By George Koumoullis
FALSIFYING history means the calculated concealment and/or distortion of historical events. Whichever period we examine through secondary school text books we can note glaring omissions and distortions, especially as regards the role of the church.
It seems the super-minister of education (known throughout the country) ensures that the “nationally unfavourable” events are hushed up. This is why we will read nowhere, for example, that on March 23, 1821 – two days after the start of the Greek revolution against Turkish rule – the excommunication of the Greeks that rose against the Turks was read in the church of the Patriarchate. The church excommunicated Rigas Fereos, Ypsilantis and other leaders of the revolution whom it described in the notorious excommunication notice, as “arrogant, glory-seeking and vainglorious”. All of them and their accomplices, said the church charge-sheet were “freedom-haters” and attempted a “God-hating and unwise work”. (From the History of the Greek Revolution, Nea Elliniki Vivliothiki, 1971)
Nor is there mention in any school text book that the monks of Mount Athos, in order to save their skin, sent a telegram to Hitler in April 1941 two weeks after the German invasion of Greece to congratulate him for his glorious actions and to wish him a long life, prosperity, happiness and peace!
Of course there is no criticism of the heavy 3-0 score in favour of the Turks in direct military confrontations with Greece (1821, 1897, 1922). Some would say 4-0 if 1974 was taken into account, even if Greece did not show up on the ground despite the assurances of the “national government”.
The insistence on using the term “coup” instead of “Greek invasion” in reference to July 15, 1974 is also a distortion of the truth. On this day the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios, was not overthrown by the Cypriots, which would have justified the term “coup”. What took place on that day was quite clearly a “Greek invasion”: the “national government” (this was how the criminal gang of the Greek Junta was referred to by the majority of the Greek Cypriots), using the National Guard and the Greek army contingent ELDYK overthrew the elected president of the Republic.
Nicos Sampson and his ministers were not appointed by Cypriots but by the Greek government. Mainland Greek officers and soldiers took control of the airport, CyBC, CyTA and other important organisations of the Republic.
Consequently, even someone who possesses an infantile understanding of things would conclude that on July 15, 1974 Greece brutally invaded Cyprus and turned on the green light for Turkey to invade.
Many times in this happy land, the truth is considered dishonourable. Makarios, in his speech to the UN General Assembly on 19 July 1974, the eve of the Turkish invasion, told the truth and only the truth about what happened on July 15. Here is an excerpt from his speech that proves the point.
“This is clearly an invasion from outside, together with a flagrant violation of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. The so-called coup is a creation of the Greek officers, which make up and are in charge of the National Guard.”
Further down, he added: “If we accept that the Greek officers of the National Guard had no involvement, then how would the fact that there were Greek officers among the dead that were taken to Greece for burial, be explained?”
Examining the political life of Makarios, we can see from a million miles away a galaxy of mistakes and gaffes, but on the eve of the Turkish invasion he behaved honourably and incisively, hoping, even to the last, to avert the Turkish invasion.
I leave aside the ludicrous claim that Makarios’ speech at the UN “opened the door” to the Turks, because the decision for the invasion had been taken on the night of July 15. Makarios entertained the hope that he could persuade the UN Security Council to intervene and restore constitutional order so that a Turkish invasion could be averted. But the Security Council does not intervene in internal feuds (for example coups) and, therefore Makarios had to tell the truth – that the so-called coup was in reality an invasion by the Junta.
Sadly for Cyprus, it was already too late because while Makarios was speaking, the Turkish warships were approaching the Cyprus coast and the Security Council remained idle. Alas, Cyprus would be raped for a second time in five days and this time by yet another guarantor of its independence (some guarantors).
Another forgery of history is the continuous reference to the Junta and never to Greece, when the “coup” is discussed. It is as if the Junta was a foreign body, separate from Greece. The Junta might not have been very popular in the big urban centres but in the countryside it was impressively popular. Four months before its fall on July 25, 1974, President Phedon Gizikis visited Kalamata that had a population of 40,000, but he was greeted by a huge crowd, estimated by foreign news agencies to number some 120,000 people. They had come from all parts of the Peloponnese to welcome the “great leader”.
Reminding people of the shameful moments in the history of a country is as enlightening and instructive as the extolling of its achievements. Nobody could claim that the Greek people are free of responsibility for the tragedy we suffered. Just as the Germans cannot put all the blame on Hitler for the Holocaust, mainland Greeks and Greek Cypriots cannot put all the responsibility for the Cyprus tragedy on the Junta.
Especially among the Greek Cypriots, CyBC, unions such as SEK, and teaching unions OELMEK and POED were singing the praises of the tyranny night and day. Out of courteousness to the Cypriot people, these organisations should have changed their names because even today, at least to members of my generation, they spark nightmarish thoughts.
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist