Nicos Trimikliniotis


This is an article on the history and historiography of Cypriot communism. It is inspired by two recent volumes on Cypriot communism: the first is about the 1931 October uprising, the Communist Party of Cyprus and the Third International based on the official documents of the Communist International (by Sakellaropoulos and Choumerianos), and the second by a volume that deals with the history of Cypriot communism until the formal disbanding of the Communist party in 1944 (by Alecou and Sakellaropoulos).
The paper aims to contextualise and discuss how Cypriot communists themselves engage with their own history: Cypriot Communists saw their mission as historical, i.e., the resolution of the national question was seen as integral to their strategy of achieving a socialist transformation of the world. It critically examines the difficulties of the Cypriot Left to write and appraise its own early history of Cypriot Communism, despite repeated attempts and having commissioned historians to write an official history. Communism in Cyprus emerged in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution during the late period of British colonial rule in Cyprus and was active in the 1931 uprising. The hegemonic nationalist historiography has vilified the Left and its role in the national liberation struggle, because the Communists in the 1920s and 1930s opposed union with Greece (Enosis): they saw this as a reactionary slogan that diverted attention from the urgent resolution of the class/social question and would play in the hands of colonisers dividing the toilers along ethnic/national lines in their ‘divide-and-rule’ games. This paper critically reviews historical debates over anticolonialism and liberation struggles in Cyprus. In nationalist historiography, the ‘social question’ is subordinated to the ‘national question’, if not totally obscured. The Left in the 1920s and 1930s however, perceived the ‘national question’ as an aspect of the social-political question in the struggle for socialism: the principle of self-determination of Cypriots was to be realised as part of regional struggle with the goal of a Balkan Socialist Federation. By the 1940s, the Cypriot Communist line changed: as the prospects of revolution receded, the anticolonial struggle would resolve the national question by uniting with Greece. What followed is well-known: Cyprus and its people are de facto divided. Whilst there is fascinating scholarship demonstrating the processes of the different versions of a highly contested ideological struggle about the goals, strategy, tactics and means in national liberation, the nationalist historiography has imposed a straitjacket that prevents such insights from properly making inroads in public history, school textbooks, and official historiography. This has generated a national(ist) ideological frame that has made historical debates which question the dominant narrative almost impossible within public history. Nonetheless, the terrain has now opened widely, as younger scholars in academia and in social media are questioning such assumptions and reifications pertaining to anticolonial struggles for liberation. The current dissensus and polarisation has generated new spaces and has endowed new vigour in debates on the history of the Left in the
country. Such debates however are not necessarily about the past; they are primarily about the present reading the past to illuminate the future.



How to Cite

“Rethinking National Liberation and Socialism in the 20th and 21st Century: Can the Cypriot Left Write Its Own History?”. 2024. Cyprus Review 35 (2): 141-77. https://cyprusreview.org/index.php/cr/article/view/983.