Okay, so it’s time for the second instalment of alternative tourism chronicling the strangest, ‘off the beaten path’ landmarks that I have witnessed on my travels. Following on directly from the ethos of the first post, I plan for this series to be both informative and thought provoking. I try to be as descriptive as possible, however ultimately the onus is on the reader to investigate further as some of the subject matter can be rather detailed and far too extensive to fit into a blog of this nature.
The subject matter of this post will touch upon historic and deep-rooted disparities that have existed between two differing identities and has become another epitome of the destructive nature of nationalism and extremism, sadly still apparent in modern Europe. For centuries, the conflicts between retreating and expanding rival empires have formed a plethora of differing communities and civilisations within modern nation states, resulting in ethnic, religious, cultural and socio-economic diversity spanning across the continent. Such heterogeneity within societies has, over time, caused tensions or ‘fault lines’, where the tectonic plates of empires have caused friction against one another as their territories displace. An idea promoted by historian Niall Ferguson in his book titled The War of The World, the tectonic plate metaphor has held true for the struggles and tensions we have seen throughout the twentieth century.
Click on the above link for the TV documentary on 4od
Despite Niall’s neoconservative political stance and romanticism of imperial colonialisation, his symbol of causal effects behind inter communal tensions has truly hit a chord with my understanding of modern Europe. It has helped me to understand the destructive role of extremism, nationalism and right wing thinking and their contribution towards conflicts, disputes, wars and even atrocities. After the decline of the last European empire, the Soviet Union and its satellites, nationalism has been both strongly emergent and rife, playing a major role in the formation of the modern nation states we see today. The former Yugoslavia is a perfect example of the impact of dominant nationalist thinking and can be linked back to Henry Kissinger’s US foreign policy; where the ethos was to kill off communism through the promotion of nationalism within the individual European member states. Once empires begin to dissolve, what are left behind are microcosms of diversity within newly homogenised kingdoms. Coupled with the notoriously right-wing paradigms associated within nationalism, it becomes easy to see how inter-communal tensions can lead to social division, exclusion, denigration and ultimately conflict. These traits are apparent in the break up of the former Yugoslavia as certain member states took to nationalism as their prevailing political ideal.
Having never heard of or noticed the unique situation on the island of Cyprus, I visited for the first time in 2004 and completely unbeknown to me would be the overabundance of alternative tourism available. I felt almost ignorant as my lack of understanding of the Cyprus problem truly hit home after a two-week visit that became completely dominated by my thirst for knowledge. After a mere two weeks of driving and trekking into areas that most tourists would not know even existed, I felt that this specific landmark successfully highlighted the current situation faced on the island and was best suited to describe its dark and troubled past.
If you familiarise yourself with the island of Cyprus’ modern history, you will see that the island is currently divided into two parts; the Turkish controlled north and the Cypriot south. The Republic of Cyprus (RoC), whose population is predominantly Greek Cypriot, is a member of the European Union and is synonymous with tourists for its plethora of destinations and resorts. The lesser-known Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a de facto independent nation formed after the 1974 invasion of the Turkish Army and the partitioning of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities into their respective zones. In 1983, The TRNC unilaterally declared independence, however to this day is only recognised as such by Turkey itself due to the United Nations and the international community rendering the occupation as illegal, imposing trade and economic sanctions in the process. The reliance on Turkey for its financial aid and the development of the RoC into an independent European economy has caused the TRNC to develop at a much slower rate. If you look at the development of the divided capital city of Nicosia, it is clear which side of the island has sustained the most growth over decades.
Ultimately, the situation in Cyprus was one born out of inter-communal tensions, brought about by the historic rise and fall of empires and the emergence of extremist, nationalist and dominant right wing ideology. Within the larger Greek Cypriot community, the majority wished for Enosis; a total economic, social and political integration with Greece. Amongst the Turkish Cypriot community, it was widely believed that Enosis would only achieve to compromise their role in society and ultimately cause the inter communal conflicts and social division to intensify. After many years of communal tensions, the nationalist fervour within many of the Turkish Cypriot right resulted in the policy of Taksim (division) becoming dominant within the community members. Such extremist ideals being manifested within both communities resulted in the severe deterioration of political, social and economic parity we have seen in many other areas; most notably Northern Ireland, former Yugoslavia, Israel etc.
The culmination of the inter-communal conflict was the 1974 invasion by the Turkish Army in what was seen as an illegal occupation and peace operation by the respective communities. The majority of Turkish Cypriots, already living in enclaves throughout the island, proceeded to move north, whilst the majority of Greek Cypriots were also encouraged to leave their homes for the apparent safety of the south. The partition of the island of Cyprus runs from Morphou Bay in the West, through the capital city of Nicosia to Famagusta in the East with a United Nations patrolled buffer zone sandwiched between the respective republics. On visiting Nicosia, you cant help but notice the travesty called the Green Line, which divides this fabulous ancient city with an overgrown, unkempt and battle scarred landscape that winds through the urban setting.
At the very western point where the two states meet at Morphou Bay lies a feature that epitomises perfectly the current situation in Cyprus. Directly to the west, standing prominent on the Tylliria/Dillirga region is the Turkish Cypriot exclave of Κόκκινα (Greek) / Erenköy (Turkish).
After a long drive along the northern coastal road in the RoC, we noticed an early start to the aforementioned Green Line as we started climbing into the mountains. The particularly poorly detailed map of Cyprus, that we had bought locally, seemed to exclude any indications of an exclave. After stopping to examine monuments to fallen soldiers, guerrilla fighters and civilians I noticed the UN buffer zone completely encircled a small area on the coastline, with Greek Cypriot checkpoints positioned on the hills on our side and Turkish Army checkpoints directly opposite to them past the UN area. My curiosity hit overdrive, and it wasn’t until I returned home that I could fully research the reason behind such a strange, yet seemingly pointless anomaly. What was the history behind Kokkina? What tactical advantage did it hold? Just what happened there?
After trawling through historical accounts and websites I can conclude that the events leading to its creation were anything but pointless. Erenköy / Κόκκινα was a village situated on the coastline and the only prominently positioned Turkish Cypriot community. For years, inter-communal tensions had resulted in struggles for the Morphou Bay regions’ only port and coastal highway, culminating in the fierce fighting during 1964. Greek Cypriot authorities and their extremist; Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA) guerrilla fighters highlighted the area as highly significant to the Turkish Cypriots due to it being their only connection with Turkey and a vital supply route for their extremist paramilitary faction; the Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı (TMT).
Both nationalist and hard-line, EOKA and TMT were both self-proclaimed protectorates of their respective peoples, however their political allegiances often rose to the surface irrespective of race or creed. Both factions have been associated with the assassination and intimidation of prominent left wing, progressive thinkers and activists opposed to their divisionary and nationalist policies. Extremists on both sides have played their part in committing atrocities over the other.
In the modern day, this iconic location shows the scars of battle with almost complete destruction to the old village. With its isolated location, Erenköy / Κόκκινα is nothing more than an outpost for the Turkish Army with several monuments and graves commemorating the deceased defenders of a community and ideal. Erenköy / Κόκκινα has, in my eyes, become an important symbol in my justification that extremism and nationalism is clearly the most destructive element in society and the main obstacle of peaceful communal living. Not just in Cyprus, but other parts of the world we witness similar right-wing approaches to heterogeny and diversity, resulting in increased tensions between communities. Such regressive attitudes promote fear and mistrust within society causing communities to be displaced, persecuted, divided and homogenised. Ultimately it is disparity within the balance of power and economics that are the main causal factors of inter communal struggles and violence. Preservation of the inequalities and social division only promotes further violence, delays any possible reconciliation and inhibiting economic growth.
The only reconciliation for Cyprus would be the re-unification of the island and its people under a shared Cypriot identity, devoid of nationalism and extremism on both sides. The pooling of public resources and encouragement of economic parity through a lightly regulated free market may just ensure that Cyprus can once again embrace multiculturalism. Since the opening of further checkpoints, the RoC and the TRNC have made further ground towards possible re-unification as money and labour starts to be traded. What lies in store for the future? Only time will tell. I sincerely hope nationalism and extremism are beginning to be appreciated as the growth deniers that they clearly are.
There is a plethora of information available on the situation in Cyprus and, like myself, if you are inclined to know more then please take the opportunity to learn about its history in more detail. It is also worthwhile to note that there will be many differing viewpoints and the documents you will find will be no exception to this. Try to remain open-minded and fully appreciate from which stance each article is written. Here are some starter resources for your perusal….