Impact Of Ottoman Rule On The Political

Life Of Cyprus Essay, Research Paper

I. Cyprus has almost always been under outside rule. Its location, which is at the meeting point of three continents, has made it a target for other conquering peoples for almost twenty centuries. The Mycenaean Greeks settled there in the 13th century BC. They introduced Greek language and culture to Cyprus, which are still preserved to this day. Cyprus has been conquered by peoples such as Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and finally the British.1

Preceding Ottoman colonization, the Crusaders ruled Cyprus. Richard the Lionheart was the first crusader to rule the island. However, after a Cypriot rebellion, he lost interest in holding it. Richard the Lionheart sold the island to a religious military order known as the Knights Templars in July 1191 for 100,000 gold dinars. They too, had nothing but trouble with the island. The Knights Templars petitioned Richard the Lionheart to declare the contract void, and he agreed to do so.2

The head of a French noble family, Guy de Lusignan, began the next dynasty that would rule Cyprus for the next 300 years. He was able to reconcile with the Cypriots by assuring them that the blood baths and deportations would come to an end. Lusignan got rid of the Church of Cyprus?s archbishop and replaced him with a Catholic bishop. Since he saw the Cypriots as serfs, he invited many nobles who had lost their lands in Palestine to the Muslims, to settle in Cyprus. Guy reigned for almost two years. His brother, who became the next ruler of the Lusignan dynasty, reigned for eleven years. He established the offices of the State purely on feudalism. Under the Lusignan dynasty, the island became one of the world?s richest countries. Cotton, sugar cane, lace, camel hair, silk, gold brocade, olive oil, wine, and grain were the luxury goods, which the island produced. But only the few hundred Frankokratia (the Greek term for the rule of the Europeans from abroad) shared in these riches. As feudal overlords of the island, the Franks divided up the land among themselves. Most Cypriots were nothing but slaves. Labeled paroikoi, they had to pay an annual poll tax, work two days a week for their feudal lords and give up a third of their agriculture produce to them. In 1427, 1472, and 1562 serious uprisings broke out among the native Cypriots, but were easily defeated. After being pressured by Venice, Caterina Cornaro from a Venetian noble family and the widow of James II of Cyprus, gave up the island to the Republic of Venice in 1489.3

Although the Venetians were oppressive lords, peasants were better off than they were under the Lusignans. The Venetians had totalitarian rule with knights over the local population. Business interests in the warehouses of Cyprus diminished because of the discovery of the sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope. Therefore, Cyprus became only a holding operation for the Venetians, and they failed to develop the island in any other way. At the same time, the Ottoman Turks were expanding their empire. One after the other, Venetian possessions in the Mediterranean fell to the Sultan. Venetian rule in Cyprus lasted almost a century until the Ottoman invasion between July 1, 1570 and August 5, 1571. On August 5, 1571, Famagusta surrendered to the Turks after a long, and enthusiastic defense by greatly out numbered Venetian defenders. Thus, Cyprus fell to the Ottoman Turks. 4

II The Turkish occupation of Cyprus, besides from adding one more piece of land to the Ottoman Empire, removed Cyprus from the direct influence of the West and brought it directly under the influence of the Ottoman dictatorship. The Turks put an end to the feudal system and serfdom in Cyprus, but continued with the heavy tax on products developed by the peasants on their own small landholdings. More than 30,000 Turkish soldiers were given land and settled on Cyprus. One family out of every ten in the provinces of Anatolia, Rum, Karaman and Zulkadriye were sent to newly conquered Cyprus. The settlers were chosen from every level of the society. The motives for this deportation were for support of the Turkish government and for security of the island. This deportation is part of the cause of the Turkish community in Cyprus today. This minority of Turkish people was increased by immigration from Asia Minor during the seventeenth century.5

During Turkish domination, the Cyprians developed their firm connection and identification with Greece. This began the strong nationalist feelings of the Greek Cypriots towards Greece.

One of the greatest developments of the Ottomans in Cyprus was the restoration of the Eastern Orthodox archbishopric in 1575. Keeping the Roman Catholic Church, the Ottomans thought, might cause an attack from Western Europe. The Turks established a millet system. In this system, the community?s religious leaders were given the duties of civil administration. The Orthodox Church regained its old position and the Greeks were once again allowed to elect an archbishop and three subordinate bishops. The millet system restored much of the power that the Orthodox Church of Cyprus appreciated during Byzantine rule. The Orthodox archbishop was once again both a political and religious leader.6

The Cypriots, disappointed with the Turkish rule, began to revolt. The Cypriots have experienced repeated cases of abuse by the government, the attempt to confiscate and seize the property of the inhabitants; Christian houses are broken into; and all sorts of dishonest acts against wives and daughters are committed. Between 1572 and 1668 AD about 28 bloody uprisings took place on the island. In many of these rebellions both Greeks and Turks (poor Turks were also exploited by the ruling class) took part. But all of them ended in failure. The Turkish occupation came to an end in 1878. Under the Ottomans, the conditions caused the Greeks to relate with anything anti-Turkish. Therefore the Orthodox Church became the dominant symbol for Greek nationalism. When the British took over in 1878, strong Greek nationalism had already been established.7

III The Cypriot constitution was established in 1960. It was imposed on the people of Cyprus by the Zurich and London Agreements. It consisted of a Greek-Cypriot president and a Turkish-Cypriot vice-president. Both have the power to veto legislation made by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives would be made up of 35 Greek Cypriots and 15 Turkish Cypriots. Elections for every office would be done by each community separately, with each community voting for only the government leaders who represented their ethnic background. A council of 10 ministers would also be appointed. These ministers would be in the ratio of 7 to 3, with the Greek-Cypriots having the majority. The military would be made up of 2,000, 60% Greek Cypriot and 40% Turkish Cypriot.8

During the summer of 1974, severe fighting in Cyprus, in which both Greece and Turkey were also involved, completed the islands division into two distinct ethnic zones. The Attila Line was formed, which divided the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Attila Line is a 112-mile-long UN established buffer zone that zigzags west to east from Morphu Bay to Famagusta Bay. It divides the island with the TRNC getting 37% and the Republic of Cyprus getting 63% of the island.9

The roots of the Cyprus problem are Greek nationalistic feelings. Their strong desire for enosis, to unite with the Greeks has caused many of the problems they?re having. Since the Turkish Cypriots did not want to be under Greek rule, they united with Turkey. This lead to the division of the island in 1974. Both communities also engage in propaganda, which aids in altering the minds of the Cypriots.

Since the division, many riots have occurred. One major demonstration by the Cyprus Motorcycle Federation from the Republic of Cyprus occurred in 1996 The motorcyclists announced plans to protest the lost right of free movement throughout the island. The UN advised the Republic of Cyprus to prevent the motorcylists to cross the Attila Line but they were not able to. The worst violence occurred in Dherinia near the eastern coast. Here Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots engaged in stone throwing and verbal insults. Anastasios Isaak, a Greek Cypriot was beaten to death with clubs and rocks by a group of Turkish Cypriots. Besides Issak?s death, 54 Greek Cypriots, 17 Turkish Cypriots, and 12 UNFICYP members were injured in Dheniria. This is just one example of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot clash.

IV In my opinion, a solution to the Cyprus problem will not happen any time soon. Both the Greek and the Turkish sides are highly unwilling to compromise. Their nationalistic feelings have also complicated things. With the Greeks desire for enosis and the Turk desire for partition, it will be a long time before they reach a setlemnet.

However a settlement must be reached soon. There must be put an end to all the riots and intercommunal violence. Too many people have already gotten injured and hurt for this to go on any longer. There are many possibilities that may occur with the yprus problem. Right now, it is

too soon to tell because of the lack of decision making


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