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22 May, 2024
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Chasing the dream of independence

Reflections on a fragmented legacy but with hope for tomorrow

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

The years of Independence have come and gone, but the founding myth remains fragmented in the minds and hearts of Cypriots. For many Greek Cypriots, it symbolizes a struggle betrayed, while others see it as a necessary compromise. Some even perceive the autonomy of our island as something positive. Few of us would now trade it for governance from Athens, regardless of our political or cultural ties to Greece. The matter is perhaps more complex for Turkish Cypriots, and I hesitate to speak for them.

From political statements and individual discussions, one can see that for some Turkish Cypriots, independence was a survival solution vis-à-vis the Union, while for others, it was an intermediate step towards something else. Nobody was content with what was implemented on August 15, 1960. It's a paradox and a pity because it marked the first time in modern history that this region had the prospect of self-government by its inhabitants, for its inhabitants. Yet, the pity lies in the climate, shaped by the historical circumstances.

Now, the question is: what does independence mean to Cypriots today, both as a political status and as a concept? Where should we find its meaning in today's world, and what should its basis be? When Cyprus' independence began, only a few writers emphasized the need for communities to find common ground and look forward to the future. They urged downplaying other aspirations and fears for the common good, envisioning who they could become rather than dwelling on the past.

These writers didn't convince the majority, and it's important to understand why. Perhaps the pull of national integration and the creation of homogeneous nation-states in our region were too strong, compelling our societies to go through this phase. Maybe it was the ambition of our leaders, some idealistic and others driven by personal gain, that led them to derive power from their peers' need for security. Some confined their community to enclaves, while others sought to monopolize the state. It could also have been the plans of external forces, playing geopolitical chess on our island, exploiting some and eliminating others. International interests may have found a highly divided country with multiple guarantors very convenient.

In these challenging times, when the Republic of Cyprus remains an unfinished project that many doubt and wish to diminish, perhaps it's time to revisit how some envisioned Cyprus as an independent state when different possibilities still existed, albeit slim.

If we still desire a state, in whatever form it may take, we must embed a revised narrative of the 1960s into the foundations of our future. There is no other way. Unless we've decided that nationally "pure" states, one recognized and one not, suffice. If that's the case, let's be honest with ourselves. But if the current situation falls short of our expectations, we must ask ourselves what it is that we're missing.

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]


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