I am in favour of providing good quality history education, whether it is an exhibition, a book, a historical comic book or a film. My biggest fear is that we will spend a lot of money on making billboard campaigns, producing comic books that nobody reads or films that nobody watches, and we will not take care of their quality – says Robert Kostro, historian, columnist and director of the Polish History Museum.
TVP WEEKLY: Why has the history not ended?
ROBERT KOSTRO: After the collapse of communism, in the 1990s, Francis Fukuyama’s theory about the end of history was fashionable. In fact, it had good grounds. It seemed that the great conflict tearing the world apart, the conflict between democracy and communism, was finally over and won by the democratic world. At the turn of the twentieth century, there were no revolutionary ideas to be seen in Europe since at least the French Revolution.
These were calmer times, and before that virtually every generation had experienced war.
Conflicts and revolutions happened relatively often. Look at the 19th century: first the Napoleonic Wars, the 1830 revolutions in France, Belgium, the Revolutions of 1848, the Franco-Austrian War, the Crimean War, the Russo-Turkish Wars, the uprisings in Poland, Greece, Italy. Throughout the 19th century Europe was buzzing with ideas that sought to transform its political, economic and social space. First there were liberal ideas, then socialist ideas, and finally nationalist ideas. In the first half of the 20th century, we had two world wars, the Russian Revolution, fascist movements and Nazism. By contrast, the 1990s in Europe, apart from the Balkans, were characterised by a sense of stability. It seemed that Poland, having joined the EU and NATO, would be secure for decades. However, this has changed.
But not right away. When did it start?
The first shock was the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. The war on terror was a new impetus. At first it seemed that this threat was far away from Europe and from Poland. Indeed, a great historical acceleration has taken place in the last seven-eight years. The revolutions in North African and Middle Eastern countries brought hope rather than anxiety. So did the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, but starting with the refugee crisis, problems began. Armed conflicts began to erupt closer and closer to us: Russia’s war with Georgia, war in Donbas, and finally the war in Ukraine, which has been going on since February, practically just beyond our borders, finally convinced us that history has not ended yet.
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By Tomasz Plaskota
Translated by jz
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