Politics, Social Memory, and Identity in Greek Cyprus since 1974

        This essay by Greek Cypriot sociologist Caesar V. Mavratsas engages many of the issues at the center of national identity.  Mavratsas, a professor at the University of Cyprus, published an important book on Greek nationalism in the late 1990s.


As a result of the division of Cyprus in 1974, and until the mid-1980s, Greek-Cypriot nationalism was suppressed at the expense of Cypriotism, an ideology that pledged support to the political independence of the island. The retreat of nationalism, however, was temporary and it soon resurfaced as a dominant ideology, albeit in a changed form. The new Greek-Cypriot nationalism does not go unopposed. Whereas the clash between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism is not a recent phenomenon, in the post-1974 years it has acquired a greater intensity and constitutes the major battle in the Greek-Cypriot contest over identity. This essay examines the post-1974 period and especially the revival of Greek-Cypriot nationalism since the mid-1980s. The aim is to analyse the ideological contest between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism as it becomes articulated in the social construction of cultural and political identity and the collective memory of the Greek-Cypriot community.

There can be little doubt that nationalism has been the dominant political ideology in the modern history of Cyprus' With the advent of British colonialism in 1878, Greek-Cypriot irredentist nationalism, in the form of the demand for union {enosis) with Greece, began to be transformed into a mass movement in reaction to which there gradually arose an opposing Turkish-Cypriot nationalism, calling for the partition (taksim) of Cyprus along ethnic lines. The independence of 1960 was certainly an unorthodox solution to the Cyprus problem - a problem which emerged from the clash between the two opposing nationalisms and, perhaps more importantly, from the manipulation of this clash by the British administration. From 1960 to 1974, enosis continued to be the dominant Greek- Cypriot ideological orientation and in conjunction with Turkish-Cypriot nationalism, as well as the intervention of foreign interests, Greek-Cypriot nationalism fuelled intercommunal strife, culminating in the Turkish invasion of 1974.[2] As a result of this invasion and until about the mid-1980s, Greek-Cypriot nationalism was suppressed at the expense of Cypriotism, an ideology that pledged support to the political independence of the island. The retreat of nationalism, however, was only temporary and it soon resurfaced as a dominant ideology, albeit in a changed form. What Greek-Cypriot nationalists aspire to now is not union with Greece but the reaffirmation of Greek identity in the context of an independent polity which is organically tied to Greek culture and is politically anchored to the Greek state. The new Greek-Cypriot nationalism, however, does not go unopposed. Whereas the ideological clash between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism is by no means a recent phenomenon --- being already evident from the early phases of Greek-Cypriot nationalism and the opposition it engendered --- in the post 1974 years it has acquired a greater intensity and constitutes the major battle in the Greek-Cypriot 'contest' over identity.

This essay analyses the post-1974 period and especially the revival of Greek-Cypriot nationalism since the mid-1980s. The aim is to examine the ideological battle between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism as it becomes articulated in the social construction of cultural and political identity and the social memory of the Greek-Cypriot community. Recent analyses of nationalism have made it clear that nationalism cannot be seen simply as a political ideology but must be analysed as a broader cultural discourse for the social construction of world views and identities. In this discourse, memory, sentiments, symbols, ceremonies and, more generally, the 'invention of traditions' are of paramount significance (Cohn 1980; Appadurai 1981; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983; Burke 1989; Cohen 1989; Connerton 1989; Bhabba 1990; Anderson 1991; Smith 1991, 1994; Fentress and Wickham 1992; Connor 1994; Sant Cassia 1995).

The case of Cyprus, where an irredentist movement has been transformed into a politics of identity, establishes that nationalism is an inherently complex phenomenon. Even though its symbolic content and emotional appeal may remain the same, nationalist ideology often functions differently in specific sociohistorical contexts. The carriers of nationalist ideology are often diverse - with groups and key actors displaying variation not only in the intensity of nationalist agitation but also in the image and key axioms of the nationalist world-view. In the 1990s, for example, Greek-Cypriot nationalism is simultaneously expressed by the extreme and moderate right, the socialists, an often very vocal and sophisticated group of technocrats and intellectuals, and the traditional church hierarchy. Such diverse groups neither share identical interests nor do they articulate the same rhetoric, and any attempt to present a unified and monolithic picture of nationalism would often display internal inconsistencies and contradictions. Thus, the analyst is forced to proceed on the basis of ideal types and abstractions, aiming at the isolation of prototypical tendencies and dominant attitudes.

The sociological significance of Greek-Cypriot nationalism must be analysed in relation to a number of other crucial factors: the class structure of Greek-Cypriot society; relations between Greek Cypriots and mainland Greeks; intercommunal relations and the development of Turkish-Cypriot nationalism; and last, but not least, the interference of foreign interests and the international balance of power. An examination of Greek-Cypriot nationalism in the light of all the above mentioned factors -- that is, simultaneously in its intracommunal, intercommunal and international dimensions - would amount to a detailed social and political history of modern Cyprus and is far beyond the purposes of this article.

The focus of the present analysis is upon what Kitromilides (1981) calls the 'internal dimension' of Greek-Cypriot politics and more specifically the internal structures and logical grammar of Greek-Cypriot nationalism. The emphasis, to put it differently, is upon the ideological expressions of nationalism in relative abstraction from a wide range of other forces, especially at the international level, which contributed to Greek-Cypriot nationalism's essential constitution and historical evolution. Precisely because of the dominance of Greek-Cypriot nationalist ideology in the political culture of the island throughout most of this century, the internal dynamics of Greek-Cypriot nationalism have been generally overlooked in mainstream Greek-Cypriot political discourse and social analysis, especially that attempted by Cypriot intellectuals. The prevailing tendency is either to accept fully the fundamental axioms of nationalist ideology, thus viewing nationalism as a 'natural' phenomenon; or to explain its sociological role by exclusive reference to external intervention - as if the rise of nationalism is merely the result of foreign conspiracy, be it on the part of Britain, NATO, Turkey or Greece. These particular attitudes, however, essentially 'mythologizes' political analysis and maintain[s] pervasive ideological dogmas' (Kitromilides 1981, p. 449).

The decline of nationalism and the rise of Cypriotism in the first post-1974 years

Following the events of the summer of 1974, Cyprus is a divided island, having experienced 'ethnic cleansing' long before it became a way of solving ethnic differences in the republics of former Yugoslavia. The immediate consequence of the Turkish invasion upon Greek-Cypriot political culture was the temporary marginalization of nationalism and the parallel rise of a 'Cypriotist' ideology. Given that the reunification of the island became the main political priority, the emphasis shifted to the independence of the island - precisely because the latter was considered a xinc min nnn for the achievement of a settlement that would reunify the island. The symbol of enosis was naturally associated with the, events that made up the disaster of 1974: terrorism, fascist authoritarianism and the overthrow of democracy, foreign invasion and occupation, and violent displacement. Thus, the enosists, and also the right which had incorpor ated them in the newly-formed Democratic Rally [DISI], the political party founded by Glafkos derides, were almost totally ostracized. At the same time, the Greek Cypriots began consciously to differentiate their political fate from that of Greece (Stamatakis P991; Papadakis 1993).

The emphasis on Cypriot independence led to significant shifts in Greek-Cypriot official historiography and to the re-interpretation of certain aspects of the island's recent political past. The EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) movement (1955-59), for example, began to be seen as an anti-colonial independence struggle rather than as a movement aiming at union with Greece. It is therefore not surprising that since 1974 there has been an increasing emphasis on the official symbolism, as well as the commemoration, of the independence of the island. Whereas the day of independence was hardly celebrated before 1974 -- when the stress was upon the national commemorations of the Greek state -- it started to be officially seen as the most important commemorative ritual in Greek- Cypriot political culture. For the first time since 1960, the Cypriot flag began to be publicly displayed on a large scale and to displace, or at least be placed next to, the Greek flag which had, until 1974, expressed the attachment of the Greek Cypriots to the mainland and their ambivalence towards Cypriot independence (Stamatakis 1991; Papadakis 1993; Peristianis 1995).

The decline of nationalist ideology in the first post-1974 years -- precisely because nationalism was seen as at least partly responsible for the events of 1974 -- led the Greek-Cypriot leadership to make serious political compromises, accepting a federal solution to the Cyprus problem and thus officially renouncing the basic principle of the nationalist-irredentist ideology which had dominated Greek-Cypriot politics since the early 1950s -- that is, the idea of union with Greece. In an effort to convince not only the Turkish Cypriots but also the international community that it was sincere in its acceptance of a federal solution, the official Greek- Cypriot leadership espoused a policy of rapprochement with the Turkish Cypriots, stressing that the Turkish Cypriots were not the enemy and that the two communities could again live together as they had done in the past. In a discourse that almost totally silences the 1960-1974 period, the Greek-Cypriot leadership now proclaims that Turkey and its chauvinistic representatives among the Turkish-Cypriots are the true aggressors, victimizing both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots. Communist AKEL (Progressive Party of the Working People) went beyond the discourse of the peaceful coexistence of the two communities and even talked about the 'brotherly' bonds between the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots. Even though no other Greek-Cypriot political force seemed to be willing to go as far as AKEL in this respect, there is no doubt that rapprochement assumed a dominant role in Greek-Cypriot political discourse (Stamatakis 1991; Papadakis 1993; Markides 1995).

At a different level of analysis, one cannot fail to see that the events of 1974 created a psychological distance - or, more accurately, increased this distance - between the Greek Cypriots and the mainland Greeks One must not forget that the coup against Makarios which led to the Turkish invasion was designed and executed by the Greek junta and its associates on the island. Thus, the 'kalamarades' (pen pushers), as the mainland Greeks are commonly called in Cyprus, were naturally blamed for the Turkish invasion of 1974. That a psychosocial boundary would have arisen between Cyprus and the mainland should therefore come as a surprise to no one, especially since the motherland did not come to the defence of the Greek Cypriots when Turkey invaded the island. An awareness that the Greek Cypriots, in spite -- or according to some, precisely because -- of their genuine and sui generis Greekness, were in many ways different, and 'better', from 'the kalamarades', can certainly be detected in the pre-1974 period. Whereas, however, the term 'kalamaradas', had already begun to acquire strong negative meanings from the early 1960s, its pejorative connotation, and the emotional strain between Greek Cypriots and mainland Greeks that it signifies, clearly intensified in the first post-1974 years (Papadakis 1993).


So far, the term 'Cypriotism' has been used without a precise definition. It is now time to explicate its meaning more systematically. In broad terms, Cypriotism refers to the idea that Cyprus has its own sui generis character and, thus, must be viewed as an entity which is independent from both the motherlands of the two main communities of the island, that is, Greece and Turkey. This, of course, contrasts sharply with the view that dominates nationalist ideology (Greek- or Turkish-Cypriot) and views Cyprus as an extension of Greece and Turkey. For the Cypriotist, the independence or autonomy of Cyprus is manifest at different levels -- history, politics, social structure, culture -- but it rarely (and only in its more extreme expression) takes the form of a complete disengage ment from Greece and Turkey. Thus, Cypriotism does not deny the Greek or Turkish ethnicity of the inhabitants of the island; it stresses, however, that their ethnic identity -- and, thus, on a more general level. their culture -- has also acquired sui generis features which not only differentiate the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots from the Greeks and the Turks but also create some common ground between the two communities of the island (Lanitis 1963; The New Cyprus Association 1975; 1980). Cypriotism does not therefore promote the idea that there exists a Cypriot nation - unless 'nation' is understood as a strictly political-territorial category.

Since 1960 Cypriotism has been articulated as a 'de-ethnicized' political ideology, stressing that Cyprus is an independent polity with interests (social, political and economic) which may be different from those of either the Greek or the Turkish state; for the Cypriotists, to view the issue from a different angle, what matters most is not the ethnicity of the inhabitants of Cyprus but their Cypriot citizenship. Whereas Cypriotist elements can be traced throughout the modern history of Cyprus, in the pre-1974 period Cypriotism rarely took the form of a systematic movement with the ability to challenge ideological orthodoxy on the island. It should not be surprising therefore that very few historical documents or declarations of Cypriotist ideology exist and those that do are mostly in leftist publications. What we could even call the 'bashfulness' with which Cypriotists have publicly expressed themselves is, of course, directly related to the dominance of nationalist ideology. From the 1920s to the 1940s elements of Cypriotism can be found in declarations of the Cypriot Communist Party [KKK], which later became transformed into AKEL, and the newspapers (Torch) and New Man affiliated with the left. For the early Cypriot communists, the explicit rejection of Greek-Cypriot nationalism emanated from Marxist ideology and its internationalist stress on the primacy of the class struggle; in this view, nationalism was an instance of false consciousness, simply an ideology solidifying the dominance of the bourgeoisie, and the working classes of the two communities ought to unite and promote their common interests. In the 1940s Cypriotism was passionately expressed by the communist mayor of Famagusta, A. Adamantos, and other leftists, the most eminent of whom were P. Servas and F. Ioannou, who distanced themselves from AKEL on the ground of its shift to a pro-enosis stance. Along with the communist version of Cypriotism, however, there was also a liberal modernist Cypriotism, expressed mainly by N. Lanitis, one of the leading industrialists of the island, who had founded the Party of Progress in the 1940s. Lanitis's (1963, p. 7) views centred on the idea that the cooperation between the two communities is the sine qua non for modernization and economic development and, more generally, 'progress'. Lanitis (1963, p. 8) maintained that 'union and only union was essentially a negative policy' and urged the Greek- Cypriots 'to apply self-restraint in (their) nationalist aspirations' and to honour their signature on the London-Zurich agreement. Despite the latter's limitations, Lanitis (1963, pp. 6-8) writes, the agreement 'is as good as the men who apply if and it is primarily the Greek-Cypriot majority's responsibility 'to gain the confidence of the Turks'.

Whereas there can be no doubt that Cypriotism has largely developed in explicit opposition to Greek nationalism in Cyprus, the student of nationalism may indeed raise the issue of whether Cypriotism is itself a different form of nationalism. Cypriotism meets many of the criteria offered in most definitions of nationalism - the stress upon common history, homeland, culture (Kellas 1991; Smith 1991) - and thus could be described as Cypriot, as distinct from Greek-Cypriot, nationalism. It is thus possible to view Cypriotism as a civic, or even 'anti-ethnic', nationalism and refer to its battle with Greek ethnonationalism as a clash of opposing nationalisms. Whereas the adherents of Greek nationalism usually have no trouble with the label 'nationalist', the Cypriotists present their views as explicitly anti-nationalist - assuming that the only type of nationalism that exists is ethnic nationalism which they view as inherently chauvinistic - and would certainly reject the label; especially since in Cyprus the latter has been closely associated with Greek-Cypriot irredentism.

Broadly speaking, it may be argued that the contrast between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism corresponds to the political opposition between right and left. Historically, however, the picture concerning the social bases of the two ideologies has been more complex. Until 1960 the main carrier forces of Greek-Cypriot nationalism had been drawn from the groups dominating Greek-Cypriot politics: the urban bourgeoisie, the clergy, and the Greek-educated intelligentsia (Kitromilides 1979); in as far as these groups constitute the political right, and notwithstanding that nationalism had a wider appeal to the masses, it can certainly be said that the leadership of nationalism had been monopolized by the right; and this despite the fact that even the communists, who had feebly expressed some Cypriotist positions, often adhered to an enosist ideology. Following independence, on the other hand, Cypriotism began to be clearly associated with the elites who had vested interests in Cypriot independence - more specifically in the existence of an independent Cypriot state apparatus - and which certainly cannot be placed in the political left; Cypriotism continued, of course, to be expressed by AKEL, even though the communists again reverted to a pro-enosis position from 1963 to 1966 (Kakoulli 1990).3 Makarios's policy of independence, moreover, definitely drew support from part of the right and the majority of the centrist forces. In the immediate post- 1974 years, when Cypriotism gained considerable ground and to a significant extent became officialized in state ideology, nationalism was confined to the right and, perhaps, only its most extreme elements. With the emergence of a new Greek-Cypriot nationalism in the mid-1980s, Cypriotism begins to be closely associated with the communist left, with the socialist EDEK (Unified Democratic Union of the Centre) appearing as one of the most nationalistically inclined political forces on the island (Stamatakis 1991; Peristianis 1995). However, Cypriotist elements and orientations can be found in almost all political parties, and it should be clear that the reduction of the contest between nationalism and Cypriotism into a left-right opposition cannot be fully sustained and can only oversimplify the picture.

The most methodical formulation of the Cypriotist ideology that developed in the first post-1974 years was provided by the New Cyprus Association, an organization which was founded in March 1975, with the aim of promoting and safeguarding Cypriot independence. The Association's founding was an explicit reaction to the events of 1974, an attempt to create an atmosphere in which the mistakes that led to 1974 could not possibly be repeated. The Neocypriots proclaimed that it was high time to formulate 'the lessons that must be drawn out of the fires of Pentadaktylos', referring to the northern mountain range of Cyprus which was the site of intense fighting during the Turkish invasion (The New Cyprus Association 1975). The prevailing mood of the people who set up the Association becomes deal in their official Declaration:

Now that the tears are dry, now that the anger and despair have gone we must think: We have been happy, we have been honest, tolerant and liberal. We had been leading a serene and carefree existence and we were silent. Now we are paying for our silence. We, the silent majority. must search our mind and our conscience so that we can realize the sudden awakening of the seven days. Our children and the coming generations expect us to act so that they will not find themselves in the same position as ours (The New Cyprus Association, 1975).

Given the division of the island in 1974 - and its undeniable connection to Greek-Cypriot nationalism - it is probably true that in the immediate post-1974 years the New Cyprus Association indeed expressed the prevailing Greek-Cypriot sentiments. The Association's foremost political priority was to ensure that this 'majority' was never again to remain silent, as it had remained when the Republic of Cyprus was being under mined by nationalist extremists and the Greek junta.

The New Cyprus Association (1975) had no intention to 'deny ethnic origins and cultural links' and made it clear that 'we cannot forget our national descent'. It stressed, however, that the inhabitants of Cyprus 'must as a people consider themselves as Cypriots first and foremost and then as Greeks, Turks, or others'. And this, precisely because 'the most significant cause of our present predicament is that the two major communities were living in air-tight separateness without contact and with the wrong conceptions about each other - and that a significant cause for this has been the separate orientations and organization of Cyprus society, and the wrong slogans'. For the Neocypriots,

the danger of the partition of Cyprus or the dissolution of our state ii imminent and the responsibility for preventing this belongs mainly to us the Cypriots and no country outside Cyprus can help effectively either because it has not the power or because its interests are not always identified with ours.

In the Association's view, ethnic separation must be overcome through 'the rapprochement and continuous cultivation of understanding between the two communities so that our common features will be fully realized and emphasized and our differences confined and alleviated' (The New Cyprus Association, 1975).

Despite the small size of the Association, the Neocypriots played a prominent role in pressuring the official Greek-Cypriot leadership to denationalize the Republic of Cyprus and to assume an explicit policy of independence (Peristianis 1995). Its members were mostly intellectuals and professionals from the educated elite of the island, especially those who had studied in Europe or North America. It is interesting to note that people who belong to the Association are eager to confess that the fact that they received their education in countries other than Greece has changed their perspective considerably, enabling them to understand the importance of interethnic communication in a multicultural society. It must, of course, be pointed out that this mostly Anglo-Saxon-educated elite has definite vested interests in Cypriot independence and especially the state apparatus that developed after 1960 out of the British colonial administrative structures.

Whereas the members of the Association were drawn mostly from the broader political left and centre, the organization made a conscious effort to stay above party politics. It presented itself not as a new political party, but, rather, as a pressure group intending to gain support from a broad ideological spectrum, excluding, of course, the radical nationalist elements. The Association was relatively successful in keeping a distance from all political parties, thus managing to attract people who belonged to the traditional right. Given that the Greek-Cypriot disaster of 1974 was also a failure of democracy, the Association stressed the importance of safeguarding the democratic process. The adoption of democratic principles in all aspects of our political life and the strict adherence to them', it is stated in the Association's official declaration (1975), 'is an indispensable prerequisite for the correct evolution of our society'.

The emergence of a new Greek-Cypriot nationalism

The demise of Greek-Cypriot nationalism was temporary and, one can say, rather superficial. Since the mid 1980s, Greek-Cypriot nationalist forces have returned to the forefront and to a considerable degree have again started to represent the political mainstream of the Greek-Cypriot community (Loizos 1995; Peristianis 1995). The event that served as the catalyst which gradually induced the new shift was the victory of Andreas Papandreou's socialist PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) in the Greek parliamentary elections of 1981. Papandreou rose to power on an explicitly nationalist anti-West agenda, promising to make the Greeks the true masters of their country. For the Greek Cypriots, this was a new Greece, different from the Greece which had 'betrayed' its own child; it was a Greece with which the Greek Cypriots could again proudly identify even without enosis. EDEK, the Greek-Cypriot socialist party, celebrated Papandreou's victory in the streets of Nicosia, carrying Greek flags and proclaiming that socialism was on its way to Cyprus via Greece. EDEK's reorientation proved to be prophetic about the changes that were to follow on a larger scale.

EDEK was formed in 1970 as the leftist orientation of the Democratic Front - the broad nationalist alliance dominating Greek-Cypriot politics from 1960-1970 - and eventually functioned as the most vocal opposition to the Greek military regime and Greek-Cypriot extremism. Immediately following the events of 1974, the party's left wing' had begun to acquire increasing prominence in the political ideology of the Greek Cypriots. EDEK's left wing, which was made up mostly of intellectuals and the most modernist elements of Greek-Cypriot society, had not only provided the most eloquent critique of the recent political choices of the Greek Cypriots, but had also begun to function as champions of the shift to Cypriotism. With the victory of Papandreou, however, EDEK was again reclaimed by its nationalist elements and eventually transformed itself into what is today perhaps the most extreme nationalist Greek-Cypriot political party.

Whereas Papandreou's rise to power in 1981 may be seen as the spark of the new Greek-Cypriot nationalism, the shift was by no means immediate. The new ideology did not begin to assert itself systematically until the mid-1980s. The event, moreover, which signifies the return of Greek-Cypriot nationalism to political dominance is dated at an even later point: Glafkos Clerides' victory in the 1993 Greek-Cypriot presidential elections and the establishment of a right-wing coalition government comprising the Democratic Rally of derides and the Democratic Party [DIKO] of Spyros Kyprianou.[4] Given, in addition, the brevity of the period that is being examined, the precise chronological demarcation of the new nationalist era from the preceding Cypriotist phase is an extremely difficult task: a task that historians in the future will be better able to accomplish (Stamatakis 1991; Peristianis 1995).

The most obvious divergence from the pre-1974 period is that Greek- Cypriot nationalism has discarded its irredentist orientation. Cypriot independence, at least as far as official policy and rhetoric are concerned, is widely accepted. To a significant extent, the agreement upon independence is the result of the realization that, given the Turkish invasion and continued occupation, the island can only be reunited if the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots can compromise and agree upon a political settlement that provides for an independent bicommunal state. However, recently this position has been subjected to considerable criticism, with certain nationalist circles even going so far as to proclaim that the 'option of war' is the only viable strategy for redeeming the occupied part of the island.

Political aims

On a general pragmatic level, Greek-Cypriot nationalism is now expressed as a desire to strengthen the ties between the Republic of Cyprus and Greece. This orientation is certainly related to the continued heavy military presence of Turkey, and the need of the Greek Cypriots for protection from Greece in case of another Turkish military offensive. Especially during socialist rule, Greece has publicly accepted the role of protector of 'Cypriot Hellenism', making it clear that any further Turkish aggression against Cyprus constitutes a casus belli. It is in the light of this development, that the two governments have recently signed an official military pact which places Cyprus in the 'unified defense space of Hellenism'. The pursuit of closer political and military ties with the mainland appears to be shared by most Greek-Cypriot political forces, with AKEL, of course, being the most sceptical, arguing that the 'unified defensive dogma' undermines the autonomy of the Cypriot state; and, more generally, that the more the Greek Cypriots are drawn to Greece the more the Turkish Cypriots will be drawn to Turkey. Even the communists, however, know that the outright demand for keeping a distance from the 'great fatherland' would result in severe electoral losses.

The new Greek-Cypriot nationalism's position on the Cyprus problem and its resolution is expressed as a rejection of the idea of federation - the 'rejectionists' and the 'federationalists' constituting the two main Greek-Cypriot political orientations on the Cyprus problem. Officially, the Republic of Cyprus continues to proclaim its support for a federal solution of the political problem on the island. There is no doubt, however, that, especially since the election of derides and the establishment of a Democratic Rally-Democratic Party coalition government, the idea of federation has been subjected to considerable criticism; and this primarily on the ground that it concedes too much to the other side. The rejectionists, now officially in government via the Democratic Party, stress the undeniably undemocratic character of a bicommunal federation (the 80 per cent Greek majority being equated to the 18 per cent Turkish minority) and argue that the only 'just' settlement of the Cyprus problem would be one that ensures democratic majority rule, providing, of course, for the rights of the Turkish-Cypriot minority. The most ardent enemy of federation is Archbishop Chrysostomos, who time and again tries to convince his >flock= that a federal settlement >will mean the complete destruction of Cypriot Hellenism on the island' . In as far as the official leadership continues to accept the idea of a federal solution, it could be claimed that mainstream Greek-Cypriot political culture is dominated by the Cypriotist elements which were prominent in the first post-1974 years. With a closer look, however, one realizes that the emphasis upon the alleged Greekness of the island certainly contradicts the idea of a federation and the ethnic coexistence that it implies, and may lead one to question the sincerity of its official acceptance by the Greek Cypriots.

Ideological content

At the ideological level, the pursuit of closer ties with Greece is justified by reference to an alleged need to reaffirm Greek identity and re-establish the 'Greekness' of the island. The slogan 'Cyprus is Greek' has begun to dominate the political discourse of the non-communist forces and to define the parameters of ideological orthodoxy in Greek-Cypriot political culture. AKEL's differentiation on the issue is again very reluctant. Whereas the communists prefer to proclaim that 'Cyprus belongs to its people' rather than that 'Cyprus is Greek', they are perfectly aware that any serious challenge, or even qualification, to the assumed Greekness of the island would alienate them from the political mainstream.

Even though the professed 'Greekness' of Cyprus is a multi-dimensional concept - referring, for example, to ethnic origins, religion, values and social organization - it is articulated primarily as a cultural category, in the sense that 'culture' acquired in nineteenth-century romantic nationalism. Thus, Greek-Cypriot culture, both at the popular and the 'high' levels, is viewed as unequivocal evidence for the Greek Cypriots' membership in the greater community of the Greek nation. Given that enosis is no longer a viable possibility, it may be said that the new Greek-Cypriot nationalism is forced to view the Greek nation as a cultural, rather than a political, entity. So one will often hear that 'we may not be able to unite with Greece, but we are still Greek and must remain Greek'. Moreover, in the Greek-Cypriot nationalist world-view, the genuine Greekness of Cyprus is viewed precisely as the, est guarantee of the Greek Cypriots' survival in the midst of their current misfortunes.

Notwithstanding what to the Western observer may appear as an often sterile and formalistic understanding of Greek culture on the part of Greek-Cypriot nationalist ideology, there can be no doubt that the latter has traditionally monopolized the rights of ownership and appropriation of the Greek heritage of the island. This monopolization is evident even before the independence of 1960, when the leftist Cypriotist ideological camp did not manage to articulate an opposing discourse, a discourse that would have attested to the simple but powerful fact that Greek culture is by no means consumed in its nationalist expression. Given the left's limitation in this regard, it is not surprising that the communists and Cypriotists came to be seen as 'not real Greeks' and thus as having no legitimate claims upon the definition of Greek-Cypriot cultural identity (Ioannou 1988; 1991).

The new Greek-Cypriot nationalism continues to thrive on the symbolic dominance traditionally associated with nationalist ideology, stressing, among other issues, the inherent qualities (and superiority) of Greek culture, the '3000-year-old history of the Greeks of Cyprus', the value of Greek education, and 'the Hellenochristian ideals' which have imbued Western civilization. As is the case with mainland Greek nationalism (Mouzells 1994, 1995; Panagiotakis 1995), Greek-Cypriot nationalism views ancient Greek civilization as its own property and places particular emphasis on the idea of the historical continuity of the nation - a continuity which, it is believed, enables the Greeks to act as the most truthful interpreters and guardians of the heritage of Ancient Greek civilization. 'What we consider the greatest honour for thousands of years', we read in an ultra-nationalist newspaper, 'is that we belong to the most glorious nation of the earth' (I Machi, 12 September 1995, p. 3).

The inherent contradictions between the Ancient Greek past and Cyprus's Orthodox Byzantine heritage are hastily brushed aside, the claim being that Orthodoxy constitutes the natural evolution of Ancient Hellas. The result of this synthesis, of course, is the much emphasized notion of a Hellenochristian civilization (Kitromilides 1989). It is not surprising therefore that since the turn of the century the Orthodox Church has traditionally been one of the champions of Greek-Cypriot nationalism, a role which it continues to play in the new nationalism that emerged in the mid-1980s. The nationalization of the Orthodox Church is a historical phenomenon, one which points not to any harmony between Orthodoxy and nationalism - on the contrary, the two are inherently contradictory (Kitromilides 1989) - but to the force of nationalist ideology and the declining ability of the Cypriot Church to assume an autonomous social and ideological role in modern society.5 In an era of growing secularization where the Orthodox Church of Cyprus is increasingly reduced to a ceremonial organization, nationalist agitation provides the Church hierarchy with an excellent opportunity to reassert its lost eminence and to act as an agent of national unity. Given that the Church of Cyprus has historically had an essential political role in the affairs of the island, with the Archbishop being a spiritual as well as a political leader, Archbishop Chrysostomos's proposal in February 1995 for the restoration of the 'Ethnarchic Council' should surprise no one. The proposal, which would re-institutionalize the Church's political involvement, was firmly rejected by President Clerides who stressed the importance of the separation of church and state.

The symbolic ammunition of nationalist ideology - building on the 'glorious past and heritage' of Cypriot Hellenism - certainly carries more weight than the cultural capital of those who present a Cypriot-centred understanding of the cultural heritage and identity of the Greek Cypriots. The Cypriotist version of the cultural endowment of the Greeks of the island is 'more mundane, impure and polluted' (Papadakis 1993, p. 166). Thus, whereas the nationalists focus on a distinguished legacy, the Cypriotists emphasize popular culture, rural customs and everyday practices which construct a more syncretic, and unquestionably less dignified, view of identity and tradition.

As in the past, Greek-Cypriot nationalism continues to function as a lever for the suppression of social criticism (Kitromilides 1979), especially around debates concerning past political choices, and their often catastrophic implications, but also the modernization of society, focusing upon issues such as individual liberty, gender relations and sexual preference. It is interesting to note, for example, that when A. Modinos, a homosexual activist, recently took the government of the Republic to the European court, on the ground that in Cyprus homosexuality is still considered a criminal offence, an often heard negative reaction against the gay community's grievance revolved precisely around the argument that 'our foremost priority is our national problem - it is absurd that we spend our time and energy with problems such as homosexuality'. Other issues that are rarely, if ever, discussed precisely because they allegedly detract from more serious national concerns include the social position of women, the organic relation between citizenship and religion, and the traditionally privileged position of the Orthodox Church.

Social memory and identity 

The new Greek-Cypriot nationalist ideology has not yet crystallized, nor has it been systematically articulated. Its fluidity, which often leads to internal incoherence, is inextricably connected to the fact that the Cypriotist ideology which was dominant in the first post-1974 years is still influential among a considerable segment of the Greek-Cypriot population. The new ideological phase is characterized precisely by the explicit opposition between Greek nationalism and Cypriotism - much more so than in the period 1960-1974, when Cypriotism never managed to assert itself or mount a powerful challenge to nationalism. The contrast between the concepts 'Cypriot Hellenism', used in nationalist discourse, and 'Cypriot people', prominent in the 'texts' of Cypriotism, is indicative of the ideological differences under consideration. Whereas the battle is by no means over, there can be no doubt that the nationalist forces clearly have the upper hand and have again begun to define the parameters of Greek-Cypriot ideological orthodoxy - an orthodoxy, to repeat, which is not as rigid as it was in the 1960s when even the proindependence forces often spoke the language of enosis.

The return of nationalism to ideological dominance is evident in the meaning that the term 'Neocypriot' has acquired over the last few years. In the 1990s 'Neocypriot' is clearly a pejorative term, meaning someone who denies his Greek roots and genuine cultural endowment. The term, moreover, is interpreted as a national category, denoting a claim for the existence of a different, Cypriot nation. That the New Cyprus Association primarily supports the political independence of the island, without denying the ethnicity of the Greek or the Turkish Cypriots, is rarely addressed. Most people, it appears, are not even aware of the existence of the Association and think that 'Neocypriot' is merely an insult - an attribute with which no one would consciously and voluntarily associate oneself. In the discourse of the new Greek-Cypriot nationalism, the Neocypriots are now presented as those who 'sold' Cyprus to foreign interests, especially the British, and as bearing the greatest responsibility not only for the political misfortunes of the Greek-Cypriot community but also for a wide array of other cultural problems revolving around the 'corruption of our language and traditions' (Peristianis 1995).

The battle between nationalism and Cypriotism is, above everything else, ideological and symbolic. This is especially so in the mid-1990s, with Clerides having won the presidency and the nationalists having direct access to official policy. With the government largely under its control, the nationalist front has focused on the ideological arena, trying to disengage itself from the recent disasters of Cypriot history. As one might expect, the association between nationalism and the events that led up to the summer of 1974 has been the issue stressed the most by the Cypriotist front. The nationalist counter-attack draws on nationalism's comparative symbolic advantage, reminding the Greek Cypriots of their genuine Greekness and glorious history and placing the entire responsibility for 1974 upon the domestic and foreign enemies of Hellenism, and the narrow confines of the Greek junta (1967-1974). Given the Greek identity of the Greek Cypriots, one often hears, enosis was not only a perfectly natural but also a sacred demand - one that no true Greek could renounce or consider responsible for the events that led up to the Turkish invasion of 1974.

The contest between nationalism and Cypriotism thus focuses on issues concerning social memory and identity. Both sides appear to be perfectly aware that ideological hegemony over the present requires an appropriation of the past. Historiography is highly ideologized, with both the nationalists and the Cypriotists utilizing arbitrary and selective strategies of historical interpretation. In the light of the fact that union with Greece appears an almost impossible task, it is not surprising that the new Greek-Cypriot nationalism pays greater attention to issues of identity, asserting that the preservation of Greekness constitutes the foremost - ethical and political - priority of the Greek Cypriots (Loizos 1995: Peristianis 1995).

With respect to the battle over the interpretation of history and, thus, 'the invention of tradition' (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983), the ideological clash between Greek-Cypriot nationalism and Cypriotism primarily focuses on key events from the recent history of Cyprus, such as the EOKA struggle and the coup of 1974; and also on the legacies of Archbishop Makarios and General Georgios Grivas, the military leader of EOKA and the terrorist EOKA B. Many other issues and turning-points in Cypriot history, however, often become objects of ideological contest - from the legacy of the pre-Greek Cypriot past, more than three thousand years ago, or the Phoenician influence, to the relations between the Greeks and the Turks of the island during Ottoman rule. Both camps claim to possess the 'true' history and accuse each other of either ahistoricity or the distortion of history. In the post-modern spirit of our age, it is often difficult to differentiate between historiography and historical fiction; and this appears as an element that at present suits the purposes of nationalist propaganda. There can be very little doubt that, especially with respect to the more recent past of the island (that is, post 1930), there appears to be more 'factual' support for the Cypriotist version of history (Loizos 1995; Markides 1995). This, however, by no means guarantees that the nationalist view will not in the end prevail. One must not forget that, as Smith (1991, pp. 126-27) puts it, 'the uses of ethno-history (are) always selective: it (is) as important to forget certain things as to remember others'.

In reference to the EOKA struggle, nationalist discourse essentially maintains that the Greek Cypriots scored a military victory which, however, was compromised by their political leadership (Makarios). The Cypriotist camp, on the other hand, is very critical of the direction into which the anticolonial struggle was pushed by the nationalists and maintains that it makes no sense to talk about a victory. The nationalist camp accuses Makarios of having betrayed the ideal of enosis, whereas the Cypriotist camp argues that Makarios realized that, given the circumstances, enosis would be disastrous, wisely adopting a policy of independence. With respect to General Grivas, the nationalists, with the exception of the traditional Makarios supporters and the members of EDEK, who on this issue side with AKEL, focus on his role in the EOKA struggle. They present him as the indisputably greatest 'hero' of modern Greek-Cypriot history, preferring until recently to keep quiet about his role in EOKA B and the events that led to the coup of 1974. As it became evident with the organization of a conference on the 'national contributions' of the General, however, the nationalists feel confident that the 1967-1974 activities of Grivas may also be reclaimed and restored. The conference, held in Nicosia in the summer of 1995, with the often explicit support of the government and the Church, was a systematic attempt to present General Grivas as someone who not only was not an associate of the Greek junta but, on the contrary, its bitter enemy. Grivas, it was pronounced, would never have permitted the coup of 1974 and it is a disgrace that his name has been closely associated with its attempted revival of pro-Grivas sentiments was, naturally, subjected to severe criticism by the Cypriotist camp, and a second conference on Grivas was soon organized by elements unsympathetic to the legacy the General. Grivas, the greatest symbol of Greek-Cypriot nationhood, we were reminded, had also been an ardent anti-communist and there can be no doubt that he was directly associated with the terrorist undermining of Greek-Cypriot democracy in the early 1970s. For the Cypriotists, the restoration of Grivas and EOKA B, the terrorist group he founded, would amount to nothing less than a justification of terrorism, authoritarianism and the mistakes that allowed Turkey to invade the island in 1974.

Whereas the nationalists argue that 'we must put the past and internal disagreements behind us' for the sake of a much emphasized 'national unity', the Cypriotists respond that what is required is 'genuine' unity - one which would include everybody, assuming course, that they admit their mistakes and show remorse. Forgiveness without repentance, the Cypriotists proclaim, is a recipe for disaster. Given that the slogan >I don't forget' has been an element of the official post-1974 ideology of the Cypriotists (Maratheftis 1989), and given that it is extremely difficult to remember the Turkish invasion while forgetting the events that brought it about, the Cypriotist camp continues to have a clear advantage when it comes to interpreting the events of 1974. There is no doubt, however, that nationalist forces have made some progress in restoring the reputation of Grivas and EOKA B. The progress is evident in that EOKA B members are not only becoming increasingly more vocal - appearing example, on television and proudly proclaiming that 'they would have acted differently if they had to' - but also, and more significantly, a number of them have returned to positions of political power, especially in the governing Democratic Rally.

Concluding remarks The emphasis upon the 'Greekness' of Cyprus and the particularly illogical constructions that this orientation necessitates pose severe obstacles to accepting political cohabitation, in whatever form, with Turkish Cypriots. The resolution of the differences between the two communities is the sine qua non for the reunification of the island. But both before and after 1974, Greek-Cypriot nationalism entailed an organic unity of nationality and citizenship which neglects the independence of the two communities and stifles their functional competence. History, interpreted on the basis of nationalist principles, conjures images of eternal enemies and fundamentally irreconcilable differences. Given the existence of an analogous nationalist ideology among the Turkish Cypriots, as well as the strategic interests not only of Turkey but also of global powers, the reunification of the island appears to be a very remote possibility. Since a reunited Cyprus is presented as the first national priority of the Greeks of Cyprus, nationalism stifles rather than promotes the national interest. And this, if I may use nationalist terminology, precisely because the reunification of the island is the only settlement of the Cyprus conflict that can safeguard the survival of Cypriot Hellenism in its ancestral lands and thus restore the unity of its historical space.

Whereas no one can deny that Greek-Cypriot nationalism, both in the past and in the present, has had an independent appeal to considerable segments of the Greek-Cypriot population, often inspiring acts of self- sacrificial heroism, there can be little doubt that the consequences of the 'dialectic of intolerance' in which Greek-Cypriot nationalism has been inextricably engaged have been catastrophic for the island (Kitromilides 1979). The return of nationalism to the forefront of Greek-Cypriot ideological orthodoxy may be seen as an indication that the Greek-Cypriot community has been historically unable to go through any process of what we may call political maturation; such maturation would require that the Greek Cypriots view their past with a different sensibility, raise new questions, and come to terms with the present and future at minimal cost.

Caesar V. Mavratsas, "The ideological contest between Greek-Cypriot nationalism and Cypriotism 1974-1995: politics, social memory and identity," Ethnic and Racial Studies, v 20 no 4 (October 1997).


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