Sunday, 15 January 2017

Knowing Your Own History

I don't hide the fact that my knowledge of history is mostly limited to highschool classes. And that can be boiled down to a handful of dates and basic understanding of the events. If I had to do a general knowledge trivia quiz I don't think I would do so well. For the longest time I was convinced that my limited knowledge was due to my inability to retain historical information... and partly to my teacher's screechy voice. But in my second year at the university I had to take a Modern History of the Western Countries course. Our lecturer was boring and corrupted (like too many university teachers in Ukraine), but the teacher assistant was still young and innocent when it came to peddling grades, and he obviously loved the subject of history. Suddenly history became more than just a boring string of dates and dry facts. It was no more faceless and random. That class was the only one from my times at the university where we were actually encouraged to discuss the material and go beyond what was in the textbook. History was finally interesting.

Fast forward next year we were done with history classes and for the while I was done with history altogether. Later I would come back to the thought that I should probably read a few history books and fill in the gaps in my knowledge. But I never really came to it. I was confused about where to start and what to read. And it's not like I had a lot of opportunities to show off my knowledge anyway. I would occasionally read some historical fiction and wonder about how accurate it actually is. Or I would read a Wikipedia page and again think about how it's not the proper way to learn.

I don't know my own history.

I don't understand it.

And a few days ago my lack of knowledge came back to haunt me when I got myself into an online argument on the legacy of the Kievan Rus. I equipped myself with google and Wikipedia, but still felt hesitant and held-back. It's kind of hard to grasp more than a thousand years of history in the span of one evening.

After the first exchange with my opponent I google searched for the Primary Chronicle and made a mental note to read it. This will be just the start of my journey into the history of my ancestors. I'm already anticipating and fearing of the conclusions I might draw from my reading. The problem with history is that everyone has his own agenda. The lack of exposure to different opinions results in political and ideological scuffles. And yes, I'm bringing politics into the picture. After all politics is the history in making.

You can't just cut out the pieces that you like and ignore the rest. So for now I'm planning to turn into an observer. I'll make up my mind once I know the background of the matter.


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