Yiannis Papadakis is a Greek Cypriot anthropologist, and Echoes from the Dead Zone is based on his fieldwork in Turkey and on both sides of the Green Line in Cyprus. he investigates the different attitudes of people on each side of the conflict, and in the process has to confront all his own prejudices from growing up on the Greek side.
Papadakis only managed to spend a month in the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and was accompanied by government minders the whole time, although as well as that he spent a few months in Turkey itself and a year in the village of Pyla/Pile which is within the UN-controlled ‘Dead Zone’.
I came to it vaguely expecting it to be a basically two-sided conflict, Greeks vs. Turks, but of course it’s much messier than that; there are tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Greeks from Greece, and between Turkish Cypriots and Turks from Turkey. There are tensions on both sides of the divide between those who see themselves as Cypriot first and Greek or Turkish second, and those who look to the motherland, who see themselves as Greeks or Turks who happen to live in Cyprus.
And the different groups have quite different views of history; not just the relevant modern history, the half-century or so that takes in Cyprus winning independence from the British, the Turkish invasion and so on, but also the longer history of classical Greece and Byzantium and the Ottoman empire.
I think it’s probably inevitable, as a British reader, that it reminded me above all of Northern Ireland; but I guess all these local religio-culturo-ethnic conflicts are fundamentally rather similar: deeply intractable and ultimately pointless.
Weather forecasts in Cyprus did not just tell the weather, I now noted. They expressed positions on the Cyprus Problem. ‘The Flag’, the Turkish Cypriot TV channel, broadcast a daily news bulletin in Greek for the enlightenment of Greek Cypriots. During the weather forecast, they gave temperatures only in towns in the north, where no Greek Cypriots lived. The towns were called by their Turkish names. On the Greek Cypriot side, RIK, the state TV station, used a map of Cyprus without a dividing line, but only mentioned the temperatures in the south. other Greek Cypriot channels, right-wing private ones, regarded this as unpatriotic. they also showed temperatures in the north to make the point that those areas too belonged to Greek Cypriots.
Maps in Cyprus, as elsewhere, were a political instrument. I remembered the map of Greece — not of Cyprus — at school. In order for Cyprus to appear in the map of Greece, it was cut and placed in a box next to Crete. I only became aware of this when I first saw Turkish Cypriot maps. No need to cut and paste to include Cyprus in the map of Turkey. Greek Cypriot maps showing Cyprus in the world at large always extended westwards, positioning Cyprus in a European context. The never showed Cyprus in the Middle East or Africa. The problem with the ‘Cyprus in Europe’ maps was that bits of Africa, the Middle East, and — sadly — Turkey were visible. One such map by the Greek Cypriot Public Information Office presented such undesirable bits as blank. The biggest challenge was to make a map of Cyprus that included Greece but not Turkey. The map shown as background during the news on The Word, the Church channel, managed best, with Turkey obscured by mist, as if weather conditions had rendered it invisible.
Echoes from the Dead Zone is my book from Cyprus for the Read The World challenge.