From Stoicism to Cynicism on Cyprus

Exploring the Green Line in Nicosia’s backstreets is at once fascinating and depressing. The Greek and Turkish sides have very bright, visible flags high hoisted up high everywhere while the UN peacekeepers who maintain the buffer zone have these sad little signs amidst the serpentine barbed wire. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood

Larnaca- I have a new piece out this week on The Redline Podcast site on the election of Nikos Christodoulides as the republic’s new president, it’s youngest and therefore first post-1974 generation leader. This island has long fascinated the hell out of me. A really basic take is whether this former Ottoman, Venetian, Hellenic, and Phoenician domain is part of a greater political Europe or a sea-borne exclave of the Levant.

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After the past few weeks what I can attempt to say it Cyprus is somehow both. It’s very existence and history belies the notion that Europe and Asia are in fact discrete geographic entities. A dubious intellectual construct of bygone era. It can be seen as an extension of Greece in terms of language, orthodoxy, Hellenism and a host of other things. It is also part of the former Ottoman realm or perhaps neo-Ottomanism in terms of the current occupation of the north by the Turkish military.

In the streets of Nicosia it feels like Queens minus the Latinos in terms of the sheer number of languages overheard just walking from my hotel to Ledra street. Punjabi, Bangla, Igbo, Cebuano, Krio, Russian, Moldovan, the list could go one for a while not to mention Levantine Arabic, Armenian, Modern Hebrew, and of course Cypriot Greek. And this is all happening in such a small city. I might not seem as remarkable in a sprawling centre like Athens but here on this finite Kissingerian ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ it’s quite striking. Oh and let’s not forget English! Three percent of the country is sovereign UK territory conveniently located astride the Middle/Near East.

These Morris Motors heaps have been here since well before the British colonial period ended in 1960. They, like the abandoned buildings just behind them, hark back to a long withered united Cyprus. They, like the island, were once coherently functioning even if a British imposition. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood