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Transition Dialogue 2019-2021: Dealing with change in democratic ways

About the project: How to talk about the past and present?

The “Transition Dialogue” network focuses on the formation of knowledge and perceptions of the transition from communism in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. As practitioners of history and civic education, we are taking a closer look at the public discourse on the topic and how transition is being taught at schools in seven European countries.

We are spearheading a new multifaceted democratic discourse on post-socialist transition, highlighting the discrepancy between official discourses and experiences of real citizens in Central and Eastern European countries post ‘89/’91. We work locally and internationally in order to exchange insights and compare results. We aim to come to a more nuanced understanding of the impact of transition on societies and use our findings to provide new methods and tools for civic education in the future.

30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of transition in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union witnesses and drivers of those events are still actively shaping the social, political and cultural life. Meanwhile a generation has come of age that has no direct memory neither of communism nor of transition.

Their knowledge and perceptions of this recent past ¡s mostly based on stories of the older generations and on politicized and instrumentalized discourses. Against this background and as practitioners of history and civic education, we aim at taking a closer look at two of the areas that mostly contribute to the formation of knowledge and perceptions of that recent past – the public discourse and teaching of transition.

We aim at working:

  • nationally (in a number of partner countries),
  • locally (in each of the countries outside of the large cities into the rural areas) and
  • internationally (exchange, share knowledge and compare our findings)

At the end of this process, we hope to have a more multifaceted and nuanced understanding of the impact of transition on societies in Eastern Europe and how history and civic education can be used to help deal with it. Some of the key questions are whether the discourse incorporates the plurality of perspective and voices and what can be done to accommodate the diversity of viewpoints. What is the role of international exchange for a better understanding of the national context? What formats and methods can be used to mainstream the topic and engage a wider audience in a more diverse conversation?

In order to answer them the project works on two levels:

  1. Within the public discourse through a variety of open events, discussions and methods in seven countries
  2. Within formal and non-formal education, comparing how transition is being taught and what are the prevalent narratives in seven countries.

This part of the work includes analysis of school curricula and textbooks to find out how transition is taught and framed in formal educational institutions.

The Transition Dialogue project is supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education of Germany (bpb).