Although considerable research has been devoted to different aspects of the Cyprus conflict, rather less attention has been paid to politico-psychological factors associated with the internal dynamics of the conflict. This paper aims to understand and interpret the politico-psychological factors underlying the Cyprus conflict from the social identity approach. Firstly, this approach my help us understand and analyse the socio-psychological factors underlying the conflict. Secondly, the social identity approach may contribute to narrow the gap in the literature on the psychological factors involved in the Cyprus conflict. The concept of social identity where members of a community are expected to think and behave in certain ways has a critical role in some intergroup conflicts. Within this framework, the paper attempts to illustrate how the social identities have been constructed, and categorised as ingroups and outgroups throughout the history, and to explain under which circumstances different social groupings lead to intergroup conflict. Accordingly, throughout the history different social identities have been constructed in Cyprus. It seems that during the Ottoman period since there was no political competition between the social groups, no political conflict arose. However, when two distinct nationalism florished under the British rule, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots embraced conflicting national aspirations. In Cyprus, two social groups’ strong attachment to their ethnic/national identities could not have lead them to cooperation, but competition and rather conflict.
Keywords: Cyprus conflictthe Turkish Cypriotsthe Greek Cypriotssocial identitypolitical psychology
Identifying what Cyprus conflict is would be meaningless with no reference to any perspective.
Having been on the international agenda over the past half century, the Cyprus conflict has been
examined in various ways. Any scholarly work on the conflict should set out from the assumption that the
Cyprus conflict is complex which requires the aspects involved to be elaborated separately. The literature
on the Cyprus conflict can be classified into two in terms of internal and external dynamics. Whereas
some studies focused primarily on the internal dynamics of the Cyprus conflict (Kelman, 1990;
Hadjipavlou-Trigeorgis,1993; Diamond and Fisher, 1995; Yılmaz, 2004; Loizides, 2007; Husnu and
Crisp, 2010), the others dealt predominantly with the external aspects of the conflict (Keashly and Fisher,
1990; Richmond, 1999; Fisher, 2001; Güney, 2004; Müftüler-Bac and Güney, 2005; Eralp and Beriker,
Although considerable research has been devoted to different aspects of the conflict, rather less
attention has been paid to psychological factors associated with the internal dynamics of the Cyprus
conflict. Yet, some work should address this context. From a psychoanalytic perspective, Volkan
identified mass traumas experienced by both the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, and demonstrated
how those influenced inter-communal relations in the analysis of the Cyprus conflict (Volkan, 1979;
2009). Concurring with him, Yılmaz too pointed out the significance of unresolved traumas and mistrust
which were evaluated as “psychological barriers” between the two communities, and proposed a set of
confidence building measures (Yılmaz, 2004). On the other hand, Hadjipavlou-Trigeorgis and Trigeorgis
who adopted an evolutionary approach to conflict resolution, drew attention to the fears between the two
communities, and proposed apart from two separate zones, a third, joint federated area which would
permit interaction and cooperation (Hadjipavlou-Trigeorgis & Trigeorgis, 1993). Moreover, from
intergroup contact theory, Husnu and Crisp underlined the existence of prejudice and discrimination as
psychological factors in the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, and tested imagined contact of Turkish
Cypriot participants whose intentions were reported to engage in future contact with Greek Cypriots
(Husnu & Crisp, 2010).
Nevertheless, the present study focuses mainly on the internal parties of the Cyprus conflict from
the social identity approach. Firstly, this approach may help us understand and analyse the socio-
psychological factors underlying the conflict. Secondly, the social identity approach may contribute to
narrow the gap in the literature on the psychological factors of the conflict.
This study comprises three main sections. The first section is devoted to the theoretical framework
in which the concept of social identity is drawn upon. In the second one, the social categorisation
processes in Cyprus are analysed throughout history according to the theoretical model in order to better
understand social groupings such as ingroups and outgroups. The last section concludes with a summary
of the paper and a suggestion for the settlement of the Cyprus conflict in terms of social identity.
For over a half century, inter-communal peace talks have been conducted to find a comprehensive
settlement to the Cyprus conflict. However, apart from diplomatic inroads, no other alternatives have
been successfully adopted to resolve the Cyprus conflict which is growing more complex and
complicated over time. It is clear that the conflict has several aspects of which the psychological ones are
pivotal and deserve to be elaborated. It is obvious that both parties involved in the conflict are expected to
think and behave in accordance with their social identities. Therefore, understanding the nature of social
identities and identifying the factors causing conflict may facilitate coping with psychological barriers to
intergroup relations, and finding a peaceful resolution to the Cyprus conflict.
The basic framework that premises this paper is; What are the politico-psychological factors
underlying the Cyprus conflict? Within this framework, this paper addresses the following questions:
What is the role of social identities within the context of the Cyprus conflict?
Which social identities have been historically categorised as ingroups and outgroups in Cyprus?
Under what conditions have different social groupings led to intergroup conflicts in Cyprus?
4.Purpose of the Study
Within this framework, the paper attempts to illustrate how the different social identities have been
constructed, and categorised as ingroups and outgroups throughout the history, and to explain under
which circumstances different social groupings lead to intergroup conflict.
In this paper, the social identity approach has been adopted as an explanatory framework in which
historical data have been analysed. This approach may shed light on the politico-psychological factors
underlying the Cyprus conflict in general, and aid us to understand and analyse intergroup dynamics
which are central to the Turkish Cypriots-Greek Cypriots relations. The concept of social identity refers
to the identification of individuals with particular groups such as gender, ethnic, cultural, national and so
on. Social identities are also closely related to a system of significance; members of a group make sense
of the social world in terms of their social groups. As Hannum puts it, “social identity refers to our way of
thinking about ourselves and others based on social groupings.” (Hannum, 2007:8).
It would be useful to clarify some key processes within the framework of social identity:
categorization, identification, and comparison. To begin with the term “categorization” refers to
psychological processes which enable us to divide or classify the physical or social environment into
categories or groups in terms of similarities and differences. Following Henri Tajfel and John Turner,
social categorization can be defined as:
“cognitive tools that segment, classify, and order the social environment, and thus enable the
individual to undertake many forms of social actions. But they do not merely systemize the social world;
they also provide a system of orientation for self-reference: they create and define the individual’s place
in society.” (Tajfel & Turner, 1979:40).
Individuals make sense of the social world and locate themselves in society through
categorization. They also classify themselves into groups in terms of similarity and difference. In doing
so, individuals identify with the groups that they share in common. In other words, social groups provide
individuals with an identification process:
“Social groups, understood in this sense, provide their members with an identification of
themselves in social terms. These identifications are, to a certain extent, relational and comparative: they
define the individual as similar to or different from, as “better” or “worse” than, members of other
groups.” (Tajfel & Turner, 1979:40).
The social identity approach is based on two principal assumptions. The first one is cognitive in
the sense that the categorization process leads the individuals to overestimate intergroup differences and
to underestimate ingroup differences. The other is motivational in the sense that what motives
discrimination is a need for self-esteem or self-respect. In other words, the differentiation between groups
is needed for a positive self-evaluation, a positive identity, a positive self-image (Worchel, 1998:6).
On the other hand, the comparison process is central to intergroup relations as a result of which
conflicts may arise. As long as social identity is evaluated as satisfactory, the individuals continue to
identify with the social groups that they belong to. However, if social identity is not satisfactory, then
individuals may use three distinct strategies: individual mobility, social creativity, and social competition.
These strategies are also evaluated as reactions to negative social identity. First, the members of a social
identity may attempt to leave the existing ingroup and pass upward into a higher-status group (individual
mobility). Second, individuals may seek to attribute positive characteristics to their ingroup by comparing
their group to the outgroup on a new positive dimension; evaluating the attributes of the group which
were previously negative as positive; or comparing their group to a lower-status group (social creativity).
Finally, the group members may choose a direct competition with the outgroup to achieve a positive
social identity (social competition). It is social competition which generates conflict between ingroups
and outgroups (Tajfel & Turner, 1986:19-20).
Historically, from the period of Ottoman rule to the post-1974 era, different social groupings and
identities have become prevalent in Cyprus. However, only competition circumstances in the
development of Greek and Turkish nationalism and their national aspirations have led to conflict on the
6.1.Social Identities in Cyprus under the Ottoman Empire (1571-1878): The Dominance of
Muslim and Christian Identities
The Occupation of Cyprus by the Ottomans in 1571 brought about new social identities. Firstly,
the Orthodox and Greek-speaking population which was repressed by the Catholic Latin aristocracy under
the Venetian period (1489-1571), became salient during the Ottoman rule. The Greek Orthodox Church
was granted extensive privileges.
Secondly, although the island had been subjected to the first Muslims since 632 during the
Byzantine period, with the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, Muslim and Turkish-speaking population from
Anatolia appeared in Cyprus.
Although the communities on the island possess multiple identities such as geographical
(Cypriotness), ethnic (Greekness/Turkishness), and religious (Orthodoxy/Islam), their religious identities
became their dominant social identities. The defining feature of social category in Cyprus was religion. At
that time, the religious mode of thought fuelled social identities and the Muslims and Christians made
sense of their social world accordingly.
This social categorization process can be explained through two main causes: One is that
throughout the Ottoman Empire, the population was organised on the basis of
defined communities. For example, the Archbishop of Cyprus was not only the spiritual leader of the
Orthodox people, but also the political leader, known as Ethnarch, of his people. Therefore, the religious
identities were taken into consideration both in the relations between the Ottoman Government and social
groups, and in the relations between social groups. The other cause for the domination of religious
identities in social groups is that nationalist sentiments were not disseminated until the beginning of the
nineteenth century, especially among the Greek Cypriots.
With respect to intergroup relations, social groups on the island lived side by side, but in silos
rarely interacting with each other. Within the framework of the Ottoman
based on religious identity enjoyed its own rights and privileges. It is possible to say that intergroup
relations were fairly stable. Therefore, there was no conflict or political antagonism between the
Orthodox subjects and the Muslim ones.
On the other, the Greek War of Independence in 1821 started the dissemination of national
sentiments among the Greek-speaking Orthodox on the island. This movement was seen as a revolt
against the Ottoman Empire by the Ottoman rulers who were anxious about the disintegration of the
Empire. As a part of a wider movement raging in the Peloponnese, in Central Greece, and in the islands
of Aegean, the Church hierarchy such as the archbishops, the bishops, high-ranking Greek priests and
many laymen were executed on the grounds of preparing to join in the Greek revolt against the Empire by
the Ottoman Governor of the time, Küçük Mehmet. This tragic event had a traumatic effect on the Greek
Cypriots, while in the eyes of the Turkish Cypriots, it was seen as a revolt against or disloyalty to the
Ottoman Empire (Spyridakis, 1964:60-62; Attalides, 1979:25; Hadjidemetriou, 2002:298-311).
6.2.Social Identities in Cyprus under British Rule (1878-1959): The Dominance of Greek and
The transfer of Cyprus from the Ottoman rule to British rule with the administrative and structural
changes contributed to the (re-)construction of social identities on the island. This period can be easily
characterised by the dominance of ethnic/national identities in respect of social identities. The emergence
of two distinct nationalisms, namely Greek nationalism and Turkish nationalism became the main source
of the social identities in Cyprus. In other words, national identities became the dominant form of social
The two distinct nationalisms on the island, defined their national identities in ethnic terms and
subsequently excluded one another. As both Greek and Turkish nationalisms qualify as an ethnic form of
nationalism which emphasizes a particular ethnic group, these communities sought to establish a
homogeneous population within the nation-state. It is to be noted that firstly, Greek nationalism arose
nearly a century earlier than Turkish nationalism. This fact is significant in understanding the intergroup
relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which can be characterised as discriminatory.
It would be useful to sketch an outline of the historical background of both national identities as a
dominant form of social identities. When the British took over Cyprus, the Orthodox and Greek-speaking
population, especially elites of the island identified themselves with Greek identity and perceived Greece
as their” motherland”. The establishment of the Greek nation-state on the mainland in 1830 provided the
Greek Cypriots with a national identity with which they could identify, and influenced the dissemination
of national sentiments on the island as well.
Greek nationalism on the island was part of a wider political ideal called “
Idea) which was a dream to revive the Byzantine Empire and to unite all the Greek lands into a greater
Greece. This is also called “pan-Hellenism” that arose when Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453.
Since the Greeks of Cyprus saw themselves historically and culturally as Greeks, the Great Idea found
expression among the Greeks of Cyprus as well as those from other parts of the Greek world (Markides,
1977:10). The Greek Cypriots perceived themselves as part of the Greek nation which was deemed much
larger than in the other parts of Greek State from the pan-Hellenic ideal. Stavrinides describes Greek
nationalism during the 19th century as follows:
“Greek nationalism and patriotism came to mean by the 1860s: pride in being a member of a
superior nation, belief in the necessity of extending the boundaries of the Greek state to include all
historically Greek lands, and consequently the assertion of the duty to support a just struggle against the
Turkish conquerors who have for long held by force sacred national territory” (Stavrinides, 1975:20).
In the political landscape, the Greek Cypriot elites followed two main objectives under the British
rule: The first one was to struggle for the union of Cyprus with Greece, known as
objective was to acquire temporarily more local rights until
1964:63). During the British rule, the demand for
Although the idea of
central and powerful of institutions undertook to lead and contribute to its development (Markides,
1977:11). Vanezis (1972:47), a Greek Cypriot scholar, states that “the whole British period in the history
of Cyprus (1878-1959) is occupied by the struggle of the Orthodox Church for union (
Greek motherland from which Cyprus had been separated for nearly 800 years.” In addition, political
elites such as the members of the Legislative Council and the various committees and councils which
formed to promote
On the other hand, Turkish nationalism began to flourish among the Muslims on the island nearly
a century later than Greek nationalism in Cyprus. Throughout the Ottoman empire, the Turks were the
last ethnic group who oriented themselves towards Turkish nationalism. Turkish nationalism developed
especially among the young generation who were influenced by the new movement in Turkey. Although
the Young Turk movement who favoured historically Ottomanism, Islamism, and Turkism respectively
had influenced national sentiments among the Muslims of Cyprus as well (Evre, 2007-2008), it was
essentially Turkish nationalism in relation to the establishment of the Turkish Republic in Turkey, which
influenced the young Muslims in Cyprus (Evre, 2004).
The young Muslim generation began to see Turkey as the “motherland” and identify themselves
with the Turkish identity. Despite the fact that Cyprus was kept outside the new boundaries of Turkey
which was formulated by M. Kemal Atatürk as National Boundaries (Misak-ı Milli), the especially young
Muslim generation followed intimately the Kemalist reforms such as the introduction of the Latin
alphabet, a western dress code, and the secularization of education, with the motive of getting involved in
the newly established Republic of Turkey. In other words, while Cyprus was politically excluded, the
Muslims of Cyprus were culturally assisted by the Turkish Republic, such as meeting their educational
With respect to intergroup relations, Turkish nationalism on the island emerged intellectually in
relation to Turkey, but politically in opposition to the demand for
Whereas, Greek nationalism provided the dominant self-reference for Greek Cypriots’ social identities,
Turkish nationalism did the for the Turkish Cypriots’ social identities during the British rule. It is possible
to argue that Cyprus conflict originated from the social groups’ opposing national aspirations. Whereas
the Greek Cypriot elites put forward the demand for
Cypriot elites immediately countered
opposition to union with Greece can be explained through their identification with a distinct national
identity (self-respect), the vulnerability of the Turkish Cypriots and their perception of
(fear). In the eyes of the Turkish Cypriots who developed identification with the Turkish identity, the
Greek Cypriots’ demand for union with Greece was a factor which would decrease their self-respect or
self-esteem and caused a fear of self-existence based on the belief that the Turkish Cypriots would lose
their distinct identities or might be annihilated under Greek rule.
Moreover, being numerically in a minority position in comparison to the population of the Greek
Cypriots, made the Turkish Cypriots particularly vulnerable to the demands of the Greek Cypriots. With
respect to the Turkish Cypriots’ social identity, the British rule constituted a break with the Ottoman rule
in the sense that the Muslims of Cyprus who had been “the masters” on the island under the Ottoman rule,
were reduced to a minority position under the British rule. With the introduction of the British
constitution of 1882, the Legislative Council which consisted of twelve elected members and six
appointed members, was established. The Christian and Muslim members of the Legislative Council
began to be represented in proportion to their numbers in the population. Accordingly, while nine
representativeness was granted to the Christian community, only three representatives in the Council were
devoted to the Muslim community. Although at the beginning the Muslim elites protested against this
arrangement and threatened not to participate in the Council, they later abandoned their demand for equal
representation and started joining the Council (Evre, 2004:31-32). According to the 1881 Census, the
Muslims barely constituted one-quarter of the population of which was estimated to comprise 137,631
Christians and 45,358 Muslims. From the 1880s to the 1950s, the Muslim-Turkish Cypriots deeply felt
themselves to be a minority. For example, in 1943, the Turkish Cypriot elites established the “Cyprus
Turkish Minority Association” and declared themselves as a minority.
Nonetheless, the Turkish Cypriots began to use the social creativity strategy in order to pass from
a minority to an equal status from the mid-1950s onwards. The mass demonstrations in Turkey by the
Turks of Cyprus during the 1950s, and the Turkish Government’s involvement in the Cyprus conflict
became the foremost factor which increased the Turkish Cypriots’ self-confidence and self-esteem. The
Turkish Cypriot elites began to strongly deny the majority/minority divide, and to ask for equal rights in
the administration after the mid-1950s (Evre, 2004:127). With the establishment of the Republic of
Cyprus in 1960, the Turkish Cypriots were elevated to be the co-founder with the Greek Cypriots, and
from then, they refused to be identified or treated as a minority. On the other hand, despite their denial of
being politically a minority, the Turkish Cypriots continued to feel psyschologically a minority due to
their vulnerability. However, the Greek Cypriots continued to perceive the Turkish Cypriots as a
minority. In this regard, the rights received by the Turkish Cypriots was seen as “unjust” by the Greek
From the early period of the British rule, the Greek Cypriot elites constantly expressed their
refusal of the British Government which had strategic interests in the Mediterannean and the opposition
of the Turkish Cypriot elites who were in cooperation with the British in opposition to
Cypriot elites demanded Greece’s assistance to convey the Cyprus conflict to the U.N. General Assembly
for self-determination, but they failed to accomplish their purpose. Following the dissatisfaction with the
outcome of their effort in the U.N., the demand for
EOKA, an underground organisation, established to fight against the British colonial administration, and
for union with Greece (Druşiotis, 2005).
On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriot elites perceived the establishment of EOKA as a serious
threat to the Turkish identity, and chose the social competition strategy to preserve their ingroup identity.
In reaction to EOKA, TMT, a secret underground organisation, (Turkish Resistance Organization) was
established in 1958 with the help of Turkey in order to counter EOKA’s activities. With the establishment
of two distinct nationalist underground organizations, ethnic conflict broke out between the Greek
Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.
During the 1950s, both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots homogenised the ingroup
similarities from the outgroup differences. Nevertheless, neither the Greek Cypriots nor the Turkish
Cypriots were able to tolerate ingroup differences. Not only the outgroup differences, but also the ingroup
ones were “otherised” by both social groups. Moreover, both social groups’ political elites established an
essential link between their social identity and the national aspirations. Hence, being a member of the
Greek nation or the Turkish nation essentially entailed embracing union with Greece (
of Cyprus (
6.3.The Republic of Cyprus Period (1960-1963): The Failure of Cypriot Identity
With the involvement of USA,Great Britain, Turkey, and Greece, the Republic of Cyprus was
established in the midst of ethnic conflict. Both communities never even dreamed of an independent state
of which the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots would be the co-founders. This state partnership
entailed a bi-communal cooperation based on a joint country and citizenship, namely Cyprus and
However, the partnership of the state lasted only for three years due to the lack of confidence
between the political elites and continuation of the national aspirations. For instance, despite the
declaration of the independence of Cyprus, Makarios, the president, declared at every occasion that “the
national aims (i.e.
Furthermore, Makarios, the president and Greek political elites thought that the 1960 Constitution
was “unworkable” as it granted Turkish Cypriots more political power. According to the Constitution, the
vice-president with the right of veto was to be a Turkish Cypriot; 30% of the members of parliament and
civil servants were to be Turkish Cypriots. 3 of 10 ministers were to be Turkish Cypriots. However,
Makarios proposed constitutional amendments which included diminishing the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
However, after the Turkish refusal of the proposals, a well-organised and a secret plan, so-called “
Plan” was put into practice against the Turkish Cypriots. The plan in a nutshell aimed at excluding the
Turkish Cypriots from the Government. For example, in December 1963 armed attacks were launched
against the Turkish Cypriots, and after a short while inter-communal clashes broke out.
For the Turkish Cypriots, particularly the older generation, the year 1963 is traumatic. They were
forced to live in subhuman conditions in enclaves geographically limited to three percent of the island for
eleven years. As Volkan, a prominant Turkish Cypriot psychiatrist diagnosed,
“For the Cypriot Turks, their massive trauma that started in 1963-1964 when they were forced to
live in enclaves. Since between 25,000 and 30,000 Cypriot Turks became internally displaced during
1963-1964, and since that time the island’s Turkish population was only 120,000, it would appear that
about a fifth of whose living in the enclaves were refugees.” (Volkan, 2009).
It is not surprising that the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots perceive and interpret the Cyprus
conflict from their different perspectives and distinct social identities. Whereas the Turkish Cypriots
consider the year 1963 to be the date that the Cyprus conflict erupted, the Greek Cypriots rather remain
silent about what happened during 1963-1964.
6.4.The Post-1974 Period: The Dominance of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot Identities
The year 1974 is historically a crucial turning point which brought about the de facto situation on the
island. In July 1974 the military junta in Greece backed a coup against Makarios, the president of the
Republic of Cyprus with the purpose of
through the use of military force in Cyprus in order to prevent
However, the disagreement in the Geneva talks led Turkey to the second phase of military intervention
which eventually resulted in the division of the island, and the exchange of the population.
For the Turkish Cypriots, Turkish intervention provided them with a safe and secure place to live
freely, while in the eyes of the Greek Cypriots, the year 1974 represents the invasion of the island, when
the Cyprus conflict began with the invasion of the island by Turkey. It is obvious that the year 1974 was
traumatic in the eyes of the Greek Cypriots as the year 1963 was for the Turkish Cypriots.
In the new de facto situation, Northern Cyprus was inhabited by the Turkish Cypriots, while the
southern part of Cyprus was inhabited by the Greek Cypriots. In this period, besides ethnic identities,
both communities began to prioritise their geographic/territorial identities. The Turkish Cypriots who
comprised a relatively homogenised population separated from the Greek population, began to identify
themselves as Turkish Cypriots with an emphasis on Cypriotness in relation to the Turks coming from the
mainland Turkey after 1974. Similarly, the Greek Cypriots began to give more weight to Cypriotness as
well as Greekness. The national aspiration for
discourse. Since it resulted in the division of the island, so-called “invasion of the island” symbolised the
great defeat of
It is often claimed that the Turkish Cypriots have embraced a policy of separation. It is clear that the
Turkish Cypriot elites adopted separatism as a national aspiration (
Cypriot elites’ national aspiration (
be noted that the Turkish Cypriots’ deep worries of survival led them to separatism. Due to the
disagreements in the inter-communal talks since 1968, the Turkish Cypriot side that was excluded from
the Republic of Cyprus since 1963 established its own state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
which is not recognised internationally, except by Turkey, in 1983.
However, with the motivation of accession of Cyprus as a whole to the European Union, the Turkish
Cypriot masses and their new political leadership have favoured the reunification of the island under the
umbrella of the EU since 2004. In April 2004, the Turkish Cypriots approved the referendum over the UN
proposals for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus conflict, so-called “
while the Greek Cypriots rejected it by 76. However, despite their refusal of the reunification plan, the
Greek Cypriot side joined the EU, while the Turkish Cypriot side that favoured the reunification of the
island, was excluded from it. This created displeasure and disappointment among the Turkish Cypriots
who felt that while the Greek Cypriots were paradoxically rewarded, they were unjustly punished.
Moreover, the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots from the international community continued, despite the
EU’s promise of removing the isolation on Northern Cyprus, in the case that the Turkish Cypriots said
“yes” to the
Northern Cyprus; the Turkish Cypriots have not been allowed to compete internationally in sports; and
Turkish Cypriot products are prohibited from being exported abroad (Volkan 2009).
Despite efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus conflict through inter-communal talks, no leaders
including the ones known as being pro-solution and committed to the reunification of the island, have not
yet achieved a comprehensive settlement. It is possible to interpret this as their failure to be able to think
and behave irrespective of their social identities. This does not mean that social identities in and of
themselves create conflict. Such conflicts occur when social identities create a distinct system of
significance. The leaders’ roles in the settlement of the dispute can be neither underestimated nor
overestimated as leaders cannot represent their social groups by breaking away from the group’s norms or
expectations. Hence, sadly, since leaders are also members of their social groups that expect them to
think and behave in a certain way, a solution to this conflict seems improbable.
Throughout history, different social identities have been constructed in Cyprus. It seems that
during the Ottoman period since there was no political competition between the social groups, no political
conflict arose. However, when two distinct nationalism flourished under the British rule, the Greek
Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots embraced conflicting national aspirations. In Cyprus, the two social
groups’ strong attachment to their ethnic/national identities prevented cooperation, and fuelled instead,
competition and conflict. Despite the necessity of forging a partnership during the Republic of Cyprus
Period, the social groups avoided any cooperation and collaboration, and instead continued to compete
In the post-1974 circumstances in which both conflicting national aspirations lost their mass
support, Cypriotism gained prominence among both social groups. Nevertheless, neither the Greek
Cypriots nor Turkish Cypriots have attempted to understand each other’s traumas, fears, worries or
anxieties. Thus, the ongoing inter-communal negotiations, to find a solution to Cyprus conflict have not
yet resulted in a peaceful outcome. The political leaders and the social groups that they belong to, still
continue perceive each other in zero-sum terms.
Both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot elites have avoided developing and promoting a
common social identity which could provide a ground on which these two peoples could co-exist
peacefully. Therefore, for a solid solution in Cyprus, both the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots as
dominant social identities need to understand each other’s traumas, fears, worries, anxieties, and
expectations, and come to define their common identities without negating their distinctive identities.
With respect to social identities, a workable and lasting settlement of the Cyprus conflict needs to
take into account both the territorial (Cypriotness) and the ethnic identities (Turkishness/Greekness), yet
the Cypriot identity is not to be taken in a national context, but in a post-national one. In other words, to
build a Cypriot nation which is an anachronism, eventually reproduces an exclusive and discriminatory
nationalism. However, to bring Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot identities under the umbrella of
Cypriotness as a post-national identity would be a more inclusive peace project.
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28 February 2017
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Politics, government, European Union, European institutions, employment, labour law
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Evre, B. (2017). The Politico-Psychological Factors Of The Cyprus Conflict. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Political Science, International Relations and Sociology - ic-PSIRS 2017, vol 21. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 161-173). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.02.14