Cyprus, Geopolitics & Minorities / Chypre, geopolitique et minorités

Abstract:

The persistence of the Cyprus Question has shaped the prevailing dichotomous view of the island’s communities. Over the centuries, however, the island’s position as a crossroads has created an ethnic and religious mosaic which has been rendered nearly invisible by the clashes between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities’ nationalism. Research on minorities in Cyprus is currently increasing, but we feel that neither the work of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo office in Nicosia nor the 2009 publication of papers from a conference on the Minorities of Cyprus took a satisfactory approach to the complex issue of the relationship between geopolitics and minorities in Cyprus. The Cyprus Question, which has divided the island for thirty-five years, is now a factor in inter-communal regulations. The multidimensional spatial dynamics which are an inherent part of this problem create a major challenge in terms of stabilising, preserving and protecting Cyprus’ minority communities. The Cypriot crossroads thus remains at the heart of the distinction between circulation and resistance drawn from the work of Jean Gottmann.

This has led us to develop an original approach to the Cyprus problem, which seeks to overcome the nationalistic bicommunal dichotomy in order to see the island in its true context as a crossroads, a multicultural environment par excellence, where circulatory movements come and go. This change in scale, which moves beyond the limited terminology of minority issues in order to look at minorities as more than their demographic weakness, is a form of dialogue in which representations of a unified territory can exist without denying its inherent diversity. If the geopolitical environment of Cyprus explains the presence of these communities (Maronite, Latin and Armenian, etc.), how is the Cyprus Question a factor in their sustainability or vulnerability? Are minorities geopolitical players for Cyprus more than Cyprus is a player for them? On a broader level, we will consider how Cyprus’ geopolitical context affects perception of minority issues and what the paradigm of Cypriot minorities reveals about Cyprus’ geopolitical context. Balkans, Middle East, Europe, Commonwealth: Cyprus participates in all of them through its historical and modern minority issues.

Our work is divided into three parts, which are based on the three levels of analysis we intend to apply to the island’s geopolitical positions. We will begin by examining the territorial dimension of the two nationalist majorities. The concept of minorities in Cyprus thus depends on the emergence of the Muslim community and its transformation into a “Republic”. Identity and territory nourish one another and the paradigm created by the emergence of the Turkish Cypriot community has conditioned the status of the other minorities and has even created new forms of minorities (Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and even Turkish Cypriots who have remained in the Republic of Cyprus).

We will then deal with the question of minorities in Cyprus by studying the three “religious groups” (Latin, Maronite, Armenian) and their place within the new Republic of Cyprus. We will analyse their difficulties in developing as distinct communities with an iconographic identity which sets them apart from the two majorities. Our analysis will also cover Cypriot minorities in the context of Europe: we will see how the process of rapprochement with Europe and the Republic of Cyprus’ integration into the EU has been marked by a series of failures. Europe is however, a vital alternative to the existing patterns of identity, although it will not bring them to an end. It also promotes the emergence of national minorities on the island, particularly the Roma, by serving as a forum for dialogue among cultures, based on their own heritage.

In the third and last section, we will discuss the creation of new ethnic communities and even new minorities in Cyprus. The island’s development has been marked by the emergence of these new communities, which cannot become a long-term part of the island’s history due to its division. These modern movements are a challenge not only for Cyprus but for the entire region and indeed all of Europe. They are also reconfiguring the iconographic trends of both the majority and minority communities in Cyprus in terms of their relationship to space and their territory.

Résumé :

La persistance de la Question Chypriote façonne la perception essentiellement dichotomique du paysage communautaire à Chypre. Cependant, sa position de carrefour, comme donnée géographique par excellence, a conditionné à travers les siècles la constitution d’une mosaïque ethnique et religieuse que l’opposition entre les nationalismes chypriotes grec et turc a rendue presque invisible. Latins, Arméniens, Maronites, Roms, voire Juifs, Russes et tant d’autres participent à la dimension multiculturelle de l’île. L’existence de la « Ligne Verte » en tant que séparation territoriale, régule la présence de chacune de ces communautés suivant le degré d’inscription de Chypre dans les différentes équations géopolitiques auxquelles cette dernière participe. Le carrefour chypriote est donc, jusqu’à aujourd’hui, au centre de la distinction héritée de Jean Gottmann entre circulation et résistance.

Il s’agit donc, dans un effort d’interdisciplinarité, d’étudier la dimension territoriale des deux principaux projets nationalistes. Cette première partie est consacrée à l’émergence du concept de minorité dans le cadre chypriote se fondant sur le paradigme initié par la communauté musulmane de l’île, transformée en minorité, pour finalement se métamorphoser en « République ». Identité et territoire se nourrissent ainsi mutuellement et créent dans leur sillage une reconfiguration minoritaire, née de la partition de l’île (Chypriotes grecs et Maronites de la « République Turque de Chypre Nord » et Chypriotes turcs de la République de Chypre).

Dans un deuxième temps, nous abordons la question des minorités à Chypre en envisageant l’étude des « groupes religieux » (Latins, Maronites et Arméniens), leur place dans le nouvel Etat chypriote, mais aussi leurs difficultés à évoluer en tant que communautés allogènes prises trop souvent entre le marteau et l’enclume des nationalismes. Quant à la question des minorités à Chypre dans le contexte européen, nous analysons de quelle manière le processus de polarisation européenne consommé avec l’adhésion de la République de Chypre à l’Union européenne a été rythmé par une série d’échecs sur le plan bicommunautaire. Néanmoins, l’Europe constitue non seulement une alternative nécessaire aux schémas identitaires sans pour autant y mettre fin, elle favorise du même coup l’émergence des minorités nationales de l’île, notamment pour les Roms, en devenant une plate-forme de dialogue entre cultures, un cadre nouveau des dynamiques spatiales.

Le carrefour chypriote est au centre de la distinction héritée de Jean Gottmann entre circulation et résistance. La dernière partie de ce travail consiste à envisager le processus de création de nouvelles communautés ethniques, voire de nouvelles minorités à Chypre. L’histoire de l’île est marquée par cette émergence de nouvelles communautés à laquelle la partition de l’île ne permet pas de répondre efficacement. Ces mouvements modernes constituent bel et bien un enjeu, non seulement pour Chypre, mais aussi pour la région tout entière, ainsi que pour l’Europe.

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