Dimitris Christofias, 72, Cyprus President for One Ill-Fated Term, Dies


Mr. Christofias was blamed for ignoring warnings that the munitions, which had been sitting outdoors in the Mediterranean heat for two years, could become unstable.

As president, Mr. Christofias made significant progress toward reunifying the island, said Stavros A. Zenios, a professor at the University of Cyprus. “Unfortunately, he was not equipped to deal with other major crises that hit Cyprus on his watch,” Mr. Zenios said. “He was an unlucky politician, rising much above the level of his competence at the wrong time.”

Mr. Christofias was born to a working class family on Aug. 29, 1946, in Kyrenia, a province now part of the Turkish section of Cyprus. He became involved with left-wing politics as a youth, and from 1969 to 1974 studied history at the Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow, where he earned a doctorate, according to the AKEL party website.

Returning to Cyprus, he rose steadily through the ranks of the local Communist Party, becoming secretary general in 1988. In 2008, he scored one-third of the vote in an initial round of the presidential election and a majority in a runoff to become Cyprus’s first Communist leader. Polls at the time showed him to be Cyprus’s most popular politician, given the best chance of achieving reconciliation because of ideological ties to his Turkish counterpart. Despite his strident Marxist rhetoric, Mr. Christofias left Cyprus’s free market economy largely intact.

But by the time his term expired in February 2013, Mr. Christofias had become one of the most unpopular Cypriot leaders ever, and he declined to seek re-election. He was succeeded as president by Nicos Anastasiades, a political conservative.

Mr. Christofias is survived by his wife, Elsie; his daughters, Marianna and Christina; and a son, Christos, according to numerous sources. The government of Cyprus declared a period of mourning through Tuesday, when Mr. Christofias will receive a state funeral.

Although Mr. Cristofias’s political power faded after he left office, his son, Christos, has pursued a political career and remained true to his father’s Marxist principles. In a speech prepared for the AKEL party’s congress in January, the younger Mr. Cristofias, head of the party’s youth wing, addressed the audience as “comrades,” railed against the “scourge” of global capital, and cited socialist Cuba as an inspiration.

“The tools given to us by the classics of our ideology, namely Marxism-Leninism,” Christos Christofias said, according to the party’s website, “help us to understand how and why our societies are being driven from bad to worse.”

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