Admittedly, Makarios’ best disciple is Nicos Anastasiades. He proved to be just as stubborn and just as incapable of seeing what is going on around him. But he did have Makarios’ gift of charming the masses on the domestic front.

Sixty-seven years ago (on January 28, 1956), and about eight months into the EOKA liberation struggle, the Harding Plan was submitted before Archbishop Makarios. For younger readers, we should mention that Harding was a very dynamic British military man, whom the British basically sent to Cyprus to act as governor, in order to quell the Cypriot rebellion through bloodshed. Despite what is said about the British, they decided to give talks a chance first.

Harding submitted a plan to Makarios that initially provided for the granting of a Crown colony status to Cyprus, with extensive self-government. The main thrust of the plan was the granting of a Constitution, the recognition of the right to self-determination, provided that it be exercised after an agreed period of time: that is, after a ten-year transitional stage of self-government, which could be limited to seven years. According to the Constitution, Cyprus would have a G/C Prime Minister who would form a Council of Ministers, including Turkish Cypriot representation (behind the scenes there was talk of a 9-member Cabinet, with the participation of a single Turkish minister in charge of Turkish Cypriot affairs). In course, Cyprus could become an independent country or unite with Greece.


The night before, Nicosia was rocked by dozens of bombs on British targets. Were they tactical bombs as part of a tough negotiation or bombs signalling rejection of the plan? What is certain is that the next day, despite seeing many positives in the Harding plan, Makarios demanded more. Being the Byzantine negotiator that he was, perhaps he wanted to send his interlocutors a message on who was the calling the shots in town.

The Archbishop had had some practice on this at Kykkos Monastery. Monasteries have generally served as breeding grounds for the political thought of Greek Cypriots. In an interview given at a later stage to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, Makarios recounted an incident in which he revealed part of his personality, and more broadly, the tactics he pursued as a politician over the years.

Kykkos Monastery, 1930. The young novice monks were not obliged to grow a beard and Makarios wanted to keep shaving. The abbot of the monastery, Chrysostomos, pressed him to grow a beard but Makarios did not want to, and so a confrontation ensued.

Makarios vividly recounted his dialogue with the abbot to Fallaci:

Abbot: “You will either do as I say or leave.”

Makarios: “Okay, I’ll go.”

Makarios began to gather his things.

Abbot: “Don’t go! Stay.”

Makarios: “Okay, I’ll stay.”

Abbot: “But will you grow a beard?”

Makarios: “No, I won’t.”

Abbot: “Be careful, or I’ll beat you.”

Makarios: “Beat me.”

The abbot began to beat him and shout at him.

Abbot: “Will you grow a beard?”

Makarios: “No!”

Abbot: “What about now?”

Makarios: “No.”

Finally, according to Makarios’ account, the abbot sat down, exhausted.

Abbot: “Please. Just let it grow out a little, just enough so that it doesn’t look like I’ve given in.”

Makarios: “No!”

Abbot: “Just a little, just to the point that people will start asking you if you’re growing a beard.”

Makarios: (grinning) “That little?”

Abbot: “Yes. Not an inch more.”

Makarios: “Okay.”

The Cypriot mentality

In this incident, the classic Cypriot stubbornness is described in a monumental way. In 1930, Makarios wanted to remain a monk. In 1956, he probably wanted to come to a solution with Harding.

However, Cypriots are not good negotiators, especially when they want it all their own way. They negotiate under the impression that their interlocutors are all relatives of the abbot Chrysostomos of Kykkos. But of course, let us also be fair. At the time, Makarios was probably the best thing our community had.

So when Makarios began to employ these theatrics with Harding and later with the British minister Lennox-Boyd, they left him stranded and walked away. They then exiled him to the Seychelles, and the Cyprus problem was brought to a standstill, since, following Suez, the British no longer had any inclination to leave Cyprus.

Similar plans, always slightly worse, followed, which we either blew up in the air or refused to discuss. 1. The Zurich-London agreement and Independence, 2. The Acheson Plan, 3. The 1972 Clerides-Denktash negotiations, 4. The American-Canadian Plan, 5. The Ghali Plan, 6. The Annan Plan, 7. The Guterres Framework.

There were times when conditions were such that we could have negotiated from a position of strength. In 1956, Harding was negotiating solely with the G/Cs because he did not want a deadly confrontation with EOKA. Between 1964 and 1967, with the presence of the Greek Division, either an improved Zurich [agreement] or even union with Greece could have been achieved. In the post-invasion period, we found ourselves holding discussions under certain improved conditions in 2004, after Cyprus’ accession to the EU. In all these instances, we had to demonstrate a spirit of cooperation and respect for the Turkish Cypriots. We never realised that without the Turkish Cypriots there is no possibility of a solution other than partition.

An amalgamation of leaders

In a nutshell, it was Makarios who established the basis of our political thought in our approach to the Cyprus problem. He discussed with all parties in exactly the same way as he had discussed with Abbot Nikiforos. In Cyprus, his tactics worked. He triumphed. Internationally, he gradually became a marginal leader who was unable to acknowledge on a rudimentary level the geopolitical setting in which he operated.

Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos were bad disciples of Makarios. While Makarios had a little monastic diplomacy in his arsenal, Kyprianou and Tassos would simply take long strides and crash into walls.

Admittedly, Makarios’ best disciple is Nicos Anastasiades. He proved to be just as stubborn and just as incapable of seeing what is going on around him. But he did have Makarios’ gift of charming the masses on the domestic front. In Crans-Montana, he behaved as Makarios had with Harding. Today, Guterres considers him to be a problematic person who was given an important opportunity to reunite his country, but failed to deliver. He chose to follow Makarios’ path and go even further, not for the better. The Archbishop was self-sufficient as regards material goods. Anastasiades has released the Franco-Levantine within us. He entered politics as a vrakas [Translator’s note: a term referring to those wearing traditional Cypriot baggy breeches] and is leaving as a multi-millionaire, who travels by jet and tours exotic landscapes wearing floral shirts.

A force that unites us

[Translator’s note: the subheading above is also the slogan used by Nicos Christodoulides in his election campaign]

He set the new standards in our country, which everyone wants to follow. It is no longer the policies of the politician that matter, but the image of the politician, as long as we follow principled politics. Principled politics is the force that unites us: We converse with the Abbot of Kykkos, Chrysostomos; we sit at the negotiating table with Harding; as patriots, we curse Guterres and his envoys; and, on top of that, we make sure that we stuff our pockets with money. With an eagle eye and a shiny image. It is the one who knows how to fly and to shine the brightest who counts. Even though we all know he’s a rusty tin can, rolling noisily down the stairs.


Director of Politis Newspaper. Born in Limassol, he studied history at AUTH (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and Queens College NY. He started as a journalist in 1986, working in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Since 1999, he is a Publishing Consultant at Politis newspaper, and from 2016 its Director. He lives in Nicosia.

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