One of the many films shot after the invasion that dealt with the events of 1974 and the attempted assassination of Makarios is the film “Kill Makarios” by Kostas Dimitriou and Pavlos Filippou. It is the only fictional film in which Makarios makes an appearance as an actor playing himself (shortly after his return to Cyprus). In the film’s most interesting scene, Makarios gives an interview before the July 15 coup to the film’s protagonist, journalist Themis Yiannides, played by Lakis Komninos. Asked whether he believes a coup will take place, he replies that he does not, since such a thing would give the Turks the green light to invade Cyprus. It’s a typical example of just how much Makarios overestimated himself, but also of how limited his grasp was of events taking place at the time. Mainly, though, it shows that while we looked to find those responsible beyond Cyprus, we barely scratched the surface of the huge responsibilities to be found within.

Two days ago, 47 years later (on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Makarios’ death), Presidential candidates, parties, and journalists, once again rushed to emphasise his enormous contribution. Beyond the expected hyperbole, the common thread running through all the statements was, once again, a call to the current leadership to follow his example. We had Andreas Mavroyiannis stating that “we have a duty to continue the efforts of Archbishop Makarios”; EDEK urging everyone to heed his call for a “long-term struggle” while declaring itself an active participant of this struggle; and DIKO characterising him as an “inextinguishable luminary”. It declared its readiness to walk “in the footsteps of his glorious life, drawing strength to face modern challenges”. And affirmed that in this country ,our convictions have little to do with reality. 

The aim of this article is not to provide an in-depth analysis of Makarios’ political trajectory. Neither the style of this column nor the space available lend themselves to such a thing. Leondios Ierodiaconou does an excellent job of that in his latest book, “Fateful Leadership 1948-2021”. Even so, an objective observer cannot but state the obvious: That a person who was perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle of modern Cyprus, who ruled for 17 years, “putting his stamp” – as DIKO noted – “on all the big events of our modern history”; who three years after the Zurich-London agreements, against all logic and advice, submitted his ‘13 points’ for amending the Constitution, leading to the first partition; who spearheaded the creation of the Akritas organisation (maintaining the division) and ignored – in a criminal manner – all the signs that a coup was imminent, cannot be blameless as regards the course the Cyprus problem has taken. And [the objective observer] should point out that what we are living through today is precisely the result of this long struggle. And must consider just how beneficial our long-standing refusal to engage in an objective reading of historical events has been. 

To what extent is the current tragic state of the Cyprus problem – beyond any mistakes made at the time – also a result of the fact that subsequent Presidents never ‘disturbed’ the history? On the contrary, bolstered by society’s support, they conducted their politics showing the same sloppiness as we saw between ’56-’74. (Who can argue that our attitude in 2004, when, according to Giorgos Lillikas, we fooled the Europeans; or our attitude in 2012-13, when we kept setting our own conditions to the lenders right to the very end; or the way we managed the aftermath of Crans-Montana, did not have elements of that lack of foresight and arrogance shown in response to the T/C demand for Local Self-Government or to the Harding proposals, that could have changed the course of the Cyprus problem?) And finally, how was the course of this country determined by these idealised myths, by the invocation of the long struggle even today (48 years later), by the unequivocal adherence to narratives that should have already collapsed and paths that should have already been assessed, by the all-too-easy exaltation of people who were part of this historical journey not just to heroes, but to something indisputable? How can the course we have taken justify calls for its continuation? How can our rhetoric, even that of today, justify it?

The Cyprus problem, especially at this particular juncture, with the annexation of the occupied territories by Turkey more likely than ever, should be assessed with sincerity and realism. Far from the dogmatism and hyperbole that often border on the distortion of history. And by utilising Makarios not as an “inextinguishable luminary”, whose example we should glibly and unproblematically follow, but as part of a path that included mistakes for which the country has paid and continues to pay, mistakes that only if we acknowledge can we reverse and avoid in the future. The exhortation to “kill” the myth of Makarios seems more relevant and necessary today than ever before. Otherwise, if we continue to praise Cyprus and the leadership of the 1960s as a beacon and goal, then what have we to look forward to other than a future similar to the past?


Antonis Polydorou studied Political Sciences and Sociology at the University of Essex and completed his Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Bath. He has contributed in a number of studies as an associate with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the European Institute of Cyprus, mainly on European Union foreign policy and security issues and the rise of the far-right movement in Europe. For the past 10 years he has been a columnist at the newspaper Politis.

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