Wednesday, 3 September 2008

"Vandals deface the statue of Makarios"

Or, "down with idols".

The first title - fully, 'the ultimate indignity: vandals deface the statue of Makarios' - was the Cyprus Mail's, the second, that of the 'vandals' - fully, 'for sale: down with idols' (Leonidou, 2008: 1). The ten-metre-high bronze sculpture was going to be moved to Kykkos Monastery and replaced with a merely life-size marble statue, but the move had been delayed and the bronze sculpture was still in place when it was painted, before dawn on the morning of the 2nd of September 2008.

Ethnarch of the Greek Cypriot community and its struggle for enosis (union with Greece), Archbishop Makarios III ruled as president of the Republic of Cyprus during the first three, bicommunal years of the republic (1960-1963), the following eleven years of intercommunal conflict, in which Greek Cypriot General Georgios Grivas's Greek-supported paramilitaries fought Turkish Cypriot Communal Chamber President Rauf Denktaş's Turkish-supported paramilitaries, and drove much of the Turkish Cypriot community into enclaves, ghettoes, dependent upon aid for survival (1963-1974), and, after being overthrown by the Greek Junta, because he didn't want union with Greece under military rule, then restored after the Greek Junta's collapse, for the final three years of his life (1974-1977).

Leo Leonidou (2008: 1) explained that '[t]he vandals threw plastic bags and balloons filled with red and yellow paint at close range' and 'scrawled graffiti reading, "For Sale: Down with Idols", on the wall at the base of the perimeter fence'. '[T]he best response to crazy people is not to respond', responded Archbishop Chrysostomos II, further responding that they were 'irresponsible and brainless' and that 'God will judge them' (Leonidou, 2008: 1).

It is a 500%-scale statue of the man in his lifetime 'revere[d]' by Greek Cypriots 'as a guileless saint' (but feared as a 'bloody-handed monster' by Turkish Cypriots 'terrified of racial extinction') (Time, 1964), and, while Makarios is commonly absolved of any blame and Georgios Grivas denounced as 'the "destroyer of Cyprus"', it was Makarios who founded the extremist organisation that Grivas ran as the terrorist group EOKA(1) and Makarios who induced the inter-communal violence that Grivas led, and Makarios supported Grivas until the Greek army took over the Greek state, when Makarios turned against the Greek Junta, but Grivas stayed loyal to the Junta and turned EOKA-B against Makarios instead. Makarios may not have been the destroyer of Cyprus, but he was certainly not its saviour, either.

So, although one might criticise damage to cultural heritage, there is a lot of logic in the "vandals"' iconoclasm, particularly given it was not merely an idol, but an idol of the publicly unimpeachable ethnarch. And, there is a lot of illogic in Archbishop Chrysostomos II's protestations, which warned the "vandals" that 'God will judge them', when they were challenging his and others' unchristian idolatry (although, obviously, they were challenging it on political grounds, as (possibly atheist) anarchists, socialists, anti-nationalists and/or anti-capitalists, hence their ironic offer for sale of the icon, of whom all political groups, including his former 'junta-worshipping' opponents, make use).

(Indeed, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Christodoulos laid wreaths at the graves of both Archbishop Makarios and General Grivas, which ideologically-flexible Communist party AKEL(2) then criticised as polluting the memory of Makarios, despite their former opposition to both Makarios and Grivas (which became support of Makarios even before he and Grivas became enemies (Stylianou, 2008)).)

P.S. On an unrelated note, the Order of the Orthodox Hospitallers was founded by President Archbishop Makarios in 1972 and, while the (religious) Grandmastership of the Order is held by the Archbishop of the island, the (political) Temporal Protectorate is held by the President, so, if ever there were a solution to the Cyprus Problem, and (dependent upon the electoral system selected), if ever, on that reunited island, a Turkish Cypriot were elected president, the Order would probably then have a (secular) Muslim as its protector, a true "defender of the faiths", as the "defender of the (Protestant) faith" in Britain wished to be.

  1. Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών) [National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters]
  2. Anorthotiko Komma Ergazomenou Laou (Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζόμενου Λαού) [Progressive Party of Working People]

Leonidou, L. 2008: "The ultimate indignity: Vandals deface the statue of Makarios". Cyprus Mail, 2nd September, 1-2. Available at:
Patroclos. 2007: "Not a dry eye in the house". [Cyprus] Sunday Mail, 6th May. Available at:
Stylianou, P. 2008: "AKEL's long road to power". The Cyprus Weekly, 29th February-6th March. Available at:
Time. 1964: "Makarios of Cyprus". Time, 28th February. Available at:,8816,873818,00.html

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