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Cyprus Table of Contents



The Struggle for Independence

The roots of the Cyprus conflict lie in the striving of the Greek Cypriot majority for unification, or enosis, with Greece, an idea that emerged during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s and developed under British colonial rule (see British Rule , ch. 1). Popular sentiment for enosis, joined with resentment of British tax policies, ignited in 1931 in a brief but widespread uprising, during which the British Government House in Nicosia was burned; 6 Cypriots were killed and 2,000 arrested by British authorities. From then on enosis strengthened its appeal in the Greek Cypriot community; however, a clampdown on Cypriot political activity and the exigencies of World War II precluded any violent manifestation for twenty-four years.

The barely suppressed desire for enosis erupted, on April 1, 1955, when bombs destroyed the transmitter of the Cyprus broadcasting station and exploded at British Army and police installations in Nicosia, Limassol, Famagusta, and Larnaca. The explosions signaled the beginning of a guerrilla war against the British colonial administration that was to continue for four years and claim some 600 lives. The Greek Cypriots fought under the banner of the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston--EOKA), led by Colonel (later General) George Grivas. Although EOKA included only a few hundred active guerrillas, it enjoyed wide support in the Greek Cypriot community and was able to tie down about 10,000 British soldiers.

However, when EOKA called a cease-fire in March 1959, after the signing in February of the agreements that led to Cypriot independence, it could claim only partial success. The Cypriot tie to Britain was broken sooner than it would have been without the guerrilla struggle, but EOKA's goal of enosis remained unmet.

For members of the Turkish Cypriot minority, who regarded Turkey as their motherland, enosis would have meant becoming a much smaller minority within the Greek nation. In the mid-1059s, Turkish Cypriots responded to the growth of EOKA with the formation of their own paramilitary organization, Volkan (volcano), which later became the Turkish Resistance Organization (Türk Mukavemet Teskilātu--TMT). British authorities also armed a paramilitary police force composed entirely of Turkish Cypriots, the Mobile Reserve, to help in combat terrorism. The intense intercommunal violence of 1958 implanted a bitterness in both ethnic communities and foreshadowed postindependence strife that would tear the young nation apart.

Three interrelated treaties in February 1959, and the subsequent adoption of a constitution, resulted in Cyprus's gaining its independence on August 19, 1960. Under the Treaty of Establishment, Britain retained sovereign rights over two areas to be used as military bases. The Treaty of Alliance stipulated that contingents of 950 Greek troops and 650 Turkish troops were to provide for the defense of the island and train a new Cypriot army. Under the Treaty of Guarantee, in the event of a threat to the established political arrangements of Cyprus, the treaty's signatories, Greece, Turkey, and Britain, were to consult on appropriate measures to safeguard or restore them; the signatories were granted the right to intervene together or, if concerted action proved impossible, to act unilaterally to uphold the settlement. These elaborate arrangements came to provide the pretexts for repeated foreign intervention that severely undermined Cypriot security, and for Turkey's unilateral military action in 1974, which led to the de facto partition of the island.

Data as of January 1991