Changing Perceptions

 

Changing Perceptions: Britain’s Ministry of Defence on Cyprus, 2009-2011

The following brief historical summary from a Ministry of Defence web page “for the service community” highlights the Greekness of the island of Cyprus.

Cyprus History

Few countries can trace the course of their history over 10,000 years, but in approximately 8,000 BC the island of Cyprus was already inhabited and going through its Neolithic Age. Of all the momentous events that were to sweep the country through the next few thousand years, one of the most crucial was the discovery of copper—or Kuprum in Latin—the mineral which took its name from “Kypros”, the Greek name of Cyprus, and generated untold wealth.

The island’s strategic position, its copper deposits and its timber attracted the first Greeks who came to the island over 3,000 years ago at the end of the Trojan wars. They settled down, bringing in with them and establishing the Greek identity.

Over the centuries Cyprus came under the sway of various rulers including the Egyptians. Assyrians, Persians, the successors to Alexander the Great and the Romans, before Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire. Later came the Crusaders, the Frankish Lusignans and Venetians, Ottomans and British.

Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, for the first time in 3,500 years, but the Greek identity of language and culture has been retained.

It was retrieved from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ on 7 September 2011. The web page is a National Archive snapshot taken on 5 August 2009, i.e., it is “web content selected for preservation by The National Archives.”

On the same day (7 September 2011) I went to the then current Ministry of Defence web site and found a quite different historical summary:

History

Cyprus was the site of early Phoenician and Greek colonies. For centuries its rule passed through many hands. It fell to the Turks in 1571, and a large Turkish colony settled on the island.

In World War I, at the outbreak of hostilities with Turkey, Britain annexed the island. It was declared a Crown colony in 1925. The Greek population, which regarded Greece as its mother country, sought self-determination and union (enosis) with Greece. In 1955, a guerrilla war against British rule was launched by the National Organization of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA). In 1958, Greek Cypriot nationalist leader Archbishop Makarios began calling for Cypriot independence rather than union with Greece. During this period, Turkish Cypriots began demanding that the island be partitioned between the Greek and Turkish populations.

Cyprus became an independent nation on Aug. 16, 1960, after Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed on a constitution, which excluded both the possibility of partition as well as of union with Greece. Makarios became the country's first president.

Fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots flared up in the early 1960s, and a UN peacekeeping force was sent to the island in 1965.

Alongside the above summary, an external link “about Cyprus” was offered, which took one to www.aboutcyprus.com. There were no links to official Government of Cyprus web sites about Cyprus.

The results from a chain of Google searches suggested that aboutcyprus.com was owned by a Turk or Turkish Cypriot (probably the latter), who also owned many web sites promoting the sale of holidays and real estate in the occupied territory, as well as a travel agency specialising in trips to the occupied territory.

The Ministry of Defence web page of 2011 is no longer available, but the same historical summary is still being used, and can be found at https://www.gov.uk/british-forces-overseas-posting-cyprus. (Published 12 December 2012. Accessed 28 March 2013.)

Whereas the MOD’s 2009 historical summary is unfair to the Turkish Cypriots, for they do not even get a mention, the 2011 summary, with its reference to “a large Turkish colony” and its failure to indicate the population ratio, allows the uninformed reader the possibility of concluding that the Turkish Cypriot demand for partition was a reasonable one. The later summary also implies that Makarios got what he “called for” in 1958—independence, whereas the truth is that he agreed reluctantly to settle for independence, fearing that, if he did not, Britain would partition the island. In fact it was the Turkish side that got what it wanted, since it was the Turkish Foreign Minister who proposed in outline the “independence” package which became the Zurich and London agreements. (See Roderick Beaton’s George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel: A Biography, p. 349.)

Finally the statement that “Cyprus became an independent nation... after Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed on a constitution”, although strictly speaking true, certainly does not convey the reality. It was Britain, Turkey and Greece that came to an agreement. Makarios went along with it because he was left with no other choice, and Kuchuk did what Turkish Government strategy required of him.

But it is a very brief historical summary...

Pavlos Andronikos