History of Cyprus

Early History

Human settlements existed on Cyprus as early as 5800 B.C., during the Neolithic Era or New Stone Age. The Neolithic Cypriots’ origin is uncertain. Some evidence, including artifacts of Anatolian obsidian, suggests that the setters were related to the peoples of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The discovery of copper on the island around 3000 B.C. brought more frequent visits from traders. Trading ships were soon bringing settlers to exploit the mineral wealth.

During the long progression from stone to bronze, many Neolithic villages were abandoned, as people moved inland to settle on the great plain (the Mesaoria) and in the foothills of the mountains. Also during this era of transition, Cypriot pottery was distinctive in shape and design, and small figurines of fertility goddesses appeared for the first time. During the same period, Cypriots were influenced by traders from the great Minoan civilisation that had developed on Crete, but, although trade was extensive, few settlers came to Cyprus. The Minoan traders developed a script for Cypriot commerce, but unfortunately extant examples still await decipherment. The cultural advances, thriving economy, and relative lack of defenses invited the attention of more powerful neighbours, and during the Late Bronze Age (about 1500 B.C.), the forces of the Egyptian pharaoh, Thutmose III, invaded the island.

After 1400 B.C., Mycenaean and Mycenaean-Achaean traders from the northeastern Peloponnesus began regular commercial visits to the island. Settlers from the same areas arrived in large numbers toward the end of the Trojan War (traditionally dated about 1184 B.C.). Even in modern times, a strip of the northern coast was known as the Achaean Coast in commemoration of those early settlers. The newcomers spread the use of their spoken language and introduced a script that greatly facilitated commerce. They also introduced the potter’s wheel and began producing pottery that eventually was carried by traders to many mainland markets. By the end of the second millennium B.C., a distinctive culture had developed on Cyprus. The island’s culture was tempered and enriched by its position as a crossroads for the commerce of three continents, but in essence it was distinctively Hellenic. It is to this 3,000 years of Hellenic tradition that the present-day Greek Cypriots refer when arguing either for enosis or for their own dominance in an independent state.

The Late Bronze Age on Cyprus was characterised by a fusion of the indigenous culture and the cultures brought by settlers from the mainland areas. This fusion took place over a long period and was affected by shifting power relationships and major movements of peoples throughout the eastern Mediterranean area. Cyprus was affected particularly by the introduction of iron tools and weapons, signaling the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, near the end of the second millennium B.C. Iron did not displace bronze overnight, any more than one culture immediately displaced another (pockets of native Cypriot culture, for example, existed for several more centuries), but the introduction of iron heralded major economic changes, and the numbers of Greek settlers ensured the dominance of their culture.

An important eastern influence during the early part of the first millennium B.C. came from a Phoenician settlement. The principal Phoenician concentration was at Kition, the modern city of Larnaca, on the southeast coast. Three thousand years later some Turks and Turkish Cypriots would try to use such influences to prove that eastern cultures predated Greek influence on the island. On this basis, modern Cypriots were said to be descended from Phoenician Cypriot forebears. Greek Cypriots responded that, even though visits by Phoenician traders probably occurred as early as the third millennium, colonists did not arrive until about 800 B.C. The Phoenicians settled in several areas and shared political control with the Greeks until the arrival of the Assyrians.

In 708 B.C. Cyprus encompassed seven independent kingdoms that were conquered by the Assyrian king, Sargon II. During the Assyrian dominance, about 100 years, Cypriot kings maintained considerable autonomy in domestic affairs and accumulated great wealth. The number of city-kingdoms increased to ten, one of which was Phoenician. The Cypriot kings were religious as well as secular leaders and generally commanded the city’s defense forces. When Assyrian power and influence began to decline, near the end of the seventh century, Egypt filled the resulting vacuum in eastern Mediterranean affairs.

The Egyptian pharaohs had built a powerful fleet of war ships that defeated the combined fleets of Phoenicia and Cyprus, setting the stage for Egypt’s domination of the eastern Mediterranean. During the Egyptian ascendancy, the Cypriot kings were again allowed to continue in power after pledging themselves vassals of the pharaoh. The main impact of Egyptian domination was the reorientation of commerce, making Egypt the principal market for Cypriot minerals and timber.

When Egypt fell to the Persians in the late sixth century, Cyprus was made part of a satrapy of King Darius. By the time of Persian domination, Salamis outshone the other city-kingdoms in wealth and splendor, and its kings were looked on as first among equals. Petty kings ruled at Amathus, Kition, Kyrenia, Lapithos, Kourion, Marion, Paphos, Soli, and Tamassos, but leadership in the fifth and fourth century struggles against the Persians stemmed from Salamis. The king of Salamis, Onesilos, is remembered as the hero who died leading the revolt against the Persians in 498 B.C.

In 411 B.C. another Greek Cypriot, Evagoras, established himself as king of Salamis and worked for a united Cyprus that would be closely tied to the Greek states. By force and by guile, the new king brought other Cypriot kingdoms into line and led forces against Persia. He also allied the Cypriots with Athens, and the Athenians honoured him with a statue in the agora. As the Salamisian king gained prominence and power in the eastern Mediterranean (even attacking Persian positions in Anatolia), the Persians tried to rid themselves of this threat, and eventually defeated the Cypriots. Through diplomacy Evagoras managed to retain the throne of Salamis, but the carefully nurtured union of the Cypriot kingdoms was dissolved. Although Cyprus remained divided at the end of his thirty-seven-year reign, Evagoras is revered as a Greek Cypriot of uncommon accomplishment. He brought artists and learned men to his court and fostered Greek studies. He was instrumental in having the ancient Cypriot syllabary replaced by the Greek alphabet. He issued coins of Greek design and in general furthered the integration of Greek and Cypriot culture.

Cypriot freedom from the Persians finally came in 333 B.C. when Alexander the Great decisively defeated Persia at the Battle of Issue. A short time later, the Cypriot kings were granted autonomy in return for helping Alexander at the siege of Tyre. The death of Alexander in 323 B.C. signaled the end of that short period of self-government. Alexander’s heirs fought over Cyprus, a rich prize, for several years, but in 294 B.C. it was taken by Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals, who had established himself as satrap (and eventual king) of Egypt. Under the rule of the Ptolemies, which lasted for two and one-half centuries, the city-kingdoms of Cyprus were abolished and a central administration established. The Ptolemaic period, marked by internal strife and intrigue, was ended by Roman annexation in 58 B.C.

Although the object of Roman occupation was to exploit the island’s resources for the ultimate gain of the Roman treasury, the new rulers also brought a measure of prosperity as their enforced peace allowed the mines, industries, and commercial establishments to increase their activities. The Romans soon began building new roads, harbours and public buildings. Although Paphos supplanted Salamis as the capital, the latter retained its glory, remaining a centre of culture and education as well as of commerce. An earthquake leveled much of Salamis in 15 B.C., but the Emperor Augustus bestowed his favour on the city and had it rebuilt in the grand Roman fashion of the time. Salamis was shattered by earthquakes again in the fourth century. Again reconstructed, although on a smaller scale, the city never achieved its former magnificence. When its harbour silted up in medieval times, it was abandoned to the drifting coastal sand that eventually covered it.

The single most important event during Roman rule was the introduction of Christianity during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. According to tradition, the apostle Paul landed at Salamis in A.D. 45, accompanied by Barnabas, also a convert to Christianity and an apostle. Barnabas’s arrival was a homecoming; he was a native of Salamis, of Hellenised Jewish parentage. The two missionaries traveled across Cyprus preaching the new religion and making converts. At Paphos they converted the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, who became the first Roman of noble birth to accept Christianity, thus making Cyprus the first area of the empire to be governed by a Christian.

In 285 the Emperor Diocletian undertook the reorganisation of the Roman Empire, dividing its jurisdiction between its Latin- speaking and Greek-speaking halves. Diocletian’s successor, Constantine, accepted conversion and became the first Christian Roman emperor. In 324 he established his imperial residence at Byzantium, on the shore of the Bosporus. Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and eventually became the capital of the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire.

Byzantine Rule

By the time Constantine accepted Christianity for himself, the new religion was probably already predominant on Cyprus, owing basically to the early missionary work of Paul, Barnabas and Mark. Earthquakes in the early fourth century created havoc on the island, and drought seriously damaged the economy. However, the most significant event of the century was the struggle of the Church of Cyprus to maintain its independence from the patriarchs of Antioch. Three bishops represented Cyprus at the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. At the second council (Sardica, 343), there were twelve Cypriot bishops, indicating a great increase in the number of communicants in the intervening years.

A major struggle concerning the status of the Church of Cyprus occurred at the third council, at Ephesus, in 431. The powerful patriarch of Antioch argued forcefully that the small Cypriot church belonged in his jurisdiction, but the Cypriot bishops held their ground, and the council decided in their favor. Antioch still did not relinquish its claim, however, and it was not until after the discovery of the tomb of Saint Barnabas containing a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew allegedly placed there by the apostle Mark that Emperor Zeno intervened and settled the issue. The Church of Cyprus was confirmed as being autocephalous, that is, ecclesiastically autonomous, enjoying the privilege of electing and consecrating its own bishops and archbishops and ranking equally with the churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople.

Except for the religious disputes, a period of calm prevailed on Cyprus during the early Byzantine centuries. The social structure was rigid and codified in law. Under a law issued by Constantine, tenant farmers were made serfs and forbidden to leave the land on which they were born. A later law allowed runaways to be returned in chains and punished. Administration was highly centralized, with government officials responsible directly to the emperor. The wealthy landlord and merchant classes retained their age-old privileges. The connection between church and state grew closer. The pervasive organization and authority of the church, however, sometimes benefited the common man by interceding in cases of abuse of power by public officials or wealthy persons. During the fifth and sixth centuries, the level of prosperity permitted the construction of major cathedrals in several of the island’s cities and towns. Salamis, renamed Constantia, again became the capital and witnessed another era of greatness. Archaeologists have uncovered an enormous fourth-century basilica at the site.

The peace that many generations of Cypriots enjoyed during the middle centuries of the first millennium A.D. was shattered by Arab attacks during the reign of Byzantine emperor Constans II (641-68). Sometime between 647 and 649, Muawiyah, the amir of Syria (later caliph of the Muslim empire), led a 1,700-ship invasion fleet against Cyprus. Constantia was sacked and most of its population massacred. Muawiyah’s destructive raid was only the first of a long series of attacks over the next 300 years. Many were merely quick piratical raids, but others were large-scale attacks in which many Cypriots were slaughtered and great wealth carried off or destroyed. No Byzantine churches survived the Muslim attacks. In A.D. 965, General Nicephorus Phocas (later emperor), leading the Byzantine imperial forces, drove the Arabs out of Crete and Cilicia and scored a series of victories on land and sea that led to the liberation of Cyprus after more than three centuries of constant turmoil.

In the twelfth century Isaac Comnenos, a Byzantine governor, set himself up in the capital as the emperor of Cyprus, and the authorities in Constantinople were either too weak or too busy to do anything about the usurper. When an imperial fleet was eventually sent against Cyprus, Comnenos was prepared and, in league with Sicilian pirates, defeated the fleet and retained control of the island. Comnenos, a tyrant and murderer, was unlamented when swept from power by the king of England, Richard I the Lion-Heart.

After wintering in Sicily, Richard set sail en route to the Holy Land as a leader of the Third Crusade. But in April 1191 his fleet was scattered by storms off Cyprus. Two ships were wrecked off the southern coast, and a third, carrying Richard’s fiancée Berengaria of Navarre, sought shelter in Lemesos (Limassol). The wrecked ships were plundered and the survivors robbed by the forces of Comnenos, and the party of the bride-to-be was prevented from obtaining provisions and fresh water. When Richard arrived and learned of these affronts, he took time out from crusading, first to marry Berengaria in the chapel of the fortress at Lemesos and then to capture Cyprus and depose Comnenos. The capture of Cyprus, seemingly a footnote to history, actually proved beneficial to the crusaders whose foothold in the Holy Land had almost been eliminated by the Muslim commander Saladin. Cyprus became a strategically important logistic base and was used as such for the next 100 years.

When Richard defeated Comnenos, he extracted a huge bounty from the Cypriots. He then appointed officials to administer Cyprus, left a small garrison to enforce his rule, and sailed on to the Holy Land. A short time later, the Cypriots revolted against their new overlords. Although the revolt was quickly put down, Richard decided that the island was too much of a burden, so he sold it to the Knights Templars, a Frankish military order whose grand master was a member of Richard’s coterie. Their oppressive, tyrannical rule made that of the avaricious Comnenos seem mild in comparison. The people again rebelled and suffered a massacre, but their persistence led the Templars, convinced that they would have no peace on Cyprus, to depart. Control of the island was turned over to Guy de Lusignan, the controversial ruler of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, who evidently agreed to pay Richard the amount still owed him by the Templars. More than 800 years of Byzantine rule ended as the Frankish Lusignan dynasty established a Western feudal system on Cyprus.

The Lusignan and the Venetian Period

Guy de Lusignan lived only two years after assuming control in 1192, but the dynasty that he founded ruled Cyprus as an independent kingdom for more than three centuries. In religious matters, Lusignan was tolerant of the Cypriot adherence to Orthodoxy, but his brother Amaury, who succeeded him, showed no such liberality, and the stage was set for a protracted struggle, which dominated the first half of the Lusignan period. At issue was the paramountcy of the Roman Catholic Church over the Orthodox church. Latin sees were established at Famagusta, Limassol, Nicosia and Paphos; land was appropriated for churches, and authority to collect tithes was granted to the Latins. The harshness with which the Latin clergy attempted to gain control of the Church of Cyprus exacerbated the uneasy relationship between Franks and Cypriots. In 1260 Pope Alexander IV issued the Bulla Cypria, declaring the Latin church to be the official church of Cyprus, forcing the Cypriot clergy to take oaths of obedience and claiming the right to all tithes. The papal ordinance had no more effect than the constant persecution or the frequent visits of high-ranking papal legates sent to convert the islanders. The Cypriots remained loyal to their Orthodox heritage and by the middle of the fourteenth century, the Latin clergy had become less determined in its efforts to Latinise the population. The dominance of the Latin church officially continued for another 200 years, but Cypriots followed the lead of their own clergy and refused to accept the imposition of their Western rulers’ form of Christianity.

In the thirteenth century, the kings of Cyprus, particularly Hugh III (reigned 1267-84), tried to assist the Latin Christians of the Syrian mainland in their final efforts to retain their holdings. The Mamluks of Egypt, however, proved to be the decisive defeating factor, capturing Christian fortresses one after another as they moved along the eastern Mediterranean littoral toward Acre. With the fall of Acre in 1291, the remaining Christian positions were given up, and the Frankish lords and merchants retreated to Cyprus, which became a staging area for spasmodic and unprofitable attacks on Syria.

For a century after the fall of Acre, Cyprus attained and held a position of influence and importance far beyond that which such a small kingdom would normally enjoy. As the only remaining eastern base of operations against the Muslims, the island prospered, and its kings gained importance among the ruling families of Europe. Under the rigid feudal system that prevailed, however, the newfound prosperity fell to the Franks; the native Cypriots, who were mostly serfs, benefited little or not at all. This was a period of great architectural achievement, as the Frankish lords directed the construction of beautiful castles and palaces, and the Latin clergy ordered the building of magnificent cathedrals and monasteries. The prosperity of the island attracted adventurers, merchants, and entrepreneurs, and two Italian trading conglomerates gained particular importance in the kingdom’s economy; these were from the republics of Genoa and Venice. Through intrigue, force, and financial power, the two Italian republics gained ever-increasing privileges, and at one point in the fourteenth century Famagusta was ceded to Genoa, which exercised suzerainty over the thriving port for ninety-one years.

The Lusignans’ ability to control Cypriot cultural, economic, and political life declined rapidly in the first half of the fifteenth century. The situation was particularly desperate after the capture of King Janus I by the Mamluks in 1426. The captors demanded an enormous ransom, putting Cyprus again in the position of paying tribute to Egypt. Janus was succeeded by his son John II, whose reign was marked by dissension and intrigue.

The most important event in the reign of John II was his marriage to Helena Palaeologos, a Greek who was a granddaughter of a Byzantine emperor and a follower of the Orthodox faith. Queen Helena, stronger in character than her husband, took over the running of the kingdom and brought Greek culture out of the oblivion in which it had languished for three centuries. Her actions in favour of the Orthodox faith and Greek culture naturally disturbed the Franks, who came to consider her a dangerous enemy, but she had become too powerful to attack. Greek Cypriots have always revered Queen Helena as a great heroine because of her boldness. John II and Helena died within a few months of each other in 1458 and were succeeded by their seventeen-year-old daughter Charlotte, but the succession was contested by John’s illegitimate son. After six years of treachery and conniving (even with the Mamluks), James ousted his half sister and ascended the throne as James II. He is generally known as James the Bastard and was renowned for his political amorality.

After years of enduring rapacious forays by neighbouring states, the weakened Kingdom of Cyprus was forced to turn to its ally Venice to save itself from being dismembered. In 1468, by virtue of a marriage between James II and Caterina Cornaro, daughter of a Venetian noble family, the royal house of Cyprus was formally linked with Venice. James died in 1473, and the island came under Venetian control. Caterina reigned as a figurehead until 1489, when Venice formally annexed Cyprus and ended the 300-year Lusignan epoch.

During the long Lusignan period and the eighty-two years of Venetian control, foreign rulers unquestionably changed the Cypriot way of life, but it was the Cypriot peasant with his Greek religion and Greek culture who withstood all adversity. Throughout the period, almost three centuries, there were two distinct societies, one foreign and one native. The first society consisted primarily of Frankish nobles with their retinues and Italian merchants with their families and followers. The second society, the majority of the population, consisted of Greek Cypriot serfs and laborers. Each of these societies had its own culture, language, and religion. Although a decided effort was made to supplant native customs and beliefs, the effort failed.

Ottoman Rule

Throughout the period of Venetian rule, Ottoman Turks raided and attacked at will. In 1489, the first year of Venetian control, Turks attacked the Karpas Peninsula, pillaging and taking captives to be sold into slavery. In 1539 the Turkish fleet attacked and destroyed Limassol. Fearing the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire, the Venetians had fortified Famagusta, Nicosia, and Kyrenia, but most other cities were easy prey.

In the summer of 1570, the Turks struck again, but this time with a full-scale invasion rather than a raid. About 60,000 troops, including cavalry and artillery, under the command of Lala Mustafa Pasha landed unopposed near Limassol on July 2, 1570, and laid siege to Nicosia. In an orgy of victory on the day that the city fell–September 9, 1570–20,000 Nicosians were put to death, and every church, public building and palace was looted. Word of the massacre spread, and a few days later Mustafa took Kyrenia without having to fire a shot. Famagusta, however, resisted and put up a heroic defense that lasted from September 1570 until August 1571.

The fall of Famagusta marked the beginning of the Ottoman period in Cyprus. Two months later, the naval forces of the Holy League, composed mainly of Venetian, Spanish, and papal ships under the command of Don John of Austria, defeated the Turkish fleet at Lepanto in one of the decisive battles of world history. The victory over the Turks, however, came too late to help Cyprus, and the island remained under Ottoman rule for the next three centuries. The former foreign elite was destroyed–its members killed, carried away as captives, or exiled. The Orthodox Christians, i.e., the Greek Cypriots who survived, had new foreign overlords. Some early decisions of these new rulers were welcome innovations. The feudal system was abolished, and the freed serfs were enabled to acquire land and work their own farms. Although the small landholdings of the peasants were heavily taxed, the ending of serfdom changed the lives of the island’s ordinary people. Another action of far-reaching importance was the granting of land to Turkish soldiers and peasants who became the nucleus of the island’s Turkish community.

Although their homeland had been dominated by foreigners for many centuries, it was only after the imposition of Ottoman rule that Orthodox Christians began to develop a really strong sense of cohesiveness. This change was prompted by the Ottoman practice of ruling the empire through millets, or religious communities. Rather than suppressing the empire’s many religious communities, the Turks allowed them a degree of automony as long as they complied with the demands of the sultan. The vast size and the ethnic variety of the empire made such a policy imperative. The system of governing through millets reestablished the authority of the Church of Cyprus and made its head the Greek Cypriot leader, or ethnarch. It became the responsibility of the ethnarch to administer the territories where his flock lived and to collect taxes. The religious convictions and functions of the ethnarch were of no concern to the empire as long as its needs were met.

In 1575 the Turks granted permission for the return of the archbishop and the three bishops of the Church of Cyprus to their respective sees. They also abolished the feudal system for they saw it as an extraneous power structure, unnecessary and dangerous. The autocephalous Church of Cyprus could function in its place for the political and fiscal administration of the island’s Christian inhabitants. Its structured hierarchy put even remote villages within easy reach of the central authority. Both parties benefited. Greek Cypriots gained a measure of autonomy, and the empire received revenues without the bother of administration.

Reaction to Turkish misrule caused uprisings, but Greek Cypriots were not strong enough to prevail. Occasional Turkish Cypriot uprisings, sometimes with their Christian neighbors, against confiscatory taxes also failed. During the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the Ottoman authorities feared that Greek Cypriots would rebel again. Archbishop Kyprianos, a powerful leader who worked to improve the education of Greek Cypriot children, was accused of plotting against the government. Kyprianos, his bishops, and hundreds of priests and important laymen were arrested and summarily hanged or decapitated on July 9, 1821. After a few years, the archbishops were able to regain authority in religious matters, but as secular leaders, they were unable to regain any substantial power until after World War II.

The military power of the Ottomans declined after the sixteenth century, and hereditary rulers often were inept. Authority gradually shifted to the office of the grand vizier, the sultan’s chief minister. During the seventeenth century, the grand viziers acquired an official residence in the compound that housed government ministries in Constantinople. The compound was known to the Turks as Babiali (High Gate or Sublime Porte). By the nineteenth century, the grand viziers were so powerful that the term Porte became a synonym for the Ottoman government. Efforts by the Porte to reform the administration of the empire were continual during the nineteenth century; similar efforts by local authorities on Cyprus failed, as did those of the Porte. Various Cypriot movements arose after the 1830s, aimed at gaining greater selfgovernment , but, because the imperial treasury took most of the island’s wealth and because local officials were often corrupt, reform efforts failed. Cypriots had little recourse to the courts because Christian testimony was rarely accepted.

The Ottoman Turks became the enemy in the eyes of the Greek Cypriots, and this enmity served as a focal point for uniting the major ethnic group on the island under the banner of Greek identity. Centuries of neglect by the Turks, the unrelenting poverty of most of the people, and the ever-present tax collectors fueled Greek nationalism. The Church of Cyprus stood out as the most significant Greek institution and the leading exponent of Greek nationalism.

During the period of Ottoman domination, Cyprus had been a backwater of the empire, but in the nineteenth century it again drew the attention of West European powers. By the 1850s, the decaying Ottoman Empire was known as “the sick man of Europe,” and various nations sought to profit at its expense. Cyprus itself could not fight for its own freedom, but the centuries of Frankish and Turkish domination had not destroyed the ties of language, culture and religion that bound the Greek Cypriots to other Greeks. By the middle of the nineteenth century, enosis, the idea of uniting all Greek lands with the newly independent Greek mainland, was firmly rooted among educated Greek Cypriots. By the time the British took over Cyprus in 1878, Greek Cypriot nationalism had already crystalised.

British Rule

The sultan ceded the administration of Cyprus to Britain in exchange for guarantees that Britain would use the island as a base to protect the Ottoman Empire against possible Russian aggression. The British had been offered Cyprus three times (in 1833, 1841, and 1845) before accepting it in 1878.

In the mid-1870s, Britain and other European powers were faced with preventing Russian expansion into areas controlled by a weakening Ottoman Empire. Russia was trying to fill the power vacuum by expanding the tsar’s empire west and south toward the warm water port of Constantinople and the Dardanelles. British administration of Cyprus was intended to forestall such an expansion. In June 1878, clandestine negotiations between Britain and the Porte culminated in the Cyprus Convention, by which “His Imperial Majesty the Sultan further consents to assign the island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England.”

There was some opposition to the agreement in Britain, but not enough to prevent it, and colonial administration was established on the island. Greek Cypriot nationalism made its presence known to the new rulers, when, in a welcoming speech at Larnaca for the first British high commissioner, the bishop of Kition expressed the hope that the British would expedite the unification of Cyprus and Greece as they had previously done with the Ionian Islands. Thus, the British were confronted at the very beginning of their administration with the reality that enosis was vital to many Greek Cypriots.

The terms of the convention provided that the excess of the island’s revenue over the expenditures for government should be paid as an “annual fixed payment” by Britain to the sultan. This proviso enabled the Porte to assert that it had not ceded or surrendered Cyprus to the British, but had merely temporarily turned over administration. Because of these terms, the action was sometimes described as a British leasing of the island. The “Cyprus Tribute” became a major source of discontent underlying later Cypriot unrest. Negotiations eventually determined the sum of the annual fixed payment at exactly 92,799 pounds sterling, eleven shillings, and three pence. Governor of the island Ronald Storrs later wrote that the calculation of this sum was made with “all that scrupulous exactitude characteristic of faked accounts.” The Cypriots found themselves not only paying the tribute but also covering the expenses incurred by the British colonial administration, creating a steady drain on an already poor economy.

From the start, the matter of the Cyprus Tribute was severely exacerbated by the fact that the money was never paid to Turkey. Instead it was deposited in the Bank of England to pay off Turkish Crimean War loans (guaranteed by both Britain and France) on which Turkey had defaulted. This arrangement greatly disturbed the Turks as well as the Cypriots. The small sum left over went into a contingency fund, which further irritated the Porte. Public opinion on Cyprus held that the Cypriots were being forced to pay a debt with which they were in no way connected. Agitation against the tribute was incessant, and the annual payment became a symbol of British oppression.

WW II & Post War Nationalism

Whatever their misgivings about British rule, Cypriots were staunch supporters of the Allied cause in World War II. This was particularly true after the invasion of Greece in 1940. Conscription was not imposed on the colony, but 6,000 Cypriot volunteers fought under British command during the Greek campaign. Before the war ended, more than 30,000 had served in the British forces. As far as the island itself was concerned, it escaped the war except for limited air raids. As it had twenty-five years earlier, it became important as a supply and training base and as a naval station, but this time its use as an air base made it particularly significant to the overall Allied cause. Patriotism and a common enemy did not entirely erase enosis in the minds of Greek Cypriots, and propagandists remained active during the entire war, particularly in London, where they hoped to gain friends and influence lawmakers. Hopes were sometimes raised by the British government during the period when Britain and Greece were practically alone in the field against the Axis. British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, for example, hinted that the Cyprus problem would be resolved when the war had been won. Churchill, then prime minister, also made some vague allusions to the postwar settlement of the problem. The wartime governor of the island stated without equivocation that enosis was not being considered, but it is probable that the Greek Cypriots heard only those voices that they wanted to hear.

During the war, Britain made no move to restore the constitution that it had revoked in 1931, to provide a new one, or to guarantee any civil liberties. After October 1941, however, political meetings were condoned, and permission was granted by the governor for the formation of political parties. Without delay Cypriot communists founded the Progressive Party of the Working People (Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou–AKEL) as the successor to an earlier communist party that had been established in the 1920s and proscribed during the 1930s. Because of Western wartime alliances with the Soviet Union, the communist label in 1941 was not the anathema that it later became; nevertheless, some Orthodox clerics and middle-class merchants were alarmed at the appearance of the new party. At the time, a loose federation of nationalists backed by the church and working for enosis and the Panagrarian Union of Cyprus (Panagrotiki Enosis Kyprou–PEK), the nationalist peasant association, opposed AKEL.

In the municipal elections of 1943, the first since the British crackdown of 1931, AKEL gained control of the important cities of Famagusta and Limassol. After its success at the polls, AKEL supported strikes, protested the absence of a popularly elected legislature, and continually stressed Cypriot grievances incurred under the rigid regime of the post-1931 period. Both communists and conservative groups advocated enosis, but for AKEL such advocacy was an expediency aimed at broadening its appeal. On other matters, communists and conservatives often clashed, sometimes violently. In January 1946, eighteen members of the communist-oriented Pan- Cyprian Federation of Labour (Pankypria Ergatiki Omospondia–PEO) were convicted of sedition by a colonial court and sentenced to varying prison terms. Later that year, a coalition of AKEL and PEO was victorious in the municipal elections, adding Nicosia to the list of cities having communist mayors.

In late 1946, the British government announced plans to liberalize the colonial administration of Cyprus and to invite Cypriots to form a Consultative Assembly for the purpose of discussing a new constitution. Demonstrating their goodwill and conciliatory attitude, the British also allowed the return of the 1931 exiles, repealed the 1937 religious laws, and pardoned the leftists who had been convicted of sedition in 1946. Instead of rejoicing, as expected by the British, the Greek Cypriot hierarchy reacted angrily, because there had been no mention of enosis.

Response to the governor’s invitations to the Consultative Assembly was mixed. The Church of Cyprus had expressed its disapproval, and twenty-two Greek Cypriots declined to appear, stating that enosis was their sole political aim. In October 1947, the fiery bishop of Kyrenia was elected archbishop to replace Leontios, who had died suddenly of natural causes.

As Makarios II, the new archbishop continued to oppose British policy in general, and any policy in particular that did not actively promote enosis. Nevertheless, the assembly opened in November with eighteen members present. Of these, seven were Turkish Cypriots; two were Greek Cypriots without party affiliations; one was a Maronite from the small minority of non- Orthodox Christians on the island; and eight were AKEL-oriented Greek Cypriots–usually referred to as the “left wing.” The eight left-wing members proposed discussion of full self-government, but the presiding officer, Chief Justice Edward Jackson, ruled that full self-government was outside the competence of the assembly. This ruling caused the left wing to join the other members in opposition to the British. The deadlocked assembly adjourned until May 1948, when the governor attempted to break the deadlock by advancing new constitutional proposals.

The new proposals included provisions for a Legislative Council with eighteen elected Greek Cypriot members and four elected Turkish Cypriot members in addition to the colonial secretary, the attorney general, the treasurer, and the senior commissioner as appointed members. Elections were to be based on universal adult male suffrage, with Greek Cypriots elected from a general list and Turkish Cypriots from a separate communal register. Women’s suffrage was an option to be extended if the assembly so decided. The presiding officer was to be a governor’s appointee, who could not be a member of the council and would have no vote. Powers were reserved to the governor to pass or reject any bill regardless of the decision of the council, although in the event of a veto he was obliged to report his reasons to the British government. The governor’s consent was also required before any bill having to do with defense, finance, external affairs, minorities, or amendments to the constitution could be introduced in the Legislative Council.

In the political climate of the immediate post-World War II era, the proposals of the British did not come near fulfilling the expectations and aspirations of the Greek Cypriots. The idea of “enosis and only enosis” became even more attractive to the general population. Having observed this upsurge in popularity, AKEL felt obliged to shift from backing full self-government to supporting enosis, although the right-wing government in Greece was bitterly hostile to communism.

Meanwhile, the Church of Cyprus solidified its control over the Greek Cypriot community, intensified its activities for enosis and, after the rise of AKEL, opposed communism. Prominent among its leaders was Bishop Makarios, spiritual and secular leader of the Greek Cypriots. Born Michael Christodoulou Mouskos in 1913 to peasant parents in the village of Pano Panayia, about thirty kilometers northeast of Paphos in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, the future archbishop and president entered Kykko Monastery as a novice at age thirteen. His pursuit of education over the next several years took him from the monastery to the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, where he finished secondary school. From there he moved to Athens University as a deacon to study theology. After earning his degree in theology, he remained at the university during the World War II occupation, studying law. He was ordained as a priest in 1946, adopting the name Makarios. A few months after ordination, he received a scholarship from the World Council of Churches that took him to Boston University for advanced studies at the Theological College. Before he had completed his studies at Boston, he was elected in absentia bishop of Kition. He returned to Cyprus in the summer of 1948 to take up his new office.

Makarios was consecrated as bishop on June 13, 1948, in the Cathedral of Larnaca. He also became secretary of the Ethnarchy Council, a position that made him chief political adviser to the archbishop and swept him into the mainstream of the enosis struggle. His major accomplishment as bishop was planning the plebiscite that brought forth a 96 percent favorable vote for enosis in January 1950. In June Archbishop Makarios II died, and in October the bishop of Kition was elected to succeed him. He took office as Makarios III and, at age thirty-seven, was the youngest archbishop in the history of the Church of Cyprus. At his inauguration, he pledged not to rest until union with “Mother Greece” had been achieved.

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