BRITISH PERIOD (1878-1960)
The Ottoman Empire was reaching its lowest point while the British Empire was reaching its zenith. Hence Cyprus, while still a Turkish province, was becoming more closely tied to Britain. In 1914 with the outbreak of WW1 the island was joined to Britain who had declared war on Turkey. The following year they had offered the island to Greece as an incentive for Greece to enter the war on the side of the allies. But Greece refused wishing to stay neutral.
The Greek-Cypriots wished for a closer link with their mother country. They looked upon Greece as the center of the Hellenic world to which they had belonged for a large part of their history and where they owed their religion, language and way of life. After Cyprus was crowned a British colony in 1925 demands for Enosis (union with Greece) became more vociferous. In 1931 the first serious riots occurred resulting in a deportation of a number of Greek-Cypriot leaders including churchmen. This was the first mega confrontation in a wary relationship that was destined to last another 30 years.
The Greek-Cypriot resentment of the British was more political than personal. Despite being colonial subjects the people of Cyprus enjoyed a fast pace of material advancement under the British. This was because the British encouraged trade and spent money on communications, public works and farming. However there was a close association with the British as they fought with them during the Second World War.
The Turkish-Cypriots were opposed to their aims as they represented 18% of the population and felt that as the island had been part of Turkey for 300 years they were not pleased for the possibility of it being part of Greece and were anxious for British rule to be maintained on the island. The British in turn were determined to hold onto the island due to its Middle Eastern/Eastern European defense location.
Archbishop Makarios lll, elected in 1950, led the Enosis campaign, fulfilling both roles as a political leader and a religious one too.
In 1954 certain events took place, which were the catalysts in starting the conflict. Firstly, Britain withdrew from Egypt and made Cyprus their Middle Eastern Headquarters. Secondly, the Greeks demanded self-determination for Cyprus be recognized by the UN and were turned down. In April 1955 a series of bomb attacks put an end to the talks and started the violence. This was led by the guerrilla group EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston - The National Organization of Cypriot Fighters). The group's leader was an ex-colonel George Grivas who called himself Dighenis after a Cypriot well-known hero. He made several hit-and-run tactics and bombings in Troodos. This provoked a public outcry in Britain. It was a classic example of guerrilla warfare as the EOKA made themselves extremely scarce and were thought to be about 300 men holding down about 20,000 troops and 4,500 police.
The British decided to pursue a firmer line and as Archbishop Makarios had given the EOKA movements his blessing the British deported him. But in 1957 Britain received pressure from the UN and released Makarios but he was not allowed to return to Cyprus.
But this made the Turkish alarmed at Britain's more lenient attitude and so formed their own resistance groups. Clashes started between the two ethnic groups with more attacks aimed at the British raised the death toll considerably and speeded up matters.
In early 1959 representatives from the British, Greek and Turkish governments met and agreed to establish an independent Cypriot state within the British Commonwealth to be governed by its two communities on a proportional basis. This agreement was signed by the three powers and also Archbishop Makarios for the Greek-Cypriots and Dr Kutchuk for the Turkish-Cypriots. This meant the end of the Enosis for the Greeks and partition for the Turks. Cyprus for the first time in its history had independent rule.