Makarios III

From New World Encyclopedia
Archbishop Makarios III.

Makarios III (Greek: Μακάριος Γ, born Mihail Christodoulou Mouskos) (August 13, 1913 – August 3, 1977) was the archbishop and primate of the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church (1950-1977) and first and fourth President of the Republic of Cyprus (1960-1974, and 1974-1977). He navigated his way through the desire of Britain to retain control of Cyprus for strategic reasons, Greece's ambitions in the region vis-a-vis Turkey's preference for partition of the island (into Greek and Turkish states) and between the islands Christian and Muslim communities. While he favored union with Greece (enosis), he ended up a leader of an independent Cyprus. He is perhaps considered notorious by some for combining religious and political power. However, during the centuries of Ottomon rule, his predecessors had all fulfilled a political role within the Turkish system, as ethnarch of their community, so in this he stood on tradition. He used the authority that came with his religious office to try to steer his people through a period of change.

In 1956, the British exiled him for what in their view was sedition. While reluctant to lose control of the island, it was clear to the British that Cyprus could not remain a colony, as decolonization around then world gained momentum. His Presidency saw both Greek and Turkish interference as well as strive and violence between the two communities, with United Nations peace-keepers present from 1964. He tried hard to resolve this strife by championing integration, although he had previously championed Greek interests. From 1959, he had a Turkish Vice-President. This may have angered those who still favored union with Greece, resulting in a Greek backed military coup in July 1974 which itself precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus the same year, partitioning the island. Makarios went into temporary exile. Partition was condemned by the international community. When the Greek military government fell in December 1974, Makarios returned to Cyprus and resumed the Presidency until his death in 1977. Makarios remains a controversial figure, although he is widely regarded in Cyprus as a national hero. To his credit, he always preferred negotiation rather than force and, in power, tried to reconcile differences between the two mutually hostile communities. The complexities of the Cyprus situation, given competing agendas, required the concerted and coordinated efforts of the international community. Instead, events unfolded as circumstances changed.

Early life, studies, and Church career (1913-1950)

Mouskos was born in Panayia village in the Paphos District. His father was a farmer; his mother died soon after his birth. In 1926, aged 13, he was admitted to Kykkos Monastery as a novice. At age 20, he was sent to the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, where he completed his secondary education in 1936. He spent the difficult years of World War II studying theology and law at the University of Athens graduating in 1942. He took up the duties of a priest in the Cypriot Orthodox Church while sustaining an interest in academic theology, he received a World Council of Churches scholarship to undertake further study at Boston University in Massachusetts.

In 1948, while still studying at Boston, he was elected Bishop of Kition. Mouskos adopted the clerical name Makarios and returned to Cyprus. Like many public figures in the Greek Cypriot community on Cyprus, in the 1940s and 1950s, he was an active supporter of enosis, the union of Cyprus with Greece.

Enosis and EOKA (1950–1955)

On September 18, 1950, Makarios was elected Archbishop of Cyprus. In this role he was not only the official head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus, but became the Ethnarch, de facto national leader of the Greek Cypriot community. This highly influential position put Makarios at the centre of Cypriot politics.

During the 1950s, Makarios embraced his dual role as Archbishop and Ethnarch with enthusiasm and became a very popular figure among Greek Cypriots. He soon became a leading advocate for enosis, and during the early part of the decade he maintained close links with the Greek government. In August 1954, partly at Makarios' instigation, Greece began to raise the Cyprus dispute at the United Nations, arguing for the principle of self-determination to be applied to Cyprus. This was viewed by advocates of enosis as likely to result in the voluntary union of Cyprus with Greece following a public plebiscite.

However, the British government were reluctant to decolonize the island which had become their new Headquarters for the Middle East. Cyprus became a British possession in 1878, when the Ottoman Empire ceded the island to them following the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). (In debt to the European powers, the Congress of Berlin met in 1878 to decide how to deal with the Ottomans. The congress recognized the independence of the Balkans and distributed some Ottoman territories as reparation, Cyprus going to Britain, Russia part of Bulgaria while Austria was given the right to administer Bosnia, which she later annexed.) It became a crown colony in 1923. In 1955, a pro-enosis organization was formed under the banner of Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (in English, "National Organization of Cypriot Fighters"), or EOKA. This was a typical independence movement of the period, viewed by some as a legitimate resistance movement and by others as a terrorist group. The issue is still controversial. Makarios undoubtedly had common political ground with EOKA and was acquainted with its leader, the Greek soldier and politician George Grivas, but the extent of his involvement is unclear and disputed. In later life he categorically denied any involvement in the violent resistance undertaken by EOKA.

Exile, escalation, and Taksim (1955–60)

On August 20, 1955, Greece submitted a petition to the United Nations requesting the application of the principle of self-determination to the people of Cyprus. After that, the colonial Government of Cyprus enforced the anti-sedition laws for the purpose of preventing or suppressing demonstrations for freedom; but the Archbishop defied them and continued demanding self-determination for Cyprus.

In October 1955, with the security situation deteriorating, the British governor, Sir John Harding, opened talks on the island’s future. By this stage, Makarios had become closely identified with the insurgency, and talks broke up without any agreement in early 1956. Makarios, characterized in the British press as a crooked Greek priest and viewed with suspicion by the British authorities, was exiled to Mahe Island in the Seychelles on March 9. EOKA continued its campaign of protests and violence during this period.

In the latter years of the 1950s, the Turkish Cypriot community first began to float the idea of Taksim or partition, as a counterweight to the Greek ideal of enosis or union. Advocates of Taksim felt that the Turkish Cypriot community would be persecuted in a Greek Cyprus, and that only by keeping part of the island under either British or Turkish sovereignty could the safety of the Turkish Cypriots be guaranteed. In this way, the Cyprus dispute became increasingly polarized between two communities with opposing visions of the future of the island.

Makarios was released from exile after a year, although he was still forbidden to return to Cyprus. He went instead to Athens, where he was rapturously received. Basing himself in the Greek capital, he continued to work for enosis. During the following two years he attended the General Assembly of the United Nations, where the Cyprus question was discussed and worked hard to achieve freedom for his people.

Under the premiership of Constantine Karamanlis in Greece, the goal of enosis gradually was abandoned in favor of Cypriot independence. Negotiations, in 1958, generated the Zurich Agreement as a basis for a deal on independence, and Makarios was invited to London in 1959 to fine-tune the plan. Makarios at first refused to accept the plan. The reversal of his pro-enosis stance, and his eventual agreement to sign the conditions for the independence of Cyprus, have been attributed to moral suasion on behalf of the Greek and British governments. According to a more controversial account, the archbishop was blackmailed by MI6 with disclosure of material relating to his private life.[1]

On March 1, 1959, the archbishop returned to Cyprus to an unprecedented reception in Nicosia, where almost two-thirds of the adult Greek Cypriot population turned out to welcome him. Presidential elections were held on December 13, 1959. Makarios defeated his rival, lawyer John Klerides—father of future president and Makarios ally Glafkos Klerides—receiving two-thirds of the vote. Makarios was to become the political leader of all Cyprus as well as the communal leader of the Greek Cypriots.

Primacy and presidency (1960–1963)

After his election, Makarios, together with the Vice-President elect, Dr. Fazıl Küçük, continued to draw up plans for Cyprus’s future. By now, Makarios had accepted that enosis was not to be, and that the only outcome which could secure harmony in Cyprus was robust independence. Taking office on August 16, 1960, the day the Union Flag was finally lowered in Nicosia, Makarios moved towards the moderate centre of Cypriot politics and now pursued a policy of non-alignment, cultivating good relations with Turkey as well as Greece and becoming a high-profile member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

In March 1961, Cyprus was admitted as member of the Commonwealth of Nations and His Beatitude represented the island at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers΄ Conference. He attended the Belgrade NAM conference in September 1961, and unnerved the governments in London and Washington, D.C. with his lukewarm policy towards the West. This was seen in the U.S. as demonstrating a tendency towards communism; Makarios was vilified as the "Castro of the Mediterranean"[2] although he had by then been rehabilitated in the British press and was affectionately nicknamed "Black Mak" on account of his clerical garb.

But the idea of an independent path for Cyprus had not taken root among the general public at home. There was increasing acrimony between Turkish and Greek Cypriots about the workings of the constitution, and Makarios was forced to act to salvage the machinery of state from imminent collapse. In November 1963, Makarios proposed thirteen amendments to the constitution, which would free many public offices from the ethnic restrictions agreed in London and Zurich. This, he argued, would allow the government to operate more efficiently, and bring together the communities by dissolving rigid inter-ethnic legal boundaries encouraging integration. However, the Amendments were seen by many Turkish Cypriots as threatening constitutional protections against domination by the majority Greek Cypriots.

In response to Makarios' proposals, most Turkish Cypriots in public office, including Vice-President Küçük, resigned; large numbers of Turkish Cypriots moved out of ethnically-mixed areas into villages and towns where the population was already largely Turkish Cypriot. There is still dispute over the motives for this, some arguing that it was made necessary by the intimidation of the Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriots; others suggest that the Turkish community was sabotaging the Cypriot settlement and already preparing for partition by Turkey. By the end of 1963, intercommunal violence had broken out once again.

Makarios and the Cyprus Problem (1964-1977)

The political landscape in Cyprus remained interminable. UN peacekeeping operations (UNFICYP) commenced in 1964, and helped to soothe, but not solve, the situation. Makarios continued his high-profile neutrality, but ultimately failed either to reassure the Turkish Cypriots that they were safe in an independent Cyprus, or to convince the Greek Cypriots that independence was a satisfactory alternative to assimilation within a Greater Greece.

President Makarios, seeking a fresh mandate from his constituency, announced in January 1968 that elections would be held during February. Makarios received 220,911 votes (about 96 percent), and his opponent, Takis Evdokas, who ran on a platform for unification with Greece, received 8,577 votes. Even though there were 16,215 abstentions, Makarios' overwhelming victory was seen as a massive endorsement of his personal leadership and of an independent Cyprus. At his investiture, the president stated that the Cyprus problem could not be solved by force, but had to be worked out within the framework of the UN. He also said that he and his followers wanted to live peacefully in a unitary state where all citizens enjoyed equal rights. Some Cypriots opposed Makarios' conciliatory stance, and there would be an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him in 1970.

In 1967, a military junta seized power in Athens, and the relationship between the regime and Makarios was tense. Makarios held that the regime undermined his authority by supporting paramilitary organizations committed to enosis.

In the summer of 1971, tension built up between the two Cypriot communities, and incidents became more numerous. Sometime in the late summer or early autumn, Grivas (who had attacked Makarios as a traitor in an Athens newspaper) returned secretly to the island and began to rebuild his guerrilla organization, which became known as the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston B, aka EOKA B). Three new newspapers advocating enosis were also established; all of these activities were funded by the military junta in Greece.

The junta probably would have agreed to some form of partition similar to the Acheson Plan to settle the Cyprus question; however it faced rejection by Makarios. The overthrow of Makarios became the primary objective, and the junta backed Grivas toward that end. From hiding, Grivas directed terrorist attacks and propaganda assaults that shook the Makarios government, but the president remained both a powerful and popular leader.

Relations between Nicosia and Athens were so bad that the colonels of the Greek junta, recognizing that they had Makarios in a perilous position, issued an ultimatum for him to reform his government and rid it of ministers who had been critical of the junta. Mass demonstrations proved that Makarios had the people behind him. In the end, however, Makarios bowed to Greek pressure and reshuffled the cabinet.

Another element working against Makarios was the fact that most officers of the Cypriot National Guard were Greek regulars who supported the junta, and they embraced its desire to remove him from office and achieve some degree of enosis. Grivas also continued to be a threat to the archbishop. He remained powerful and to some extent was independent of the junta that had permitted his return to Cyprus. While the Greek colonels were at times prepared to make a deal with Turkey about Cyprus, Grivas was ferociously opposed to any arrangement that did not lead to complete enosis.

In the spring of 1972, Makarios faced an attack from another quarter. The three bishops of the Church of Cyprus demanded that he resign as president, stating that his temporal duties violated canon law. Makarios foiled the three bishops and had them defrocked in the summer of 1973. Before choosing their replacements, he increased the number of bishops to five, thereby reducing the power of individual bishops.

As time progressed Grivas' pursuit of enosis through guerrilla tactics became an embarrassment to both Cyprus and Greece. However, his fame and popularity in both countries prevented his removal. Grivas died of a heart attack on January 27, 1974. Makarios granted his followers an amnesty, hoping that EOKA-B would disappear after the death of its leader. Intra-communal terror continued, however, and the 100,000 mourners who attended Grivas's funeral indicated the enduring popularity of his political aims.

On May 3, 1974, Makarios sent the Greek government a letter that identified certain Greek military officers stationed in Cyprus as undermining the Cypriot government. The Greek regime responded that it would replace the officers in question. In a second letter on July 2, 1974, he demanded the withdrawal of all Greek officers in the island. Greek Foreign Minister Tetenes suggested, as a compromise, that Makarios personally select the replacement officers from a roster of Greek officers. On July 11, Glafkos Klerides visited Makarios in an unsuccessful attempt to promote a solution. On July 15, 1974, the Greek regime sponsored a coup d'etat in Nicosia. Makarios fled and was replaced by Nikos Sampson, a Cypriot newspaper editor and politician.

While addressing the UN Security Council on July 19, 1974, Makarios accused Greece of having invaded Cyprus and of posing a threat to all Cypriots, whether Greek or Turkish Cypriot. Under the terms of the Treaty of Guarantee, Britain, Greece, and Turkey were entitled to sanction one, or more of the trio, to intervene militarily with the purpose of restoring peace to the island. With Orthodox Bishop Viktor Busá, Makarios founded the International Parliament for Safety and Peace in 1975, to address the increasingly uncertain situation in Cyprus.

At this time the Greek Junta was imploding, and the British government was facing the constitutional uncertainty of a hung parliament; moreover, whilst in London, Makarios lobbied for the British military not intervene as a guarantor power. The invasion of Cyprus by Turkey on July 20, 1974, five days after the coup, remains highly controversial. Northern Cyprus remains occupied by the Turkish Army, despite the constitution and presidency having been restored. To Turks and Turkish Cypriots it is known as a "peace operation," designed to protect the Turkish Cypriot community. To Greeks and Greek Cypriots, it represents the execution of a long-standing ploy to re-establish Turkish control of a large portion of Cyprus. The international consensus, given subsequent resolutions of the United Nations and other international forums, is that Turkey illegally invaded and occupied an independent country.

Bronze statue of Makarios outside the Archepiscopal Palace in Nicosia.

Nikos Sampson’s presidency was short-lived, as the regime in Athens collapsed only a few days after the Turkish invasion. Unsupported, Sampson fled, and the former constitution was restored. In the continuing absence of a vice-president, the presidency passed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Glafkos Klerides. Makarios remained in London for five months; then, having succeeded in securing international recognition that his administration was the rightful government of the whole island, he returned to Cyprus and focused solely on restoring Cypriot territorial integrity. He was not successful, and Turkey has remained as an occupying power ever since, with the situation continuing to be unresolved.


Makarios III died unexpectedly, of a heart attack, on August 3, 1977. It has recently emerged that, in order to confirm the cause of death, Makarios' heart had been removed during an autopsy. The heart has since been preserved in his former bedroom in the Archbishopric.[3] He is buried in a tomb on the mountain of Throni, a site he personally chose. The tomb is near Kykkos Monastery, where he served as a novice in the 1920s and 1930s. To commemorate his life, an imposing bronze statue of Makarios was erected outside the Archbishop's palace in Nicosia.

At his funeral, held at St John's Cathedral outside the Archbishopric in Nicosia, 182 dignitaries from 52 countries attended whilst an estimated 250,000 (or about half the Greek Cypriot population of the island) mourners filed past the coffin.

Orders and decorations

  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile
  • Special class of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany


In international circles, Makarios is regarded as one of the most notorious politicians of his time. In the The Times editorial on the day following his death Makarios is described as "one of the most instantly recognizable figures of international politics".[4] In his obituary The Times wrote of him as "a familiar and respected figure of the councils of the United Nations, the Commonwealth and of the Third World"[5] and of "a statesman too big for his small island".[6]

In his homeland, Makarios remains a controversial figure. The majority consider him to be a national hero and an Ethnarch, and there has even been discussion of his canonization in the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Ardent followers of Makarios, including former Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and former foreign minister Patroklos Stavrou have passionately defended his infallibility.[7]

Others criticize him for abandoning the goal of enosis in favor of independence, as well as for exercising a style of government reminiscent of caesaropapism. Makarios has been criticized for having submitted the 13 amendments to the constitution in 1963 that resulted in inter-communal strife, for having turned down the Acheson Plan in 1964, and for having delivered a speech at the UN Security Council on July 19, 1974, seeking the intervention of the guarantor powers to restore the status quo, which Turkey used as a pretext for its military invasion of Cyprus.[7]

During the 1970s, he was certainly the best known Orthodox bishop in the non-Orthodox world and may have contributed to a new interest in Orthodoxy in some religious circles.


“Έλληνες Κύπριοι, νενικήκαμεν!” (“Greek Cypriots, we have won!”)—Makarios, March 1, 1959, following the signing of the London agreement for the independence of Cyprus

“The coup of the Greek junta is an invasion, and from its consequences the whole people of Cyprus suffers, both Greeks and Turks.”—Makarios, July 19, 1974, UN Security Council

“Independence was not the aim of the EOKA struggle. Foreign factors have prevented the achievement of the national goal, but this should not be a cause for sorrow, New bastions have been conquered and from these bastions the Greek Cypriots will march on to complete the final victory.”—Makarios.[8]


  1. West, 1988.
  2. R. Craig Nation, War in the Balkans, 1991-2002 (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute US Army War College, 2003). Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  3. Constantine Markides, Macabre battle over Makarios’ heart, Cyprus Mail. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  4. 1977. A Leader, Not A Statesman. The Times. 60073:13:A.
  5. 1977. Archbishop Makarios - Central figure in the struggle for an independent Cyprus. The Times. 60073:14:D.
  6. Wilson, Sir James. 1977. Archbishop Makarios Obituary. The Times. 60083:12.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Papachelas, Alexis.2008. Clinging to Myths. Kathimerini: English Edition. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  8., Mikhail K.M. Makarios III (1913-1977). Retrieved July 19, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Hitchens, Christopher. 1994. Cyprus. New York: Quartet Books. ISBN 9780704324367.
  • Klerides, Glafkos. 1992. My Deposition. Nicosia, CY: Alithia Publishing. ISBN 9789963586097.
  • Mayes, Stanley. 1981. Makarios: A Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312504885.
  • Reddaway, John. 1986. Burdened with Cyprus: The British Connection. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 9780297791201.
  • Vanezis, P. N. 1971. Makarios: Faith & Power. New York: Abelard-Schuman. ISBN 9780200718585.
  • Vanezis, P. N. 1974. Makarios: Pragmatism v. Idealism. London: Abelard-Schuman. ISBN 9780200722070.
  • West, Nigel. 1988. The Friends: Britain's Post-War Secret Intelligence Operations. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 9780297794301.

External links

All links retrieved November 5, 2022.


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