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Makarios' origins were humble. He was born Mikhail Mouskos into a peasant family in the village of Panayia. A bright student, young Mouskos entered the monastery of Kykko in the Troodos Mountains at 13 and took the religious name Makarios, which means "blessed" in Greek. He chose to become a "black" or celibate priest rather than one of the "white" priests, who are free to marry but cannot be consecrated bishops. Makarios rose fast: he was sent to Athens to study law and theology, later went to Boston University. In 1948 he was summoned home to turbulent Cyprus to become a bishop.
Makarios' concern for his flock was always political. He once said: "I would consort with the devil himself if it would keep Cyprus and its people independent." In 1956, as the fighting peaked between the British army and the Cypriots, Anthony Eden's government accused the ethnarch of fomenting rebellion and exiled him to the remote Seychelles Islands 3,000 miles from home. But when the British gave up the fight three years later, Makarios was elected President of the newly independent Republic of Cyprus.
His followers had fought for enosis (union) between Cyprus and Greece, but the agreement on independence forbade that. Instead it guaranteed a separate Cyprus and a political share to the Turkish minority. Ancient ethnic hatreds, however, soon brought the two communities into bloody. conflict. The United Nations dispatched a force to patrol the "Green Line" that separated the two ethnic groups. But the ceaseless hostility on Cyprus crippled NATO's eastern flank in the Mediterranean.
While the Turks marshaled their own forces, the Greeks fell to fighting among themselves. In preindependence days, Makarios battled the British with the legendary Colonel George Grivas, whose EOKA (for National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) provided the archbishop's guerrilla legions. After independence, Grivas was banished to Athens as part of the settlement. He later returned secretly to oppose Makarios with a new EOKA-B. After the 1967 coup of the colonels in Greece itself, assassination attempts and other plots against the archbishop multiplied. In 1974 the Athens junta mounted a coup that sent Makarios into hasty exile once again. But five days later (TIME, July 29, 1974) the coup precipitated a Turkish invasion. The result was a humiliating defeat for the dominant Greek Cypriots. When Makarios returned, he found a battered country that had abandoned the idea of any kind of Greco-Turkish accord.
Makarios was scarcely guiltless in the 1974 war. He had effectively blocked Turkish rights and prevented outsiders from seeking reasonable settlements. His arrogance of 1963 was replaced by the sorrow of 1974, and his new credo was, as he told TIME'S Dean Brelis at the time, "to live with the reality of what is and to protect that which we hold.
"I know I will not see an independent unified Cyprus in my lifetime," Makarios added, and he was right. In 1975 the Turks declared their own Turkish Federated State of Cyprus; last week the only notice this rump government took of Makarios' passing was to announce flatly that it would not recognize his successor as the leader of a united Cyprus.