[Event] The Role of the Past in the Future

In Co-operation with Goethe-Institut

Description of Round Table Discussion and its aims

The conference aims to discuss the role of conflicting narratives and representations of the past in the Greece, Turkey and Cyprus triangle and the wider area of South Eastern Europe both in the Public Sphere and the Educational System with a special emphasis on the possible role of such narratives in reinforcing division in Cyprus.

Dr Ioannis N. Grigoriadis will discuss the question of how Greek and Turkish students perceive the legacy of the Ottoman Empire based on the experience of teaching in Greek and Turkish universities. He identifies a Manichaean approach of the Ottoman era in Greek and Turkish history books and public discourse which contributed to a mutually distorted view of a common historical past. The Greek-Turkish rapprochement process has influenced a set of developments towards a more dispassionate and balanced consideration of common history. He proposes that restoration of Ottoman monuments in Greece and Greek Orthodox monuments in Turkey could be a very auspicious starting point towards that aim.

Dr Niyazi Kizilurek will speak about the toxic effects of resentment in Historical Narratives of victimization in undermining the prospects of a common future in Cyprus. On the basis of his recent book about the violent events of 1958 in Cyprus he will discuss the lessons taught from this work about the historical development of the Cyprus issue and the role of history teaching in the process of reconciliation.

Mr Costa Carras will argue that without memory, individuals, institutions and communities can hardly be said to be alive. In illiterate societies memories tend to congeal in the form of myths, which are in themselves neither falsehoods nor propaganda but can easily become so if a narrative uses them to separate “insiders” from “outsiders. Thus the past always has a role in the present. Its role in the future depends on who are the most persuasive “narrators” at any particular time. Hope for the future reunification of Cyprus resides in a shared narrative, based on the common humanity of Cypriots, which will build on common experiences, shared monuments and heroes who helped “outsiders” in times both good and bad.

Dr Charis Psaltis will discuss empirical evidence from Southestern Europe (Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia) and both communities in Cyprus. The research findings presented are the result of a comparative study undertaken in the context of the European Research Programme COST 1205. The study reveals the mechanisms through which beliefs adhering to master narratives engender distrust. Distrust is created through increased feelings of realistic, symbolic and group esteem threats nurtured by a feeling of one sided victimisations. The implications for educational policy Cyprus are clear cut. The promotion of such master narratives through the educational system is counterproductive to the efforts for the reunification of Cyprus.

Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani, will discuss the role and importance of history education in building trust in the Cyprus peace processes. Her new role as Adviser for Political Affairs and History to Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Mustafa Akinci will be a valuable contribution to the roundtable discussion to follow. She will also share her experience in educational reform initiatives of History teaching in the Turkish Cypriot community and suggest ways that history teaching could contribute to the peace process.


18.30-18:45 “Introduction”

Esra Aygin, Freelance journalist working both for the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot media
Yiorgos Kakouris, Politics reporter for Politis newspaper

18.45-19.00 “Overcoming Conflicting Approaches of a Common Past: Experiences from Teaching in Greece and Turkey”

Dr Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, Assistant Professor & Jean Monnet Chair, Department of Political Science & Public Administration, Bilkent University, Turkey & Research Fellow, Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Athens

19.00-19.15 “Where Resentment Rules, Past is Never Past”

Dr Niyazi Kizilyurek, Dean of Faculty of Humanities, University of Cyprus

19.15-19.30 “Memory, Myth and a Human Narrative: the Role of History in the Reunification of Cyprus”

Costa Carras,Board Member, Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, Rapporteur for the Joint History Project, Greek Coordinator of the Greek Turkish Forum

19.30-19.45 “Adherence to Official narratives and Contact between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots: Their role in Reconciliation”

Dr Charis Psaltis, Assistant Professor of Social and Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus

19.45-20.00 “The Role of (History) Education in Cyprus Peace Processes”
Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani, Adviser for Political Affairs and History to Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Mustafa Akinci

20.00-20.30 Round Table discussion: Coordination by Yiorgos Kakouris and Esra Aygin


The Greek Turkish Forum was founded in 1998 as an expression of civil society. There is also a Cyprus Chapter with Greek and Turkish Cypriot members. Meetings are organised regularly in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Although meetings are of course unofficial, the relevant authorities in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus are kept informed and acknowledge the need for the existence of such an unofficial channel of communication.

The Turkish Coordinator of the Greek Turkish Forum is Professor Ustun Erguder. Mr Costa Carras has been the Greek Coordinator since 1999. The Greek Cypriot Coordinator is Dr Charis Psaltis, while Dr Erol Kaymak was chosen as the new Turkish Cypriot Coordinator in September 2015.

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