‘Nicosia: The story of a shared and contested city’ is a public history project aiming to provide the public and researchers with a historical overview of the city of Nicosia from 1878 to 1974. The project comprises seven interactive maps. The first map was created by Horatio Herbert Kitchener, and was the product of the first survey of Cyprus, conducted by him. The remaining maps come from the Land Survey Department of the Republic of Cyprus. The maps are enriched with demographic data, which are visually represented on each map and each respective municipal quarter.
On Friday, 15 January 2016 the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) presented to the public a new interactive website containing the findings of a three-year-long research project, undertaken by the AHDR with funding from Norway Grants 2009-2014, in partnership with the Council of Europe, in the context of the project “Home for Cooperation”. This unique and innovative website aims at gathering together information on the most significant landmarks of Nicosia, as well as a collection of short personal stories and public scandals that took place in our common capital during the period 1878-1974.
The launch of the website took place at a public event at the Home for Cooperation (H4C) in Nicosia where representatives of the main communities of Cyprus were invited to share thoughts and hopes on how this project could contribute to aknowledging and preserving our respective, yet common heritage.
The night was opened with a short welcome speech by Mr Evren İnançoglu, Press Officer of the AHDR Board. Ms Eleni Loukaidou took the floor on behalf of Mr Constantinos Yiorkadjis (Representative of the Greek Cypriot Community of Nicosia), emphasizing on how the user of the website will be able to visualize a united city, carrying on this knowledge in a future co-existence of all Cypriots. Mr Ali Guralp, representing Mr Mehmet Harmancı (Representative of the Turkish Cypriot Community of Nicosia), also referred to unity and the role all communities played in the development of Nicosia, saying “This project will remind people of the past, where native Nicosian’s were living together, working together… A project like this will put us back to where we once were.”
Equally welcoming of the project were Mr Vartkes Mahdessian, the Representative of the Armenian Community in Cyprus, and Mr Petros Markou who spoke on behalf of Mr Antonis Hadjiroussos, Representative of the Maronite Community in Cyprus. They each spoke of how this project contributes to unity among Cypriots, overcoming issues of diversity, while preserving their own identity in the multicultural Cypriot community. Unfortunately, no representative of the Latin Community was able to attend the event.
Dr Costas Constantinou of the University of Cyprus and scientific advisor of the project, referred to the experience of Nicosians that grew up in a divided city and how they got to know the city of the past, through the stories shared with them by the older generations. He moved on to explain how this website is not a history project as such, but rather a tool one can use to navigate through Nicosia geographically and historically.
Lastly, Mr Christos Mais, Research Associate of the AHDR and coordinator of the project took the floor, thanking all donors, supporters and everyone who contributed to the successful implementation of the project. He then explained how the website represents a collection of maps of Nicosia since the British era and until 1974. The first map dating back to the early 1880s and the last one coming from the Land Survey Department from the early 1970s. All maps were then placed on a contemporary map of the city, where with the help of a magnifying lens one can get a comparative look of how the same location from today, looked in the past. A total of seven maps were used, with some of them being in worse condition and quality than others, as the user can tell by moving the cursor and change maps. He then referred to specific findings, which frequently surprised the researchers themselves, such us information on women’s role in society, the LGBT community, the less-known Roma community of Nicosia and findings on a series of political and other scandals which shocked the society at the time.
The night closed with a Question & Answer session, with the participation of Mr Lellos Demetriades, one of the former and longest-serving Representatives of the Greek Cypriot community of Nicosia, who shared information drawn from his experience since the late 1970s, through other projects aiming at maintaining the unity of Nicosia such as the ‘Nicosia Master Plan’ , which involved the implementation of a common functional re-organisation of the two parts of the city, following the division as early as 1981. As Mr Demetriades put it “Nicosia is a city in transition. Not a divided city. Countries might get divided, but cities don’t”.
The research team of the ‘Nicosia: The story of a shared and contested city’ project are currently looking into ways to expand the research, including also aspects on the less known social and cultural communities of Nicosia. Also, they invite the public to contribute to the project, by sharing ideas, stories, information and audio-visual material about the history of the capital, in order to help the project evolve. As Mr Lyritsas, member of the research team, said “we see this project as an opportunity for historiography to become a bottom up, collective process that will help all of us to reflect on our common past, present and future.”
The website is currently available on www.nicosiaproject.eu in English, with the Greek and Turkish versions due to be released soon.
For more information please contact the AHDR at: +357 22 445740 (ext.101/106) / +90 548 834 5740 or email: [email protected], or visit the AHDR website at www.ahdr.info
This initiative was made possible with funding from Norway Grants 2009-2014 and in partnership with the Council of Europe and is an activity of the ‘Home for Cooperation’ project. The ‘Home for Cooperation’ benefits from a €624,725 grant from Norway Grants. The aim of the project is to support the operation and sustainability of the Home for Cooperation, which shall contribute to the bridge building between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in Cyprus.