Sunday, 18 November 2012

Makarios and the junta

I was reading again Oriana Fallaci’s November 1974 interview with Makarios, which hints at the personality of the archbishop and reveals some interesting details about the Athens-inspired coup and Turkish invasion that shattered Cyprus. (Read full interview here).

Following on from my previous post on Stylianos Pattakos and the junta, it’s worth drawing attention to the disdain Makarios expresses for the regime that ran Greece from 1967-74. Responding to Fallaci’s question as to whether he preferred Giorgios Papadopoulos, junta leader from 1967-1973, to Dimitris Ioannides, who ousted Papadopoulos and, eventually, ordered the coup against Makarios on 15 July 1974, Makarios says:
‘If I had to choose between Papadopoulos and Ioannides, I’d choose Papadopoulos. At least he’s more intelligent, or, if you prefer, less stupid. I met him for the first time when he came to Cyprus, shortly after his coup, as minister for the presidency, and no one can say that at that time I was paying him any great consideration. But I saw him again a couple of times in Athens, when I went there to discuss the problem of Cyprus, and I must say that on those occasions he seemed to me much smarter. In any case, supplied with common sense. Well, Papadopoulos was suffering from megalomania, and besides I don’t know what he really thought about Cyprus. On the other hand, he was capable of controlling many situations, simultaneously, and he was head and shoulders above his collaborators. I don’t even think he hated me, in the beginning. He started hating me later, in the last two years. And maybe only in the last year.’
This hatred Papadopoulos felt for Makarios was no doubt partly informed by Papadopoulos’ perception that Cyprus was a hive of anti-junta activity. The attempt by Alexandros Panagoulis to assassinate Papadopoulos in 1968 was organised from Cyprus, where Panagoulis was in self-exile, and involved senior members of the Cypriot government, such as Polykarpos Giorgiadis, who was himself murdered, in 1970, probably by agents of the junta, partly as revenge for Giorgiadis’ involvement in the attempt to kill Papadopoulos and partly because Giorgiadis was suspected of having warned Makarios about the junta’s attempts to assassinate him. (It’s worth noting that Panagoulis and Fallaci were lovers, and the Italian journalist wrote a bestselling book, A Man, on Panagoulis, who was killed, many say assassinated, in a car crash in 1976).

Regarding the Athens junta’s professed nationalism and patriotism, which Pattakos makes much of, it’s useful to bear in mind Christopher Hitchens’ view, as expressed in his book Cyprus: Hostage to History, that the junta was ‘fundamentally unpatriotic, and engaged in a furtive mortgaging of Greek interests to outsiders. The nationalist trumpetings were for mass consumption only.’

Of course, for Hitchens, the prime example of the junta’s fake patriotism was Cyprus and he draws attention to the meeting in September 1967 between junta leader Giorgios Papadopoulos and the Turkish prime minister, Suleyman Demirel, at which Papadopoulos, eager for a national success to provide credibility to his regime, tried to persuade Demirel to accept enosis in return for the granting to Turkey of a military base on the island, an offer the Turks contemptuously dismissed, though they did come away with something from the two-day meeting, which was that Greece was prepared to accept in principle the partitioning of the island and that they were dealing with incompetents.

Finally, on Fallaci’s claim that Makarios was having affairs with two women while archbishop, this is no doubt nonsense. There were many attempts, particularly by the British secret services, which used UK newspapers to publish stories about Makarios’ alleged penchant for young boys, to smear Makarios, and no doubt the womanising rumour was part of this defamation. Not that senior Greek clergy were immune from sexual peccadilloes. For example, we know perfectly well that Damaskinos, archbishop of Athens and All Greece during the Nazi occupation, and regarded by many as a heroic figure, had a long-term intimate liaison with Ioanna Tsatsou, sister of the poet Giorgios Seferis.

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