The British in Cyprus, again having to stand between

How do big countries let themselves be dragged into these things. Cyprus contains many Greeks and many Turks. The route to peace is clearly for them to learn how to get along or partition. Instead the brilliant answer is to expensively send a disinterested army. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is from the period in Cyprus history when, I think to the surprise of all, it was a crown colony of Great Britain. So in it’s way it is a very typical late colonial period stamp offering. There is His Majesty King George VI looking down on a view of the colony. These stamps both try to convey to locals that they are an important part of the empire and secondarily to the many British Empire stamp collectors that Cyprus would be an interesting place to visit. I don’t think the stamp did much to further either of these goals, but I respect the effort.

Todays stamp is issue A36, a one quarter pence stamp issued by the crown colony of Cyprus in 1939. It displayed the ruins of the Vouni Palace. It was part of a 16 stamp issue showing historical sites around Cyprus. According to the Scott catalog the stamp  is worth 60 cents either mint or used. The stamp to look out for in this issue is the 1 pound portrait of King George VI that is worth $45 in mint condition.

Cyprus had belonged to the Ottoman Empire for many years. As with much of the empire it was multi ethnic, but with a majority of ethnic Greeks. When Greece won it’s independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, there was a movement to unite Cyprus with Greece. This movement was brutally put down by the Ottomans. The brutality included 486 beheadings including 4 Greek Orthodox bishops in the central square of Nicosia. In 1877, the Ottomans faired badly in a war with Russia and made a secret side deal with the British giving them control of Cyprus. This kept the island from Greek control.

World War I saw the British at war with the Ottoman empire and they formalized control over Cyprus by declaring it a crown colony. Successor state Turkey formally disclaimed any interest in Cyprus after World War I. The Greeks on the island were plotting to expel the British and to achieve political union with Greece. By the 1950s there was a full military uprising. Britain managed to give Cyprus independence with a power sharing arrangement with Greeks and Turks on the island. This lasted until 1975 when there was a Greek militant coup which threw out the coalition government. The Turkish army invaded 6 days later and occupied 40 % of the island. Many on the island had to relocate to get on their side of the line and the island remains to this day partitioned. To this day Britain retains a small peace keeping military force on the island. I could find no accounting for how much getting roped into Cyprus cost Great Britain since 1877.

The Vouni Palace was built about 500 BC by Phoenicians that were then under the influence of the Persian Empire. It sits on a mountain from which it can control the then Greek city of Kyrenia. Kyrenia and the ruins of Vouni Palace now are located in the Turk part of the island and the town is now completely Turk after the ethnic cleansing of the mid 1970s. The site was extensively dug out by a Swedish archeological team in the 1920s.

Well my drink is empty so it is time to open up the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Further reading on a similar British Quagmire.

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