Why isn’t Cyprus part of Greece?

By: | Post date: 2016-01-28 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: History, Modern Greek

Greece got most of the Aegean islands from the Ottoman Empire in 1913, after the Balkan Wars. There were three exceptions:

  • Greece did not get Imbros and Tenedos (Gökçeada and Bozcaada), because of their strategic importance right outside the Dardanelles. When the invasion at Gallipoli happened, the British (and ANZACs) were based at the next island down, Lemnos.
  • The Dodecanese, which Italy got from Turkey just before 1913.
  • Cyprus, which Turkey had sold to the British in 1878.

Half the island (well, a third) is culturally Turkish; but if Cyprus had still been under Turkish rule in 1913, it’s not impossible that it would have been ceded to Greece. And the Turkish element in Cyprus would likely have been expelled under the 1923 population exchange, as happened in the rest of Greece outside of Thrace—and as did not happen in the Dodecanese, which still weren’t in Greece. (That only happened in 1946.)

Cyprus remained under British rule until the Cyprus Emergency of 1955–60. The intent of the Greek Cypriot militants EOKA was union with Greece, Enosis. That did not happen, not least because of the Turkish minority asserting itself and Cypriot intercommunal violence. The Republic of Cyprus arose as a compromise.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Republic of Cyprus no longer has a substantial Turkish population, because of the continued intercommunity violence and the de facto partition of the island. But fifty five years on, even though most Greek Cypriots do not identify as Cypriots first Greeks second, they are quite used to being a separate country, and don’t feel any urge for Enosis.

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