The Tbilisi Initiative
The “Tbilisi Initiative” project was initiated by the Ministry of Education of Georgia in September 1997 at the first Regional Seminar on “The reform of history teaching in secondary schools” (Tabakhmela, Georgia) and supported by the education authorities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation.
The conditions that made it possible to launch the “Tbilisi Initiative” project successfully at that particular moment were:
- a favourable political climate in the Caucasus and a corresponding political willingness to proceed expressed by all the countries involved;
- the support of the Ministries of Education of all the countries concerned;
- the agreement achieved at government level to separate educational and political spaces within the project, seeking first of all to promote the idea of co-operation with a view to strengthening the reconciliation process in the Caucasus through education;
- the willingness of all countries involved to follow the principles of equality, mutual respect and transparency.
From the outset, the “Tbilisi Initiative” project was seen as a process, and therefore comprised a wide range of activities including seminars and conferences, meetings of experts and teacher training workshops. All of them had a common goal – to promote new interactive teaching methods designed to help new generations better understand and fully appreciate factors such as cultural diversity, thereby creating a basis for a new understanding of history as reflected in Recommendation Rec (2001) 15 of the Committee of Ministers on History teaching in twenty-first-century Europe.
A crucial event in this project was the First Conference of the Ministers of Education of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Russian Federation, with those of Moldova and Ukraine acting as observers, which took place in Tbilisi in March 2000. As a result of this conference, the Ministers adopted a Declaration [Russian version] and underlined their full support for the “Tbilisi Initiative” project because they considered it of the highest importance in their efforts to strengthen mutual understanding between the peoples of the countries concerned and establish stability and security in the region.
Following the Declaration by the Ministers, the “Tbilisi Initiative” project primarily focused on presenting history in the light of intercultural dialogue and creating a positive image of the Caucasus. In other words, its aim was to present the region not as a crossroads of conflicts, but rather as a melting pot of different cultures which have been enriching one another throughout their long period of historical development and interaction.
This project developed into a unique opportunity to bring together history educators from both North and South Caucasus – and create conditions in which they could work together, share experiences and discuss common approaches to, as well as differences in their views of, their shared past.
During the project, about 500 history educators from the Caucasus, along with specialists from Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, took part in 21 activities. Long-term partners of the Council of Europe in history teaching, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Germany) and the European Standing Conference of History Teachers Associations (EUROCLIO), were also involved.