28 April 2023
1 April 2023 marked 68 years since the beginning of the E[thniki] O[rganosis] K[yprion] A[goniston] (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) struggle to end British colonial rule in Cyprus with the ultimate goal of achieving Enosis (union) of Cyprus with Greece.
Britain’s concession of the Ionian Islands to the newly formed Greek state in 1864, filled the Greek Orthodox Cypriots with optimism that the great power, protector of Greece, would reconfirm its support with the concession of Cyprus, as they took over the administration of the island from the Ottomans in 1878. Greek Cypriots would soon become increasingly disillusioned by the new government, realising that initial declarations in favour of Cyprus’s right to self-determination would remain empty promises.
Various internal forces disagreed as to the form the anti-colonial struggle should take, with the nationalist right opting for military action and the communist left advocating social unrest through workers’ strikes and civil demonstrations. Despite the different voices, on the night of 31 March-1 April 1955, EOKA began its first bombing attacks on various government, police and military facilities in the island’s major cities.
The EOKA struggle was officially launched with its leader Georgios Grivas’s first proclamation that circulated widely throughout the island on 1 April. Drawing from the examples of the ancient Greeks, as well as those of the 1821 Greek Revolution and the 1940 resistance to the Axis, Grivas called upon the Cypriot people to join the fight for liberation to the final victory or death.
Georgios Grivas’s first proclamation declaring the start of the EOKA liberation struggle. J/8030.d.4
The British Library holds an important collection of leaflets and pamphlets from the years 1955-1959, used by EOKA to propagate its views among its members as well as potential new recruits among the Cypriot people. This material provides valuable insight into the organisation’s operations, regularly reporting on its successes and paying tribute to those who lost their lives for the cause. On the other hand, it documents the organisation’s stance on contemporary political and socio-economic affairs both in the internal of Cyprus, as well as on the international scene.
A leaflet reporting on operations between 1-10 October 1958. J/8030.d4
A leaflet paying tribute to Kyriakos Matsis, who fell in Dikomo on 19 November 1958. J. 8030.d4
EOKA rejecting the “abomination” plan of the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the last colonial Governor of Cyprus Hugh Foot for a solution to the Cyprus issue. J/8030.d6
Through its leaflets EOKA often called for discretion, warning that even the most insignificant information could reach the British through their lurking agents and traitors, causing serious blows to the struggle.
A leaflet found in Kalo Chorio on 26 October 1958 recommending people to avoid chatter and gossip. J/8030.d4
A drawing of a killed fighter with the caption “A chatty person killed him! by saying that he was a member of EOKA”. J/8030.d.4
The leaflets also reveal a more extremist side to EOKA, issuing threats against dissidents and proceeding to punishments such as beating or execution of those considered as traitors.
EOKA‘s last warning against five Cypriots to discontinue their “anti-national and provocative behaviour”. J/8030.d.4
EOKA justifying the executions of Andreas Sakkas, Savvas Menoikou and Georgios Yiasoumis, who were “used as a pretext for communist P[agkypria] E[rgatiki] O[mospondia] (Pancyprian Labour Federation) to develop its anti-national activity, incited and protected by the British”. J/8030.d.4
Responsible for co-ordinating the military and political efforts was P[olitiki] E[pitropi] K[ypriakou] A[gonos] (Political Committee of the Cypriot Struggle), formed in July 1956. PEKA demanded the release of Archbishop Makarios from exile (March 1956 - April 1957) as the designated representative of the Cypriot people and the sole person authorised to negotiate the Cyprus issue.
A PEKA leaflet rejecting the Radcliffe constitutional proposals and demanding Makarios’s return to resume negotiations on the basis of self-determination. J/8030.d.2
PEKA called for passive resistance in the form of boycotting British goods, such as chocolates, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco, soap, washing powder, fabrics, shoes and agricultural tools. Anything that could be a source of income for the British, such as the government lottery or football bets, were to be eradicated, while transactions with Greek banks, advertisements in Cypriot newspapers and exclusive use of the Greek language on signs, posters and products were strongly encouraged.
EOKA, represented here by Hercules, cuts off the multiple heads of the capitalistic British Hydra to offer prosperity to the Cypriot people, represented by Iolaus. J/8030.d.2
PEKA campaigned systematically against the attendance of British technical schools by Cypriot students, criticising the creation of technical schools in Cyprus as an attack against the institution of Greek school and a mere trick to create janissaries and servants for the British. Parents who chose to send their children to the British technical schools were characterised as ‘unworthy to be called Greeks’ and Greek Cypriots who taught there were shamed as ‘mercenaries’.
PEKA declares that “We will not sell the fate of our children to the British”. J/8030.d.2
From mid-1957, the youth of EOKA was organised in A[lkimos] N[eolaia] E[OKA] (Strong Youth of EOKA) who distributed the organisation’s leaflets, demanded Enosis through slogans on walls and student demonstrations, informed EOKA on the movements of the British forces, intercepted military equipment etc. ANE published its own monthly pamphlet Egertirion Salpisma (Reveille).
The cover of the fourth issue of ANE’s Egertirion Salpisma that circulated in March 1958. J/8030.d.2
Lydia Georgiadou, Curator, Modern Greek Collections