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.