By Jana Echterhoff
History is boring, who cares about what happened hundreds of years ago? That is an opinion which quite some people would probably support straight ahead. That it can be a bit abstract sometimes to talk about how the Romans laid the foundation for this and that future-development can hardly be denied. There is another thing about history, however. It helps to explain why we are at that point where we are right now. Political science from a historical perspective, if you want to say so. From this viewpoint, we are part of history-making as well. The Ukraine-Russian crisis, Charlie Hebdo, IS-terror – a hundred years from now, students will probably sit there and read about it.
It feels a bit weird if you think about it thoroughly. Isn’t it our daily business? And who determines which events will have a long-lasting impact and whose will be forgotten? Questions over questions arise if this cake is once cut. Maybe there are that many of them, because this development is something we can hardly influence. For most events, there might be a slight feeling which makes people grasp the immense scope of what has just happened. The fall of the Berlin Wall is, for instance, an event where 90 percent of all Germans know where they have been when it happened. Nobody knew about the influence it actually had yet, but it is simply too big to not feel anything. For younger people, 9/11 in a negative sense is probably such a crucial moment. I still remember six-year-old me walking to school with friends and talking about those towers which collapsed the day before.
These moments make people feel that something “historical” just happened. How much this particular event will influence the world’s story-book is mostly undetermined at the time itself. Nowadays, the Munich Security Conference is just over. Merkel and Hollande, moreover, visited the Ukraine and Russia. Where people are waiting for now is whether people stick to the plans on which several heads of state decided on. The outcome? Undetermined yet. The influence of these events? It clearly depends on how the future decides to evolve. If there is going to be peace in Ukraine soon, our grand-children might have to study the “2015 Minsk Peace-Settlement”. If not – well, maybe there will be some future-conference which impacts the developments to a higher extent.
The question of what moments will become historical ones and which won’t is something that depends on so many factors that we cannot even grasp the scope of maybe important watersheds at the moment where they take place. The Helsinki Accords of 1975 were, for example, not regarded as too successful after having been conducted. As time went on, however, it became clearer and clearer that exactly these Accords were a crucial document for the slowly fading Eastern bloc. In contrast, many people thought that the Arab Spring was likely to stand for blossoming democracy in the Middle East in the future. Nobody could foresee the uncertain development of this region, nobody had an idea that it is IS-terror that determines the media-image of that region nowadays.
We are living in eventful times. Which of the multiple things happening in the world will impact the storyline of our world is not clear yet. There is only one thing of which we can be sure – the story will continue. Maybe we are part of historical moments, maybe there will be even more important events that overshadow today’s political developments. Nobody knows. This is, nevertheless, what makes politics and history interesting. For people that used to live hundreds of years ago, it was probably unthinkable that the small protest they started would be an important subject to study for their ancestors. Maybe the next “small” thing that happens will be historical soon. Who knows?