Cyprus Mail

Grivas: a generally bitter man

Grivas with Archbishop Makarios

By Angelos Anastasiou

SIX volumes of MI5 and MI6 documents on General Georgios Grivas ‘Dighenis’, the military leader of the four-year guerrilla struggle against British colonists and for union with Greece from 1955 to 1959, were declassified yesterday.

The archived documents, covering the period from 1942 to 1962, focus on the man’s strained relationship with Archbishop Makarios, his dealings with the Greek government, his political aspirations, and include a lengthy personality profile by MI5 director Brigadier Bill Magan.

Describing his own diatribe “a trifle colourful for an official paper,” Magan said Grivas had been an “extraordinary man” who rated practicality over abstract theory.

Magan described Grivas as a “generally bitter man,” prone to bouts of rage, who undertook leading the armed struggle in part due to the fame it was sure to get him, as humility had not been his strong suit.

In a document dated June 12, 1956, entitled “General Grivas and Organisation X” list his weaknesses, which include his “arrogance, conceit and limited intellect.”

These attributes notwithstanding, according to the same document Grivas’ track record proved he had been a good and courageous professional soldier, a monarchist and a “ferocious anticommunist.”

Magan’s report also described him as an opportunist without insight, but possessing fierce determination.

“He is a doer, not a thinker,” Magan wrote. “He is incapable of devising a strategic plan, but confident of facing any tactical challenge.”

He was also described as a “man of principle,” who had little qualms about ordering a man’s execution – though with no traces of sadism.

Grivas had been extraordinarily mindful of personal hygiene, always appearing clean-shaven, never drinking, never smoking and following an almost vegetarian diet.

In an effort to counter him, the British authorities investigated his past closely.

In a document dated April 26, 1956, it was noted that the British government had been seeking any available information on anticommunist operations by Grivas’ ‘Organisation X’, so that it could be used in a propaganda campaign designed to turn Cypriot communists against Grivas and the EOKA struggle.

Most of the released reports documented Grivas’ increasingly strained relationship with Archbishop Makarios, political leader of the armed struggle.
Magan commented that “Grivas’ relationship with Makarios was never easy.”

“They appeared to dislike each other and many of Grivas’ references to the Archbishop contain a hint of contempt,” Magan wrote.

The General’s relations with the Greek government had been equally strained, according to Magan.

“Dighenis was not servile towards politicians,” he wrote. “He had no sense of personal inferiority.”

Despite his repeated denials of wishing to enter the Greek political arena, the Brits considered Grivas “overly ambitious” to resist it, especially since he considered himself the role of “saviour of the nation.”

However, shortly prior to leading a new political formation in Greece, the British intelligence service thought that following an initial enthusiasm towards him due to his accomplishments with EOKA, Greeks appeared to “forget his name.”

Grivas’ stance towards the Zurich/London negotiations, which eventually led to the guaranteed independence of Cyprus in 1960, was also of concern to the colonists.

According to a conversation between Grivas and one of his associates, he had been ambivalent towards the talks, as he thought opposing them would earn him popular support, but would create a rift both in Cyprus and Greece.

The released documents also contain many references to Grivas’ diary – deemed authentic – as well as his memoirs, which caused much controversy before and after publication.

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