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Ein Opfernarrativ macht Schule?

Die foibe-Massaker in italienischen Geschichtsschulbüchern seit 2004

Nils Jochum


The stormy transition to the Second Italian Republic during the 1990s produced a “memory boom” that evoked the previously marginalized foibe massacres. From the complex and violent events that took place on the Italian-Yugoslav border at the end of the Second World War, a national victim narrative was created which downplays fascist crimes. In 2004, the law establishing the Italian National Memorial Day also made the foibe a compulsory subject in schools. This article explores how the narrative of the foibe has developed since then in Italian history textbooks, which are not subject to state control. The analysis reveals a broad spectrum of interpretations, ranging from a national victim narrative to the evaluation of historical findings concerning Italian crimes committed during the Second World War.

Mit dem krisenhaften Übergang von der “Ersten” zur “Zweiten” Republik in den 1990er Jahren hat sich in Italien ein “Erinnerungsboom” um die vormals marginalisierten foibe-Massaker entwickelt. Aus den begrenzten, aber komplexen Gewalt-Ereignissen an der italienischen Ostgrenze am Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges wird ein nationales Opfernarrativ konstruiert, welches die faschistischen Verbrechen verblassen lässt. Das Gesetz zur Einführung des Gedenktages aus dem Jahr 2004 erhebt die foibe zum Bildungsauftrag der Schulen. Wie werden die foibe seitdem in italienischen Geschichtsschulbüchern, die keiner staatlichen Kontrolle unterliegen, gedeutet? Die Analyse der Schulbücher offenbart ein sehr breites Deutungsspektrum der foibe. Die Darstellungen oszillieren zwischen der nationalen Opfererzählung und den historischen Erkenntnissen zur italienischen Tätergeschichte im Zweiten Weltkrieg.

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Empowering Critical Memory Consciousness in Education

The Example of 22 July 2011 in Norway

Alexandre Dessingué and Ketil Knutsen


This article addresses memory studies from an educational perspective. In order to encourage pupils and students as independent agents in memory cultures they are part of, it is not enough to (as history education prescribes) learn history as a narrative about the past based on official sources or via the analyses of different uses of history. Rather, today history should also be considered as one of many different dynamic memory acts that define and redefine the past and the societies we live in. We therefore develop the concept of critical memory consciousness and argue for a memory pedagogy that gives learners the possibility to analyze memories that arise out of collective, cultural, and dialogic processes.

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From Temporary Migrants to National Inclusion?

The Journey from Finnish Labor Migrants to a National Minority, Visualized by Swedish Textbooks from 1954 to 2016

Lina Spjut


This article explores ways in which textbook content can reflect national identity over time via a case study of Swedish textbooks. To this end, it analyzes and contextualizes descriptions of Finnish labor migrants in Sweden in seventy-four compulsory school textbooks. The Finnish labor group emigrated from Finland to Sweden mainly from the 1950s to the 1980s. Initially, the Swedish authorities saw them as temporary laborers, but as time went by, the authorities had to realize that they had become permanent residents. In 2000, Finns were defined as an official national minority, “Sweden-Finns,” and their status changed. This article examines representations of Finnish labor migrants in Swedish history, geography and social science textbooks published between 1954 and 2016, tracing their journey from temporary laborers to a permanent national minority.

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German Colonial Rule in Present-day Namibia

The Struggle for Discursive Shifts in History Education

Patrick Mielke


This article traces discursive shifts in the ways in which imperialism and European colonialism have been dealt with in the classroom in relation to the German history textbook Time for History (Zeit für Geschichte), which was published in 2010. It explores how the textbook's representation of German colonial rule in present-day Namibia both raises awareness of and reproduces common colonialist-racist images of the “other” by demonstrating how its content is negotiated in year-nine history lessons, as observed over the course of an ethnographic study carried out in a German secondary school. The author assesses the complex interplay between discursive practices of negotiation, everyday educational practices and deeply rooted, colonialist-racist images of the “other” and, on the basis of this interplay, analyses how difficult it is to bring about content-based and discursive shifts in the classroom.

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The “Imagined Other”

A Political Contextual Analysis of Secular and Hindu Nationalisms in Indian History Textbooks

Deepa Nair


In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won the general election with the highest number of seats won by any party since 1984 and went on to win a second term victory in 2019. Since the rise of the BJP, Hindu nationalist interventions into education have increased. Their agenda has been to “indigenise, nationalise and spiritualise” education in India. To this end, textbooks were written to promote a Hindu majoritarian idea of India that sees Hindus as the primary citizens of India and categorizes Muslims as the “other”. This article outlines the political context in which Hindu nationalists have recently attempted to rewrite Indian history by focusing on the period of Muslim rule in India. It looks at textbooks published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and media reports about regional history rewriting in India.

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Web Documentary Participation as a Basis for Intercultural and Social Engagement and Second Language Acquisition

Isabel Rivero-Vilá


Foreign language documentary films offer limitless possibilities for language teaching and are an ideal medium for the integration of the target culture and for the promotion of serious and committed discussions about human rights, diversity, global issues, and sustainability. Language learning is based on current cultural contexts so that students become more engaged with the world. In order to integrate this world into my class, I became a documentary filmmaker and filmed everyday life while I was living in Nantes, France. In my interactive documentary (i-doc), students can explore the different opportunities that Nantes has to offer, from street art to socially engaged activities and student demonstrations. The learner watches and listens to interviews in the i-doc at their own pace and engages with the francophone community.

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“The Community is Everything, The Individual is Nothing”

The Second World War in Russian History Education

Dagmara Moskwa


This article reconstructs the historical narrative of the Second World War in Russian middle school textbooks published after the year 2000. The author shows how textbook narratives are linked with official Russian politics of history, which aim to “manage” the memory of the war and contribute toward the standardization of Russian history teaching. Additional empirical material from interviews conducted with middle school history teachers in Moscow shows how perceptions of the teaching community impinge on ways in which knowledge about the Second World War is imparted, revealing the extent to which Russian politics of history are socially ineffective.

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De-Orientalizing the Western Gaze on Eastern Europe

The First Soviet Occupation in Lithuanian History Textbooks

Barbara Christophe


Comparing narratives of the Soviet occupation in 1940 in current textbooks by two leading Lithuanian publishing houses, I claim that Lithuanian textbooks offer diverging accounts, which mirror to a large extent the opposing mnemonic frames supported by two rival political camps. I also show that the same textbooks tame those differences by transcending the politically charged frames they have chosen in the first place, presenting, for example, the USSR as both villain and victim of the war. Considering the relevance of these findings for our understanding of dynamics of remembering in general and in the Lithuanian culture of memory in particular, I point out that embracing the political inherent in all acts of recalling the past does not necessarily lead to politicized, i.e. narrow-minded memories, and I reflect on what these mnemonic practices mean for reevaluating the traditional role of Eastern Europe as the backward other of Western Europe.

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“Historical Falsification” as a Master Trope in the Official Discourse on History Education in Putin’s Russia

Julie Fedor

This article explores a key claim underpinning Russian official memory politics, namely, the notion that Russia’s past (and especially the role it played in the Second World War) is the object of a campaign of “historical falsification” aimed at, among other things, undermining Russian sovereignty, especially by distorting young people’s historical consciousness. Although “historical falsification” is an important keyword in the Kremlin’s discourse, it has received little scholarly attention. Via an analysis of official rhetoric and methodological literature aimed at history teachers, I investigate the ideological functions performed by the concept of “historical falsification.” I show how it serves to reinforce a conspiratorial vision of Russia as a nation under siege, while simultaneously justifying the drive toward greater state control over history education.

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Remembering the Second World War in Post-Soviet Educational Media

Barbara Christophe

Analyzing representations of the Second World War in Russian—and in one case, Lithuanian—educational media, the contributions to this special issue respond to three important anniversaries: the eightieth anniversary of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 2019, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Second World War victory in 2020, and the eightieth anniversary of the German invasion of the USSR in 2021. Moreover, they investigate the commemoration of historical events which clearly gained in significance after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was only in the mid-1990s that post-Soviet Russia first introduced annual parades on Victory Day, 9 May, which used to take place only every five years during Soviet times. And it was again the government of Boris Yeltsin that expanded the Russian mnemonic calendar and introduced the Day of Mourning on 22 June, the day Germany invaded the USSR in 1941. Finally, the articles in this special issue also intervene in a lively academic debate on the political and cultural significance of the single most important affair in post-Soviet memory cultures—a term used here explicitly in order to avoid invoking the idea of a culturally coherent social space, but rather to denote all the different forms and modes of recalling the past enacted by a broad range of different actors, at times openly competing with each other. In an attempt to carve out the specific shape of these interventions, I will begin with an outline of the main achievements and lines of argument in the impressive number of recent studies that have explored the dynamics of remembering the Second World War, usually referred to as the Great Patriotic War in post-Soviet Russia. I will then present an overview of the contributions to this volume.