Monday, January 22, 2007

Cyprus fieldwork: Lefkosha; Hellenisation; Turkification

The most important part of this entry was an allegation made about processes of Hellenisation and Turkification in Cyprus, led by actions upon communities' linguistic heritage (for example, conflicts over the use of the name "Lefkosha"); that was preceded by one about the scale of the conflict in Cyprus, after a local calculated what the equivalent numbers of dead and missing would have been had it happened in Britain.

At 11.05pm on the 16th of February 2006, I wrote out parts of a conversation I had with the takeaway owner, which began with a verbal slip one friend made in Greek, moved on to an anecdote involving the former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash and his Greek Cypriot, Turkish, Greek and Azerbaijani colleagues and ended with Cypriot understandings (or misunderstandings) of war, history and politics.

During the conversation, he "wrote out for me the numbers of dead and missing from the intercommunal violence and war", of a population of about 620,000 at the time, thousands dead and 1,619 Greek Cypriots and 803 Turkish Cypriots missing "and calculated the equivalent number for Britain", which, of a population of about sixty million now, would have been hundreds of thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands more missing; that over-awed me.

When I wasn't taking comfort in lamb and spinach and cold, red wine, I was still working towards a public community archaeology and told myself that, "I have to find more [participants] and get more data out of them, or find another avenue of research, as I'm not generating sufficient data". I reminded myself that:
When writing up, I should make it clear... that some words heard may have multiple meanings..., so the speaker may have said 'death and suffering' or 'death and grief', etc., as it's a limitation [in my understanding and so] in my work. [It's something I should have shown more caution with when presenting my Kosova/Kosovo material.]
I added that, "I should also note one accusation", which was made by an academic, "a Cypriot former University of Cyprus student (gainfully employed, so presumably not so embittered [that] he's uselessly biased)", that some institutions were 'Hellenising'.

He didn't provide any evidence for this (although, as I note in reference to my own work, it's difficult to present any evidence in a pub, let alone evidence about sensitive subjects), which is one of the reasons I have anonymised the institution he named:
'Cyprus isn't Greek or Turkish, it's different, it's unique, it's Cypriot.' This outburst was prompted by his experience of [being]... subjected to Greek 'propaganda' [in the workplace]. 'They kept saying all this nationalist stuff. They're trying to Hellenise the language too, telling us "Lefkosha" is wrong, that it should be [the continental Greek pronunciation] "Lefkosia". It shouldn't.

Lefkosha is a Cypriot city and the [Greek and Turkish] Cypriot name is "Lefkosha". I warned them; I told them if they kept on saying this bullshit, I'd call them on it.' He and the takeaway owner echoed the Larnacan barber's circle and the common discourses that Cyprus is at the crossroads between, is the meeting place, is in-'between north and south, east and west', 'between Europe, the Middle East and Africa'.
The reason I thought it worth noting and realistically considering in the first place was the reference to the Hellenisation of the Cypriot Greek language (and Greek Cypriot landscape), which is visible: my use of the "Turkish name", Lefkosha, has been "corrected" frequently; and, amongst other changes, the city's Eylenja district was made into its Aglantzia district. Equivalent programmes of the Turkification of the Cypriot Turkish language (and Turkish Cypriot landscape) have been implemented in the North.

As for institutions, other people have characterised different institutions in the South as more or less Hellenist and different ones in the North as more or less Turkist and as the leadership, membership and allegiances of those institutions change, so it would seem logical that there would be both active and passive movements towards or away from Hellenisation or Turkification.

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