What Role Will Strategic Anniversaries Play in Regional Events?

By Chris Deliso

November 18, 2020

Turkish President Erdoğan visited the divided city of Famagusta, Cyprus on 15 November, controversially calling for a ‘two-state solution’ to the Cyprus conflict. He gave the visit enhanced significance by pointing out that it was the 37th anniversary of the creation of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (a status which no country save Turkey has ever acknowledged).

While few would have marked the date on their calendar as a potential indicator of new diplomatic escalations in the Eastern Mediterranean, in hindsight it was perfectly predictable- as was the official condemnation statement from Greece’s foreign ministry, which called the Turkish leader’s visit an ‘unprecedented provocation’ in violation of UN resolutions. Greece and Greek Cypriots oppose Turkey’s plans to build up the Turkish-controlled former Greek-inhabited empty area of Famagusta, known as Varosha.

THE GAUNTLET IS IN SIGHT

Emotionally and historically loaded anniversaries such as the above are only going to increase in number and intensity in the next decade, as Greece’s 2021 independence bicentennial will be followed immediately the centennial of the Greece-Turkish population exchanges and the 1923 creation of the Turkish state, climaxing with the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 2024. Along with these are many other smaller accompanying anniversaries that will both have political resonance and be used as staging-points for announcements and events.

On 10 October 2020, I explored this question in a LinkedIn article titled ‘Anniversaries and Analysis: the Importance of Sophisticated Modeling for Eastern Mediterranean Events, 2020-30.’ The article gave a longer overview of some of the key events to come, by name and by type, as well as some suggestions for creating a system (ideally, though special software) for collating all relevant anniversaries with cross-categorical applications for future events as well.

This would provide anyone interested in the region with better and more precise advance warning of likely event triggers and dates at which certain events could manifest or be discussed in the media, by politicians, or in the form of public gatherings with political import.

My article also discussed complex overlapping anniversaries and (otherwise unrelated) unfolding events, and how this can be assessed in events mapping for the region.

BENEFITS OF ANALYTICAL EXCHANGE: CROSS-COORDINATION OF EVENTS AND ADVANCE WARNING

Even without an advanced technological platform in existence, simple awareness of the major ongoing and recurring anniversaries, coupled with an understanding of dates and periods to watch for other reasons (i.e., elections, military exercises, treaty deadlines, etc.) will give analysts a good degree of insight into what the more and less likely outcomes are for the target period in the region.

This is aided by the known tendency of regional political and religious leaders to associate certain national, ethnic and historic value and relationships to their cherished anniversaries- and of course, their orientation towards the anniversaries of the adversary. We can assess with a certain degree of likelihood how such regional actors will act and how they will orient the celebration of historic anniversaries to local and national objectives. In most cases, we will find that this approach contrasts quite significantly with that of Western European leaders (not to mention groups from elsewhere around the world).

An example of howunplanned contemporaneous events impact scheduled anniversaries is the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, which has seriously undermined amd altered the trajectory of Greek bicentennial events, with the Greek 2021 committee having to change its entire approach to event support in advance due to public movement restrictions stemming from the crisis.

CONCLUSIONS

Taking some time to organize and document a large sample size of regional anniversaries will be of increasing value to any individual or organization tasked with analyzing regional events in the decade to come.

While anniversaries in the Eastern Mediterranean have always had a potent impact on political, religious and social affairs, what is striking about the upcoming period is the total stack-up of events in all countries in the area. Particularly with Turkey under the AKP government perceiving itself as being on a historic mission of restoring the former imperial greatness of the Ottomans, it is going to be a very complex and likely dangerous time in the region. An awareness of the key anniversaries will provide analysts with a timetable and schedule of events- allowing an opportunity to prepare for the reverberation of these events before they occur.

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