The project “History Education in the Context of Georgian-South-Ossetian Relations” was launched in September 2013 and over the course of the next 15 months, Georgian and South Ossetian historians, history educators, methodologists, and specialists of other social sciences came together to create a network. The exchange of past and present experiences, joint learning, capacity development, synchronization of professional approaches and building of a vision for better societies and communities have been the guiding values of this project.
A large number of goals have been achieved: Georgian and South Ossetian educators went through joint professional development seminars in Tbilisi and in Kiev in October 2013, followed by coordination and agreement on Principles of Historiography and History Education. This was followed by co-authoring of a Methodological Manual on these principles – “Challenges and Prospects of History Education and Textbook Development in the South Caucasus”. The Manual was translated into all the relevant languages, followed by its publishing in all the languages and dissemination among professionals locally. After the second and third rounds of workshops held in March 2014 and June 2014 in Istanbul, the specialist involved in the program produced Pilot History Lessons through mutual feedback and editing followed by their piloting in schools.
Since our work has been focusing on critically analyzing the role of history education in contributing to the conflicts in the South Caucasus in general, parallel to this project, the Imagine Center was also running another one called “History Education in the Context of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and its Resolution”. In order to build a regional network of historians and history educators who are ready to support each other’s networks in advancing history education reform in the entire South Caucasus, the Imagine Center facilitated contacts and coordination between the Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, and South Ossetian Working Groups of the two projects. This has allowed for the creation of a platform for exchange of experience, flow of ideas, an increased sense of professional solidarity, and prospects for future collaboration.
The project gave an opportunity for these specialists to meet and collaborate with colleagues from the “other” side. As one of the historians noted, “The meeting with our colleagues with whom we do not have many chances to meet has been really important. We communicate over email; but personal communication, reacting to the person’s words looking in the eyes is, of course, much better.” Apart from direct contacts, the project has also reached out to extended groups of historians and educators locally – through roundtables and workshops led by the project participants for colleagues at universities and schools, bringing into the conversation new and conflict sensitive approaches to history and history education. Finally, the project has impacted students with whom the History Lessons have been piloted and who have had lessons with alternative approaches and an opportunity to assess these lessons.