Clinging to myth

Some, it seems, are keen to see history replaced by modern-day myths. I felt compelled to return to the issue of how history is taught in this country after a near hair-raising letter sent to Kathimerini newspaper by Cypriot former minister Patroklos Stavrou attacking retired diplomat Vyron Theodoropoulos for daring to raise some questions concerning Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus. The desire to defend a myth can push an experienced politician to absurdity. Theodoropoulos is a key figure in Greek foreign policy. He has served the Greek state through critical moments; he played a significant role in securing Greece’s entry to the EEC; he has passed on his knowledge to many generations of diplomats; and he has long served as a beacon in foreign policy matters. His experience and ethos allow him, or rather dictate that he speaks his mind on all major issues. Makarios was an important religious and political leader. That said, it is surprising to see the passion with which his followers, such as former Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Stavrou, have stubbornly defended his infallibility. The history of the Cyprus problem is not quite the one that has become embedded in the Greek subconscious since 1974. The problem did not arise on July 20, 1974. It was the consequence of many mistakes. It was Makarios that picked Georgios Grivas; it was Makarios who submitted the ill-considered 13 amendments to the constitution; it was Makarios who turned down the (relatively favorable) Acheson Plan; and it was Makarios who turned to the UN Security Council, seeking the intervention of the guarantor powers to restore the status quo. All these were historic mistakes that need to be addressed. Taboos and myths help preserve myths but do little to help us understand history.