Enosis - Cyprus

Cyprus

In 1828, modern Greece’s first president Ioannis Kapodistrias whose maternal ancestors were Greek Cypriots, called for union of Cyprus with Greece, and numerous minor uprisings took place.

The enosis movement was the outgrowth of nationalist awareness among the ethnically Greek population of Cyprus (around 80% between 1882 and 1960), coupled with the growth of the anti-colonial movement throughout the British Empire after World War II. In fact, the anti-colonial movement in Cyprus was identified with the enosist movement, enosis being, in the minds of the Hellenic population of Cyprus, the only natural outcome of the liberation of the Cypriot people from Ottoman rule and later the British rule. A string of British proposals for local autonomy under continued British suzerainty was roundly rejected.

In December 1949, the Cypriot Orthodox Church challenged the British colonial government to put the Enosis question to a referendum. As was expected, the colonial government refused, and the Church proceeded to organize its own illegal referendum which would take place in churches and be supervised by priests. The referendum took place on the two consecutive Sundays of 15 and 22 January 1950, with an overwhelming majority 95.7% of the people voted in favor of extricating the island from the British Empire and annexing it to the Kingdom of Greece. It is said that the vote was marred by coercion as the Greek Orthodox church had told its congregation that it had to vote in favour of Enosis and failure to do so would have meant excommunication from the church. Unlike modern elections and referendums, which are decided by secret ballot, the 1950 referendum amounted to a public collection of signatures, not unlike a petition.

In 1955, the resistance movement EOKA was formed in Cyprus in order to end British rule and annex the island to Greece. It was gradually recognized, however, that enosis was politically unfeasible due to the presence of the Turkish community and its increasing assertiveness. Instead, the creation of an independent state with elaborate power-sharing arrangements among the two communities was agreed upon in 1960, and the fragile Republic of Cyprus was born.

The idea of enosis was not immediately abandoned, though. During the campaign for the 1968 presidential elections, Makarios III said that enosis was "desirable" whereas independence was "possible". This differentiated him from the hardline pro-enosis elements which formed EOKA B and participated in a military coup against him in 1974. The coup was organized and supported by the Greek government, which was still in the hands of a military junta. The Turkish government responded to the change of status quo by the invasion of Cyprus. The result of the events of 1974 was the geographic partition of Cyprus, followed by massive population transfers. The coup and subsequent events seriously undermined the enosis movement. The departure of Turkish Cypriots from the areas which remained under the Republic's effective control resulted in a homogeneous Greek Cypriot society in the southern two-thirds of the island. Greek Cypriots started to strongly identify with the Republic of Cyprus, which, since the partition, has lain under their community's exclusive political control.

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