Georgios Grivas

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Georgios Grivas

Georgios Theodorou Grivas (Greek: Γεώργιος Γρίβας, also referred to as Digenis Greek: Διγενής which the name he adopted while in EOKA) was a Cyprus-born Colonel in the Greek army. He was born on June 5, (May 23 OS), 1897 in Lefkosia but was raised in his ancestral village of Trikomo that is now occupied by Turkish Troops. He studied in the Hellenic military academy and was commissioned an officer in the Greek army. Grivas saw action in Asia Minor during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and in World War II.

During the German-Italian-Bulgarian occupation of Greece in World War II, he created the Organisation X. In his memoirs he describes it as a resistance organisation however the main aim of X was to fight the Communist EAM and ELAS. Organisation X was armed with British weapons supplied directly by the British and not acquired in an indirect way (e.g from dead soldiers). During the Nazi occupation Organisation X was not big and its influence was limited in certain neighbourhoods of Athens. After the British arrived, Organisation X played an important role during the armed conflict for Athens between communists and government forces in December 1944 (see Greek Civil War) and its size and influence increased greatly.

After the end of the Greek Civil War Grivas founded a political party and attempted to start a political career, but failed. He came back to Cyprus in the 1950s as the leader of the underground organisation EOKA aiming to force Britain to grant Cyprus Enosis (union with Greece). "Digenis" was the codename Grivas chose to use as leader of EOKA. It referred to Digenis Akritas, the legendary hero of folk songs who was a member of the elite Akrites, the border guards of the Byzantine Empire. The cause of Enosis was very popular in Cyprus and Greece. Action by EOKA began with a proclamation on April 1st 1955. It continued with acts of sabotage and an attempt on governor Harding's life. The British responded by sending 20,000 troops to the island and placing a bounty of £10,000 on Grivas' head. Turkish and Turkish Cypriot reaction to EOKA and Enosis was expressed by the foundation of the underground organisation TMT and the rallying cry of "Taksim" - partition of the island.

A 1959 meeting with Archbishop Makarios at Rhodes

After a five-year struggle, negotiations initially between Greece, US and Turkey, and later including the UK and the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, led in 1960 to the creation of an independent state, the Republic of Cyprus, the constitution of which was based on political equality between two communities, Greek and Turkish Cypriot, and ruled out forever the possibility of Enosis or Taksim. Part of the agreement was that Grivas would leave Cyprus and go back to Greece. On his return to Greece, Grivas was given a hero's welcome and promoted to General.

In December 1963 fighting broke out in Cyprus between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Grivas used the popularity he gained in the EOKA era to coerce Cyprus president Archbishop Makarios III and the Greek government into allowing him to return to Cyprus, and eventually into allowing him to become Supreme Military Commander of Cyprus. His attack in August 1964 against TMT forces in the Kokkina enclave resulted in the collapse of negotiations between the Americans, Greeks and Turks to solve the Cyprus issue on the basis of the Acheson plan, in attacks by the Turkish Air Force in the Tylliria area and in the resignation of the first commander of the Cyprus National Guard, Georgios Karayiannis. Grivas left Cyprus in 1967 after a crisis which was seriously escalated when the Cyprus National Guard, under Grivas, removed roadblocks placed by the TMT forces in the village of Kofinou. The National Guards came under fire which they returned, inflicting heavy casualties on the TMT.

He once more returned from Greece to Cyprus secretly in August 1971 to form and lead underground organisation EOKA B, again with the rallying cry of Enosis. He secretly met with Makarios but they did not reach an agreement to cooperate. Grivas started plotting to overthrow Makarios with the support of the US-backed Junta of the Colonels which was ruling Greece at the time. He died on January 27, 1974 while in hiding in a house in the city of Lemesos. Though he was supposed to be in hiding, his whereabouts were known to the government of Makarios and the phone in the house he was living in was tapped. The announced cause of his death was heart failure, but some of his supporters still claim that he was murdered. Grivas' supporters insisted that the pro-Grivas Gennadios, Bishop of Paphos, who was then active in the Ecclesiastical coup against Makarios, officiate at Grivas' funeral. Makarios would not have the Bishop of Paphos officiate at Lemesos Cathedral, therefore Grivas' supporters held the funeral and burial, which was attended by hundreds of people, in the garden of the house that had been Grivas' last hideout, and where his tomb still is.

The Junta of the Colonels eventually overthrew Makarios, just six months after Grivas' death, which triggered events leading to the Turkish invasion of 20 July 1974 and the continued occupation of 40% of the island's territory.