Would Greek Cypriots accept the return of the north of Cyprus if the Turkish Cypriots were expelled?

I’ll second Spyros Theodoritsis. Yes, Greek Cypriots killed Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus in intercommunity violence. Yes, there was de facto partition of the island since 1963. Yes, if you talk to at least some Greek Cypriots for long enough (as I did with my uncle there), you’ll work out that despite their professed desire for a reunified Cyprus (as long as the mainland Turks go away), they don’t necessarily have a lot of respect for Turkish Cypriots.

But no, making Cyprus Türkenrein has never been a talking point for Greek Cypriots. They do want their homes back, as you’ve clarified the question, OP, but they do actually want reunification and peace as well. I don’t think they’d trust any population exchange solution to resolve anything anyway: it’s a cause of Turkish resentment just waiting to happen.

Although it has to be said, the newer generation of Greek Cypriots has gotten quite used to living with partition; and reunification is no longer for Greek Cypriots an existential question, the way it has been for Turkish Cypriots.

Why does Iran have a variety of ethnic groups?

Mehrdad, canım, I don’t know. I will guess, but whatever I guess, Dimitris Almyrantis will guess better.

Here goes.

  • The usual answer is, Iran is at a crossroads of civilisations. Maybe. But you know, so is Greece, so is Turkey, so is Russia, so is Spain. In itself, that’s not actually an answer; it’s only the beginnings of an answer.
  • Like many countries, Iran has ethnic spillover at its borders—Kurds next to Iraqi Kurdistan, Arabs in Khuzestan. That’s only a small part of it.
  • Iran was in the pathway of a major population movement, that of the Turkic peoples. Unlike Turkey, that did not result in a demographic takeover: the Persian ethnicity was well-established and prestigious, and the Azeris and Turkmens were not waging a war of cultural or religous conquest when they arrived. But it did result in the Torki being a sizeable and secure minority.
  • Iran was ruled by a multiethnic empire until fairly recently, which did not particularly care about how Farsi or Torki you were. (At least, that’s what you and Pegah tell me!)
  • Multiethnic empires facilitated internal migration of different ethnic groups: hence the Georgians and Armenians in Fereydan (which is nowhere near the Caucasus), or the Circassians imported by the shahs.
  • Iran did not have time or incentive to embrace the strongly centralising, “One Ethnicity One Nation” ideal that took hold of much of Europe. So there was not much opportunity for Persians to assimilate other ethnicities—even those closest to them, such as the Mazandaranis or Gilakis, let alone the Lurs.

So: some accidents of history, including the movement of the Turkic peoples; multi-ethnic empire; and lack of overt assimilatory policies. Shi’a religion and common cultural heritage, rather than ethnicity, have been entrusted with the role of binding Iran together.

Why do you think Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism Failed?

Mariam Als, thank you for your A2As. I truly am not qualified to answer this, and I hope Dimitris Almyrantis will. Irene Avetyan, I’m looking at you too. This is more to provoke an answer out of them, and it’s not rooted in any great understanding of Ottoman or Turkish history.

(That, and I’m cleaning out my A2A queue today.)

There are various forces historically that give cohesion to States. We have seen a change in the relative strength of those forces in the last couple of centuries; and that has undermined both Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism, in favour of Nationalism.

I’m not familiar with the term Ottomanism, but I’ll assume it’s the whole notion of a multi-ethnic empire, with a dominant ethnicity and/or religion and/or culture. Europe was doing the same thing with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And the Ottoman Empire collapsed for the same reason as the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Nationalism was a more compelling cause for the non-dominant peoples within the empire.

I recently had an exchange with Erdi Küçük about footage of Greek POWs discussing their encounter with Atatürk.


Greek with Turkish subtitles, no English unfortunately. The gist is, Atatürk had won, and had done away with the Ottoman Empire in the process; but he was still complaining to the Greek POWs of how disloyal they had been to the Empire, and how the Empire had indulged their theatrical performances of Greek nationalist plays with no recrimination. (“The stage was white with kilts and swords!”)

Erdi said something that blew me away with how perceptive it was:

You sort of realize that at that point, he’s still a bitter Ottoman officer who couldn’t get over the fact that empire is gone (and his viewpoint is exactly the reason why it’s gone), and he’s unhappy even at victory.

Atatürk’s viewpoint was still Ottomanist. It could not cope with the Greeks’ Nationalism.

Nationalism, admittedly, has been a poor fit for the Arabic-Speaking world. But it’s worked a treat for Turkey, which has embraced it whole-heartedly (even if it is launching its own Pan-Turkic system of alliances now). And, in a way I haven’t quite worked out, nationalism (or at least, a Shi’a-centric focus) has worked fine for Iran too.

If Ottomanism was frustrated by European Nationalism, Pan-Islamism failed even earlier: the Ummah had already stopped paying attention to a single caliph when the Fatimids and the Ummayads set up their own caliphates in the tenth century: Caliphate. Pan-Islamism was frustrated by the emergence of rival centres of power within the Arabic speaking Sunni world, long before the Turks were part of the picture: Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Fez, Cordoba; and there was no possibility that India, let alone Indonesia, would ever be yoked into the same political entity as the Arabs.

Any notion of Pan-Islamism is anachronistic; the Rashidun (the first caliphate of Islam) is not coming back, and the Rashidun was never going to stay united with it covering the amount of ground it did so quickly. The Ottoman Sultan was the nominal caliph; but I just can’t buy it that the Sultan’s caliphate meant all that much in terms of keeping the empire together. It didn’t make Morocco or Iran rush to join up.

Why did the Ancient Greeks refer to Ancient Blacks (the Ethiopians) as ‘blameless’ and ‘favored by the gods’? Also, what does it mean?

(Oh, God, not Afrocentric history, anything but that.)

Afrocentric pages online say Diodorus Siculus said:

“The Aethiopians (Ethiopians) are high favored with the gods, they were the first of all men created by the gods and were the founders of the Egyptian Civilization.”

Diodorus Siculus actually says this:

LacusCurtius • Diodorus Siculus

Now the Ethiopians, as historians relate, were the first of all men and the proofs of this statement, they say, are manifest. […] furthermore, that those who dwell beneath the noon-day sun were, in all likelihood, the first to be generated by the earth, is clear to all; since, inasmuch as it was the warmth of the sun which, at the generation of the universe, dried up the earth when it was still wet and impregnated it with life, it is reasonable to suppose that the region which was nearest the sun was the first to bring forth living creatures.

OK. That’s not saying Greeks thought black people were better than them. That’s just a Just-So story that the equator originated all life because Heat, somehow. And it has nothing to do with the Olduwai Gorge!

And they say that they were the first to be taught to honour the gods and to hold sacrifices and processions and festivals and the other rites by which men honour the deity; and that in consequence their piety has been published abroad among all men, and it is generally held that the sacrifices practised among the Ethiopians are those which are the most pleasing to heaven. As witness to this they call upon the poet who is perhaps the oldest and certainly the most venerated among the Greeks; for in the Iliad he represents both Zeus and the rest of the gods with him as absent on a visit to Ethiopia to share in the sacrifices and the banquet which were given annually by the Ethiopians for all the gods together:

For Zeus had yesterday to Ocean’s bounds
Set forth to feast with Ethiop’s faultless men,
And he was followed there by all the gods.

That just means that Homer found the Ethiopians exotic. And again, in all likelihood the reason for that was simply the Ancient Greeks, in Homer’s time, thinking Gods = Sun = Equator = Black people.

And they state that, by reason of their piety towards the deity, they manifestly enjoy the favour of the gods, inasmuch as they have never experienced the rule of an invader from abroad; for from all time they have enjoyed a state of freedom and of peace one with another, and although many and powerful rulers have made war upon them, not one of these has succeeded in his undertaking.

We actually know very little of the History of Ethiopia before the Kingdom of Aksum. Diodorus knew very little too. And that’s hardly a strong argument for anything.

They say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris having been the leader of the colony. For, speaking generally, what is now Egypt, they maintain, was not land but sea when in the beginning the universe was being formed; afterwards, however, as the Nile during the times of its inundation carried down the mud from Ethiopia, land was gradually built up from the deposit.

Yeah. More Just-So stories, I fear. You can read more at the link.

As far as I can tell, everything is just exoticisation of a people who lived near the equator, and that Greeks had very little contact with. (And Diodorus wrote in the Roman era anyway.)

Why can’t we perceive onomatopoeia in other languages as easily as in our native language?

René Alix has basically covered it in his answer (Vote #1 René Alix’s answer to Why can’t we perceive onomatopoeia in other languages as easily as in our native language?)

But there’s something that’s only implicit in René’s answer, that I’ll make explicit:

No actual dogs really sound like that. And so you get the transcription of a facsimile of a sound representing entire microcosms of sounds, and end up with varying, though often vaguely similar words. Oh, and then somebody goes and transliterates them from another language with a different writing system, so we find out that Mandarin Chinese use ”wong wong” for their dog bark, and Arabic speakers use “nabah”.

To make it explicit: onomatopoeias in language are still somewhat arbitrary mappings of sound to meaning. There is a somewhat arbitrary choice of a particular rendering of a bark or a splash into sound, and that choice becomes conventionalised as a word of a particular language.

Because the choice is somewhat arbitrary and conventionalised, it will make sense to you once someone has pointed it out to you, and you are already familiar with it. But without forewarning, you may be surprised. As English speakers are indeed surprised at wong wong or nabah—and as Arabic or Chinese speakers are surprised at woof woof or arf arf or bow wow.

You aren’t surprised at Chinese onomatopoeia because you learned those words, just as you learned any word in Chinese. You can recognise the limited degree of non-arbitrariness of the words, their Iconicity. You are surprised at English onomatopoeia, because you expect onomatopoeia not to be conventionalised, but purely transparent in its iconicity. And that’s what I’m saying: onomatopoeia is not as iconic as you expect, and our native language knowledge of onomatopoeia blinds us to that.

Why are sports in Australia important?

Because, for better or worse, Sports in Australia has contributed to Australians’ sense of who they are. And it has done so since easily the 1870s.

For the answer to why that has happened: See How has sport shaped Australia’s national identity?

What were your first question and answer on Quora?

First question, Nov 23 2015:

How is the UK version of Drunk History different from the US version?

No answers. That taught me something valuable about Quora. 🙂 As Yishan Wong once memorably said: Quora is a great place to answer questions. It’s not a great place to get your own questions answered. 🙂

First answer, 20 Aug 2015:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? Is it a finite amount that someone could potentially read?

A question that I had direct professional knowledge of. It embarked me on a good road on Quora; the sociable answers and the later answers came later.

What is your reason for having a goatee?

As I said in Nick Nicholas’ answer to How are men with goatees perceived, and how do they think they are perceived? : they were very fashionable in the mid 90s. I took it up after some facial hair experimentation, and Australians nowadays seem to have big problems with moustaches (because of overexposure in the 70s). I’m a stability-seeking kind of person, I liked it, and I stuck with it even after it became a lot less fashionable.

What is the twenty-third letter of the Latin alphabet?

I see what you did there, OP.

Yes, the 23rd letter of the Latin alphabet depends on which version of the Latin alphabet you’re using: there’s no universal 23rd letter, because there’s no universal repertoire of Latin letters. Some languages have fewer letters than English. Some have more letters than English. Some languages count letters with diacritics as distinct letters. Some languages count digraphs as distinct letters as well.

In English, it’s W. In Latin, it’s Z. In Turkish, it’s Ş. In Spanish up to 2010 (which counted <ll> and <ch> as separate letters), it was T. In Albanian, it’s Q.

What is the point of life if you just die and most of us are forgotten in time?

Ah, Jeremy. This is not a trivial question. And most of the non-religious people have converged on the same answer; I liked Bobby Strick’s formulation.

When I was in my 20s, I yearned to cheat death by joining that 0.1%. Hence the whole “get my scientific papers laminated and sent to Svalbard” thing, which I was actually in earnest about.

And you know, it is wonderful to change the world, and it is wonderful to invent something. It is wonderful to have your name outlive you. But it won’t be for that long. Even if we survive as a civilisation another century, which is a big if, who gets to be remembered from 2000 years ago? Not that many. Who from 10000 years ago? Nobody. That’s not just the invention of literacy; that’s the way it goes. All that we are about, all our inventions and innovations and art and science and glory on this earth, all of it will be dust one day, and will be forgotten even before it is dust. At best, your greatest deed buys a century.

So. Ignore that 0.1%. Do not ignore the urge to create, or to change the world, or to make a difference; just don’t think it buys you more than a century. It has meaning, not because of what people will think of it 10 millennia hence: they won’t (even if there are people around by then). It has meaning, because the meaning is with us, right now, with our society, with our fellow humans, with our community of understanding.

Meaning, as any semiotician will tell you, is pointless without someone there to do the interpreting of the meaning. And who’s doing the interpreting? You’re looking at them. You’re it. And your fellow humans are it.

And that goes for the remaining 99.9% as well. The meaning of life? It’s with those who do the interpreting. It’s with us, your fellow humans. Right now. Live now in us. Live now for us. Live now with us. And we’ll do the same with you.

… Wow, Jeremy. Who knew semiotics could be so life-affirming!