Juhana Aunesluoma is Research Director at the Network of European Studies and Deputy Director at the Department for Political and Economic Studies at the University of Helsinki. As of the beginning of 2018, he acts as vice-dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Juhana has researched the history of decision making from economic and commercial policy to foreign policy, as well as the effect different historical narratives and interpretations have on geopolitics, conflicts and peace building processes.
Juhana has also participated in an OSCE project that studies different interpretations of the end of the Cold War in Europe in the 1990’s. There are vastly different viewpoints especially in Russia and the United States. Both have different interpretations on why Russia was not successfully integrated in the western-led security system at the end of the Cold War. Juhana has contributed to the OSCE’s report on these interpretations as a part of a group of historians: “When everybody has their own interpretations on how things unfolded, it is important that historians can both produce and communicate information to all parties. The project’s aim is to have a dialogue between the interpretations rather than create solutions or deliver information”, says Juhana and continues: “On the other hand it’s important to remember, that even though it isn’t historians’ aim to seek culprits or point fingers, their work still might be used to do just that.”
”History proves that things could have gone differently. It proves that the present is not given nor inevitable. There is an infinite number of open possibilities in history”, says Juhana. Understanding these processes helps us deal with the anxiety our age produces. “The present or history cannot be derailed, because there is no rails to begin with. Understanding history helps us put into perspective even those things that seem crazy to us”.
Juhana emphasizes that historical knowledge helps us understand different moral and ethical questions. History is not meant to help us only with educational development but to also aim at intellectual growth. We should examine and evaluate actors of the past without projecting onto them the moral conceptions or worldview of the present times. Understanding history increases our ability for empathy and helps us understand foreign cultures. Historians can be seen as translators: “The language of the past is translated to a form that can be understood in the present so that its original content and meaning stay unchanged”.
HWB’s role can also be seen as that of a translator: “Discussion between historians and the society is often too shallow even though historical culture has an enormous effect on our societies. Social discussion and disputes are not argued in the same language that researchers use. If the parties cannot use the same grammar and lexicon there will be no genuine dialogue. This gap is where HWB’s acts and filling the gap its mission”, says Juhana.
Juhana is one of the founding members of Historians without Borders and has been a member of our board since 2015.