Cyprus: A View From The Diaspora

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Cyprus’ problems are as far-ranging as the island itself.

A divided country–-part-Greek, part-Turkish–-Cyprus must also cope with the power Athens, Ankara, Washington and London exerts over it. In addition, it sits in the shadows cast by the sinister countries of the Middle East.

There is a world of literature dealing with the embattled island, ranging from U.N. documents to the works by politicians, journalists and historians. Now another book must be added to the list: CYPRUS: A VIEW FROM THE DIASPORA, written by George Gregoriou, a political-science professor at William Paterson University of New Jersey.

The author was born in Cyprus in 1936. His family was militant and nationalistic; his father was interned by British colonial authorities during the 1931 insurrection. The family emigrated to the USA in 1950 but continued to support Cyprus’ struggle for independence, a stance that inspired Gregoriou to write this book.

Despite its title, the author confesses that he has aimed
his work at Greek Cypriots. “I am under no illusion that another book on Cyprus is necessary to convince the powers that be in London and Washington to change their policies on Cyprus...this is not my intention. I have tried to offer an analysis of the Cyprus problem by keeping close to the historical record, without mincing my words. The events in Cyprus and the actions of the enemies of the Greek Cypriots speak for themselves. All I have done here is to record these events, from the arrival of the British in 1878 to the turn of the 21st century.

“What the Greek Cypriots suffered due to British colonialism, the American hegemony in Greece, and the Western geopolitical strategies in the Eastern Mediterranean, is a matter of record. But I also deal with certain ‘forbidden subjects,’ particularly the political forces in Greece and Cyprus responsible for the events leading to the de facto partition in 1974 and the Anglo-American policies outside and inside the United Nations to legitimize the facts on the ground created by the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus.”

Gregoriou is a writer on the left; his orientation comes out of a lifetime of devotion to progressive politics. He believes that most mainstream theories about Cyprus are “ideological claptrap,” and admits that his work is colored by his experience in the struggles against fascism in Greece and American imperialism in Vietnam.

It would be wrong, though, to associate his work with dogma or propaganda. Gregoriou writes coolly and objectively, avoiding emotionalism and jingoism. He backs up what he says with logic and fact, and can summarize complex ideas in succinct, readable fashion. It’s a rare gift in an academic.

Gregoriou’s book is a kind of MRI of Cyprus’ illness. Some readers won’t like what it reveals, especially those who back the political and charitable organizations which bring pressure on the U.S. government to revise its pro-Turkish stance.

Gregoriou believes the U.S. State Department is rigidly opposed to a united and independent Cyprus, as it would undermine its imperialist policies in the eastern Mediterranean, policies it learned from Britain’s divide-and-rule philosophy. Diaspora Cypriots and Greeks can hold rallies, make speeches and back politicians, but it won’t do a damn bit of good, Gregoriou says. The USA will never change the way it thinks and acts.

CYPRUS is divided into four sections: Introductory Essays (including an overview entitled “A View From the Diaspora”); British Colonialism and Resistance (1878-1960); The Republic of Cyprus in Crisis (1960-1974); and Occupation and Diplomacy (1974-2000). Such topics as EOKA and its place in history, the collapse of the Zurich settlement, and the road to partition are dissected and analyzed, with much space given to the internecine battles between EOKA leader Grivas and Archbishop Makarios.

Gregoriou denounces both of them for having “skirted around the historical antecedents forcing the Zurich settlement. The two nationalist factions were held hostage to the EOKA mythology, without examining the political and military implications of an undertaking initiated by both factions.”

Gregoriou adds, “If the EOKA struggle was an adventurist interregnum in Cypriot history, for which the Greek Cypriots paid a heavy price, this cannot be swept under the rug...the majority of the Cypriots, including the Turkish Cypriots, were excluded from the anti-colonial struggle.” This failure was a major factor in the tragedy that befell the island in 1974.

Takis Hadjidemetriou, MP, Social Democratic Movement, had this to say about CYPRUS: “The author attempts to get to the bottom of things and seeks the dialectical relationship between the internal political life and international politics. The events taking place are intended to serve primarily the policies and interests of the American and British. For fifty years Gregoriou has been in the same trench, the same struggle, but with new thoughts and a much sharper and critical eye. The difficulties, problems and obstacles ahead do not lead the author toward despair. On the contrary, they lead him where history is made, in the potential of a people manifested in their history, legacy, and civilization. The way out, he states, will not come from Washington or London. It will come from the people of Cyprus.”

(Smyrna Press, Box 1151, Union City, NJ, 07087)_