Makarios III

His Beatitude, Makarios III (1913-1977), archbishop and ethnarch of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the first president of the Republic of Cyprus, 1959-1977, championed the campaign to unite the island politically with Greece for a quarter-century.

Archbishop Makarios III was born Michael Christodoulou Mouskos on August 13, 1913, the son of a goatherder in the village of Ano Panayia, near Paphos in western Cyprus. The island was then under British administration. At age 13, after a primary education in the village, he was accepted as a novice in the famed monastery of Kykko and began a brilliant career as a student. At age 20 he was sent to the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, where he completed his secondary education in 1936. Returning to Kykko, he was ordained a deacon in the Greek Orthodox Church in August 1938, taking the name of Makarios, meaning "blessed." A month later the monastery gave him a small grant to help him continue his studies in Greece.

Makarios spent the difficult years of World War II studying theology and law at the University of Athens. In 1946 he was ordained a priest and awarded a scholarship by the World Council of Churches to do further theological study in the United States. Makarios was studying religion and sociology at the theological school at Boston University when in the spring of 1948 he was informed that he had been elected bishop of Kitium (one of the four sees of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus) and was to return home. Two years later, in October 1950, following the death of his aged superior, Makarios II, the 400,000 Greek Cypriots elected him archbishop and ethnarch (national leader) of Cyprus. At age 37 Archbishop Makarios III took charge of one of the 14 autocephalous churches of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Makarios promptly became the dedicated and acknowledged spokesman for enosis, the near-unanimous desire of Greek Cypriots for the end of British rule and the political union of Cyprus with Greece, a cause that had moved him personally since his late teens. During the next five years he worked tirelessly and successfully to attract the world's attention to the issue of self-determination for Cyprus—in Athens, London, Washington, and various European capitals; at the United Nations General Assembly; and at the Asian-African Conference of third-world leaders in Bandung, Indonesia, in April 1955. Great Britain was hesitant. It was prepared to offer a measure of home rule to Cyprus but was concerned about the political status of the 100,000 Cypriot Turks and the security of its own extensive military installations there, the headquarters of its Middle-East Command. Turkey threatened to take Cyprus (located only 40 miles from Turkish shores but 700 miles from Greece) rather than let Greece acquire it.

In response, after 1955 Makarios became increasingly combative, accepting support not only from Greek Cypriot nationalists but also from the Communists and EOKA (the National Organization for the Liberation of Cyprus), the underground guerrilla movement led by the implacable Colonel (later General) George Grivas. He appeared to condone, even encourage, the rising tide of demonstrations and riots, acts of sabotage and violence, and open terrorism that engulfed the island and precipitated bloody disturbances in Turkey and Greece. The British replied by sending crack troops to Cyprus and making mass arrests. In March 1956, when Makarios himself was allegedly implicated in terrorism, the British authorities deported him to Mahé, one of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. He was freed in early 1957 and, forbidden to return to Cyprus, he went to Athens. Finally, in February 1959, he met with the prime ministers of Britain, Turkey, and Greece in London to work out a compromise agreement for an independent Cypriot republic.

Makarios returned to Cyprus in triumph and was easily elected its first president in December 1959. He was reelected twice—in 1968 and 1973—with overwhelming majorities. Gradually, however, the continuing friction between the Greek and Turkish populations and the precarious status of the new republic convinced him that enosis was inopportune and would have to be postponed. This alienated Greek Cypriot extremists who, with the backing of the military junta then ruling Greece, mounted pressure to remove Makarios from office. He managed to survive several attempts to assassinate him and a move by several Cypriot bishops to depose him as archbishop. Finally, in July 1974, he was briefly removed from the presidency and exiled by a right-wing coup. He returned in December, but not before Turkey, interpreting his removal as a prelude to enosis, had sent troops to invade Cyprus and occupy the northern 40 percent of the island. Three years later, when Makarios died of a heart attack in Nicosia on August 3, 1977, Cyprus was still divided. It remained so into the mid-1980s, separated practically into two hostile states, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, with a United Nations peacekeeping force manning a demilitarized buffer zone between them.

Makarios was buried in a tomb he himself had designed on a mountain peak above Kykko. Without the charismatic "dark priest," with his dour intransigence, his "Byzantine" shrewdness, and his wide personal influence, the "Cyprus Question" seemed destined to remain unsolved.

Further Reading on Makarios III

Stanley Mayes, Makarios: A Biography (1981) is, like Mayes' earlier book Cyprus & Makarios (1960), a sympathetic but critical treatment of Makarios based on long study of the Cyprus problem and close personal contact with the prelate-statesman. Nancy Crawshaw's The Cyprus Revolt: An Account of the Struggle for Union with Greece (1978) deals with the broader context of enosis, primarily to about 1960, and contains a comprehensive bibliography on the subject.