Cyprus: Historical Analysis i.e. Fiction

(Addendum to “Thirty Thousand Attempts to Keep Turkey Out of the EU“, Sep 24, 2008)

Perry Anderson is not new to writing historical but relentlessy leftist pamphlets. In his 24 April 2008 article on the LRB, “The Divisions of Cyprus“, the “baddies” are colonialist Brits, whilst Turks are either depicted as semi-passive bystanders going from one fabricated outrage to another, or even beastly thugs.

Tellingly, Anderson describes Turkish Cypriots as “a community that felt itself entitled as of right to a disproportionate share of power on the island, yet continually lived on its nerves as if under imminent siege” but then spends no time dwelling on the reasons for that “siege” mentality.

Archbishop Makarios is portrayed somewhat sympathetically (perhaps due to his willingness to defy NATO). But it’s the Communist AKEL party that, as expected, is the hero of the story, always on the receiving end of violence and the only group capable to express a leader like current President Dimitris Christofias, seemingly on the verge of an historical settlement with the Northern, Turkish area of Cyprus.

Exaggerations abound, including comparisons to the West Bank, Guantanamo, and pro-Franco Italian and German forces in the 1930’s. The British intervention in the 1944-1949 Civil War in mainland Greece is depicted as bigger than the USSR’s in Hungary in 1956 (never mind there was no civil war in Hungary, in 1956). Greek leaders Papandreou and Karamanlis are weaklings in the extreme, with the latter a “sentry duty in the Cold War” retreating “to his bedroom as details of the [Zurich] agreement were fastened down“.

Successive British Governments are invariably scheming and evil, and Greek-Cypriot General George Grivas “a nervi of extreme wing of counter-revolution“.

Furthermore, Anderson’s essays describe eminently self-consistent stories, with little or no space for mistakes, random circumstances, and the revelation that some critical information may be missing and/or open to different, equally valid interpretations.

All in all, one is forced to classify Anderson’s historical efforts not as much as scholarly analysis, rather as documented fiction. And by trying to present it as some kind of unvarnished history, one risks cheapening both Literature, and History.