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What Is History?

Teacher in Class

There are different stories about our world such as novels, poems, and scientific reports. However, there is a story which is the most interesting and well known. It is the story of our past. It is history. Every person since childhood knows about history and has certain knowledge of previous years and decades. We manage our lives with a view on the previous experience. Every move humanity makes is thought to be caused by certain events that happened in the past. Nevertheless, it is wrong to think that history is one and only story. Moreover, there are different opinions about how to perceive history, how to collect and reflect on historical material. At the end, it is hard to say what history really is. Let us think about it.

In schools, students often study two types of history. One of them is a history of their country and another one is a so-called world's history. The question arises when we think about the world's history. We open a book related to this subject and depending on the country where we found this book the history will be different. For example, in Europe the world's history is the history that combines ancient civilizations, then Greece, Japan, China, the U.S. and most of the European countries. On the contrary, the world's history in China or Columbia will paint a different picture. The priorities will change and consequently, pupils will read about South America and different island all over it more than they will probably read about the Second World War.

That leads us to the conclusion that there cannot really be any united world's history. Every country, every culture has their own interests and points of view that influence the way in which they represent history. Moreover, history is always one of the most influential ideological tools. Many dictators or even democratic governments use history in order to create needed frames of mind within society. Of course, they change not only the history of their own country, but also a so-called world's history.

 Massive Marches

How can a history create an ideology? This can be explained with an example of the USSR. There was an imperial state before the revolution came. There were kings, queens, and aristocracy. They had their laws, their ways of governing and, consequently, their own vision of history. After the revolution, when the Empire surrendered and the king with his family was killed, a new kind of government emerged. The Soviet Union was a state that has chosen socialist ideology as the only one worth existing. Moreover, the governors have transformed the Marx's theory and created their own view on the society and world's processes. In order to create communism, which they all dreamed of, they started to change everything in the state. Of course, history was one of their tools to change the worldview of the citizens.

With a help of history, they showed people only those parts of their country's history that could be used in their ideology. For example, they tried to emphasize that the existence of class and the struggles it resulted into is one of the biggest issues of every society. Moreover, they interpreted every historical event and war by pointing at the aristocracy that has taken part in them. This is how they made their citizens hate richness and prosperity. Everyone who is well-paid and has money, a house, and other goods, is considered by the crowd to be a bad, immoral person.

Those frames of mind produced by Soviet Union's ideology caused many tragic events that happened in the twentieth century. There were times when poor people with a help of police officers were robbing and damaging the houses of rich people. Moreover, there were not only rich people under pressure. Even those who had just enough means to live were defined as enemies. Angry crowd with ideological views was able to destroy everything they saw as inappropriate.

Burning of Books

There is another example of the way the Soviet Union used history as a tool. During the Second World War and after it, there were many books written in the USSR. The authors of those books had to write only about those things that represented the main ideology of the state. If someone wrote certain critics or something with a different opinion, they would probably die in prison or get drained and weak by working in Siberia. That is why children and teenagers were reading books where persons who will now be considered as moles or rats were appraised. There were even national heroes who had betrayed their father and give away all the secret information about him to the government. People grew up thinking that it is alright to be poor, that there is no other powerful state except the Soviet Union. Moreover, they hated every other country; they perceived the whole world as the enemy. That is why it was hard for them to be tolerant and polite. That is why we still mention certain differences in the behavior of those from the western world and the post-soviet countries citizens.

Of course, history cannot be the only mean to change the society's worldview. The Soviet Union even had closed borders for their citizens for that reason. Nevertheless, history is one of the most changeable and massive advertisements of the country's ideology. People learn history when being nothing but children. They cannot be skeptical and doubtful when attending history classes. What is more, the teacher of history will never tell their pupils that there are many possible answers and views on every subject. They try to have a specific subject, to have one-dimensional answers without any vagueness and uncertainty. They think that this is a method to make pupils like their subject. They put their own worldview into their material. That is why they can spend two lessons talking about ancient Egypt and skip Japan just because they do not have any more time for it.

Person with Books

Thus, there comes a question: "Is there any truthful information about our past? Which history should I believe?" As we have seen, there are always different factors that influence the way a history is presented. Even material artifacts are sometimes rigged. Nevertheless, it is not the reason to stop learning history. Many philosophers tell us: "The truth is always in the middle". That is why one of the things history teaches us is that a person should find different sources of information and compare them. If a person wants to know about the past days of their country, they should read their country's documents as well as those from other countries and then shape their own opinion. There are too many histories, but there cannot be too many of balanced opinions.

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