Thursday, 28 August 2014

Britain in the Mediterranean: On Robert Holland’s Blue Water Empire

A quick review of Robert Holland’s Blue-Water Empire: The British in the Mediterranean since 1800.

The narrative is compelling and heavily features the fortunes of Greece and Greeks – whether it’s Britain seeking to limit the Greek Revolution of 1821; occupying the Ionian islands and Cyprus; protecting the Ottoman empire in decline; promoting Greece as the rising power in the Eastern Mediterranean after World War One; affecting to shape Greek politics after World War Two; or contributing, wittingly and unwittingly, to the re-emergence of Turkey as a regional force and the diminution of Hellenism in Constantinople and Cyprus.

Holland’s book is, however, marred by the absence of a critical paradigm or depth and Holland’s somewhat patronising tone, manifesting itself in a lack of empathy and even a belittling of those enthral to the British empire, the impact of which Holland portrays as being mostly benign, if not beneficial. Thus, he attributes, for example, the rapid socio-economic advancement Cyprus experienced post-independence not to the Cypriots themselves but to the British legacy and its supposed predisposition to the rule of law and good governance. (In fact, the legacy of British rule in Cyprus was poverty, under-development, mass emigration and, ultimately, devastating partition).

Another striking point that emerges from Holland’s book relates to the abject failure of the British imperial project and colonial culture to win over Greeks in the Ionian islands (which endured British rule from 1815-1864) and Cyprus, where Britain governed from 1878-1960. By contrast, the Maltese and Gibraltarians were much more receptive to British colonialism and, indeed, Malta and Gibraltar provide ominous examples of what Cyprus and the Ionian islands could have become if the Greeks there hadn’t steadfastly and from the outset resisted British rule and attempts to de-Hellenise or Anglicise them.

Finally, Holland’s book allows us to note how – especially in comparison to, say, the Byzantine or Ottoman imperiums – Britain’s empire spectacularly and precipitately declined, disintegrating by the early 1960s, barely 40 years after having reached its apogee.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Christopher Hitchens on the second phase of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the second – and more devastating – phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when the Turks broke out of the Kyrenia bridgehead they had established on 20 July to seize the areas of Morphou, Famagusta, the Mesaoria and Karpasia, clearing out the Greek population and making 200,000 people refugees. Below is Christopher Hitchens’ take on the 14 August assault, as recorded in his Cyprus: Hostage to History.

‘Supposing one takes the most sympathetic view of the original Turkish intervention – that it was a necessary counterstroke to a Greek putsch – and suppose that one regards the Turkish minority as blameless in the disruptions and brutalities of the 1960s. Suppose, further, that one ignores the long and tenacious attachment of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leadership to partition irrespective of the majority will. Suppose, still further, that one can forget or discount the outside involvement of the British and the United States in the same cause. Put the case that there might have been – indeed, would have been – murderous attacks on Turkish Cypriots en masse by a consolidated Sampson leadership. Put the case that the Cyprus problem is purely a question of the security of the Turkish Cypriots. Admit that the first Turkish intervention of 20 July 1974 did everybody a favour by demolishing the rule of Fascism in Greece and Cyprus. Agree and allow all this, and the second Turkish invasion becomes more reprehensible rather than less. By the time it took place, on 14 August 1974, the Greek irredentist forces had fallen from power in both Athens and Nicosia. Negotiations were underway, and relations between the two communities on the island were stable if nervous. The pretext for the original invasion had ceased to exist, and if Mr Ecevit had withdrawn his forces he would have been remembered as the man who rid Greece of the junta, saved Cyprus from its designs, and rebuilt the image of Turkey in the West. The moral and (given such an impressive demonstration of Turkish force) the actual pressure for a lasting and generous settlement with the Turkish Cypriots would have been irresistible. Instead Mr Ecevit and his generals embarked on a policy of conquest and annexation.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Eighteen years after the murders of Isaac and Solomou

Good documentary marking the 18th anniversary of the murders by the forces and supporters of the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus of Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Greece’s victory over Ivory Coast was preordained

In light of Greece’s last-ditch win against Ivory Coast to progress in the World Cup, the above video from Harry Klynn in 1982 is very funny.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cypriots and the wars of Greece

Above is a good programme from Cyprus TV’s Ταξίδι στο χρόνο taking a look at the Cypriots who volunteered in the wars fought by Greece from 1821 to 1922. I particularly enjoyed the section on Kapetan Giorgis Argyrou (from 24 minutes on), from Peyia in Paphos, who fought in the Macedonian Struggle and Balkan Wars, helping liberate Macedonia, Chios and Lesvos, eventually settling in Kilkis. In an interview with Kapetan Giorgis’ daughter, she recalls the EOKA hero Kyriakos Matsis visiting Kapetan Giorgis in Kilkis and Kapetan Giorgis telling Matsis to be wary of fighting the English because the English are a race devoid of honour (οι Εγγλέζοι είναι άτιμη ράτσα). Below is a Greek TV show from the 1970s, which, from 24 minutes on, features the 88-year-old Kapetan Giorgis, including his meeting with the daughter of Pavlos Melas, the pre-eminent hero of the Macedonian Struggle.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Culture and war: JE Lendon’s Soldiers and Ghosts

‘The army of Alexander the Great was the most successful army the Greek world ever knew. Its soldiers were brave because their parents raised them brave, because out-of-the-way Macedon had preserved the warrior values of an older Greece – the Greece that Thucydides remembered with a shudder – when men still wore swords. Macedon was a society of noble companions and riotous banqueting, a society of untamed emotion, of boasting, of drunken murder, a society that recalled that of epic. Philip and Alexander harnessed this traditional ethos by bringing the world of Homer back to life and so turned the ramshackle levy of old Macedonia into an army of world conquest.’ (JE Lendon: Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity).

Above is an interview with JE Lendon regarding his Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. The interview was conducted in 2005 by Bill Buschel for Hellenic Public Radio in New York. Lendon’s book argues for the role of culture and ideology in shaping the way Greeks and Romans carried out their wars. In particular, Lendon says, Greek warriors drew inspiration and sought to emulate the ethics and even the tactics they believe they inherited from the epic past as depicted in Homer; while the Romans too looked to history and myth for information as to how to fight their wars. In fact, Lendon goes on, when Greek culture in all its facets began to pervade Rome, Roman military leaders increasingly turned to the codes and feats of the Greek warrior, particularly Alexander the Great, to guide their behaviour in combat. In late Roman/early Byzantine military history, this translated, for example, in the Emperor Julian (the Apostate) choosing to fight a (disastrous) war with the Persians not out of military necessity but, according to Lendon, because Julian aspired to imitate the heroics of Alexander the Great.

* For Buschel’s interview with Lendon on Lendon’s book Song of Wrath: the Peloponnesian War Begins, go here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

‘Partition or Death’

Above is a Pathe News clip showing a Turkish Cypriot demonstration in London in 1958 demanding the partition of Cyprus. The crowd of Turks is motivated by slogans such as ‘Cyprus is Turkish and will remain so’; ‘Partition Now’; ‘We don’t mind all or half but no less’; ‘If forced, Turkey will step in’; ‘Partition or Death’; ‘Partition our last sacrifice’; ‘We want what we like’; ‘26 million Turks are backing us’; ‘Give the Turks their due’; and ‘Cyprus has never been Greek’.

It’s worth drawing attention to this film because it exposes the myth that the Turkish minority in Cyprus was a passive community, with no political will or agenda of its own, which was targeted by Greek Cypriots and their obsessive push to unite the island with Greece. In fact, as previously demonstrated, the depredations Cyprus has endured are not rooted in Greek Cypriot nationalism but in Turkey’s long-term policy of partition, fervently and violently pursued by Turkish Cypriots. In this scenario, the invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was not a reaction to urgent circumstances – the coup to overthrow Makarios or any peril the Turkish Cypriots were in – but the predetermined means by which Turkey had decided it was going to fulfil its steadfast aim of dividing Cyprus. ‘If forced, Turkey will step in’, the demonstrators assert, two years before Cypriot independence, five years before the Turkish Cypriots claim they were forced out of the Republic of Cyprus and 16 years before Turkey did, finally, feel itself ready and found the opportunity, to step in.

*The film has no sound.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Akritic songs from Cyprus

The above songs are from the album Στες Ακρες Των Ακρων, which consists of a number of Akritic songs from Cyprus. The songs are: 1. Ο ΣΑΡΑΤΖΗΝΟΣ. 2. Τ'ΑΙ ΓΙΩΡΚΟΥ. 3. Ο ΚΑΟΥΡΑΣ. 4. ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ ΤΖΑΙ ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ. 5. Η ΤΡΙΑΝΤΑΦΥΛΛΕΝΗ.

The composer is Μιχάλης Χριστοδουλίδης and the singers Αρετή Κασάπη and Κώστας Χαραλαμπίδης.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

No to a ‘Turkish peace’ in Cyprus

The piece below by Marios Evriviades – professor of International Relations at Panteion University in Athens – states clearly Turkey’s Cyprus policy – which is the dismantling or disabling of the Republic of Cyprus – and stresses the various methods the Turks have used in pursuit of it. 

Evriviades debunks a number of myths the Turkish propaganda machine has promulgated down the years. His repudiation of the myth that Turkey invaded Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots – who had allegedly been under siege since 1963 and in 1974, with the Athens coup, were now under imminent threat of massacre – is particularly important. 

Portraying the Greek Cypriots as responsible for their own downfall because of their nationalism and the way they treated the Turkish minority on the island is intended to strip Turkey of its responsibility for its invasion and occupation of Cyprus and obscure the fact that partition of Cyprus was something Turkey had plotted since 1956. A narrative that blames Greek nationalism and alleged Greek excesses for Cyprus’ unhappy fate also aims to compel the Greek Cypriots to accept a Cyprus settlement that legitimises Turkey’s invasion and occupation. Since you were guilty of the sin of nationalism and for (supposedly) mistreating the Turkish Cypriots, the logic goes, you must now be punished by accepting limits on your basic human rights and democracy.

Evriviades’ article originally appeared here. I believe Evriviades to be one of the better writers on Cyprus and for more of his pieces, go here.

No hegemonic peace in Cyprus
Almost forty years to the date, the Turks finally figured out that they had invaded the wrong geographic region of Cyprus. Cyprus’s power wealth, its hydrocarbons, have been found to be located in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off its southern shores and not in its northern ones, where the NATO-trained and US-supplied Turkish army attacked massively in 1974. Since then and for decades the Turks persistently and stubbornly insisted that whatever the Cyprus problem, it was permanently solved in 1974. These days they are not so sure. And they have turned peace advocates. Or so it seems.

The double irony is that if one were to believe Ankara’s 1974 propaganda, namely that they were not “invading” but that they were merely launching a “peacekeeping operation” to secure the safety of their coreligionists, who were allegedly under threat of instant massacre by their blood-thirsty compatriots, then it was the southern part that they should have attacked in the first place! For it was in the southern districts of Limassol and Paphos that the vast majority of the allegedly threatened 100,000 or so Turkish Cypriots lived. They did not live in the Kyrenia district and the Karpass or Morphou regions, that were the targets of the 1974 attack by Turkey.

In fact the autochthonous Greek Cypriot population in the presently Turkish-army occupied part of Cyprus numbered close to 200,000 souls. This is a figure that is twice as large as the total number of Turkish Cypriots who, prior the 1974 invasion, were intermingled with the Greek Cypriots throughout the island but, significantly, constituting nowhere a regional majority (except in a very few villages). And in July 1974, when the Athens junta-organised coup occurred against the legitimate government of the Republic, they were hardly under any threat, lest one of massacre (“genocide” is Ankara’s favorite term).

Actual inter-communal violence in post-independence Cyprus occurred in 1963/64-65 and in 1967 and it was sporadic. Greek Cypriots are misleadingly cast as the villains of this period. And maybe they were. But those who do cast them as such should at least consult the posthumously published PhD thesis, “Political Geography and the Cyprus Conflict, 1963-1971” of  Richard A. Patrick, a Canadian UN peacekeeper in Cyprus turned scholar. Patrick had done meticulous field research on the death toll, especially within the Turkish Cypriot community from 1963-1971 which he complemented with UN documentation, international reports and local police and death records. Space does not allow me to go into details except to say than on the basis of Patrick’s figures the “massacre” and genocide” narratives are upended. And Patrick was no friend of the Greek Cypriots.

My more relevant point is that from 1968 until 20 July 1974, the day of the Turkish invasion, there is no record of any inter-communal fighting in Cyprus and of deaths on either side (except for an accidental one in the early 1970s) and I challenge anyone to document otherwise. And who was it that said that the coup was an internal affair among Greek Cypriots and it was of no concern to the Turkish Cypriots? No other than the late Rauf Denktash. His comments were recorded on July 15 by the CIA run Foreign Broadcast Information Service stations, operating in Cyprus since 1947.

The 1974 invasion was an act of war against the Republic of Cyprus that had a twin objective. It was designed to establish a non-existent pro-Turkish political argument that the facts on the ground and geography denied. The Turkish Cypriots, spread throughout the island, constituted nowhere and in none of the six districts of Cyprus a majority. That ethnographic and geographic fact produced a dead end for Ankara’s principal argument that Cyprus should be split geographically for partitionist ends. So the invasion was politically designed to conquer the northern part and establish there the geographic basis for partition.

Still the conquest was a necessary but not a sufficient condition towards that objective. The sufficient condition was what followed the Turkish conquest and it was so planned. That was the organised ethnic cleansing of the autochthonous Greek Cypriot population that constituted the majority in the region, and the “gathering” there of the Turkish Cypriots from all over Cyprus. In other words the indigenous Greek Cypriots of the region did not become refugees because of the tragedy of war but because of the design of the invasion. Were they not forced out of their homes they would still have outnumbered the Turkish Cypriots by a 2 to 1 ratio, thus defeating Ankara’s objective in spite of the conquest and forced relocation of Turkish Cypriots to the occupied areas.

Again if the objective of Ankara was the declared one of safeguarding the Turkish Cypriot population, which along with the Greek Cypriot one began to be collectively victimized after the Turkish invasion of July and not before, the Turkish invaders should have proceeded from north to south in order to secure the Limassol and Paphos districts, where the vast majority of the Turkish Cypriots resided. Instead in their August offensive the Turks proceeded to attack easterly and westerly, splitting the country in two and expelling the indigenous population.

The strategic aim of the Turkish invasion was the destruction of the Cypriot state, whose independence and territorial integrity Turkey had otherwise undertook to guarantee under the 1960 accords. But unlike its successful ethnic cleansing strategy, the forceful attempt to destroy the 1960 Republic failed spectacularly. The Cypriot state not only survived the Turkish onslaught and all subsequent and persistent Turkish efforts to delegitimise it, it succeeded, in 2004, to become a member of the European Union and even preside over it for six months in 2012, to the chagrin of Ankara. Unable to deal with Cypriot legitimacy, Ankara called off the UN sponsored negotiations. Not unsurprising, certain Western chanceries, including the UN Secretariat, were quick to shift the blame for this away from Ankara and place it, eventually, on their favourite bogey.

But there does exist a serious political problem in Cyprus; it has existed for decades and it needs to be addressed and solved foremost for the sake of Cypriots, who in two generations have suffered through an anti-colonial rebellion, a civil war, a coup and an invasion.

For peace to be established in Cyprus two conditions are necessary. First, Turkey’s western supporters, by which I mean essentially Washington and London, must abandon their cockeyed view of Cyprus and their not so subtle strategy to frogmarch the Greek Cypriot majority population into a “Turkish peace”,  as they unsuccessfully attempted to do in 2004 through the cratocidal Annan plan. No amount of western cant, sophistry and hypocrisy (revealed in all its glory with the current Crimea crisis) can do away with the fact that the obstacle to peace in Cyprus is the offensively deployed 40,000 Turkish NATO trained and US supplied occupation army and not the alleged intransigence of the majority population of Cyprus. Concomitantly, Turkey must abandon its zero-sum game and its equally cockeyed vision of Cyprus as a Turkish satrapy.

These conditions may seem surreal to those who have been holding for decades a carpentered view of Cyprus. But are they? Why is it that the Indonesian occupation forces had to withdraw from East Timor, why did the Soviets had to leave Afghanistan and before them the Americans from Vietnam and more recently from Iraq, why did the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 with the Syrians followed due five years later, but the Turkish elephant is allowed to trample cost free all over Cyprus for decades? Are the Turks some sort of “holy cow” in the western family? Are the West’s leaders onto something about the Turks that they selfishly keep to themselves?

Why is there a consensus that there cannot be a solution to the current Ukrainian-Crimea  crisis without the restoration of legitimacy, without the threat or use of force and by respecting Ukrainian sovereignty,  territorial integrity and independence? Why those in the lead on this issue, the Anglo-Americans, have convinced themselves and have been unsuccessfully trying to convince the overwhelming majority of Cypriots (who in 1974 lost one percent of their population to Turkey’s “peacekeepers”) of the aberrant view that  the Turks have so called “red lines” in Cyprus, namely that they must garrison Cyprus in perpetuity and do so through “international treaties”?

The current Greek Cypriot negotiator in the just “restarted” UN sponsored talks is fond of repeating that at this particular juncture the stars may “just align” for a win-win solution. Apparently the catalyst for his optimism, shared by his President and the so called International Community, are the potentially large hydrocarbon deposits discovered  in the Exclusive Economic Zone off the southern cost of Cyprus.

I leave unanswered the legitimate query whether Ankara would suddenly have turned “peacemonger”, were the hydrocarbons discovered off the northern shores of Cyprus, except to repeat that for decades Ankara’s thesis has been that the issue had been resolved by the 1974 “peace operation”. The currently advocated win-win peace scenario, is that with the hydrocarbons as “glue”and the concurrent crises in the Middle East and now in the Ukraine (where the energy issue acquires added security significance) posing unpredictable dangers, a Western sponsored sub-regional security system can be constructed in the Eastern Mediterranean that will partner Cyprus, Israel, Turkey and Greece. Such a development would be most welcomed. But for such a security regime to be viable it must have legitimacy. And as such it can only be based  on reciprocity, equality, and respect and must be compatible with the existing European legal, political and civil order. No hegemons need apply. Hic Rhodus, hic salta.

Monday, 31 March 2014

This is what passes for chic in Turkish-occupied Cyprus

These images have emerged in the Cypriot press today showing Turkish models taking part in a fashion photo-shoot among the tombs and graves of a vandalised Greek cemetery in occupied Cyprus. I don’t think any comment is necessary. (Click on image to enhance).

Monday, 10 March 2014

Into the Divine Darkness: Michael Paraskos’ New Aesthetics

It’s worth sticking with Michael Paraskos’ talk Reviving the Corpse of Art because after about half an hour he gets into an interesting discussion on Orthodox iconography – which, he says, does not have a didactic or decorative purpose but is designed to allow you to glimpse into an alternative reality that in doing so will help heal or save your soul. Paraksos then argues that the aesthetics of Orthodox iconography shares characteristics with anarchist aesthetics and that, by drawing on the two traditions, a New Aesthetics can be created, to challenge and overcome the moribund and nihilistic traits that dominate contemporary art and culture.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The man who shot Ion Dragoumis

Excellent documentary above made in 1986 on the assassination in 1920 of Ion Dragoumis, one of the most important theorists and exponents of modern Hellenism. It includes an interview with one of Dragoumis’ assassins and tries to piece together who gave the order to have Dragoumis killed, in retaliation for the attempted assassination of Eleftherios Venizelos in Paris.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Το Μικρό Ψάρι, not just a film about Greece

Above is the press conference held at the Berlin Film Festival at which Yiannis Economides’ film Το Μικρό Ψάρι (The Little Fish, known in English as Stratos) is currently competing. One senses listening to Economides that he’s somewhat frustrated with people assuming his portrayal of Greece is necessarily linked to the economic malaise afflicting the country. In fact, Economides has been depicting a withering society and the decrepit individuals that constitute it since 2002, with the release of his first film Σπιρτόκουτο (Matchbox). Indeed, in the press conference Economides goes one step further and says that Το Μικρό Ψάρι is not just a view of the decay of modern Greece but of Western civilisation in general. Economides also makes some interesting references regarding the influence of Japanese cinema and Jean Pierre-Melville’s French crime films on Το Μικρό Ψάρι.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Το Μικρό Ψάρι

Yiannis Economides is the best of the current crop of Greek filmmakers. His fourth feature Το Μικρό Ψάρι (The Little Fish) is a Mediterranean gangster noir and is showing at the Berlin Film Festival tomorrow. Above is a trailer for the film and also an interview with Popi Tsapanidou – who has a small role in the film – in which Economides talks about Το Μικρό Ψάρι, what characterises his films, the state of Greece and so on.

Friday, 31 January 2014

The collapse of neo-Ottomanism

Above is a good talk given earlier this month at a conference in Cyprus by Israeli academic Anat Lapidot on the origins and collapse of Turkey’s geopolitical strategy – more correctly the AKP government’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy. 

Lapidot argues that Russia and Iran have scuppered Turkey’s ambitions in the Caucuses and Central Asia, the EU has subverted neo-Ottomanism in the Balkans, while the repercussions of the so-called Arab Spring have undermined Turkey’s hopes in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Lapidot doesn’t say this explicitly but she implies that Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus is one of the last cards it holds to help it project its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The conference at which Lapidot spoke was organised by the Citizens’ Alliance party and you can watch the talk of its leader, Giorgos Lillikas, who was foreign minister during Tassos Papadopoulos’ presidency, (in Greek) here. Lillikas is glib, but he makes a good point about it being in Israel’s interests to shore up Hellenism in Cyprus and avoid a Cyprus solution, like the one envisaged by the Annan plan, which would decisively put the island in Turkey’s sphere of influence and result in Israel being completely surrounded by hostile countries.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Why Britain won’t return the Parthenon Marbles

I referred a little while ago (in this post) to Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC drama documentary on the Parthenon Marbles and the controversy over whether the British Museum should keep them or return them to Greece. The film, which is above in full, was made in 2004, so it’s somewhat out of date, particularly since, in 2009, the Acropolis Museum opened, to much acclaim, and overcame the argument the British Museum has made about Greece not having a suitable space to display the sculptures should they be repatriated.

I have to admit I can’t get that worked up about the Parthenon Marbles controversy, but I do know a shabby and deceitful case when I see one, and shabbiness and deceit is precisely what characterises the case of those who support the retention of the Marbles in London.

In the film, apart from the now defunct argument that Greece has nowhere suitable to house the Parthenon Marbles, the gist of the case for keeping them at the British Museum consists of the following: the Marbles don’t have a national identity and are not just part of Greek culture, they’re a part of world culture, while Greek attachment to the Marbles is contrived, a product of Hellenic jingoism.

Indeed, Graham-Dixon suggests at one point that Greece’s desire to have the Marbles returned reflects an unhealthy nationalistic obsession with the fifth century BC.

‘There is a danger,’ Graham-Dixon says, ‘of plucking this one moment, this fifth century BC moment, out of the vast multicultural continuum of the history of the Greek lands and elevating it to canonical status. By wiping out the intervening two thousand years of history, there is a risk of disenfranchising all sorts of modern Greek citizens – Jews, Muslims – whose cultures have also made a contribution to the history of modern Greece.’

All of this is complete nonsense and disguises the real reasons the British authorities won’t return the Marbles to Greece and these are mainly:

1. Returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece would diminish the status of the British Museum. Visitor numbers would decline and the British Museum would suffer financially.

2. The UK doesn’t want to be seen giving in to a country that it regards as beneath it. As one contributor suggests in the film, can we really imagine Britain refusing to return the sculptures if they belonged to France? Of course not. Simply, Britain doesn’t regard Greece as its equal and won’t accept being outdone by it.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Melina Mercouri’s Cyprus, a year after the Turkish invasion

I’ve never been a fan of Melina Mercouri, neither as an actress or public personality, but I did for the most part like the film (above) she made about Cyprus in 1975, one year after the Turkish invasion of the island, and which has only recently surfaced from Greek state television archives.

The last 20 minutes of the film – involving an interview with President Makarios – are especially interesting. During the interview, Makarios says his biggest mistake as Cyprus’s leader was to allow the meddling of successive Greek governments, particularly during the junta years, 1967-74, in Cypriot affairs. The archbishop also says he can only explain the decision by the Athens junta to overthrow him by supposing that the coup was plotted in collusion with Turkey. It is impossible to believe, Makarios says, that the junta carried out the coup without knowing that Turkey would respond to it by invading the island. Thus, Makarios says, either the junta was indifferent to the prospect of a Turkish invasion or was content to see it proceed, as part of a plan for Double Enosis – partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. Makarios continues that the junta’s plan for Double Enosis was thwarted because the coup against him failed once its main objective – his murder – had been averted.

Makarios also asserts that the junta’s desire to kill him was motivated by its fear that Cyprus, as a fully-functioning democratic Greek state, and Makarios, as a democratically elected Greek leader, had become a symbol and beacon to those, like Mercouri, striving for the restoration of democracy in Greece. In this scenario, it becomes clear that the coup against Makarios was less an effort aimed at uniting (part of) Cyprus to Greece and was more a desperate and incoherent attempt by the junta to cling to power in Athens.

Finally, it should be noted that throughout Mercouri’s interview with Makarios, she appears to be genuinely in awe of the president, who comes across as brilliant and charismatic. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Epiphany celebrations in Agia Triada and Yialousa

Above is a RIK news report on yesterday’s Epiphany celebrations that took place for the first time since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in Agia Triada and Yialousa in the Turkish-occupied Karpasia peninsular of the island.

Agia Triada, as I’ve written before, is a satellite village or suburb of Yialousa, and is home to some 100 Greek Cypriots who’ve been enclaved since the Turkish invasion, while Yialousa has been ethnically cleansed of its 3000 Greek Cypriot inhabitants and replaced by Turkish Cypriots from the Tylliria area of western Cyprus.

As far as I’m aware the Turkish occupation regime did not allow any other Epiphany celebrations in the areas it controls and the permission granted for the services held at Yialousa/Agia Triada should not be seen as a goodwill gesture from the Turkish side. Rather, it is an attempt to assert Turkish Cypriot ‘sovereignty’ in occupied Cyprus; turn Greek Cypriots forced from occupied Cyprus in 1974 into tourists; and kid the international community into believing that Turkey respects religious and cultural freedoms. (A similar game is played with Pontian Greeks who are allowed to hold a religious service once a year at the Monastery of Panayias Sumela, near Trapezounta). Nevertheless, despite being aware of the tactics of the Turkish occupation authorities, many Greek Cypriots insist on taking part in these pilgrimages as a means to show the Turkish side that they have not forgotten the homes, villages and churches they were forced to abandon in 1974 and, even after four decades, they still expect to return to them on a permanent basis.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium

Above is a good BBC documentary from 2007, The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium, presented by art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, which looks at the meaning, purpose, technique and changing nature of Byzantine art and iconography. In his quest to understand Greek Orthodox art, Graham-Dixon visits Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Ravenna and the Osios Loukas monastery in Boetia and correctly points out that the Byzantine artistic tradition is not just a historical phenomenon but a living cultural (and spiritual) experience.

*ADDENDUM: After posting the above, I watched a film Andrew Graham-Dixon made in 2004 on the dispute between Greece and Britain over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The film – provocatively called The Elgin Marbles – contains all the usual pathetic and specious arguments against the Marbles’ return; such as, the Marbles are not just part of Greek culture, they’re a part of world culture; the sculptures don’t have a national identity; Greek attachment to the Marbles is contrived, a product of Hellenic jingoism.

Indeed, Graham-Dixon suggests at one point that Greece’s desire to have the Marbles returned reflects an unhealthy nationalistic obsession with the fifth century BC.

‘There is a danger,’ Graham-Dixon says, ‘of plucking this one moment, this fifth century BC moment, out of the vast multicultural continuum of the history of the Greek lands and elevating it to canonical status. By wiping out the intervening two thousand years of history, there is a risk of disenfranching all sorts of modern Greek citizens – Jews, Muslims – whose cultures have also made a contribution to the history of modern Greece.’

After that nonsensical outburst, it’s hard to take Graham-Dixon’s film on Byzantine art seriously.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode three

I wasn’t intending to watch or post on the third and final part of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s series, Byzantium: a tale of three cities, which deals with the history of the city under Ottoman occupation, but I succumbed. Montefiore’s not much of a historian and he trots out the usual nonsense about the Ottoman empire being a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism, a claim made even more absurd by the overwhelming evidence he himself presents that reveals Turkish rule and rulers to have been mind-bogglingly perverse and sadistic from beginning to end.

* Click on links for episodes one and two.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode two

Above is episode two of Byzantium: a tale of three cities, in which we are taken on a tour of Byzantine history from the Great Schism in 1054 through the Fourth Crusade in 1204 to the fall of the City in 1453.

* Click on links for episodes one and three.