(To understand the historical context of how war came to Cyprus in
1974 we examine the relations between Greeks and Turks on the island. In
this issue we host an article by Mr Savvas P. Mastrappas condensed from the
original in Ardin magazine . Ed.)
community was originally created by mass and mandatory conversions to
Islam, or islamizations, of the Greek and other Christian populations of
Cyprus since the 16th century. Since that time the community has been in close
contact with Turkey. However during the last decades the contact has
intensified especially through a continuous Turkish propaganda through the
educational system, a propaganda which reveals the geostrategic intentions
of Turkey against Cyprus.
August 1571 marks the
end of Venice's dominion over Cyprus and the beginning of Ottoman rule.
Slaughtering and severe pillaging following the Turkish invasion increased
the death toll dramatically. In an effort to lift Cyprus out of economic
misery, the Sultan commanded during the years 1571-1581 mandatory transfers
of people from other parts of the Ottoman Empire to Cyprus. The majority of
people that settled in Cyprus at that time were Greeks, Christian
Armenians, Minor Asia inhabitants, Jews and a few Muslim Turks. The
majority of today's Turkish-Cypriot population are Muslims of Greek origin.
Their conversion occurred in a variety of ways: either in the course of
punishments of unsuccessful revolts or following regular mass abductions of
children (Paidomazwma); there was also voluntary islamization as a means to
avoid the heavy taxation imposed by Moslem authorities on non-believers.
A considerable number
of islamized people, however, preserved secretly their former faith and
worshipping habits for a long period of time. These secret Christians, or
Cryptochristians, were called "Linovamvakoi" in Cyprus since they
resemble a cloth with a side of linen (Lino) covered by a side of cotton
(Vamvaki) in that they are only able to show one side, one facet, at a
time. It is estimated that in the nineteenth century the population of
Cryptochristians in Cyprus was 10,000-15,000 Cryptochristians out of a
total of 32,000 Muslims.
When the British
established sovereignty over Cyprus in 1878, they officially adopted a
neutral stance on the matter; in practice, however, their policy was
anti-Greek and eventually succeeded in converting the Cryptochristians
completely: The administration built on earlier efforts by local Turkish
religious leaders, or Hodjas, who had tried repeatedly to transplant a
Turkish conscience into the minds and hearts of the Cryptochristians by
working through the educational system. The British appointed a Muslim
board of education which systematically proposed building Turkish schools
in villages with a Cryptochristian majority. These efforts received support
from the British, because the British regime had an interest in creating a
politically strong and arithmetically big Turkish community that would
weaken the demands of the Greek majority's right to self-determination.
In the long run the
educational policy proved fruitful for the British. After 1923 and the
establishment of the New Turks in Ankara, their agents worked with the
extremist Turkish-Cypriot groups, with continued backing by the British, to
continue a strong propaganda within the Turkish populations and the
Cryptochristian villages. By the time of the Turkish invasion on the island
in 1974 the Cryptochristian community had been further alienated, and
following the invasion, it has been completely cut off from the Greek
Christians in the free part of the island.
Modern Turkish and
Turkish-Cypriot historians have argued that the "ancestors of the
current Turkish- Cypriots were Turkish or Muslim populations that were
brought into Cyprus," however, this has not been proven. This argument
is simply an effort to distort historical reality and it is an opinion that
was shaped in order to support the expansionist policies and geostrategic
intentions of the Turkish state against Cyprus in particular, and Hellenism
in general. [MB; Ardin]
Diaspora Newsletter, Issue 59.