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Mediterranean Quarterly 11.4 (2000) 161-164
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Cyprus, a Troubled Island
Andrew Borowiec: Cyprus, a Troubled Island. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000. 178 pages. ISBN 0-275-96533-3. $59.95.
The Cyprus problem--the wrenching division between Greek and Turkish Cypriots--remains an important and troubling issue for Greece, Turkey, the United States, Europe, and the United Nations, not to mention the Cypriots themselves. This has been especially true since 1974, when the Turkish military occupied more than a third of the island. Andrew Borowiec's premise in Cyprus, a Troubled Island is that the roots of the current problem began growing long before modern times; he says that, due to history, ethnicity, and religion, "the Cyprus problem will last as long as there are Greeks and Turks on a crowded and strategic island."
Borowiec is uniquely qualified to write about Cyprus. Unlike any other observer-author-journalist, he has lived for extensive periods since 1974 in both the northern and southern parts of the island. Cyprus, a Troubled Island is his second book on the problems between the Greek and Turkish peoples--his first was The Mediterranean Feud, published in 1983. It covered a wide range of problems, including issues involving the Aegean Sea as well as Cyprus.
To support his gloomy thesis, Borowiec begins his new work with a succinct political history of the island, going all the way back to the legend of Aphrodite. He notes that the island has been invaded, or at least raided, by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Crusader knights, Genoese, Venetians, and the Ottoman Turks, among others, and he makes the point that these incursions had an important impact on the Greek Cypriots, who always felt they had to defend their island. The Ottoman conquest in 1571 began the Turkish presence on Cyprus and was followed by British domination from 1878 to 1960. Borowiec believes that many of the areas of impasse between the Greek Cypriot [End Page 161] and Turkish Cypriot communities date all the way back to 1571 and were only exacerbated by the British presence.
He gives most emphasis to political developments in the last half of the twentieth century, demonstrating how, in this era, the Cyprus issue has reached an almost total impasse. He often notes that he is not trying to present a comprehensive history of Cyprus--that he is giving only a shorthand version to support his views on the origin and continuation of the division between the two communities--but he is too modest in this. His summary is a superb description of the most important elements of Cyprus history and makes excellent reading while strongly supporting his thesis: that many factors make it almost inevitable that the two communities will be unable to come to agreement in the foreseeable future.
Enosis, or union with Greece, played an important role in Cyprus history until the last few years. Borowiec finds that sentiment for union existed long before the twentieth century and that fear of enosis always was a major concern of Turkish Cypriots, who were totally opposed to an idea they considered as nothing more than colonization by Greece. British control of the island did not eliminate this issue--Greek Cypriots felt that first the "loan" of Cyprus to Britain in 1878 and then formal annexation in 1914 would eventually lead to enosis. This sentiment grew over the years, even though Britain was not interested in any development that would threaten its military bases on the island, which were--and are--so valuable in the Middle East. Fear of enosis led the Turkish Cypriots to espouse taksim, or partition of the island. Borowiec believes the inherent tension between these two concepts has been of primary importance in keeping the enosis issue alive even into the present, despite the fact that enosis no longer is of much importance.
The real heart of Cyprus, a Troubled Island lies in Borowiec's description of events since 1955, when Greek Cypriots began a guerrilla campaign against Britain for enosis. This, he notes, led to independence in 1960 under a constitution designed to unite...