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Cyprus Table of Contents


Ethnic Values and Attitudes

American sociologists Marvin Gerst and James H. Tenzel studied both ethnic communities in the early 1970s, after a decade of the postindependence struggle. They focused mainly on the psychological grounds of ethnic conflict. One survey instrument they used in their interviews with several hundred Cypriots measured perceptions of one's own and the opposing ethnic group; the results were then standardized in reference to a third group, American males. While both Cypriot groups varied considerably from the American statistical norms, the scores were similar for Greek and Turkish Cypriots for their own behavior and perceptions of the other community as acting according to a shared list of generally negative behavior traits.

The Turkish Cypriots scored as patient, obliging, stability seeking, thorough, self-effacing, dependent, mannerly, tactful, less self-aggrandizing, and more open to reasonable argument. Tenzel and Gerst described the Turkish Cypriots as hierarchical, patriarchal, and authoritarian--values of a society in which roles are clearly defined. Turkish Cypriots regarded public service as a more prestigious though ill-paying occupation than a successful business career. As Vamik Volkan also argued, these roles were instilled in childhood: Turkish Cypriot child care favored imitative, docile behavior and discouraged activity, curiosity, and talkativeness.

The psychological and behavioral differences between the two communities were perceived as extremely negative stereotypes by the other. Greek Cypriot assertiveness appeared as impolite aggressiveness to Turkish Cypriots, while the latter's attention to manners and procedures could be seen by the former as dullness and lack of ambition. In the context of interethnic conflict, each group denied the goodness of the other and pointed to examples illustrating these differing norms to "prove" the identical charges of aggression, brutality, and stubbornness.

Data as of January 1991