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We need to reverse the course of our history.

By Nicos Rossos

AROUND the year 1880 a German archeologist wrote: "He who would become and remain a great power in the East must hold Cyprus in his hands".

The above statement is included in all the four volumes of the history of Cyprus by Sir George Hill, who collected his material for 30 years and the history was published at Cambridge University.

Hill emphasises that the strategic importance of Cyprus is the very reason why it has no continuous history of its own. Its history is chiefly the reflection of the activities of great powers who have sought Cyprus necessary to the achievement of important objectives elsewhere, so the history resolves itself into the story of the comings and goings of its colonists and conquerors.

It is our duty to be taught from our history and to reverse its course if we are to avoid new occupations if we are to save Cyprus from new destructions and put an end to the terrible suffering of our people.

To achieve this we will need harmonious behavior form our political leaders, wisdom and the avoidance of purposeless contradictions for useless political gains.

To begin our sorry history of the last millennium, in 1191 Richard the Lionheart who occupied Cyprus for a short period sold the island to the Frankish King, Guy de Lusignian and continued his way to the Holy Land. This occupation lasted for 300 years and ended in 1489 when Queen Cathrine Cornaro transferred her rights to Venice.

Both during the Frankish and the Venetian occupations the Cypriots were treated as serfs. They had to pay the occupying power 30% of their produce. Later in 1529, this increased to 40% and to work for free two days a week for the feudal owner of the district. Taxes were paid per head of the inhabitant.

It was possible for some to buy their freedom, but very few had the means to do it. A traveller by the name of Martin von Banugarten in 1490 wrote that "The inhabitants of Cyprus under the Venetians were real slaves". When one got married he had to provide the feudal owner with another woman.

By 1490 the population was reduced to 106,000 from half a million at the start of the Frankish occupation.

In 1570 Cyprus was occupied by the Ottomans. Taxation continued to be very high and a traveller by the name of Martin reported that it was the highest of any part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1764, the Turkish inhabitants of the island joined the Cypriots in protesting although they paid half the rate.

Many families were taken prisoner and transferred outside Cyprus and the only way to be freed was to be redeemed by somebody.

Historian, Nasa Patapiou researched many such cases and describes the case of Ioanna Syglitikou Laskari the wife of the Cypriot Commander of the Cavalry, during the time of the Venetians, was killed along with his three sons during the assault of the Ottomans on Nicosia in 1570. Laskari was taken prisoner outside Cyprus with her six daughters and she describes how her great faith to God helped her when someone paid for her freedom, but her daughters remained in captivity. Ioanna found herself in Venice, hungry and homeless.

The Arab rates which lasted 300 years to 965 wiped out all the city kingdoms of Cyprus with the inhabitants either emigrating or taking refuge to the mountains.

The raids of the Mameluks from Egypt were equally destructive.

What need to be done? Our history with the repeated, never ending occupations must make us carefully consider how to save Cyprus from its history and our people from their terrible and continuous sufferings. Make no mistake, without wise thinking history will not be reversed.

As a matter of priority we must solve the Cyprus problem in order to close any open doors from which an enemy may invade Cyprus. Our best defense is the solution of the Cyprus problem.

Nicos Rossos is an economist

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Oct 31, 2015
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