A few years ago, I had a professor who was very negative about Southeastern Europe, and especially the former Yugoslavia and Cyprus. When my classmates and I went to Cyprus, he told us Nicosia would remain divided by its huge partition wall long after all of us youngsters were dead.
Vicious nationalism was too deeply embedded in the fibers of Balkan cultures for people to do better in the foreseeable future. The status quo, he said, was about the best we or anyone could hope for. How mercilessly deterministic, I thought.
Almost two and a half years passed. Both the Republic of Cyprus and the de facto independent but unrecognized (by all but Turkey and Azerbaijan) Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus elected new, less nationalist leaders.
On April 3, 2008, when Ledra St. –the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the capital– opened for the first time since Cyprus was divided, the cynical professor and his new class of students were the first Americans to pass through where a wall had been moments before.