Dodecanese and Cyprus 1912-1946: An Overview

By Stavros T. Stavridis

Historical Researcher, National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research,
Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia

In a brief document (below), the Dominions Office in London notified the Australian Government on July 4, 1949 regarding Greek claims to the Dodecanese Islands and the Cyprus. As a result of the Italo-Turkish war, Italy ‘temporarily’ occupied the Dodecanese Islands under the Treaty of Ouchy signed in October 18, 1912. The Italians were to assume full sovereignty of these islands under Article 8 of the secret Treaty of London of April 26, thus joining the Entente-Britain, France and Russia- during the First World War.

During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Greek Premier Eleftherios Venizelos claimed the Dodecanese as part of Greece’s territorial claims. Unfortunately, the Italians led by Prime Minister Orlando and Foreign Minister Sonnino refused to hand these islands over to Greece.

It was the Venizelos-Tittoni agreement of July 29, 1919 where Italy would cede the Dodecanese to Greece with the exception of Rhodes. Under the Treaty of Sevrès signed on August 10, 1920, Turkey ceded the Dodecanese to Italy (Articles 121-122) who, in turn, was to transfer them to Greece.

The Dodecanese continued to remain under Italian occupation even with the return of King Constantine in December 1920 until the Asia Minor disaster of September 1922. It was the Treaty of Lausanne signed on July 24 1923 (Article 15), where Italy came into legal possession of these islands.

When fascist Italy capitulated in September 1943, Nazi Germany assumed the administration of the Dodecanese, until she too surrendered to Britain. The islands immediately came under British authority, until their transfer to Greece in March 1947.

Under the Article 14 of the Italian peace treaty negotiated in Paris between July 29-October 5, 1946, Italy officially transferred ownership of the Dodecanese to Greece.

Great Britain annexed Cyprus in November 1914, after the Ottoman Empire had cast its lot with the Central Powers in the 1914-18 war. Greece remained neutral for a great part of the First World War until she officially declared war on the Central Powers in July 1917.

In October 1915 Britain offered Cyprus to Greece on the condition that she went to the aid of her Serbian ally. However Greek Prime Minister Zaimis declined the British offer in order to hold fast to King Constantine’s policy of neutrality. Greece had lost the greatest opportunity for the possession of Cyprus.

Under the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, Turkey renounced all rights to Cyprus to Britain and it would not be until the mid-1950’s that Turkey would take an active interest in the island’s future.

In October 1931, the Cypriots openly demanded enosis (union) with Greece and Britain “crushed” the revolt by dispatching some of its troops from Egypt. The island’s constitution was suspended and the ringleaders of the revolt were sent into exile by the British authorities.

With the conclusion of the 1939-45 war, the Greeks and their fellow compatriots in Cyprus saw the opportunity for pushing the issue of enosis once again. Unfortunately Britain would not entertain any notion of ceding the Cyprus to Greece. Cyprus occupied an important strategic position for Britain’s wider political, military and economic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

About the Author

Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: an Australian Press Perspective."

Stavros has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at international conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Stavros' research interests are the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle Eastern history, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in the Balkan Wars 1912-13 and the First World War and history in general.

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