Gennadi Kneper is a scholar, writer, teacher, public speaker and, most of all, a student of life. His area of expertise includes international history, politics, and communication. He is known for his innovative approach that connects historical analysis to current trends in global development.
Want to learn more? Here’s my story:
1. I remember when I started studying at the university a fellow freshman asked me where I was from.
It was not the first time that somebody asked me that question, and I had a quick story at the ready to explain my life until then. But this time it was different. When I said that I was born in the former Soviet Union, the guy replied: “Oh, so you’re actually from a country that doesn’t exist.” And it was true.
2. Later, when I thought about it, I came to recognize that my life experience, and that of my family, were invaluable assets that contained essential keys to understanding the world around me, which was a nice realization.
But there was more to it. The longer I reflected on my family history, the more I had the feeling that I couldn’t have a full grasp of it if I didn’t learn the details about the circumstances that shaped the lives of my parents, grandparents, and wider family members.
I also felt that while there were many things they did correctly in their lives, on several occasions they didn’t play the hand they were dealt successfully. And so I began to ask myself to what extent we’re in control of what happens in our lives, and in what way outer circumstances determine our life paths.
3. Growing up in Germany in the late 1990s makes you feel rather confident and reasonably optimistic on the account of human development. But if you dig deeper, you start to recognize that things are much more complicated. The more you study history, the more you understand that there’s a huge amount of things neither you nor anybody else can control. And that those who claim they can are mostly overrating their capabilities.
The long-term perspective also helps you realize that conflict is a constant of human development—probably inevitable no matter how hard you try. But there are different ways to resolve conflicts. Hitting hard might be the right solution in many cases, it might lead to major disaster in many others.
4. The question is, then, how can we know what the right way to act is? The ugly truth is we can’t know it. The good news, however, is that we can learn how to eliminate approaches that foreseeably will create more problems than they solve. In other words, you can learn from history—provided you analyze past mistakes thoroughly and try your best to avoid repeating them. Of course, most decision-makers seldom bother to do it. And that’s the crux of the matter.
Once I arrived at that point in my reasoning, I thought that it would be good if people could benefit from historical insights in a practical way to make better decisions right here and now. That’s how this blog was born.
5. According to Bob Marley, “If you know your history, you would know where you coming from.” I would go even further: if you know your history, you’ll know where you’re going. Let’s hit the road!