This Week in History: March 11th to 17th

On this day in 2002, Spyros Kyprianou, the Greek-Cypriot nationalist leader and politician, died in Nicosia after a battle with pelvic cancer. Kyprianou was born in Limassol on October 28, 1932. In 1976, Kyprianou founded the Democratic Party in Cyprus which won 21 of the 35 seats in the House of Representatives. Kyprianou was subsequently elected president of the House. Only one year later, Kyprianou succeeded Cyprus’ founder (and his mentor), Archbishop Makarios, as president of Cyprus after Makarios died in office. After a few months in office, Greek-Cypriot bandits kidnapped his son, Achilleas. Kyprianou won great popularity by refusing to negotiate, famously saying he was ready to sacrifice his son, ‘but never’ his country. (His son was eventually released). He went on to win reelection in 1978 and again in 1983. Beginning in 1979, Kyprianou negotiated with the leader of the breakaway Turkish enclave in northern Cyprus, but reunification talks between the two sides failed. In 1988, Kyprianou lost the presidency to millionaire businessman George Vassiliou.


On this day in 1489, the last Queen of Cyprus, Catherine Cornaro, was forced to abdicate her throne by Venice. Catherine was a Venetian noblewoman who became the Queen of Cyprus by marrying James II, King of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and [in Cilicia] Armenia, thereby supplying him with a much needed alliance with Venice. The initial wedding ceremony was conducted in Venice when Catherine was just 14 years old. The King was not present at the ceremony – he was represented only by his proxy. The marriage was confirmed by a second ceremony conducted in person in Cyprus four years later. Upon the death of her husband in 1493 (and of their infant son, Prince James III Lusignan in August of the same year), Queen Catherine became the sole ruler of her island kingdom for approximately 15 years.

Also on this day in 1957, Evagoras Pallikarides, a member of EOKA during the 1955-1959 campaign against British rule in Cyprus, was executed. Born in his mother’s village in the district of Paphos, Pallikarides was the fourth of five children. According to his biography, from early childhood he began to display the characteristics that would accompany him for the rest of his brief life: dynamism, leadership, creativity, a love for his country, and a flair for literature. He spoke little, and was studious, contemplative, and generous-spirited. He studied at the Greek High School of Paphos where, at age 15, he participated in his school’s boycott of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June of 1953. When EOKA began the struggle against the British authorities in 1955, Pallikarides took part in several anti-British demonstrations. A few years later, Pallikarides was arrested for carrying a loaded gun. At his trial, Pallikarides did not deny possession of the weapon and said that he did what he had to do as a Greek-Cypriot seeking his freedom. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 1957 – at the age of just 19.


On this day in 1988, Nikolas Asimos (Asimopoulos), the Greek composer and singer, passed away at the young age of 38. At 18, he moved from Athens to study at the Philosophical School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. From a young age, his artistic vein was made evident by his participation in theater groups, but his biggest loves were music and the guitar. He became a self-taught music writer and appeared in many Athenian music halls. He often had problems with the police, particularly during the period of military rule – the Junta – in Greece and the consequent restrictions on civil liberties. Asimos became known as a counter-culture artist – his behavior and songs were often received as provocative by the general public. He had strong political opinions and ideologically, he could have been categorized as an anarchist, but he never accepted being put in a special category of political ideology. In 1987, he was accused of the rape of an ex-girlfriend and was forcibly led to a mental institution. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to Korydallos Prison but was eventually bailed out. He never managed to overcome his bitterness over this charge and his psychological state began to deteriorate. After two failed attempts, he committed suicide by hanging in his house. It is rumored that he kept a diary during the last 15 days of his life in which he described his efforts to find something worth living for. He marked those pages with an ‘X’, which meant that he had not found anything worth living for. The last day that he ‘wrote’ in the diary was also marked with an ‘X’ – which was the day that he hung himself.


The magnitude of the destruction caused by World War II was such that the victorious powers, under the leadership of the United States of America, established various organizations to prevent such a recurrence in the future.

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