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"Imperial" Hellenism and Cyprus: From the 19th to the 20th century


During the 19th century, the presence of Greece, drawing from the past but also fueled by strong migratory flows, spread to wider areas of the eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, Russia and especially Asia Minor. This expansion had one common element: it took place in imperial areas, i.e. areas that were the territory of empires - the Ottoman Empire, primarily, with its extension in Egypt, the Russian Empire and, to a lesser extent, the Austrian Empire.

At the root of this mass movement of Greek populations lies a twofold, early “liberation”, partly a product of the Greek Revolution. In Greece, there was no aristocracy based on land property with main source of income being the land income. Consequently, in small Greece there was no slavery or other attachment of the rural population to the land. The lower clergy pushed away rather than restrained those who attempted to live off the land.

The capabilities of the Greeks came in contrast to the social structures of the neighboring imperial area. The aristocrats’ land-grabbing and the poverty of the farmers created attachment of local societies to the land even when land products nurtured commercialization for the benefit of Western capitalism (tobacco, cotton, etc.). It was in the gap between this form of slavery and the rapidly evolving capitalist relations of production that Greek capitalism developed, independently or based on the penetration of Western capital, rendering Hellenism, for a significant part of the 19th century, a central influential factor in the East. This status continued until the last decade of the 19th century.

Cyprus was not part of this general scheme. Apart from its anachronistic agricultural character, the main root of this can perhaps be traced to the domination - economic, political and spiritual - of the local Church which, to a large extent, formed a kind of aristocracy that maintained its dependence on the land and its fixation on traditional patterns. The inclusion of the island in the British colonial space consolidated, rather than liberated, the island’s society from its traditional conditions.

The course of Cypriot Hellenism did not run parallel to that of “imperial” Hellenism and its capitalist performance.

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