Neha Patil


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Enosis (/ˈɛnəsɪs/; Greek: Ένωσις, meaning "union") refers to the movement of various Greek communities that live outside Greece, for incorporation of the regions they inhabit into the Greek state. Widely known is the case of the Greek-Cypriots for union of Cyprus into Greece.



During the past, the same term was used in various times and places to denote movements among Greek populations remaining outside the boundaries of the Kingdom of Greece as originally created in 1830, who aspired to be incorporated in that kingdom.

Following Greek independence, movements calling for Enosis achieved popular support among ethnic Greeks living outside the Greek nation state, culminating with the Greek annexation of the Ionian Islands in 1864, Crete in 1913 and the Dodecanese islands in 1947.

At the conclusion of World War I, Greece attempted to annex portions of Western Anatolia at the invitation of the victorious Allies of World War I, particularly British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. However, the attempted Enosis failed when the new Turkish Republic prevailed in the resulting Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, after which most Anatolian Christians who had not already fled during the war were forced to relocate to Greece in the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

In modern times, apart from Cyprus, the call for Enosis is adopted among part of the Greeks living in southern Albania/Northern Epirus.

Inception of enosis

In 1828, modern Greece’s first president Ioannis Kapodistrias whose maternal ancestors were Greek Cypriots, called for union of Cyprus with Greece, and numerous minor uprisings took place.

The enosis movement was the outgrowth of nationalist awareness among the ethnically Greek population of Cyprus (around 80% between 1882 and 1960), coupled with the growth of the anti-colonial movement throughout the British Empire after World War II. In fact, the anti-colonial movement in Cyprus was identified with the enosist movement, enosis being, in the minds of the Hellenic population of Cyprus, the only natural outcome of the liberation of the Cypriot people from Ottoman rule and later the British rule. A string of British proposals for local autonomy under continued British suzerainty were roundly rejected.

1940s and 1950s

The idea of enosis was systematically implanted into the minds of Greek Cypriot youth through education. Greek Cypriot schools that aligned themselves with the curriculum in Greece were recognized by the Greek government and the graduates of these schools were accepted into Greek universities without any exams. As such, Greek Cypriot schools put emphasis on the idea of being part of a greater Greek nation and the realization of Megali Idea to make Greece great again. They taught students that they were Greeks and should welcome enosis. In the 1940s and '50s, textbooks portrayed Turks as enemies of Greeks and claimed that Greek Cypriots were enslaved by the British. Students were made to take an oath of allegiance to the Greek flag on the Flag Day and students at Flag Day celebrations marched chanting anti-Turkish slogans, such as "the heads of Turks must be cut off and their bodies thrown in filth". Students pledged their loyalty to the Greek king at the Boy Scouts, which was later banned by the British. Inter-communal periodicals, published by the British, were prevented from being accessed by students and teachers were pressured to actively promote enosis as they feared retribution by the Church.

In December 1949, the Cypriot Orthodox Church asked the British colonial government to put the Enosis question to a referendum, on the basis of the right of the Cypriot population for self-determination. Even though the U.K. was an ally of Greece during WW2 and had recently supported the Greek government during the Greek civil war, the British colonial government refused. The Church then proceeded to organize its own unofficial referendum which would take place in churches. The referendum took place on the two consecutive Sundays of 15 and 22 January 1950, with an overwhelming majority 95.7% of Greeks signing in favor of extricating the island from the British Empire and annexing it to the Kingdom of Greece. Later, there were accusations that the local Greek Orthodox church had told its congregation that if it did not vote in favour of Enosis that would have meant excommunication from the church. Unlike modern elections and referendums, which are decided by secret ballot, the 1950 referendum amounted to a public collection of signatures. An obvious reason for this could be that, given the unofficial status of the referendum, a secret ballot would be easier to dispute than an eponymous one (collection of signatures).

After the referendum, a delegation was formed with the aim of the international distribution of the referendum documents. The representatives managed to deliver the documents with the signatures to the Greek parliament, London and the U.N. headquarters in New York. In 1954, Greece made its first formal request to the U.N. for the implementation of "the principle of equal rights and of self-determination of the peoples" in the case of the Cypriot population. Until 1958, four other relative requests were made- unsuccessfully- by the Greek government to the United Nations.

In 1955, the resistance movement EOKA was formed in Cyprus in order to end British rule and annex the island to Greece. The anti-colonial, liberation struggle lasted until 1959. By then, it was argued by many that enosis was politically unfeasible due to the presence of a strong Turkish minority and its increasing assertiveness. Instead, the creation of an independent state with elaborate power-sharing arrangements among the two communities was agreed upon in 1960, and the fragile Republic of Cyprus was born.

After independence

The idea of union with Greece was not immediately abandoned, though. During the campaign for the 1968 presidential elections, Makarios III said that enosis was "desirable" whereas independence was "possible". This differentiated him from the hardline pro-enosis elements which formed EOKA B and participated in a military coup against him in 1974. The coup was organized and supported by the Greek government, which was still in the hands of a military junta. The Turkish government responded to the change of status quo by the invasion of Cyprus. The result of the events of 1974 was the geographic partition of Cyprus, followed by massive population transfers. The coup and subsequent events seriously undermined the enosis movement. The departure of Turkish Cypriots from the areas which remained under the Republic's effective control resulted in a homogeneous Greek Cypriot society in the southern two-thirds of the island. Greek Cypriots started to strongly identify with the Republic of Cyprus, which, since the partition, has lain under their community's exclusive political control.


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