History Education in Divided Cyprus: A Comparison of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Schoolbooks on the "History of Cyprus"

PRIO Report

Papadakis, Yiannis (2008) History Education in Divided Cyprus: A Comparison of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Schoolbooks on the "History of Cyprus". PRIO Cyprus Centre Report: 2. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre.

This report comprises a comparative study of schoolbooks used to teach the history of Cyprus in primary and secondary education on the two sides of the divided island, with study material being analyzed according to guidelines outlined in UNESCO’s handbook on textbook research.

The study finds that Greek-Cypriot schoolbooks currently in use on the island and older Turkish-Cypriot schoolbooks employed until 2004 employ similar models of ethnic nationalism. Both present history ‘from above’, focusing on dynastic change and diplomatic and political history; both are male-centred, with little attention being paid to social history, internal differences, interaction and cooperation. Both sets of textbooks espouse monoethnic and ethnocentric approaches to the subject matter, rejecting any conceptualization of Cyprus as a multicultural and multi-ethnic space in past and present. The view of history they contain is strongly dualistic, depicted in terms of black and white, good and evil.

In contrast, a substantial revision of history schoolbooks took place on the Turkish-Cypriot side after the left-wing party CTP came to power in 2003, leading to the production of new textbooks during 2004. Despite their limitations, these represent a radical change in terms of content and methodology, highlighting not just conflict, internal divisions and discontinuities, but also social and cultural interactions and cooperation. The new model of history presented has noteworthy implications regarding the notions of memory and trauma, blame and retribution, as well as allowing for the possibility of making one’s own choices regarding political allegiance in the present.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations.

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