The Divisions of Cyprus
April 17, 2008 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Labour, which had started the disasters of Cyprus by denying it any decolonisation after 1945, had now completed them, abandoning it to trucidation [by doing nothing when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974]. London was quite prepared to yield Cyprus to Greece in 1915, in exchange for Greek entry into the war on its side. Had it done so, all subsequent suffering might have been avoided. It is enough to compare the fate of Rhodes, still closer to Turkey and with a comparable Turkish minority, which in 1945 peacefully reverted to Greece, because it was an Italian not a British colony. In the modern history of the Empire, the peculiar malignity of the British record in Cyprus stands apart.
The Divisions of Cyprus, an article in The London Review of Books by historian Perry Anderson, is an excellent history of Cyprus from 1878 to the modern day as well as a polemic against the way that outside powers have treated the island.

1964 Canadian interview with Cypriot Archbishop and President Makarios.
posted by Kattullus (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I am not that knowledgable on the history of Cyprus but this article explained various issues that had puzzled me over the years concerning the history of the island.
posted by Kattullus at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2008

One Nation, invisible - Bruce Sterling on Northern Cyprus, back in 1999.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on April 17, 2008

I'm still pissed about the Mycenean invasion and those bastards forcing everyone to start writing in Linear A. I mean, what the fuck was wrong Cypriote syllabic script?

Ya represent! Never forget! All the real Cypriots know what I'm talkin' about when I say, "|\\|/-_||-/!/:|\\"
posted by Pollomacho at 12:34 PM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

When traveling the Mediterranean the question “Have you ever noticed how Greek food and Turkish food is so similar?” remains a great conversation opener.
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is all interesting, if a bit unsettling... My old man recently retired and moved to Greek Cyprus... he loves it there, but I've often worried how stable the place might be in the longer term...
posted by stenseng at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2008

As I understand it the Status Quo is pretty entrenched and can only really change if

A) Turkey joins the EU (which can only be a good thing, right?)
B) Turkey goes absolutely batshitinsane in a rather unliley way, which will give us all kinds of other things to worry about as well.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on April 17, 2008

I believe the status quo is somewhat in flux. The roadblocks on Ledra Street and others have been lifted and people now go back and forth to see who has moved into their old homes, etc. That being said, both sides have some issues to work out in order to get the political/peace process back on track.

Kattullus , if an Ethiopian hears you comparing the benevolence of Italian colonialism versus the British, they would be justified in throwing you a proverbial beating.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:32 PM on April 17, 2008

I'm also pretty certain we've fucked with places way, way worse than we've fucked with Cyprus.
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on April 17, 2008

I just like saying "Cypriot". That's a good word.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:41 PM on April 17, 2008

/bites into a Turkish Cypriot.

Ew! That one was landmine flavoured!
posted by Artw at 1:44 PM on April 17, 2008

Thanks, Artw, for the Sterling article. It has all kinds of interesting information and insight, such as: The mogul of the Emperyal chain was one Omer Lutfu Topal, a silver-haired heroin entrepreneur. Mr. Topal had close ties to Turkish intelligence, such close ties that in 1996 several agents of Turkish intelligence reportedly had Mr. Topal murdered in order to grab his business holdings for themselves.

And: One may naturally wonder how this fertile and fragrant island, the legendary birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, got so utterly messed up. Well, Cyprus is a very, very old place. It's no use beginning at the beginning, because then you have to point out that Cyprus once had its own race of dwarf elephants. Modern Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are no help at all because, although they claim they have a national history and they loudly chew over it all the time, what they really have are two intricate, dual theologies of vicious ethnic grudges. Outsiders who dare to describe Cypriot history will be sternly reminded that they know nothing - that they have abjectly failed to mention, for instance, the vile enosis doctrine of Archbishop Makarios, or the ghastly cruelties of the Grey Wolf commandos.

The whole article is worth reading, if only for the description of the Ghost City at the end.

Oh, and jsavimbi, I wasn't comparing Italian colonialism favorably to British colonialism. Neither was Anderson. The point isn't that the Italians were better colonial overlords but that in 1945, due to Italy being on the wrong side of WWII, they lost all their colonial holdings.
posted by Kattullus at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2008

Sterlings kind of big on Cyprus. You might wnat to check out Zietgeist, his novel set there (at least in part).
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on April 17, 2008

the shutting down of the anachronism of British enclaves – is a condition of any true resolution.

Well, I don't see Britain letting that happen any time soon. RAF Akrotiri is one of only a handful large overseas air stations Britain has left, in a hugely important location.

It's annoying that he got the Thucydides quote wrong — it's the weak suffer what they must, isn't it?
posted by matthewr at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2008

Sterling's comment Since only the Greeks are willing to actively march out and shoot them [the Turkish Cypriots] is kinda assholish. Apart from neofascists, who tend to hate everyone and their uncle, I have never heard anyone calling for killing Turks. There are many open disputes with Turkey and that inevitably colours many people's opinions, but, for what it's worth, every interaction I've had with Turks has turned out fine. Including talking about common dishes and words.
posted by ersatz at 6:54 PM on April 17, 2008

I re-watched the excellent TV drama House of Cards recently, which has a plot thread based around our post-colonial shenanigans in Cyprus. It's another grubby chapter in the decline of empire phase of the British post-war years.
posted by Abiezer at 8:52 PM on April 17, 2008

I only have one Cyprus story, it's from about '92 I think. We were on the east coast of the island, somewhere near Ayia Napa before it turned into a club resort. We'd travelled up to the border all day, the guidebook said it was still officially a warzone and we had to be careful. We got out of the car, crested the hill to look into the abandonded town on the other side of the border and saw the opposing armies using the border as a volleyball net with a UN soldier refereeing the game.
posted by vbfg at 1:48 AM on April 18, 2008

Mehmet Ali Talat, the unrecognised president of northern Cyprus, recently pulled off a publicity stunt, aimed at winning the hearts of ordinary folk. But it was not his Turkish-Cypriot voters he was wooing as he sampled the local ice cream (pictured above, centre). His walkabout was among Greek-Cypriots in the southern half of the divided capital, Nicosia.

For an hour or so, he padded around the heart of the city, chatting to locals and a mob of reporters. Admittedly, he was surrounded by bodyguards, whose pockets bulged with what looked awfully like guns (tactfully ignored by local Greek-Cypriot officials). Besides the ice cream, he also shopped for music: with rather clunky symbolism, he tried to buy a copy of Pink Floyd's “The Wall”, but it was out of stock.
-From A glimmer of hope, with ice cream, an article about the latest round of talks between the two Cypriot states.
posted by Kattullus at 11:05 AM on April 25, 2008

« Older Housing Crisis: 1 in 33 Face Foreclosure Within 2...   |   The Grace Lee project Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments