Group of historians from Croatia to Turkey try to encourage Balkan reconciliation





ATHENS -- The year was 1453. Ottoman troops under Sultan Mehmed II captured the Byzantine city of Constantinople –- present-day Istanbul –- and changed the region forever.

Ask a Greek student of history, and you'll likely hear of the event as the tragic fall of a great Christian city. Ask a Turk, and you'll probably hear of the glorious conquest for a rising Muslim empire.

In this still-fragile region, history is often served up as a nationalistic tale that highlights the wrongs perpetrated by others. Now a group of historians from across the region is trying to change the way the past is taught in southeast Europe –- from Croatia to Turkey –- in an effort to encourage reconciliation rather than division.

"History plays an important role in shaping national identity," said Christina Koulouri, the editor of a series of new history textbooks and a professor of history at the University of the Peloponnese in Greece. "We want to change history teaching because we are concerned about the joint future of the Balkans and we think mutual understanding can be promoted through better history teaching."

More than 60 scholars and teachers from around the Balkans have joined to create a new series of history books that tackle some of the most controversial periods in the region. The books, which are being translated into 10 regional languages, present history from various perspectives and excerpt historical documents to challenge interpretations of key events like the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.


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