Sunday, 21 June 2020

THE ARRIVAL OF THE BRITISH IN CYPRUS IN 1878 AND THE DESIRE FOR LIBERATION

by Pavlos Andronikos


In 1878, by agreement with the Ottoman Sultan, the British took over the governance of Cyprus from the Turks. The first British Governor of the island was Sir Garnet Wolseley...


“Sir Garnet Wolseley Courting Cyprus” by Edward
Linley Sambourne (Punch 3 Aug. 1878)

After arriving in Larnaca and being sworn in as Governor, Sir Garnet Wolseley put off for a few days the obligatory visit to Nicosia to meet with the outgoing Turkish Governor of the island. In the meantime he did some sightseeing. He sailed to Famagusta on the 25th of July in the Salamis accompanied by Admiral Lord John Hay,[1] and on the following day he sailed in the opposite direction to Limassol. His arrival there is described at some length in The Daily News:
We landed at a little jetty opposite the vice-consul’s house, where a great mass of inhabitants had collected to welcome the High Commissioner. The Greek element is clearly in the ascendant at Limasol. Greek girls crowded the balconies and windows of the houses on the seafront, Greeks in black coats rather elbowed the Turks into the back ground, and asserted themselves with sufficient complacency. The bells of the Greek churches were chiming merrily. A cafe projecting over the sea was crammed to its last inch of standing room with spectators. In the centre of the throng, stern and rigid, stood a little guard of honour of Marines, a detachment of which have been stationed here since Lord John Hay took over the island. The British bugle sounded as his Excellency stepped on shore. No time was lost. Sir Garnet Wolseley inspected the guard, and then a little procession was formed, with the Konak as its destination. We dived down a lane, and found ourselves in an unfragrant bazaar, covered with canvas stretched overhead from booth to booth. This protection gave some coolness, but was neutralised by the calorie radiated by the crowd which, with pardonable curiosity, thronged about the little party so eagerly that progress was occasionally impeded. But we struggled on to the Konak where a little band of Turkish militiamen formed a guard, and mounted to the court-room, whither there was allowed to follow the most respectable portion of the crowd. The priests showed a good front, there being no fewer than five present. The Greek exarch read an address, the tenor of which gives some indication of the aspirations uppermost in the Grecian mind of Cyprus. It began “we Greeks,” not “we Cypriotes,” and it ran as follows:
“You represent a nation sympathising with the long sufferings of this thoroughly Hellenic country of ours. Our language and our religion have been from time immemorial our two national symbols, and those mighty Britain, in the performance of her noble work, we are assured will maintain and uphold in the future for the welfare and prosperity of this nation. We have before us the noble precedent of the Ionian Islands. The great island of Cyprus, the pearl of the Mediterranean, is ceded to the crown of her Majesty, and our respect and pride will be great for her in like manner as other countries and nations under her protection.”
I confess I do not see with what right the Grecian population of Cyprus can style themselves the nation. It would be difficult for the exarch, probably, to tell at a moment’s notice how many centuries have elapsed since there was Greek rule in Cyprus and as for “language,” if the exarch’s religion is no better than his Greek, it certainly cannot be called his strong point. His Excellency gave to Mr. Guarracino the terms of a very general reply, which that gentleman translated first into Greek and then into Turkish. The consul made a few presentations to his Excellency and then the party started for a ride. Sir Garnet had a very handsome mule, with the only English saddle in the place… (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p.6d)
According to the report’s account of the address of the “Greek exarch”, there is in the speech no request for enosis—not in so many words—but the sentence: “We have before us the noble precedent of the Ionian Islands” was a clear hint of what was expected. No more needed to be said.

Certainly the reporter has not missed the hint. For him the speech “gives some indication of the aspirations uppermost in the Grecian mind of Cyprus”, and he takes issue with the fact that the Cypriots refer to themselves as Greek.

It is noteworthy that, in the telegraph version of this news story, printed a few days earlier, the hope for union with Greece is presented as having been expressed unequivocally.
Sir Garnet Wolseley yesterday visited Limasol, a place of some consequence on the south side of Cyprus. It is a commercial town, is fairly built, and is surrounded by cultivated ground and trees. A large proportion of the population is Greek. A deputation of the Greeks waited upon Sir Garnet Wolseley, and expressed the hope that England would follow the precedent pursued with regard to the Ionian Islands. (The Daily News, 27 July 1878, p. 5f)
Regardless of the truth of the matter—Was the desire for enosis expressed through a hint or a clear statement?—the most significant point is, perhaps, that through this reporter—the famous correspondent Archibald Forbes—the British public and politicians were informed that the Greek Cypriots aspired to union with their brethren in Greece.[2]

The reporter’s reach, it should be noted was amplified by the fact that his telegraphic reports were used by other newspapers as well. For example, The Scotsman published exactly the same telegraph item on 29 July 1878 (p. 5b) and The Leeds Mercury on 27 July 1878 (p. 7f).

Note also that the information that the Greek Cypriots desired union with Greece was not just mentioned in the descriptions of the exarch’s speech above, but also in two other passages in the same edition of The Daily News.
Passage 1
… I have just seen Captain Rawson, who is the interim commandant of Nicosia, and who was present at the occupation of that place, and has been there ever since.[3] He tells me that the Turks are thoroughly well pleased by the change which has been made in the government; that they desire ardently good government, and that they rest well assured they will have this blessing at the hands of the British Lord High Commissioner. The Greeks, however, are not so thoroughly satisfied. They are glad, it is true, in a modified sense, by reason of the change, since they realise that it will bring them good government; but they have an arrière pensée. They had the lingering hope that the island would be annexed to Greece, and they have some disappointment that this has not been done. We may trust to time to convert them from a delusion so Quixotic. (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p.5f)
Passage 2
The Greeks appear to be divided between native desire to turn a penny, honest or not, and a far-off hope that they may some day make part of the Greek Kingdom. Our Correspondent calls this hope Quixotic, and it is certainly premature. No natives of the Levant are less purely Greek, it appears, than the Cypriotes, and none have done so little in the way of fighting freedom’s battle for themselves. [4] (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 4f)
In the light of these references there can be no doubt that enosist sentiment existed among Cypriots from the very beginning of British rule, and that this was quickly communicated to the British administrators, and, via The Daily News and other newspapers, to the British public.

Unfortunately we are not told the identity of the “exarch” who made the speech in Limassol, and the use of the word “exarch” contributes a measure of confusion, since we do not know exactly the meaning intended. Does it just mean the leader of the group of priests present—a facetious usage perhaps? Or does it mean a bishop, the archbishop, or a representative of one of these? Given that we are dealing with someone who in other reports has no qualms about referring to the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus simply as a “Greek priest”, there can be no certainty.

To sum up then, in the light of the information contained in the 9th of August edition of The Daily News, which offers an eye-witness account of the event, we have to accept that a representative of the Church of Cyprus did indeed indicate to Sir Garnet Wolseley that the Greek Cypriots desired union with Greece, and that this happened not in Larnaca as was previously thought or in Nicosia but in Limassol. We cannot be completely certain as to the identity of the prelate who spoke, but we do know from the eye-witness account that there was a “deputation of the Greeks” in Limassol which included “no fewer than five” priests, at least one of whom—the speaker—is described as an “exarch”. We also know that the “exarch” read an address, i.e., that the speech which he delivered was a prepared speech.

There exists in many historical accounts a claim that when Sir Garnet Wolseley landed in Cyprus, he was greeted by the Archbishop, who lost no time in making the enosist aspiration of his flock known to His Excellency. Based on the evidence I have presented, we can say with certainty that although this claim may be inaccurate, it cannot be dismissed as a complete fabrication. A leader of the Church of Cyprus did indeed indicate to the British newcomer that Cyprus desired to go the way of the Ionian Islands.

However, the rival Cypriotist claim that no such speech was ever made can safely be dismissed as mistaken.


Notes

[1] Hay had been sent to Cyprus in advance to prepare for Wolseley’s arrival. See the Despatch from “Vice-Admiral Lord John Hay, C.B., Commanding Channel Squadron” in The London Gazette, Tuesday, 30 July 1878. Wolseley could be quite brutal in his assessments. In his journal written for his wife he described Admiral Lord John Hay as “that goose”; likened him to a “foolish idle child”; and accused him of “pompous ignorance”. (Anne Cavendish [ed.], Cyprus 1878: The Journal of Sir Garnet Wolseley, [Nicosia: Laiki Trapeza, 1992], pp. 9 & 95.)

[2] For some indication of the extent of his fame see the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry for Archibald Forbes. There is also a Wikipedia entry.

[3] Captain Harry H. Rawson seems to have been Admiral John Hay’s right hand man. See The London Gazette 30 July 1878.

[4] The point that the Cypriot Greeks have done “little in the way of fighting freedom’s battle for themselves” is a chilling reminder to the contemporary reader of the expression of similar British sentiments in the 1950s which no doubt contributed to the fatal decision on the part of the enosis movement to resort to arms.

Monday, 1 June 2020

THE ME-I’M-NOT-GREEK CYPRIOTS

by Pavlos Andronikos


Cyprus Invaded & Partitioned

A particularly disheartening phenomenon in contemporary Cyprus is the push by a small but vocal group of Cypriots who consider themselves “progressive” to de-Hellenise the identity of the Greek Cypriots.

They claim to be opposed to “nationalism”, but seem in fact to be primarily opposed to Greek nationalism which they want to eradicate by denying the Hellenic identity of Cypriot Greeks. With regard to Turkish nationalism they have something of a blind spot—it does not bother them anywhere near as much as, by their own lights, it should.[1] In fact they seem to have adopted the perspective of Turkish propaganda which holds that all the problems of Cyprus have resulted solely from the actions of Greek nationalists.[2] They also seem to have adopted the claims of British propaganda from the 50s that the Greek Cypriots are not really Greek, they just think they are.[3]

In the sense that yes, a Cypriot’s first and foremost loyalty should be to Cyprus, their aim is laudable, but it is not at all clear to me why loyalty to Cyprus should necessitate both a denial of the Hellenic and Turkish identity of most of the population, and a revision of the island’s history which suppresses and/or rejects the Hellenic nature of the majority indigenous community. However laudable the motivation, lies and distortions do not cease to be lies and distortions.

Born-again Cypriotism gained ground among Greek Cypriots after the Turkish invasion and partition of the island in 1974, and is to a large extent motivated by a desire to see the island reunified. But can real unity be achieved by allowing Turkey to dictate the terms of reunification?

In this regard it is noteworthy that despite its commitment to Cypriot nationalism, the born-again Cypriot mindset is not loyal to the Republic of Cyprus. Its reconciliationist devotees are quite willing to agree to the dissolution of that entity and the replacement of it with a federal semblance of “unity” which is in essence an apartheid legitimisation of the partition imposed by the Turkish troops, and which would make Cyprus a hostage to Turkish interests regardless of the wishes of the majority population.

Can reunification be achieved by adopting the misrepresentations of British and Turkish propaganda, and denying the Hellenic character of our culture and identity? Is that a reunification we can, or want to, live with?

Notes


[1] See Sener Levent, “Et tu, Akis Lordos?...” in Politis 7 July 2016. Available in English translation at http://www.pavlos-andronikos.id.au/SenerLevent.htm. In this article Sener Levent tackles Greek Cypriot “reconciliationists” who criticised him for “raking up” the past when he reported newly discovered Turkish atrocities of 1974.  Their sentiments he tells them are pleasing to the chauvinists on the Turkish side. “You are fighting on the same front”, he says. “Your words spread honey on the bread of all of them. You will never be able to bring peace to this island in this way.”

[2] For a better understanding of the Turkish contribution to the problems of Cyprus see the compilation of excerpts “Turkey’s Role in Cyprus in the 1950s” (ed. Pavlos Andronikos) at http://www.pavlos-andronikos.id.au/turkey-cyprus_issue.htm.

[3] On the Hellenic character of Cyprus see Pavlos Andronikos, “Changing Perceptions: Cyprus, A Greek Island” at http://www.pavlos-andronikos.id.au/ChangingPerceptions2.htm.

[4] Warning: Do not confuse accepting that Greek-speaking Cypriots are Hellenic in character (but in a Cypriot way) with a desire for Cyprus to be a province of Greece. Nobody is arguing for enosis here.