Friday, 28 June 2013

Who were the Greeks? Unsatisfactory title, unsatisfactory programme



Above is the first part in a two-part series presented by classicist Michael Scott that started showing on the BBC last night, called Who were the Greeks? It’s not great, but not awful either and I suppose the most noteworthy thing about it is that it went out on BBC Two in prime time (9:00 pm), indicating a continuing public appetite for Greek history and culture. 

Regarding the programme itself, it’s the usual fare, nothing to surprise or inform anyone with a reasonable acquaintance with the subject matter. I did have a brief exchange with Michael Scott on Twitter about the title of the programme – Who were the Greeks? – because it seemed to me to imply that the Greeks were extinct, which clearly, on any number of levels, they are not. Scott rather lamely replied: ‘We’re looking at ancient Greece – find me a live ancient Greek to talk to and we'll change the title!’ In that case, since you are looking not at Greeks but at the ancient Greeks, I told him, then the programme should have been called ‘Who were the ancient Greeks?’

Indeed, after watching the programme, because its main focus of attention was almost exclusively on the practices of the Athenians – and, in fact, the practices of the Athenians in the fifth century BC – which Scott unjustifiably conflates with the entire Hellenic world, over centuries, making no distinction, for example, between the practices of the Athenians in the fifty century BC with the Ionians of the 6th century BC or the Macedonians of the 4th century BC or the Alexandrians of the 3rd century BC and so on – then the title of the show should really have been ‘Who were the Athenians in the fifth century BC?’

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

On Archimedes: the greatest mathematician of all time



Good article below from today’s New York Times on the greatest mathematician of all times, Archimedes of Syracuse, whose influence in numerous scientific fields continues to be felt today. Indeed, as the BBC documentary above shows, the efforts to recover the text from the so-called Archimedes’ Palimpsest or manuscript are revealing the Greek from Sicily to be an even more complex thinker and greater genius than previously believed.

Archimedes: Separating Myth From Science
By Kenneth Chang

For the last time: Archimedes did not invent a death ray.

But more than 2,200 years after his death, his inventions are still driving technological innovations — so much so that experts from around the world gathered recently for a conference at New York University on his continuing influence.

The death ray legend has Archimedes using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to incinerate Roman ships attacking his home of Syracuse, the ancient city-state in the southeast Sicily. It has been debunked no fewer than three times on the television show ‘Mythbusters’ (the third time at the behest of President Obama).

Rather, it is a mundane contraption attributed to the great Greek mathematician, inventor, engineer and military planner — the Archimedes screw, a corkscrew inside a cylinder — that has a new use in the 21st century. For thousands of years, farmers have used this simple machine for irrigation: Placed at an angle with one end submerged in a river or a lake, the screw is turned by a handle, lifting water upward and out at the other end.

A couple of decades ago, engineers found that running an Archimedes screw backward — that is, dropping water in at the top, causing the screw to turn as the water falls to the bottom — is a robust, economical and efficient way to generate electricity from small streams. The power output is modest, enough for a village, but with a small impact on the environment. Unlike the turbine blades that spin in huge hydropower plants like the Hoover Dam, an Archimedes screw permits fish to swim through it and emerge at the other end almost unscathed.

Such generators have been built in Europe, including one commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II of England to power Windsor Castle; the first in the United States could start operating next year.

And Archimedes’ ideas are showing up in other fields as well.

“He just planted the seeds for so many seminal ideas that could grow over the ages,” said Chris Rorres, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Drexel University, who organized the conference at N.Y.U.

A panoply of devices and ideas are named after Archimedes. Besides the Archimedes screw, there is the Archimedes principle, the law of buoyancy that states the upward force on a submerged object equals the weight of the liquid displaced. There is the Archimedes claw, a weapon that most likely did exist, grabbing onto Roman ships and tipping them over. And there is the Archimedes sphere, a forerunner of the planetarium — a hand-held globe that showed the constellations as well as the locations of the sun and the planets in the sky.

“Here was someone who just changed how we look at the universe,” Dr. Rorres said.
Only a handful of Archimedes’ writings survive, and much of what we think we know about him was written centuries after his death.

Some of the legends, like using mirrors to set the Roman ships afire, proved too good to be true. The same may go for the tale of Archimedes figuring out, while sitting in a bathtub, how to tell if the maker of a crown for the king had fraudulently mixed in some silver with the gold; according to this story Archimedes, too excited to put on clothes, ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting, “Eureka!”

As with the mirrors, the underlying principle works. But in practice, the tiny difference in volume between a crown made of pure gold and one made of a mixture of gold and silver is too small to be reliably measured.

Some of the talks at the conference were about using present-day ingenuity to figure out what Archimedes actually achieved in antiquity.

Michael Wright, a researcher at Imperial College London, has been trying to decipher how the Archimedes sphere showed the night sky. Although it is described in historical writings, no pieces or even drawings of it have survived. Others had already made celestial spheres, globes that show the positions of the constellations.

The Roman historian Cicero described the Archimedes sphere as uninteresting at first glance until it was explained. “There was a wonderful contrivance due to Archimedes inside,” he wrote. “He had devised a way in which a single rotation would generate the several non-uniform motions.”

If this description is taken literally, it would seem that Archimedes figured out the gearing needed to mimic the motion of the planets, including the retrograde motion where they appear to stop and reverse direction for a while before proceeding in their usual direction.

“This instrument was just like any other celestial sphere, except with the addition of indicators for the Sun, Moon, the planets moving over the sphere and a mechanism inside the sphere to move them,” Mr. Wright said.

In the spring, he began building his version of the Archimedes sphere. He presented it in public for the first time at the conference.

“I can’t guarantee that the original was like this,” Mr. Wright said. “What I can say is this, in the simplest way that I can imagine it, fits the evidence we have. We’ve been talking for 2,000 years about this thing that Archimedes made, and nobody seems to have offered to show people what it was like. I had an idea. I thought it was worth making, even if it was so people could have an argument about it and disagree with it. That’s a good way to get things going.”

Dr. Rorres said the singular genius of Archimedes was that he not only was able to solve abstract mathematics problems, but also used mathematics to solve physics problems, and he then engineered devices to take advantage of the physics. “He came up with fundamental laws of nature, proved them mathematically and then was able to apply them,” Dr. Rorres said.

Archimedes oversaw the defenses of Syracuse, and while death ray mirrors and steam cannons (another supposed Archimedes invention debunked by “Mythbusters”) were too fanciful, the Archimedes claw appears to have been a real weapon used against the Roman navy.

It is very likely that it took advantage of two scientific principles Archimedes discovered.

With his law of buoyancy, he was able to determine whether a paraboloid (a shape similar to the nose cone of a jetliner) would float upright or tip over, a principle of utmost importance to ship designers, and Archimedes probably realized that the Roman ships were vulnerable as they came close to the city walls.

“Archimedes knew about the stability of these kinds of ships,” said Harry G. Harris, an emeritus professor of structural engineering at Drexel who has built a model of the claw. “When it is moving fast through the water, it is stable. Standing still or going very slow, it is very easy to tip over.”

So using an Archimedean principle — the law of the lever, which enables a small force to lift a large weight, as in seesaws and pulleys — a claw at the end of a chain would be lowered and hooked into a Roman ship, then lifted to capsize the ship and crash it against the rocks.

Syracuse won the battle but was weakened under a long siege and fell three years later. And in 212 B.C., at the age of about 75, Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier, supposedly furious that he refused to stop work on a mathematical drawing. His last words: “Do not disturb my circles!”

Of course, that bit about the circles is probably also a myth.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Robin Lane Fox on whether Alexander the Great thought he was a god



Robin Lane Fox gave an interesting talk recently to the Hellenic Society (video above) on the religious cults that developed in Hellenistic times associated with Alexander the Great and argues that these were not advanced by Alexander nor were they a product of Alexander’s pretensions to divinity – there is a widespread assumption that Alexander was driven mad by a belief in his own divinity and that he insisted he should be worshipped as a god. Rather, Lane Fox says, the cults associated with Alexander emerged as ‘tactical’ honours, in specific cities, for specific political and cultural reasons. In other words, Alexander did not think of himself as a god and did nothing to encourage such beliefs.

While watching Lane Fox’s lecture on youtube, I also came across this video clip in which Lane Fox says that the two things that made him want to devote a considerable part of his intellectual life to the career and character of the Macedonian king were: 1. Alexander’s fearlessness; and 2. Alexander’s ‘rivalry’ (as Lane Fox puts it) with Homer and the values of the Homeric world.

I also watched the interview below from Skopjan TV with its former prime minister Ljubco Georgievski, who seems to be inching towards accepting that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks and that the claims being made by the Slav inhabitants of Fyromia are ridiculous. However, Georgievski’s attempt to tell Skopjan viewers a few home truths is met by anger and incredulity from his interviewer, who disputes that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks on the following grounds:

1. If the Macedonians were Greeks, they would not have fought other Greeks.

2. The ancient Macedonians did not speak Greek.

3. Greece only began to take an interest in Alexander the Great and assert the Greekness of Macedonia in the 1990s.

What can one say?

As this piece (in Greek) reporting on a pro-Erdogan demonstration in Tirana indicates, the Skopjans, rather than engaging in embarrassing efforts to understand the ancient world, should be more worried about Albanian nationalism and its idea of incorporating Fyromia into a neo-Ottoman Balkan commonwealth, led by Turkey, and also consisting of Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Or maybe some Skopjans think that if they too align themselves with Turkey, this might be a way to fulfil their nationalist fantasies against Greece.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Aristotle’s Lagoon

 

In the two years between leaving Plato’s Academy – where, following Plato’s death, he had been overlooked for the top job in favour of Plato’s nephew Speusippus – and being employed by King Philip the Great of Macedon to tutor his son, Alexander, Aristotle lived on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, studying and categorising the island’s fauna and in the process inventing biology and zoology. Above is a BBC documentary, Aristotle’s Lagoon, in which Professor Armand Leroi looks at Aristotle’s Mytilenean sojourn and his methods and discoveries. It’s well worth watching.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Turkish ambassador and I: a revealing encounter with arrogance, dishonesty and resentment

I had a spat on Twitter recently with Turkey’s ambassador to Yemen, Fazli Corman, in which this senior Turkish diplomat – who has previously served his country at the UN in New York, in Canada, Japan, Oman and Greece – revealed himself to be not only arrogant, rude and dishonest, devoid of intellectual curiosity, but also someone with a severe prejudice and resentment towards Greeks. I’m reproducing the exchange below because I believe it exposes the attitudes and disposition of the Turkish state – and should leave Greeks in no doubt as to who and what they are up against.

The dispute began when I objected to an article
, Turkey, the Arab world, and the myth of moderate Islamism, by Nervana Mahmoud,‏ in which the author stated that Turkey had a ‘well-established democracy’ going back to the 1950s. I tweeted to her, rather sarcastically, that this was only the case if you discounted the coups of 1960, 1971, 1981 and the postmodern coup of 1997.

Corman evidently saw my tweet and read other tweets I’d written in which I’d been critical of those who, in reporting the crackdown on anti-Erdogan protests in Turkey, had portrayed Turkey as a misunderstood western-type liberal democracy when, in fact, it is an authoritarian, belligerent, hyper-nationalist entity that bears many hallmarks associated with fascism. Corman criticised what he saw as my ‘negativism’ towards Turkey, then brought up the Akritas plan and asked, because of my moniker, whether I wasn’t somehow related to it!

Now, I know that the Akritas plan was drawn up in 1963 by minister of the interior Polykarpos Yiorkadjis in response to the build up of Turkish arms on Cyprus and the increasing threat of a Turkish invasion. It spelled out how Greek Cypriots might thwart a Turkish assault by knocking out the armed enclaves Turkish Cypriots had established before these enclaves had a chance to link up with invading forces from Turkey. I also know that Turkey has attempted to portray the Akritas plan as a Greek Cypriot plot to annihilate Turkish Cypriots and, indeed, Corman repeated this claim and stated that, between 1963-74, Turkish Cypriots were incarcerated in concentration camps and were exposed to a campaign of ‘eradication’ and ‘extermination’.

(Corman, in a tweet revealing a deep-seated resentment of Greeks, added: ‘You never miss a chance to insult us, but rather you should focus on yourselves’, before going on to accuse Greeks of being ‘obsessive nationalists’).

Rather than engage in a slanging match with Corman, I preferred to provide him with a link to the Akritas plan and asked him to show me where it mentioned any intention on the part of Greek Cypriots to wipe out Turkish Cypriots.

His reply was that the plan wouldn’t state its objective so blatantly, but that the frequent mention of ‘national struggle’ clearly proved Greek Cypriots’ genocidal intentions.

I pointed out that ‘national struggle’ at this time clearly meant a struggle for self-determination, which for Greek Cypriots aimed at the revision of the 1960 constitution, the removal of those provisions they perceived granted the Turkish minority excessive powers and which the Turkish Cypriots had been exploiting to undermine the normal functioning of the Cypriot state and to create a state within a state. I said it was spurious to equate ‘national struggle’ with a desire to eradicate the Turkish Cypriots, and, indeed, I asked for facts and figures regarding this alleged extermination of the Turkish Cypriots – you’d expect such a calculated campaign to have been well publicised and documented, particularly in the international media.

I also argued that what Corman termed ‘concentration camps’ were in fact armed enclaves into which Turkish Cypriots had wilfully retreated in order to create the conditions for partition on the ground, which Turkey would definitively impose by invasion. In 1965, the UN Secretary General, U Thant, referred to this Turkish ploy as ‘deliberate self-segregation’. In fact, I told Corman, the only plan of ‘eradication’ that existed in Cyprus was the plan for partition being followed by Turkey, in which Greek Cypriots would be eradicated from those parts of the island Turkey was expecting to annex – a plan brutally and successfully executed with Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Unfortunately, to Corman, my measured and informed comments demonstrated that I was ‘living in a fantasy world’ and he said he felt ‘sorry’ for me. Annoyed by Corman’s boorish arrogance – and my own naive assumption that if you present someone with well-argued facts then they will come to their senses, particularly if they are a senior diplomat (who you’d expect not to believe any old rubbish and to be disposed to rational thought) – I expressed surprise that a high-ranking Turkish diplomat was ‘regurgitating risible propaganda’ and said his outpourings were what I’d expect of a brainwashed ultra-nationalist. Despite Corman showing signs of wanting to continue the argument – even if he said he regretted starting a conversation with me – I decided to end the exchange, regarding it as pointless to engage with an obtuse fanatic with no interest in truth or reasonable discussion.


1. Nervana Mahmoud: Turkey, the Arab world, and the myth of moderate Islamism http://wp.me/p1ybre-vO
   
2. john akritas: ‘Well-established democracy since 1950s?’ You mean apart from the coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 and the postmodern one in 1997.

3. Fazli Corman: Reading your negativism on Turkey, I wondered if “Akritas” simply your name or related to that “plan” in Cyprus?

4. john akritas: You mean the plan to thwart an invasion of Cyprus that Turkey propagandistically presents as plan to wipe out TCs.



5. john akritas: I’m just skeptical of claims that Turkey is a model democracy. More like, ultranationalist, authoritarian, bellicose.



6. Fazli Corman: Did you really learn Akritas plan like this??? As I know it was a plan to exterminate & eradicate Turks from Cyprus.


7. Fazli Corman: You never miss a chance to insult us, but rather you should focus on yourselves.



8. john akritas: Not true. The plan can be read here: http://bit.ly/ZV01rZ. Please show me where it mentions ‘eradicating’ TCs.


9. Fazli Corman: Would they write it like that? What do you think is the “national struggle” that is mentioned all over?



10. john akritas: How have I insulted you? I’m a critic of the Turkish state and the inflated claims made about Turkish ‘democracy’.


11. john akritas: ‏National struggle refers to self-determination. It’s not right to interpret this as a plan to kill TCs.


12. john akritas: Read my brush with Turkey’s ambassador to Yemen @FazliCorman, who repeats outlandish claim that GCs tried to eradicate TCs https://twitter.com/Nervana_1/status/342804949593382912

13. Fazli Corman: Outlandish?? You deny a very clear fact, even not historical, since I have seen this as a kid. Concentration camps of TCs.

14. Fazli Corman: Blaming Turkey of military coups should have reminded you of your own ones. Nationalism; Greeks and GCs by far more obsessed.

15. john akritas: Concentration camps! TCs retreated into armed enclaves in preparation for partition. UN called it ‘deliberate self-segregation’

16. Fazli Corman: Whether or not you accept, it was a plan to wipe out Turks. And it was implemented between 1963-74 until we stopped.



17. Fazli Corman: Ask the Turkish Cypriots who lived in the Island between 63-74 and then speak on ultranationalism or bellicose...



18. Fazli Corman: ‏What is self-determination then? Living side by side in the Island with TCs? Is that what you believe?



19. john akritas: 1/2 Self-determination meant unitary state in which TCs had minority rights. You can’t interpret this as plan to wipe out TCs.



20. john akritas: 2/2 On the other hand, what could Turkish policy of ‘partition or death’ mean other than wiping out GCs from northern Cyprus?



21. john akritas: 1/2 There was no such plan and nothing like it ever happened. For you to make such a claim, you must provide facts and figures.



22. john akritas: 2/2 Truth is between 1967-1974, relations between GCs and TCs were improving, even if TMT was against any return to normality.



23. john akritas: And even if your narrative is correct, which it is not, it can’t justify the brutality of the invasion or 40 years’ occupation.



24. john akritas: And brutality of the invasion was no accident. It had to be this way to fulfill Turkey’s long-term policy of partitioning Cyprus.



25. john akritas: And since I dispute your TC woe narrative, I believe Turkey is on Cyprus for other reasons, to do with nationalism and undemocratic state.

26. Fazli Corman: Unfortunately it seems that you are living in a fantasy world, I feel sorry for you... Regret the time I spent talking to you.

27. john akritas: I feel sorry for Turkey if all its officials are capable of is regurgitating risible propaganda. Are you the best they can do?

28. john akritas: I expect nonsense about concentration camps and genocide from a brainwashed ultra-nationalist, not a senior diplomat.

29. Fazli Corman: I should’ve stopped responding you much earlier. But concentration camps and attempted ethnic cleansing in Cyprus are facts.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958. Part Seven: The causes of Turkish Cypriot violence and its long-term effects

Here’s the final part in the series I’ve been publishing on Turkish political actions in Cyprus in the period leading up to the island’s independence in 1960 as described in Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus 1878-1964. To reiterate, what we’ve established is that around 1956 Turkey abandoned its policy of demanding annexation of all of Cyprus in the event of an end to British sovereignty in favour of a policy of partition, with one half of the island going to Turkey and the other half to Greece. For this policy of partition to succeed it had to prove, through the stirring up of ethnic conflict, that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together and had to be separated into their own areas. From the beginning, Turkey drew up a map that carved Cyprus in two along the 35th Parallel and agitated for a ‘population exchange’ in which Greeks living in the area Turkey had set its sights on would be expelled and replaced by Turkish Cypriots (encouraged to leave from what would become the Greek area of Cyprus) and settlers dispatched from Turkey. This was the plan Turkey and Turkish Cypriot nationalists on the island sought to implement during the final years of British colonial rule; continued to pursue after independence; and was the imperative behind Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Thus, in her concluding remarks, Soulioti makes clear that it was Turkey’s long-term policy of partition that brought intercommunal turmoil to Cyprus – indeed, the policy of partition was predicated on ethnic cleansing; how else could Greeks, who predominated by 4-1 in the areas of Cyprus Turkey aspired to annex, be made to abandon their towns and villages other than through violent expulsion? – and explains Turkey’s actions and motives in 1974.

For the other posts in this series, go here.


Some factors underlying the Turkish Cypriot acts of violence
The Turkish Cypriot attacks on the Greek Cypriots in 1956-1958 were the first instance of violence between the two communities. In view of the preceding long history of peaceful coexistence, this cannot but pose questions as to the factors underlying these actions.

It may be too simplistic to ascribe them solely to the pursuit of the objective of partition on the instigation of political leaders. The possibility that other elements, such as the following, played a part must not be overlooked: (1) the lower standard of living of the Turkish Cypriots; (2) the sense of segregation fostered by the fact that they were congregated in separate quarters in the various towns, which also made forays easier; and (3) the fear that enosis might soon become more than an unattainable Greek dream, creating uncertainty and anxiety as to their future.

The above factors may indeed have contributed to the events of that period. However, the intensity of the Turkish Cypriot assaults, their careful preparation and the statements and admissions of their leaders negate the possibility that the attacks were spontaneous eruptions of indignation at the sporadic, isolated killing by EOKA of a Turkish Cypriot serving with the British security forces.

The inevitable conclusion is that these attacks would not have occurred without incitement and direction from Turkey, to mark the initiation by Ankara of a more aggressive policy on the Cyprus Question. Moreover, the patterns adopted were those used during the anti-Greek pogroms in Istanbul and Izmir in September 1955. It is unfortunate that Ankara’s endorsement of violence and the supply of arms to the Turkish Cypriots did not  cease on the conclusion of the Zurich-London agreements in February 1959 but continued after the signing of those agreements, until the achievement of the final goal by the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Lasting effects of Turkish Cypriot violence against the Greek Cypriots in 1956-58
The events of 1956-1958 left far deeper and more lasting scars than could have been anticipated. So much distorted publicity has been given by the Turks in later years to the events of 1963-1964, and so much more successful propaganda made out of them, that public opinion has been blinded to the fact that intercommunal strife in Cyprus was initiated as early as 1956 by the Turks themselves, not by Greeks, and that in 1963-1964 the Turks were not – as they have tried to convince the world – merely passive victims of Greek Cypriot violence, but protagonists in the continued pursuit of the Turkish  objective of partition.

In assessing the psychological climate within the Greek Cypriot community in 1963-64, the following factors (emanating from the events of 1956-58 coupled with the divisive and unworkable elements of the 1960 constitution) must be taken into account:

    •    the enduring fear struck in the hearts of the Greek Cypriots by the 1956-1958 Turkish attacks;
    •    the feeling of helplessness and humiliation caused by the fact that one-fifth of the population had succeeded in terrorizing four-fifths;
    •    the loss of life, destruction of property and ousting of hundreds of Greek Cypriots from their homes in Nicosia; and
    •    the realization that the Turkish Cypriots had emerged from the Zurich-London agreements with a manifestly unjust and disproportionate share, which they were quick to exploit to their even greater advantage.

It is important as a matter of historical truth that these facts be remembered.

Read the entire series in one post here.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958. Part Six: The Geunyeli massacre and the expulsion of Greeks from Omorphita

We’ve now established, using Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus 1878-1964, that Turkey in 1956 settled on a plan to partition Cyprus and pursued this through a campaign of violence aimed at stirring up ethnic hostility in order to prove that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together and had to be separated politically and geographically. In my previous post, we noted how Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash admitted that Turkish nationalists on the island engaged in false flag incidents as a means to instigate and justify violence against Greek Cypriots; and we noted how the anti-Greek riots of 7 June 1958 – that began with a false flag incident – represented an escalation of the Turkish tactic of fermenting ethnic disturbances. In this post, we draw attention, in another excerpt from Soulioti, to two of the most notorious acts of violence suffered by Greek Cypriots during the summer of 1958: the Geunyeli massacre and the ousting of Greek Cypriots from the Nicosia suburb of Omorphita.

Just to stress, the rationale behind this series of posts about Turkish Cypriot violence is to counter Turkish propaganda that it was Greek Cypriots who were behind intercommunal violence on the island and, indeed, this was part of an organised campaign to exterminate Turkish Cypriots and facilitate Enosis. In fact, if you go here, you can see a Twitter exchange I had today with Turkey’s ambassador to Yemen, Fazli Corman, who repeats the absurd claim that Greek Cypriots came up with a plan in 1963, the Akritas plan, the aim of which was the ‘eradication’ of Turkish Cypriots.


Read parts one, two, three, four and five in the series.

On Rauf Denktash and Turkish political consciousness, go here.


1. Geunyeli Massacre
The violence reached its climax on 12 June, when thirty-five unarmed Greek Cypriot villagers, including a boy of fourteen, were attacked by Turkish Cypriots in a field near the Turkish Cypriot village of Geunyeli. Eight of them were murdered and mutilated, while another five were seriously wounded. The following are extracts from the findings of the commission of inquiry, appointed by the governor of Cyprus to investigate the incident:

For some days prior to the 12th June, in fact from the 7th June, intercommunal feeling was running very high in the island and there had been many instances of attacks by Turks, particularly in Nicosia, upon members of the Greek community and upon Greek property.

He [Lieut. Baring, Cornet, Royal Horse Guards, one of the first to arrive on the scene] came upon the body of a man he took to be dead – ‘He was cut everywhere and you could not find a piece of flesh that was not.’

It is a fact that this party of thirty-five unarmed Greeks walked into an ambush laid by Turks who had concealed themselves and went into the attack when the [Turkish] motor-cyclists started shooting. As a result four Greeks died on the spot and four died later in hospital; five were severely wounded but survived. The attack was of a most savage nature and the injuries inflicted indicate an extraordinary blood lust.

There is every indication that it was not a haphazard affair, but was arranged in anticipation of these Greeks passing along by where the killers were concealed.


2. Ousting of Greek Cypriots from Omorphita and other areas and movement of Turkish Cypriots to the northern part of the island
For two months the Turkish Cypriot attacks continued: several Greek Cypriots and some Turkish Cypriots were killed and Greek Cypriot properties ransacked or destroyed. Such was the terror instilled in the Greek Cypriot community by the savagery of Turkish aggression that in one week alone six hundred Greek Cypriot families fled from their homes in the old sector of Nicosia, preferring to live in conditions of squalor. Empty houses were immediately seized by Turkish squatters.

During the summer of 1958, Turkish Cypriots drove out seven hundred Greek Cypriots from 170 houses in Omorphita, a mixed suburb of Nicosia, and Turkish flags were placed on them. This was the first instance in which the Turkish policy of separating the two communities and creating territorial division was applied in practice and it became a symbol of the ‘Turkish takeover movement going on all over the island’. As Omorphita was contiguous to the Turkish quarter of Nicosia, Turkish Cypriots from villages in other parts of the island were encouraged to move into the unoccupied houses of the Greek Cypriots, thus expanding the sector of the capital inhabited exclusively by Turkish Cypriots. The Omorphita incident was described as follows [by Nancy Crawshaw in The Cyprus Revolt]:

On 30 June serious clashes broke out between Greeks and Turks at Omorphita, a new suburb on the outskirts of Nicosia. Troops quelled the initial outbreak. But the suburb, with its neighbour Kaimakli, continued to be the centre of intermittent communal friction for many weeks. The sight of a Turkish youth brandishing a knife over the garden wall was sufficient to set off a new wave of panic. Early in July Greek householders were still leaving Omorphita in considerable numbers by lorry. The Turks, convinced that military help from Turkey was imminent and partition a certainty, became very bold. Many of them moved into Greek houses and hoisted the Turkish flag. Troops at the time blamed the authorities for their delay in authorising the curfew. The security forces were now faced with the problem of a head-on clash with the Turks in the attempt to evict them or the virtual toleration of the illegal seizure of Greek houses. The removal of the flags led to fresh incidents and in the circumstances troops were ordered to leave them.

(Read Part Seven in the series here).

Read the entire series in one post here.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Political activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958. Part Five: Denktash admits Turks initiated intercommunal violence



Here is part five in the series I’m posting from Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964. In this excerpt, Soulioti describes the admission in 1984 by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that Turkish Cypriots were responsible for a false flag incident in 1958 – the planting of a bomb outside a Turkish consulate building in Nicosia – that triggered a wave of anti-Greek violence across the island and irreparably damaged intercommunal relations. Denktash’s admission was made on UK TV’s Cyprus: Britain’s Grim Legacy, and the relevant clip from the programme is above.

Read parts one, two, three and four in the series.

On Rauf Denktash and Turkish political consciousness, go here.


Denktash reveals that Turkish Cypriots planted a bomb to provoke the anti-Greek riots of June 1958
The incident which provoked the riots on 7 June was the explosion of a small bomb outside the Turkish Information Office (part of the Turkish consulate) in Nicosia, alleged to have been thrown from a passing car. Even at the time it was suspected that the Turks had planted the bomb to provoke the riots.

The Nicosia correspondent of the Times commented:

The incident which began the trouble is shrouded in mystery… Whether the bomb was actually thrown by a Greek as the Turks allege, is a matter of raging controversy and the authorities have so far committed themselves to no pronouncement. Certainly, what immediately followed bore all the signs of a planned and concerted action by gangs of Turkish youths…

The mystery has now been cleared by the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has made the shocking revelation that the bomb was planted by ‘a friend’ of his. This statement was made during an interview in Cyprus: Britain’s Grim Legacy in the 1984 Granada Television Documentary series End of Empire. The pertinent passage is worth quoting in full:

Narrator: [British colonial governor Sir Hugh] Foot’s friendly gestures to the Greeks only convinced the Turkish Cypriots their protectors had abandoned them. Tension mounted. On the night of the 7th June 1958 the tension suddenly snapped. Cyprus has never recovered from that night.

Denktash: There was an explosion at the Information Bureau of the Turkish Consulate. A crowd had already gathered there, a crowd of Turkish Cypriot youths, and they all almost immediately decided that Greeks had done it and they were swearing vengeance against the Greeks and so on.

Narrator: The explosion started a night of rioting in Nicosia. The Turkish Cypriots burned and looted Greek shops and homes. Soon EOKA counter-attacked and the violence spread around the island. Greek and Turkish families who had always lived as neighbours now moved with all their possessions into separate areas. Partition was fast becoming a reality.

Denktash: Later on, a friend of mine, whose name will still be kept a secret, was to confess to me that that he had put this little bomb in that doorway in order to create an atmosphere of tension so that people would know that the Turkish Cypriots mattered.

Narrator: The fighting raged for three months. More than a hundred were killed.

(Part Six to follow).

Read the entire series in one post here.