Britain won Cyprus as part of the break-up of the Ottoman Em-pire in 1914, and in 1925, it became a British Crown Colony after the approval of Turkey in Lausanne. But by then, Cypriots had had enough of being a pawn for superpowers and started agitating for in-dependence. Many Greek Cypriots wanted enosis, or unification with Greece. By 1950 the Cypriot Orthodox Church and 96 percent of Greek Cypriots voted “yes” in a referendum held for the enosis with Greece.
The Turkish Cypriots did not support the enosis idea of the Greek Cypriots and supported partition — taksim in Turkish – with a 100 percent majority.
In response to these demands of the two nations living on the isl-and, Britain proposed a new constitution, which was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but opposed by the notorious National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) of the Greek Cypriots, who wanted enosis and nothing else. This obsession of the Greek Cypriots led the island to face different disasters in the following decades.
So began a drawn-out guerrilla struggle by the Greek Cypriot na-tionalist organization EOKA against the British and the Turkish Cy-priots, the natives of the island.
The very first Green Line, originated from the famous US Mason-Dixon Line, was drawn on a simple map by a British colonel with a green pencil in order to set down the borders of Greek sectors and Turkish sectors in the town of Lefkoşa (Nicosia), the capital of the isl-and.
So was the first division of the island, in the year 1958, a long 16 years before 1974.
In the beginning of 1960, Greek and Turkish Cypriots had just emerged from a “liberation struggle” in which they were on opposite sides. There was no university or technical schools in Cyprus, no pri-vate business partnerships between Greeks and Turks and virtually no intermarriage at all. The one institution that was shared –the trade union — had been substantially (almost entirely) torn apart by the re-cent inter-communal clashes.
In 1960, after a bloody four-year campaign marked by violence between pro-enosis Greek Cypriots and pro-partition Turkish Cypriots, Britain retained sovereignty over two military bases on the southern shores of the island. Greece, Turkey and Britain all signed a treaty guaranteeing the new republic its independence.
There was, when Cyprus achieved independence in August 1960, no Cypriot nation at all — nor much sign of one emerging — despite the common experience of British colonial rule, which had left its mark on both nations and a common affection for the nature of the island.
Did a sovereign independent Republic of Cyprus solve the dis-agreements between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots? No.
The ongoing animosity between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots actually increased after 1960. In December 1963 the Greek militia and armed forces attacked the Turkish Cypriots to im-plement the changes in the three-and-a-half-year-old constitution. Severe fighting broke out after the Turkish Cypriots rejected proposals to amend the constitution, degrading them to a minority from the partner charter.
At that time there were Turkish quarters in all the main towns, and of the villages in 1963, 114 or about 18 percent, were mixed (though this was only a third of the number 70 years before). Even in the mixed villages, however, it was possible to tell which was the Greek and which the Turkish part. Intermarriage was almost nil and was normally frowned on by both sides. There were 392 purely Greek and 123 purely Turkish villages, but typically they were to be found cheek-by-jowl with villages of the opposite community.
The 230-year-old Megalo Idea obsession of the Greek Cypriots ended up in the partition of the island, with no hope of unification for the next 50 years. Recent polls indicate that more Cypriots on both sides of the line — Turkish Cypriots in the KKTC and Greek Cypriots in southern Cyprus — favor partition than reunification.