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We Are Not Touching History

In 2008, the Ministry of Education initiated a revision of all curricula in an attempt to update them and to introduce more ‘multicultural’ contents. However, as one of the participants of the revision put it, ‘when it came to the history curriculum, [the government] said we are not touching this because it is a political decision’.193

In fact, a special committee was formed to produce a revised history curriculum.194 It finalised the new curriculum for sixth grade which, mirroring evolving ethnic Macedonian narratives of identity, focused more than its predecessor on ancient myths and heroes (particularly the figure of Alexander the Great).195 Albanian historians complained that emphasis on antiquity has come at the expense of Albanian history and that history education was being used to sanction ethnic Macedonian ownership of the state. Additionally, Greek and Bulgarian historians questioned the veracity of facts and interpretations in the new curriculum.196 Debates reached the European Parliament, where Bulgarian ambassador Dimitar Tsanchev threatened to block Macedonia’s European Union (EU) accession over the contents of the history curriculum.197

Moreover, the curriculum drafting committee failed to produce new history curricula for grades 7-9 because of ‘some misunderstanding between communities’.198 In particular, some argue that new drafts of the curriculum described Albanians as ‘mountain people’, thus inflaming ethnic Albanian media, public opinion and politicians.199 Others maintain that the committee split over the number of lessons on Albanian history in the new curriculum.200 The BoE declines knowledge of and responsibility for the process. However, it is credible that the process broke down over the attempt to once again apply (political and demographic) proportionality to curriculum writing. As of 2013, teachers were still employing the 2005 curricula and making use of curricular provisions to avoid teaching 25 % of the lessons.

Lazarevska argues that, because of Macedonia’s political and strategic instability, ‘it will never be a good enough time’ for a full revision of the history curricula.201 In Macedonia’s consociation, the present history curricula serve an important political function: they contribute to cement and delimit the ethnic Albanian and ethnic Macedonian communities by reproducing their parallel ‘best stories’. History education provides a glorious past for ethnic Macedonians, it proves their ownership of the Macedonian territory and legitimises Macedonia’s statehood and independence. It also entrenches the image of ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians as each other’s victims and rivals: as an international officer notes, children ‘do not have a curriculum that tells them you live in a culturally and ethnically diverse country, embrace it, in fact, they’re telling them the opposite’.202 Ultimately, calls for ‘more emphasis on a history that unites’, rather than parallel communal narratives, have long fallen on deaf ears. As in Lebanon, in Macedonia the reform of history education is politicised, but also marginal in political priorities.203

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