Historians without Borders in Finland ry organizes the first mutual history dialogue between Finnish and Estonian historians, which discusses the differences, similarities and challenges of memory politics and interpretations of history in Estonia and Finland. The Finnish-Estonian cultural foundation (Suomalais-virolainen kulttuurisäätiö / Eesti-Soome kultuurifond) has awarded a grant of 10,000 euros for the project to be implemented in the fall of 2023.
The purpose of the history dialogue is to produce new information about the points of convergence and differences between the concepts of history and historical politics in relation to, for example, the history of the Cold War and the 1990s shift towards the EU and the West in both Finland and Estonia. The countries have a different, but somewhat shared history as the border regions of Eastern and Western Europe. The goal of the dialogue is to produce new information on the points of convergence and differences between Finnish and Estonian historical politics, as well as the creation of new, transnational perspectives, especially for the examination of recent history, and the identification of new research topics from the periods in question.
The project makes use of the internationally pioneering history dialogue method developed by the Historians without Borders, which can be used to increase dialogue related to history across borders and to resolve conflicts within societies and between states. The dialogue project will be implemented during the fall of 2023 and consists of dialogue meetings facilitated by Finnish and Estonian historians and a report compiled on the basis of these meetings.
In the current time of crises, which requires even deeper cooperation in the Baltic Sea region, the importance of recent history is also emphasized even more. Conducting a historical dialogue contributes to the dialogue between historians and history writing about the region’s recent history. The outputs of the Finnish-Estonian historical dialogue also provide important guidance for the international discussion on the similarities, differences and challenges of the interpretations of history in countries with close cooperation relations, but different recent histories.
The Historians Without Borders association has previously implemented the historical dialogue method in several projects, for example between Nordic and Belarusian historians (2020) and as a series of small group dialogues dealing with the pain points of the Finnish civil war (2018). The purpose of the historical dialogue has typically been to promote and deepen the understanding of the parties’ understanding of history. The purpose of the historical dialogue is also to prevent the use and misuse of history for political purposes against one or other parties.
The key principles of the dialogue method are the equal status of the participants, the possibility to bring out the views of all participants as equals and to accept that the result of the dialogue can be, for example, the recognition of the diversity of views. In historical dialogues, it is essential to actively listen to the parties’ narratives, questions and objections to their own narratives. The goal is not to decide who is right, but to broaden the picture of the different interpretations of historical experiences and also to question one’s own understanding of the history of one’s reference group. The central idea is that the dialogue develops the historical awareness of the participants, the participants reflect on their group-centered narratives and the differences in the groups’ collective memory.
The Finnish-Estonian history dialogue project is carried out by Historians without Borders in Finland in cooperation with Tallinn University. The project is made possible by a grant awarded to the project by the Finnish-Estonian Cultural Foundation.