More background info:
for the overall historical context and EOKA see the history section
in the chapter about Cyprus
I found it hard to unearth any background information about this museum. It doesn’t seem to have a website of its own. And the official Nicosia website only offers up some minimal info.
This includes that the first incarnation of the museum was apparently founded within two years of the end of the EOKA fight and Cyprus gaining independence, namely by an EOKA fighter going by the fabulously multisyllabic name of Christodoulos Papachrysostomou.
The current incarnation of the museum is apparently the result of a move to its purpose-built new premises in 2001. It opened on 30 April that year.
Note that the Greek name of the museum, as it appears above the entrance, is “Mouseion Agonos” (my transliteration), which would translate simply as ‘Struggle Museum’, although officially the longer form in English used in the title of this chapter is given at the site and in many references to it. Sometimes, though, it is given as “National Struggle Museum” in other sources (including the Lonely Planet guidebook to Cyprus). However, that can cause confusion with the museum of that name
in the Turkish part of the city in North Nicosia
. And in fact when you search for it online you do encounter plenty of cases of such confusion.
So do make sure you can tell them apart! They are quite different from each other, with very different narratives and aims.
What there is to see:
Quite a bit – but come prepared. Better read up on the subject matter of the part of Cypriot history
concerned, and its context, before visiting this museum. That’s because the narrative conveyed here is actually rather one-sided. It’s obviously, as you would expect, very pro-EOKA and full of “hero worship”, but in addition it’s not only anti-British (again, that you would expect) but in places also decidedly anti-Turkish. And you’re not always told the whole story, while at the same time there is an overemphasis on personal details of specific EOKA fighters and their battles and weapons.
It all begins on the ground floor with a text panel that seems rather new, probably added after some questions were raised about parts of the exhibition – see below
. The text basically justifies the claim that Cyprus
should be united with Greece
– that its “Hellenization” goes back to the 14th century B.C., that since then its people have been Greek, despite “foreign dominations”. It then goes on about how the British didn’t honour the wish of the people for ‘enosis’ (unification with Greece) and mentions the referendum of the 1950s, in which allegedly 78% voted for enosis, and those who didn’t were Turks or foreign nationals (that at least is a bit less of a claim than the one the text panel we will encounter a little later
). It praises the liberation movement under Colonel Georgios Grivas (military arm of EOKA) and Archbishop Makarios III (political arm). It finishes with lamenting the “disputed” London and Zurich agreements, which paved the way for independence (but not ‘enosis’).
In the centre of the main ground floor hall there’s a kind of pre-exhibition about the historical context before and at the beginning of the armed struggle. This is mainly a photo exhibition showing, amongst other things, demonstrations as well as British soldiers searching civilians and making arrests. There are few texts and they are mostly in Greek only here – elsewhere English translations are given for most labels and explanatory texts (but not of documents).
You then continue to the next floor. En route there are temporary exhibition rooms as well as a room with five presumably once interactive media stations with (tube) screens, but they were all dead and dark.
Next comes a room that briefly chronicles earlier calls for unification with Greece, such as in a referendum on the 1921 centenary of the revolution in Greece and an uprising in 1931.
And then there’s a long text panel about the “plebiscite of the Cyprus people” of 1950, apparently a declaration made by the Archbishopric of Nicosia
on 29 January 1950. To begin with it claims that Cyprus
has been Greek for thousands of years until the period of “Turkish despotism” began. This conveniently leaves unmentioned the many centuries of Roman, Byzantine, Egyptian, Genoese and Venetian rule that went before (see Cyprus history
). The text goes on about how Greece managed to liberate the Aegean Islands from the “Turkish yoke”, including Crete. The latter is actually an interesting case because at one point it used to be not dissimilar to Cyprus, namely in that it once had a 24% minority Turkish population, until Turkey
relinquished Crete and the Turkish population of Crete was relocated to the Turkish mainland in a 1923 compulsory “population exchange”(which also affected Greek Orthodox Christians who were removed from Turkish territories). But this is not mentioned here. The text instead goes into detail about the 1950 “plebiscite” and claims that 95.7% voted in favour of ‘enosis’, though that was only the Greek Cypriots, because the Turkish minority boycotted the vote.
There are also two large panels with blow-up photos of Archbishop Makarios and Colonel Georgios Grivas, also known under his chosen ‘nom de guerre’ Digenis (sometimes it’s spelled with an extra ‘h’ thrown in either after the initial ‘D’ or after the ‘g’; and it’s usually this name that he is referenced with in the remainder of the exhibition). The photo is the famous and iconic one with him giving a military salute while staring resolutely into space.
There’s also already a section about the concentration camps
set up by the British to incarcerate captured EOKA members (see under Kokkinotrimithia
). On display are several clandestinely taken photos from those camps and quotes from memoires of survivors. In addition there are walls of extra photos where dozens of spaces are now empty, the photos missing. I wonder why that is so – were they taken down? Stolen? Censored? No explanation is given.
Eventually you come to the first of the main permanent exhibition rooms. In the centre stands a group of sculptures of grey protesters waving Greek flags and along the walls are yet more large black-and-white photos as well as exhibits of documents and glass cabinets with artefacts on display. The latter are mostly personal items that belonged to specific EOKA fighters, including Grivas. Inevitably, there’s also a bust of Grivas.
The other names will probably not mean anything to people without an insider’s knowledge of EOKA.
There’s also a shirt not attributed to anybody specific and labelled “passive resistance shirt” – presumably because it’s printed in a blue and white pattern (i.e. the Greek national flag’s colours).
Among the more poignant artefacts on display are actual bullets that killed specific “heroes”, as well as a bible another fighter was carrying and that deflected a bullet, thus saving him.
There’s a copy of a wanted note for Grivas (offering a 10,000 pounds reward). But the type of objects mostly on display are weapons, from simple pistols to rifles and from machine guns to mortars. Hand-made mines and moulds for making hand grenades are amongst the exhibits too. It’s a bit of a guerilla war weapons overload.
In the centre of two of the main exhibition rooms are mock-ups of hideouts in the same grey colour as that group of protesters in the first room. One shows how well camouflaged they were, but an opening on the side lets you glimpse in to see a dummy guerrilla fighter sitting in there. On the other mock-up there’s a fighter just emerging from his hiding place.
On the walls are endless photos of specific battles and EOKA sabotage acts (e.g. at an RAF
base where they destroyed four planes). On display too are whole series of very graphic photos of dead bodies, mostly killed EOKA fighters. These may be quite shocking for some visitors. Be forewarned.
Yet another poignant object in a similar category is the displayed bloodied shirt of another killed “hero”. This sits amongst displays of yet more personal belongings including books, typewriters, lamps, hats, gloves, pocket knives, and even musical instruments.
I noticed a particular gender bias – everything is male! Apparently women played no part in EOKA (nor in the British military – really?). So it’s somewhat surprising to suddenly find a photo of a girl in one corner together with some needlework she’d done. Her name is given together with the statement that she “died of fear during the British acts of violence in Famagusta on 3 October 1958”. What these acts were and how one can die of fear alone is not explained.
Amongst the many photos on display are also two series of destroyed buildings marked “Turkish vandalism” and “British vandalism”; while images of buildings destroyed by EOKA are labelled as “blown up by EOKA”.
There’s also another section about the British concentration camps
(see above and, again, especially Kokkinotrimithia
), including displays of wooden items made by inmates. A particularly dark part is that of torture employed by the British, and the exhibition names-and-shames about a dozen British interrogators/torturers, together with portrait photos.
In one corner is a wall of cartoons – but unfortunately all in Greek only so without the prerequisite knowledge of the language you can only speculate about their meaning. Presumably they all have in one way or another to do with the “Cyprus problem”.
A prison cell mock-up with a grey dummy inmate inside heralds the final section of the main exhibition, which is about the EOKA members executed by the British who were subsequently buried in secret in the so-called “Imprisoned Graves
On display is one of the three original nooses from the execution chamber. Another is still at the original site
, the third was taken away by the British, so the exhibition claims. In addition some letters written by those condemned to death in their cells are on display, handcuffs used on them and even a pickaxe and a shovel allegedly used in the digging of their graves in the prison.
Ramps lead up another level, located just under the roof. In the centre is a reconstruction of the gallows at the Nicosia Central Prison (with three replica nooses). Along two walls facing the mock gallows in the central part are lots of little niches with portrait photos of “fallen” EOKA members together with a little electric candle for each of them and brief notes about birth and death dates and cause of death (shot, executed, blown up by accident, etc.).
And that’s it – from here you have to retrace your steps all the way through the museum to get back to the entrance/exit.
All in all
, I found this museum a little off balance. On the one hand there’s too hefty a dose of “hero worship” for my liking; at the same time the language used in references to the British, and especially the Turks, is occasionally a bit heavy-handed, and there’s no mention of the atrocities committed by EOKA either (cf. especially the Museum of Barbarism
). The accounts of Cypriot history
are also a bit biased and sanitized. Some may also criticize that a number of the photos on display are unnecessarily graphic. This is probably why the Lonely Planet guidebook says the museum is “really for die-hard history buffs and perhaps bloodthirsty children” (7th ed., p151). That’s an exaggeration, but it is true that the museum is probably not suitable for more sensitive visitors. The exhibition is also often overly specific with regard to certain EOKA members while at the same time not explaining enough about the context, so that much of what is on display remains somewhat obscure. You won’t really learn all that much history here. That’s why I suggest you read up on the subject before heading to this museum.
in the eastern half of the walled Old Town of Nicosia (south)
, just north of the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cyprus Folk Art Museum.
Access and costs: slightly hidden, but not too hard to find; free.
Easily walkable from within or near the walled Old Town of Nicosia (south)
, otherwise you’d need a taxi. There’s no other public transport.
When coming from the Venetian Walls, head for the Podocattaro Bastion and the Liberty Monument (see under Nicosia
). The street leading into the Old Town opposite the monument takes you to a roundabout at the Archbishop’s Palace. Turn right here and walk past the palace, the neighbouring church and the Folk Art Museum and you’ve nearly made it. The entrance is to the side in the courtyard, reached by walking through a small garden. It’s also signposted.
Opening times: Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; closed at weekends and on public holidays.
Time required: I spent about an hour in this museum, but I can imagine that visitors with a more specific interest in EOKA and the roles of all its key players could spend much monger in there, in particular if they also can read Greek.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Nicosia (south)
Combinations with non-dark destinations: directly adjacent to the south is the Folk Art Museum, next to that the Agios Ioannis Church (said to sport lively frescoes inside) and behind that the Byzantine Museum, all just steps away from the Museum of the National Struggle.
- EOKA Museum 01 - exterior
- EOKA Museum 02 - entrance
- EOKA Museum 03 - old car permanently parked outside
- EOKA Museum 04 - intro exhibition on the ground floor
- EOKA Museum 05 - main exhibition upstairs
- EOKA Museum 06 - exhibits
- EOKA Museum 07 - guerrilla uniform
- EOKA Museum 08 - subtle resistance colours
- EOKA Museum 09 - Georgios Grivas bust
- EOKA Museum 10 - not working
- EOKA Museum 11 - quite a few missing bits
- EOKA Museum 12 - weapons
- EOKA Museum 13 - machine guns
- EOKA Museum 14 - rifles
- EOKA Museum 15 - bloodied shirts
- EOKA Museum 16 - bullet
- EOKA Museum 17 - personal belongings of one of the celebrated heroes
- EOKA Museum 18 - more - and a rare female touch
- EOKA Museum 19 - improvised landmines
- EOKA Museum 20 - home-made hand grenades
- EOKA Museum 21 - model of a hideout
- EOKA Museum 22 - dummy hiding inside
- EOKA Museum 23 - emerging from the hideout
- EOKA Museum 24 - mountain pass diorama
- EOKA Museum 25 - prison cell mock-up
- EOKA Museum 26 - handcuffs
- EOKA Museum 27 - gallows reconstruction at the top
- EOKA Museum 28 - apparently one of the original nooses
- EOKA Museum 29 - electric candles for the dead