MYTH, IDENTITY AND CONFLICT: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF ROMANIAN AND SERBIAN TEXTBOOKS
Dutceac Segesten, Anamaria Georgiana
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The study compares two cases of ethnically diverse societies sharing a substantial set of characteristics but where inter-group relations developed in two opposite directions. In Serbia the entire decade of the 1990s was witness to widespread violence, first in the wars of Yugoslav secession (1991-1996) and later in the conflict over the status of the Kosovo region (1998-1999). In Romania, despite one eruption of interethnic violence in March 1990, there have been no further clashes between Romanians and Hungarians, even if a latent suspicion continued to be verbally manifested between these two communities. By comparing these cases, the possibility opens to verify the impact of taught history on the representations of self and others and, from this premise, to examine its influence on the potential for peaceful or conflictual ethnic relations. The questions asked are: Is myth, as identified in secondary literature in other areas (literature, media, and political discourse) present in the history textbooks of Romania and Serbia? If myths are to be found in history schoolbooks, are there differences in the ways these myths define the in-group and the relationship with the Other between a country that experienced interethnic conflict and a country that did not? The working hypothesis based upon the existing literature is simple: in multiethnic societies, history textbooks reflect the elite's, especially state elite's, interpretation of the past and outline the acceptable/ desirable representations of the dominant ethnic group and of the diverse Others with whom this group interacts. If the history and the self image of the dominant group are presented in a manner that highlights the differences and the uneven distribution of power between the dominant and the minority ethnic group(s), the possibility of domestic tensions increases and, if other conditions are present, there is even a rise in violent civil war along ethnic lines. The study finds that myths are present in the post-communist history textbooks of Romania and Serbia, both in their visual content and in their text. Despite expectations to the contrary, however, the differences in the types of myth used in a conflict case (Serbia) and in a non-conflict case (Romania) are small, thus disputing the importance awarded to history education in preventing or alleviating conflicts.