Greek or Cypriot?

Greek or Cypriot?

Which is the predominant identity?

“En,en,enosis,” chanted young marching demonstrators, Greek flag held high. “Enosis” means “union” and in this context, the call was for union with Greece. I remember it well. I spent four of my childhood years in Cyprus (1953 to 1957). My father was teaching at the English School in Nicosia.

The way Greeks usually feel their Hellenism is a very ancient instinct. The Ancient Greeks considered that there were two types of people: Greeks and Barbarians. The Greeks lived in different City States, all independent of each other. They had about seven main dialects, but they fundamentally spoke Greek. The rest of the world spoke oddly in a way that sounded like “Bababa” and they were called Barbarians. There was not the modern notion of cruelty in the word. It was just that the Barbarians did not belong to the world of Greek Civilisation. The Greeks felt that as a tribe they had something rather special. Only Greeks were invited to participate in the Olympic Games and when Alexander the Great asked for the Macedonians to be allowed to participate, he said, “We are Greeks too.  Greek is our language and we pray to the same gods.” That is how the Macedonians were accepted into the Olympic Games.

Lageia is a small village in Cyprus – an independent country whose population is mainly of Greek race – a similar situation to Sparta and Athens in times gone by. In this photograph and in the header video we see the village celebrations of Greek Independence Day (25th of March).

Many people claim that today after so many centuries have passed during which our lands have been invaded so often with so many waves of immigrants that have settled, that our DNA has been diluted and that the DNA of many Greek Cypriots is only about 20% Greek. However, it is my personal view that national identity is not just a matter of DNA, but something that we choose either because we admire it or because we simply adopt the national identity of the country in which we live. It is not easy to hold on to your Greek identity when you live on the other side of the world. Yet thousands of Greeks worldwide do so throughout the Greek Diaspora. They do so by maintaining their customs, maintaining their language and by their whole way of life.

It is my view, that all of us Greeks (however diluted our DNA) have received a beautiful inheritance from our ancient forefathers. From the Spartans, the concept of ‘filotimo’, a word that does not translate easily into any other language that I know, also from the Spartans, a certain tenacity when fighting against all odds.  From the Athenians, we inherit a questioning mind and resistance to being brainwashed by propaganda. From the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, a deepened sense of unification of the Greek peoples that had been started by the Spartan self-sacrifice at the battle of Thermopylae against the invading Persians. It is not to say that everything was wonderful in the Ancient World. The ancients often had appalling customs. The Spartans would often kill members of their slave population in the streets at night as a kind of military training. The Athenians condemned to death our finest philosopher, Socrates. He questioned too much. Yet from such origins has grown a fine civilisation.

I myself am an Anglo-Greek (English father, Greek mother). I know other half-Greeks. Some have a Greek father, some a Greek mother, but all of us are drawn to our Greek roots. A chef friend of mine, Krystina Kalapathakos from California, has even written a book on Greek cuisine with the title “Back to my Roots”. Let us not forget, there was no English culture or civilisation at the time of Christ. Celts lived in England then.  I do believe that we can hold simultaneously two national identities, possibly even three, but we need to have the will and to put in the effort to maintain them.

My American-Greek friend Krystina Kalapathakos, living in California, feels as I do, that her soul is Greek. She has written a book on Greek Cuisine called “Back to my Roots”.

I believe, and this is a personal feeling, not science, that the bond with Greece felt by a Pontian Greek or Cappadocian, or Greek of Smyrnan origin or a Macedonian is much stronger than the bond felt with the British by the Australians or the Americans. It is something more than just language. Such a bond gives people great strength – the strength that enabled the freedom fighters of the early nineteenth century to take a large part of Greece out of the Turkish yoke, the strength to hold out alone for a long period against the Italians and Germans in WWII. The Germans, who had the habit of keeping detailed records of the war’s progress, wrote that of all the people who had stood against them only the Greeks fought with such fearlessness and courage.

Such an awesome civilisation is not to the liking of the Big Powers, whose philosophy is one of “Divide and Rule”. A story that is probably a hoax but has been much circulated on the net, claims that on the 17th February 1997 the “Turkish Daily News” reported the fiendish Henry Kissinger to have said “"The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East..."

The way modern history unfolded does lead us to think that was indeed the intention of the big powers. Former Economic Hitman, John Perkins, confirms (and this is not a hoax article) “That is how the lenders grabbed the natural resources of Greece and Cyprus".

I remember once when I was showing a visiting friend round the beautiful church of St George in Paralimni Centre, I got into conversation with one of the psalmists there. We started discussing Hellenism in Cyprus. “As far as I am concerned,” he said, “I feel first and foremost Greek and then Cypriot.” Yet we find some Greek Cypriots who renounce their Hellenism. I find it a pity, but it is their right. To bring about such a destructive change of sentiment from pre-independence days was perhaps one of the biggest achievements of the Machiavellian Henry Kissinger, when he persuaded his puppet, Ioannides (leader of the Greek Military Junta in the 60s) to try to depose the late Archbishop Makarios and legitimate President of Cyprus at the time.

Greek or Cypriot?

You might also like to read about the DNA of the Cypriots