Cyprus Critical History Archive, Nicosia

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A review of the Cyprus Critical History Archive, Nicosia, Cyprus.

The Cyprus Critical History Archive is the largest newspaper collection in Cyprus dealing with the various forms of violence generated by the Cyprus issue that took place during the period 1955-1964. This review will detail the history of the archive and the collection of newspapers it contains, and provide a basic overview of the Association which hosts the archive.

History of the Archive 

The Cyprus Critical History Archive (CCHA) is housed in the Home for Cooperation (H4C) in the Ledra Palace area of the Buffer Zone in Nicosia, Cyprus. The Archive was instituted as a joint initiative of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Cyprus Centre. The Archive was based on a new initiative of the PRIO Cyprus Centre that aims to investigate a) how divisive historical narratives have emerged in Cyprus, b) how they are reproduced, and c) what questions we might ask about their production. In response to the need to address these critical and sensitive issues, the initiative has launched an archival project – along with the organization of workshops and seminars on historical reconciliation – intended to collect available information on intercommunal relations and conflict-related violence in a single library and database.

The Cyprus Critical History working group was formed in August 2009, after a PRIO conference on the politics of history in November 2008 and under the initial leadership of Dr. Rebecca Bryant, in response to the need to address the above issues. During the first steps of the CCHA project, the founder of the PRIO conference, the Chrest Foundation, was among the first to provide funding that allowed the Archive to flourish.

Collection

The primary goal and aim of the Archive is to collect and catalogue all available information on intercommunal relations and conflict-related violence in Cyprus, and to make this information available to researchers and to the public. The initiave was launched in recognition of the fact that there is currently no single source to which researchers from either side of the island may turn for comprehensive, multi-lingual information about the history of the conflict. To fill this need, CCHA has collected a vast amount of written and oral materials documenting past crimes and violations (approximately 30,000-35,000), translated most of these and made them available them in an online database. Currently, the Cyprus Critical History Archive covers the period 1955-1964, and it is about to complete the process of digitizing and cataloguing the thousands of articles that were gathered by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot newspapers of the island. The online database was launched for public use in February 2013.

Currently the CCHA covers the Greek Cypriot newspapers Eleftheria, Haravgi, Mahi, and Kypros, and the Turkish Cypriot newspapers Halkın Sesi, Bozkurt, Nacak and a limited number of private collections, as well as newspapers in English, such as the Cyprus Mail. Eventually, it is hoped that the project will extend its temporal scope to 1974, while the typology of sources will include private and public archival documentation, photographic archives, audio-visual material and oral accounts from Cyprus and abroad.

The digitized collection of newspaper articles is organized under broad categories, depending on the kind of violence the articles refer to, ranging from gender-related to non-physical violence (psychological violence, public humiliation, peer-pressure, etc.) to collateral damage, etc.

In addition to the Archive, there is a reference library in the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research where the researcher can consult or borrow from a very good collection of books on Cyprus (Greek, Turkish and English). The library holdings are constantly being increased, especially as a result of generous donations, such as that of the late Peter Loizos. The library’s focus is on Cyprus, including the Turkish Cypriot community, meaning that there are numerous books on the Turkish Cypriot community that fulfill the immediate needs of most scholars.

Practical Matters, Current State and Future Plans

The placement of the archive in the buffer zone makes it readily accessible to researchers from both communities. In addition, the internet website of the archive provides unlimited access to scholars and researchers of all nationalities, as the archive material collection is free to the public. For those who would like to physically visit the CCHA, it is open to the public Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm. The staff of the Home for Cooperation, the NGO that works as an umbrella association and hosts different NGOs, are kind and extremely helpful. The library’s staff, as well as in the secretariat of the Association, are all well–trained and well-informed with regard to the function of the CCHA. Researchers can use or borrow library books by becoming members of the association (20€) or as a basic library member (5€). At the time of writing, the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research has not yet decided whether or not it will extend its coverage to 1974, but this possibility is being carefully considered.

The Cyprus Critical History Archive can be accessed here: http://www.ccha-ahdr.info/.

Nikos Christofis
Turkish Studies, Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS)
University of Leiden, The Netherlands
n.christofis@gmail.com

 

Image: Photograph by Pembe Mentesh, 10 April 2013.

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