. There are no narratives about non-dominant social groups; moreover, they are often the object of negative stereotyping.

Naming Poles, Hungarians, and Tatars enemies of the Ukrainian people has become commonplace for Ukrainian school lessons on the history of the Kyiv Rus period and the Cossack era. At the same time, history in textbooks does not shed light on the fact that, for example, ordinary Polish and Hungarian peasants could suffer no less from the social oppression of "their" nobles than Ukrainians. Therefore, it is not a matter of "originally bad" Poles or Hungarians, but of the peculiarities of the class system, under which the majority of any nation was in a disadvantaged position. Poverty, religious intolerance, lack of social mobility are inherent features of any traditional community. Although the issue here is not of ethnic origin, Ukrainian textbook narratives focus too much on the particular suffering of "Ukrainians" rather than peasants or Orthodox believers.

Thus, teachers often lack both the necessary systematized narratives and modern tools for teaching a history of Ukraine that will foster values of tolerance and will include stories of non-dominant social groups. In this regard, NGO "Mnemonics" initiated a series of educational seminars for teachers of social sciences and humanities in Rivne region "Culture of Remembrance". They are designed to provide the necessary methodological tools for conducting lessons on the history of Ukraine, historical local lore and educational classes.

Part of the classes within the seminar were theoretical. They were aimed at explaining the political nature of the origin of history written in textbooks. Since the era of "mass tradition creation"[1], historical science has become an object of political manipulation in most European countries. The standardized system of education, mass media, cinema, theater and symbolic space became tools for the formation of a new collective memory of the newly formed national communities. It was during this period that national histories and textbooks, which are used in the education of schoolchildren in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, etc., appeared.

The first consistently substantiated concept of the history of Ukraine, written by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, also appeared in this epoch. The fact that Ukraine was not an independent state at that time led to the excessive focus on populist (ethnic) history. Since then, the history of other ethnic groups that inhabited the territory of Ukraine, consciously or unconsciously, has received insufficient attention. The modern realities of the Ukrainian nation-state and the need to form a tolerant civic nation pose somewhat different challenges to the educational process: the formation of an inclusive memory of the past. Inclusive memory refers to such historical narratives and practices honoring events and historical figures of the past, which include stories about other ethnic groups and their interaction with Ukrainians, cultural and economic interactions, and so on.
The practical part of the trainings was dedicated to the demonstration of those educational tools that NGO "Mnemonics " has already created within its projects to facilitate the teaching of multicultural history of the region and the history of everyday life. Among them are short documentary videos on the history of the Holocaust in Rivne region, a board game (it introduces the multicultural and multi-confessional history of Rivne). Wall calendar with photos (representing the socio-cultural space of the town and the history of everyday life through the representation of photographs of citizens and the architectural content of Rivne). In a working format, students had the opportunity to analyze photos of the calendar using the proposed criteria and thus to get acquainted with the history of the town and its daily life. Another component of the practical part of the seminars was getting acquainted with the book, which contains a selection of trainings designed to promote an inclusive culture of memory that can be used in the educational process.
We have also developed a short online course онлайн-курс, which highlights the features of the memorial space of Rivne. This course is a demonstration of how not only school textbooks and the media, but also the symbolic spaces of cities are politically influenced.

We received positive feedback from many teachers in the region, who testified that they are already familiar with a number of these educational tools and use them during the lessons of history, historical local lore and during educational classes.
By now, NGO “Mnemonics” has held four such educational seminars for 90 teachers in Rivne region. Participants received as a gift three book published by the organization in previous years with the support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Ukraine: "Holocaust in Rivne", "My executed town" and "The town of memory – the town of oblivion: palimpsests of Rivne memorial landscape".
This year, in September, another seminar from the series "Culture of Remembrance" will be held for teachers of social sciences and humanities in the region. The final event should be a two-day seminar for 20 selected participants from different regions of Ukraine, which we plan to hold in October 2020.

[1] “The epoch of mass tradition creation” is a period of European history defined by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm, which covers the last quarter of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. According to the scientist, during this period a number of newly formed nation-states of Western and Central Europe began the practice of purposeful construction of national identity. The governments of these states often followed the formula once aptly formulated by the Italian poet M. D’Adzello: “we created Italy, now we need to create Italians”. A large number of historical narratives and national symbols created within such a national policy were not in fact as old-fashioned and "primitive" as they were presented in public political practices. These were "newly invented traditions" represented as "ancient and righteous" symbols "from ancient times" that supposedly united national communities for centuries.