Different interpretations of history are often at the root of today’s political and social debates and conflicts. Historians Without Borders has developed a method of historical dialogue for dealing with the conflicts of collective memory. The key principles of a History Dialogue is the equal status of participants, the possibility of presenting the views of all participants on an equal footing, and the acceptance that the dialogue may result, for example, in the recognition of the plurality of views. In History Dialogues, it is essential to listen actively to the participants’ stories, questions and objections to their own narratives. The aim is not to decide who is right, but to broaden the picture of the diversity of interpretations of historical experiences and also to question one’s own perceptions of the history of one’s own reference group.
A dialogue on history can help to resolve conflicts about the past that may be straining relations between or within communities, thus enabling cooperation that builds for the future. The aim of the dialogue is to increase knowledge and understanding of the issue at stake among the participants and to disseminate this knowledge to the wider society.
Overall, the aim is to help communicate past experiences and pain points, and to defuse tensions arising from history. Historians Without Borders has organised history dialogues with Ukrainian and Russian historians (2017) and between Nordic and Belarusian historians (2020). In 2018, we organised a series of dialogue debates on the pain points of the Finnish Civil War. In autumn 2023, we will organise a Finnish-Estonian history dialogue on the similarities and differences between the concepts of history in Finland and Estonia. We are constantly seeking to develop new themes that would be fruitful to address through the history dialogue method.