The Cypriot Identity: File not Found – Part 1

When one is faced with a problem, it means that they are faced with a situation that is unwelcome and/or harmful and needs to be changed to stop being a problem. Statistically, a problem remains a problem because the first step of changing it, namely precontemplation, is having no intention of changing any behavior, due to homeostasis (McGuire, 2005). When people are ready to move to the next step, contemplation, it means that they are aware of the problem (Norcross, Krebs, & Prochaska, 2011). A way to identify a problem is by evaluating the consequences of the behavior. One needs no academic degrees nor Cypriot ethnicity to witness a few of the main societal problems of this island (e.g., sexism and racism).    

If one is to dissect the commonalities of sexism and racism, they are narrowed down to the individual’s identity. Identity is a scheme that entails the norms, goals, outlooks, expectations, values, and belief systems of a person (Newman & Newman, 2012). Specifically, ethnic group identity is when people recognize how their individual identity relates to the specific ethnic group to the point where it becomes a significant reference group to them (Spencer & Markstrom-Adams, 1990). Considering the definition of ethnic group identity, it is challenging to delineate what the Cypriot identity is. Speaking from the Greek- Cypriot perspective, the official religion and language of the majority are thought to be Greek Orthodox and Greek, respectively, and the public school system (at least the primary and secondary educational systems) follows the Greek syllabus. In other words, most institutions embedded only the guidelines of Greek culture, leaving room for Cypriot culture to develop and be observed only in the everyday life aspects of the Cypriots (e.g., in the dialect). Nonetheless, how and why does that engender a problem for the Cypriot citizens?   

The way Cypriot citizens utilize their space and time (i.e., culture), is mainly taken from a culture that has a different space and time conception. In other terms, the majority of Cypriots live in a system that does not favor their maximum potential, since they have assimilated to the norms and expectations of an ethnic group that does not accurately represent the current situation in Cyprus. Speculating the patterns of how culture works, and assimilating to the norms of a neighboring country may have been effective in the past, but at the present moment, it is dysfunctional for the positive progress of the island (i.e., accruing economic profits, a better quality of the citizens’ life). As an ethnic group, no Cypriot was given the opportunity to discover their identity as Cypriots, focus on the future, and find ways they can improve their lives. Therefore, are the Cypriot citizens deciding the fate of their country due to the fear of alienating an ethnic identity that was given to them (i.e., being Greek Cypriots) and being afraid of this change?   

Justifiably, yet erroneously, ethnicity and race are interchangeably used. Both concepts are societal concepts that taxonomize people into groups. However, they differ in how they categorize people and the methodology each concept is made of. Race is based on physical, behavioral, and biological attributes, heredity, and measurement and testing of physiological characteristics. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is defined by language, behavioral patterns, and shared culture, which is mainly based on the geographical environment (Eriksen, 2010).

Teasing race and ethnicity out is pivotal because the science of race conveys that those who live within an ethnic group do not necessarily belong to it. For example, someone can speak Greek, and act like a Greek, yet not be considered a Greek. Additionally, race-fueled the stereotypes of how social classes should behave. People learned to associate race with status. For example, Caucasian people were thought to have more money and be more educated compared to other races (e.g., Negroid) who were associated with poverty and an unskilled workforce. This is illustrated in the ideology of imperialism which established a world view that Europeans were at the zenith of races. If someone was of European descent, automatically thought to have a higher social class. This led the science of race to promulgate the creation of political parties indirectly based on race and social class.   

Logically, one may wonder why having an ethnic identity is important. Tajfel’s (1981) theory on social identity (Huddy, 2001) suggests that people identify with groups to maximize their distinctiveness. Newman and Newman (2012) argue that a group becomes part of the identity of one person and can give positive self-esteem to a member of a group due to their sense of solidarity. Additionally, people tend to join groups because they strengthen their sense of self. People will reject what threatens their personal identity or how they want to be perceived (Cohen, & Sherman, 2014). Hence it is not a matter of joining groups, but a matter of which group to join.  

However, due to all the political propaganda throughout the years, race is wrongfully used interchangeably with ethnicity and the concept of ethnicity has been colored in a way to promote distinctiveness for the sake of imperialism instead of being proud of what assembles one’s identity. Living in the 21st century means living in an era of globalization. Globalization is bolstered on the pillars of connecting people worldwide (i.e., centripetal) and promoting local uniqueness (i.e., centrifugal; Eriksen, 2010). Thus, to economically and culturally progress in this time and space, we live in, people have to balance being malleable enough to connect with others and sustain their uniqueness, without the fear of alienating their identity.   

If we want to cultivate a strong sense of identity as Cypriots, the citizens of this island have to change their gears and start questioning what truly reflects their desires and hopes for the future, instead of what does not or what other people use to define us. If we want a problem to be solved, change must happen and the first step is to individually figure out what we collectively are. It will not be for the benefit of the citizens of this island if Cypriots are not in a position to accept diversity and learn how to co-exist with other ethnicities. The education and national narratives have accommodated an environment that “created a single linear history with Greece, minimizing all other non-Greek influences and creating a victim-like story” to illustrate the Cypriot identity. Without this shift of perspective and critical evaluation of who we are, Cypriots will continue lacking the time and mental energy to focus on resolving their social issues. 

*All of the pictures were taken at The Cyprus Museum. “The museum is home to the most extensive collection of Cypriot antiquities in the world and is located on Museum Street in central Nicosia.”


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Spencer, M. B., & Markstrom-Adams, C. (1990). Identity processes among racial and ethnic minority children in America. Child Development61(2), 290–310.

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Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2012). Development through life: a psychosocial approach (11th ed.). Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2011). Stages of change. Journal of Clinical Psychology67(2), 143–154.