History for young people: historical narratives and perceptions

Project coordination: Dr. Nina Frieß and Dr. Félix Krawatzek

Historical narratives are probably the most important resource for the formation of collective identities. How a group – a family, a region or a nation – tells its own story helps to shape that group’s self-perceptions and plays a part in determining which political and social actions it considers appropriate. Authority figures in politics and society therefore have an interest in conveying images of history that prompt the “right” reactions. Children and teenagers are a key target group, as their attitudes and values are still malleable, or so it is believed.

In this interdisciplinary project, we identify and explore the historical narratives to which young people in Russia are exposed. The focus is on the representation of Russian/Soviet history of the 20th century. We study how the Russian past is narrated in current history books, literature and films, which events are emphasised and which are left out. We also analyse representative surveys and focus group interviews to investigate young people’s real-world perceptions of history.

A joined-up approach linking cultural studies and the social sciences is often called for but rarely implemented. That is something that we aim to change with this project; we hope to gain new insights into the logic underlying the production of historical narratives and how they take effect. Furthermore, by applying a comparative approach to categorise developments in Russia, our aim is to deepen our understanding of the impacts of the history policy measures that have been widely adopted.