Despite an excess of pride, few Greeks are well acquainted with the country’s history. Most Greeks were and are taught modern history through a particular prism that depicts the country as being perpetually persecuted and its people without fault. This fundamental lack of historical knowledge justifies various ideologies, stereotypes and conspiracy theories that have plagued public dialogue and dispensed with common sense.
This year marks three distinct historical anniversaries: 70 years since December 1944, 50 years since the Acheson Plan for Cyprus and 40 years from the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the demise of the Greece’s military dictatorship.
My generation was raised on the leftist narrative regarding the events of December 1944. According to this, the British stepped in to impose a royalist regime and a bankrupt political administration that turned against the Left, which, in turn, committed political suicide by not taking over the capital. The guilt of the non-leftists with regard to the aftermath of the Greek Civil War and the junta laid rest to any fertile discussion on this chapter of history. You can still find political descendants of the so-called center who repeat the trivialities surrounding this period. Greece remained part of the western world and experienced unprecedented growth as a result of the Left losing the December battle. Otherwise, the country would have followed in the footsteps of Bulgaria or Yugoslavia at best, losing valuable time. Veteran leftist politician Leonidas Kyrkos and other wise men who lived through the events at the time admitted as much, even though other representatives and intellectuals of the middle class did not because they were afraid of the political toll of doing so. Today, reconciliation has prevailed in our political DNA, allowing for an objective discussion on the events of 1944 and what could have followed had the Greek Communist Party prevailed.
The Acheson Plan is a well-buried case of lost opportunity. Greece had a unique chance in 1964 to be united with Cyprus in exchange for ceding sovereignty of the Karpass peninsula to Turkey and offering assurances of protection for the Turkish-Cypriot minority. The plan was scuppered by Nicosia and Andreas Papandreou in Athens. The political cost dictated the rejection of a plan that would have served Greek national interests.
Much has been written about 1974. Clearly Henry Kissinger had decided on a de facto solution for Cyprus by sending out the right messages to Athens and Ankara via the US secret service. There is one aspect of the story, however, that is little known and has to do with efforts made by the US to prevent dictator Dimitris Ioannidis from going to war with Turkey, because Kissinger’s primary concern was averting a Greek-Turkish conflict that would have threatened the unity of NATO.