Makarios III

Makarios was the adopted clerical name of Mikhalis Khristodoulou Mouskos (13 August 1913 – 3 August 1977). Makarios was Archbishop and Primate of the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church (1950-77) and first President of the Republic of Cyprus (1960-77).

Early life, studies and church career (1913-50)

Makarios and the Kykko Monastery

Mouskos was born in the village of Panayia in the Paphos district on 13 August 1913. In 1926, at the age of 13, he was admitted to Kykko Monastery as a novice, and was educated there and at Nicosia and Athens, graduating in 1942 with a degree in Theology. He took up the duties of a priest in the Orthodox Church while sustaining an interest in academic theology, and in 1938 received a World Council of Churches scholarship to undertake further study at Boston University, Massachusetts, USA.

In 1948, while still studying at Boston, he was elected Bishop of Kition. Mouskos adopted the clerical name 'Makarios' and returned to Cyprus.

Makarios was a charismatic and popular figure in Cyprus, but his relationship with the British authorities was fraught. 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.

Enosism and EOKA (1950-55)

In 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 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’s instigation, Greece began to raise the ‘Cyprus Question’ 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 decolonise the island. The 1950s were a troubled decade for the British Empire and the cause of Enosis was quickly and amorphously allied to the idea of independence. In 1955, a new organisation was formed under the banner of ‘Ethniki Organosis Kypriakon Agoniston’ (in English ‘National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters’) or 'EOKA'. This is a typical independence movement of the period, viewed by some as a legitimate resistance movement and by others as an intimidatory 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.

Escalation, ‘Taksim’ and independence (1955-60)

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, characterised in the British press as a crooked Greek priest and viewed with suspicion by the British authorities, was exiled to the Seychelles on 9 March. 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 Question’ became increasingly polarised 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 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. On 1 March 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 13 December 1959 and Makarios roundly 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 (1960-63)

After his election Makarios, together with the Vice-President-elect, Dr Fazil Kucuk, continued to draw up plans for Cyprus’s future. By now, Makarios – always a canny politician – 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 16 August 1960, the day the Union flag was finally lowered in Nicosia, Makarios 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). He attended the Belgrade NAM conference in 1961, and unnerved the governments in London and Washington with his lukewarm policy towards the West. This was seen in the US as unpredictability and a tendency towards Communism and Makarios was vilifed as a ‘Castro of the Mediterranean’, although he had by now been rehabilitated in the British press and was affectionately nicknamed ‘Black Mak’ on account of his clerical garb.

Makarios and the Cyprus Problem (1963-74)

The idea of an independent path for Cyprus had not taken root among the general public and the political scene was still highly polarised. 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 up 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. However, the Amendments were seen by many Turkish Cypriots as threatening constitutional protections for them against domination by the majority Greek Cypriots. In response to Makarios’s proposals, most Turkish Cypriots in public office, including Vice-President Kucuk, resigned, and 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, and others suggesting that the Turkish community was sabotaging the Cypriot settlement and already preparing for partition by Turkey.

The political landscape in Cyprus remained interminable. UN peacekeeping operations (UNFICYP) commenced in 1964 and helped to soothe, but not to 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. By 1967, when the military junta seized power in Athens, Makarios was viewed in Greece as a tin-pot renegade who had failed to deliver on the promise of Enosis. Accordingly, the Greek colonels sponsored a right-wing coup in Nicosia on 15 July 1974. Makarios fled and was replaced by Nikos Sampson, a Greek soldier. Sampson’s presidential career was short-lived, however, as the regime in Athens collapsed only a few days later. 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.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Guarantee, Britain, Greece and Turkey were entitled to sanction one or all of them to intervene militarily to restore peace to the island. With the Greek government in collapse, however, and the British unwilling to intervene during the constitutional uncertainty of a hung parliament, Turkey was the only Guarantor power willing to act, and act it did. As is to be expected, the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey on 20 July, five days after the coup, remains highly controversial. 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 represented the execution of a long-standing ploy to re-establish Turkish control of a large portion of Cyprus.

Makarios remained in London for five months. Having succeeded in securing international recognition that his administration was the rightful government of the whole island, he returned to Cyprus and focussed solely on restoring Cypriot territorial integrity. He was not successful. Turkey has remained in occupation ever since and the situation is still unresolved.

Death and Legacy

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[4]. 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

Makarios statue in Nicosia, Photo : Augusta Stylianou


In international circles, Makarios is regarded as one of the most notable politicians of his time. In the The Times editorial on the day following his death Makarios is described as "one of the most instantly recognisable figures of international politics". 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" and of "a statesman too big for his small island".

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 canonisation in the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Ardent followers of Makarios, including former Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and former forign minister Patroklos Stavrou have passionately defended his infallibility.

Others criticise 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 criticised 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.

The Spanish pop act Un Pingüino en mi Ascensor published a song (El Arzobispo Makarios (y su botella de Larios)[ "Archbishop Makarios (and his bottle of Larios)") in 1999.

Old Cup with Makarios and Grivas


“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, August 16, 1974

"Greek Cypriot people, you hear a well-known voice, I am Makarios, I am alive, I am not dead as the junta of Athens wanted to be" - Makarios, 1974 radio announcement following the destruction of the presidential palace by the coup forces.

1974 News, Makarios optimistic about the solution of the Cyprus problem.

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