Cyprus is Greek and so is Macedonia, according to our soldiers. Really?
By George Koumoullis
One morning a few days ago, I met some friends in a coffeeshop in Ayios Dhometios very close to a National Guard sentry post. Presumably because of the escalation of tension in the eastern Mediterranean, the post had been reinforced with personnel and weaponry.
As we were enjoying our drinks in the outdoor shade of the coffeeshop, the atmosphere vibrated with the chanting of slogans such as ‘Cyprus is Greek’, ‘There is only one Macedonia and it is Greek’. Wow! Rationally (if there is even a hint of rationality remaining on this island), such slogans in the year 2020 should cause uproar among the public and the government, but unfortunately nobody is moved.
The slogan ‘Cyprus is Greek’ is appropriate when referring to the period between 322BC and 58BC (the Hellenistic period). In this period, the arts and Greek religion of the 12 gods of Olympus truly blossomed on the island and, as we all know, the Cypriot philosopher, Zenon of Kitium, established the famous Stoic school in Athens. Then came the Roman and the Byzantine periods, which were followed by Frankish rule, Venetian rule, Ottoman rule and British rule which eventually led to the declaration of Cyprus as an independent state.
The constitution of the Cyprus Republic recognises two communities – the Turkish and the Greek – as well as different religious groups such as the Maronites, Armenian and Latins. This means that, according to the laws of our state which we are trying so hard to safeguard, we are a multi-cultural state.
Irrespective of which description of Cyprus is the more correct, the indisputable fact is that the slogan ‘Cyprus is Greek’ is an aggressive slogan with extremist nationalist connotations, coming at a time when efforts are being made to resume the Cyprus talks. It is a slogan that was chanted all over Cyprus before 1974 when everyone was talking about enosis. It is the slogan that awoke the beast of Turkish nationalism, which in retaliation came up with the slogan, ‘Cyprus is Turkish’. It is the slogan that leads, with mathematical precision, to partition.
The attempt to realise this unattainable and maximalist objective led to the biggest catastrophe of Hellenism since 1922. In the final analysis, as paradoxical as it may sound, this slogan proved extremely anti-Greek because it contributed to events that led to uprooting Hellenism from north Cyprus. It would have meaning only if our objective was enosis. But as our stated objective is independence, such slogans are completely out of time and place, and reprehensible. Why, I wonder, does the army not promote Cypro-centric slogans such as ‘Hail our Cyprus’? This would be more compatible with our efforts to reunite our country.
Let us also look at the second slogan, ‘Macedonia is one and it is Greek,’ which is a sensitive issue for ‘pure’ Greeks, not only of Greece but also of Cyprus. First of all, it is one thing to say Alexander the Great was Greek and a completely different thing to rant that all territory is Macedonian.
To be specific, after the end of the Second Balkan War there was an agreement between the victors (Greece, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro) and defeated Bulgaria over the partitioning of the territory of ancient Macedonia, which was enshrined in the Treaty of Bucharest of 1913. After the agreement, the territory was shared as follows: 52 per cent to Greece, 38 per cent to Serbia-Montenegro (the territory that today belongs to North Macedonia) and 10 per cent to Bulgaria. Therefore, for the past 107 years, ancient Macedonia has been partitioned in three parts, according to the Treaty of Bucharest which was signed by Greece. Macedonia is not one! Let’s now go further back. Since the conquest of all the cities of ancient Greece by the Romans some 2,300 years ago, Greece (as we imagine it considering the modern Greek state was only established in 1830) never had control all the territory of ancient Macedonia.
The burning issue, however, is not whether Macedonia is Greek or not, but whether the leadership of the National Guard has the right to dispute the Treaty of Prespa of 2018 under which Greece recognised the ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ that includes a part of ancient Macedonia. The leadership of the National Guard is obliged to clarify its position on this important issue, as does the minister of defence. Are these slogans taught to conscripts with the minister not knowing, or knowing about them?
In the first case, it would suggest the National Guard acts like a state within a state, while in the second it would suggest an erratic policy on the Cyprus issue as well as a show of contempt for Greece and international treaties. In either case there is a very serious issue. I hope these slogans were the initiative of some officer and did not come from the National Guard command.
It is important that Cypriot society be convinced that the National Guard has freed itself, once and for all, from the devious water carriers of the fascist parties of Greece and Cyprus, and that its behaviour should on no account remind us of the painful years of the Junta.
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist