Cyprus: Divided Loyalties: Background information when reading A Strangeness in My Mind

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A Strangeness in My Mind

by Orhan Pamuk

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk X
A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 624 pages

    Sep 2016, 624 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Cyprus: Divided Loyalties

This article relates to A Strangeness in My Mind

Print Review

One of the many historical events that are featured glancingly in A Strangeness in My Mind is the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Cypriot demonstrationFor a long time Cyprus was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which arguably explains why Turkey considered it its own, even after the Ottoman Empire handed over governance of the island to Great Britain in 1878 in a secret agreement that exchanged Cyprus for Britain's support of the Ottoman's cause in settling boundary issues in the Balkans. In 1914 Britain annexed Cyprus and, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus became a Crown Colony in 1925.

Cyprus's mix of ethnic Greeks and Turks lived in shaky peace as a British colony, but increasing nationalistic rhetoric from both Turkey and Greece sharpened identities and allegiances. Kemal Atatürk, President of Turkey through most of the 1920s and 30s, was instrumental in shaping a national Turkish identity, a feeling that gradually came to be shared by the Turkish Cypriots.

EOKAAs these sentiments festered, in the early '50s, a Greek nationalist group, EOKA, or the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, took root in Greece. High on its agenda was the end of British rule in Cyprus and the island's union with Greece. The group did achieve its desire to remove Britain from control but instead of establishing union with Greece, the Republic of Cyprus was formed in 1960 with a power-sharing agreement that required the Turkish Cypriot minority to be represented by at least 30% of parliamentary members and the vice-president. It was also agreed that separate municipalities would be set up so Greek and Turkish Cypriots could manage their own affairs at a local level. Tensions simmered, turning into full-scale armed fighting. In 1964 the UN sent in peace-keeping forces (and fifty years on around a 1000 UN peace keepers are still stationed on the island). Meanwhile Britain negotiated to relinquish control while keeping their military bases as sovereign areas on the island.

In 1974 groups sympathetic to the EOKA such as the Cypriot National Guard, supported by the Greek military junta, staged a coup, ousting the President and replacing him with a puppet dictator who owed his allegiance to the EOKA. Their aim was complete Greek control of Cyprus. As a reaction to this coup, Turkey invaded Cyprus and gained control of the north. A ceasefire was agreed with Turkey retaining defacto control of the northern part of the island. Since then, the northern third of Cyprus is mostly inhabited by Turkish Cypriots while Greek Cypriots make up the rest, the division is enforced by the Green Line, a border monitored by UN troops. Most, if not all, British investment in the island evaporated at that point.

Cypriot architectureIn 1983, the northern Turkish-held area labeled itself as a republic of Turkey, a designation only Turkey recognizes. Cyprus continues to remain divided even after it joined the EU in 2004.

Cypriot demonstration in 1930, for unification with Greece, courtesy of Alexikoua
British soldiers fighting against a street riot by EOKA in 1956, courtesy of Seksen iki yüz kırk beş
Typical Cypriot architecture, courtesy of AncientNicosia

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Poornima Apte

This "beyond the book article" relates to A Strangeness in My Mind. It originally ran in November 2015 and has been updated for the September 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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