Ayios Ioannis Part 1
We haven't explored the further reaches of the Diarizos Valley much, especially not the hilltops that head towards the Xeros Valley and Paphos Forest. We've been rectifying that recently, and in this blog we want to take you on a visit to Ayios Ioannis. We thought it would be a smallish village, but we were in for a surprise. This blog is large, so we have split it in two parts. The second part will be published in a day or two.
We'll start with a bit of a trailer, to whet your appetite. Ayios Ioannis actually has a bit of history associated with it, and a large entry in the PRIO database:
Agios Ioannis, or Ayyani (Turkish alternative until 1952), is a village located on the southwest foothills of the Troodos mountain range, thirty kilometers northeast of Paphos (Ktima) and four kilometers north of Salamiou. Agios Ioannis means “Saint John” in Greek. Turkish Cypriots adopted the alternative name of Aydın in 1952. It literally means “enlightened,” and is also the name of a town in western Turkey. Following the destruction of the neighboring village of Malounda in the 1953 earthquake, all of that village’s approximately 115 Turkish Cypriot inhabitants were resettled in Agios Ioannis. Later, the area that had been Malounda was also included within the boundaries of Agios Ioannis village.
Part Abandoned, Part Inhabited
This picture pretty much sums up Ayios Ioannis today: a mixture of abandoned and inhabited houses.
Although the Ottoman census of 1831 shows no Christians living in the village, Agios Ioannis always had one or two Greek Cypriot families until 1958. During the British period, the population of the village increased significantly. Following the arrival of the Malounda Turkish Cypriots after the 1953 Paphos earthquake, the population rose to 818 in the 1960 census from 591 recorded in 1946.
Xeros Valley Looking Good
There was a fire near Ayios Ioannis earlier on in the year. Fortunately none of the buildings were affected.
More from PRIO:
No one was displaced from this village during the emergency years of the 1950s, nor during the intercommunal strife of 1963-64. However, the village was one of the strongholds of the Turkish Cypriot Resistance Organization and served as a reception center for displaced Turkish Cypriots from nearby villages such as Geroskipou(306) and Galataria/Yoğurtcular(305). Most of these displaced persons stayed in Agios Ioannis until 1975. In 1971 Richard Patrick recorded the total population of the village as 1,150.
On 14 August 1974, after Fighters in Agios Ioannis refused to surrender their guns, the village was attacked by the Greek Cypriot armed forces. Turkish Cypriot Fighters defended the village for almost three days but eventually fled and sought refuge in the mountains. Greek Cypriot forces subsequently entered the village and this time the Turkish Cypriot Fighters surrendered their guns. Following this event, most of the inhabitants of Agios Ioannis secretly fled over the mountains to the Turkish-controlled part of the island or to the Akrotiri British Sovereign Base Area.
By the time the Vienna agreement was signed, almost 700 people from Agios Ioannis had made their way to the northern part of the divide. Eventually the remaining approximately 200 original inhabitants of Agios Ioannis were escorted by UNFICYP on 18 August 1975 to the northern part of the divide. Almost all of the Turkish Cypriots from Agios Ioannis were resettled in the village of Zodeia/Bostancı(047), although some were also given houses in other villages, such as Karavas/Alsancak(226), Gerollakos/Alayköy(037) and in the towns of Nicosia(074), Kyrenia(236), Famagusta(140) and Morphou(072). The number of the Agios Ioannis/Aydın Turkish Cypriots who were displaced after 1974 was around 1,100 (1,065 in 1973).
So at one point, the village had over 1000 inhabitants. This explains the size of it, and the need for this old school which now stands in ruins.
According to PRIO, the population is now on the wane. The Greek Cypriots that settled after the troubles left, presumably to head for the cities.
Final bit from PRIO:
After the departure of the Turkish Cypriots, Agios Ioannis/Aydın village was used for the settlement of displaced Greek Cypriots from the northern part of the divide. However, after the initial settlement, many of the displaced Greek Cypriots preferred to leave the village and settle elsewhere or use the houses in the village as weekend homes. The 2001 census recorded only 33 people still permanently living there.
On our visit, we didn't just see a village in decline though, we also saw new sprouts of growth, as you shall see. So let's unravel the enigma of Ayios Ioannis together...