By Dr Panayiotis Mavros
People are proud of their history as it expresses their national ideals, culture, traditions and aspirations. It has passed down from generation to generation forming the character of a nation, which is regarded as indisputable. The latter is why many people flatly refuse to accept any revision of history textbooks.
Obviously, we need the evolution of a comprehensive and sophisticated scheme which can relieve the fear that history will be changed. The difference between revising history textbooks and rewriting history should be made crystal clear.
Certain dimensions of the history of a nation are taken for granted and are believed to depend on truth, objectivity and impartiality. However, any investigation into the unexplored dimensions of history suggests that the element of subjectivity is present to serve short-sighted interests which distort the truth. It is, therefore, of paramount importance to address the accuracy of various historical facts as they are presented and assign this task to eminent history researchers whose objectivity is beyond any doubt. It is imperative that more light should be shed on reconciliation elements in our history emphasising the periods of peaceful co-existence of the two peoples, their way of life, customs and culture, many elements of which are interchangeable and are very much in evidence within the two communities.
Anyone who has ever been a pupil in any Greek school is aware of our history according to the way it was presented to him through history textbooks. This leads us to ask which of these people, now established in the routines of early middle age, can tell the difference between a historical fact and an element presented as a historical fact in order “to add to the glory of the nation”. I believe very few. Consequently, one of the main aims of the revision of textbooks is to rid them of nationalistic elements based on traditions which, I suggest, ridicule history by presenting it in the form of a fairy story.
Beset by influences of many kinds, we tend to hush up the whole truth turning a blind eye to our faults and shifting responsibilities onto others. One does not need the service of a specialist to draw the above conclusion when reading a history textbook, which strikingly displays these weaknesses. The overhauling of history textbooks should involve thorough analysis of facts that should not only focus on overwhelming victories but also defeats. The grandeur of the nation as well as its fatal mistakes should be highlighted. People need to feel pride in their achievements, but they also need the chance to learn through their mistakes so as not to repeat them.
Before closing I cannot afford to ignore the role of the Greek junta and Eoka B in the treacherous coup and the barbaric Turkish invasion, which should in no way be down graded, for they were the main protagonists of Cyprus’ partition. And this unquestionable historical fact should go down in history for the sake of justice and for the sake of the future generations.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that education should be sacredly treasured as it is our sole prop in our struggle for a free and united Cyprus. It is the core of a genuinely healthy society which constitutes the solid foundations upon which we can build bridges of communication between the two communities.
The revision of history textbooks can help to eliminate prejudices and open channels of communication leading to mutual understanding.
Dr Panayiotis Mavros BA, MA, PhD is a former secondary education inspector and chief education officer at the Ministry of Education and Culture