The article analyzes unfoldings and enactments of narratives on a politically divisive past in educational spaces of two multi-ethnic settings – the Republic of Tatarstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We explore how the contested past is represented within official school curricula and how it unfolds in concrete school settings. In each case we have a historic event that is a politically divisive and contentious issue. Though one of these historical events lies far back in history (1552) and the other is more recent (1992–1995), in both cases the contested past is being silenced in the official history curricula. The paper is guided by the following question: in what ways does a past that is muted within a history curriculum continue to speak and structure the relationships of the school present? In order to answer this question, we situate our work within the literature on ethnographers of education, as well as the relatively new but burgeoning field of inquiry on emotional geographies and anthropologies of education. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in these two settings, we argue that the narratives on the violent past form and divide national communities not only through divergent views and interpretations of the historic event by the groups involved but also through strong emotional attachments to these narratives. We conclude by calling for a sustained engagement with emotions in educational settings as sites of embodiment that work to negotiate and actively rework top-down educational narratives, especially when considering the processes of identity-building through school spaces.