Name and position
The name Cyprus has a somewhat uncertain etymology. One suggestion is that it comes from the Greek word "?????????? (kypa'rissos)" meaning "cypress tree" or even from the Greek name of the plant Lawsonia alba (henna),
"?????? (kypros)". Another school suggests that it stems from the
eterocyprian word for copper. Dossin, for example, suggests that it has
roots to the Sumerian word for copper, "zubar" or even the word "kubar" (bronze),
due to the large deposits of copper ore found on the island. Through
overseas trade, the island has already given its name to the Classical Latin word for the metal, which appears in the phrase aes Cyprium , "metal of Cyprus", later shortened to cuprum. From there the word passed into European languages as "copper" in the English language, "cuivre" in French, "Kupfer" in German and "cobre" in Portuguese and in Spanish.
Another probable suggestion is that it was named after the Greek goddess Aphrodite which was also called "?????? (kipris)". Note that Cyprus was the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite. Homer in his epics Iliad and Odyssey refers to the island of "K????? (kypron)":
“????? ??? ?????? ???? ?????????? ????????? ????????” – “Muse sing to
me the works of golden haired Aphrodite Cypridos”. It is also
characteristic that in ancient times the name "?????? (Cyprus)" in Greek was the first or second synthetic of names, such as: ????????????, ??????????, ??????????, ??????????.
MODIS Satellite Image of Cyprus
Cyprus is geographically in Western Asia (or the Near East), though politically and culturally it is considered as being in Europe. Historically, Cyprus has always been a bridgehead between Europe, Asia and Africa, with interchanging periods of mainly Greek but also Levantine, Anatolian and British influences.
- Main article: Geography of Cyprus
The central plain (Mesaoria) with the Kyrenia and Pentadactylos mountains to the north and the Troodos mountain range to the south and west. There are also scattered but significant plains along the southern coast.
The climate is temperate and Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool, variably rainy winters.
The capital city, Nicosia, is located to the north-east of the
centre of the island. All the other major cities are situated on the
coast: Paphos to the south-west, Limassol to the south, Larnaca to the south-east, Famagusta to the east and Kyrenia to the north.
- Main article: History of Cyprus
Prehistoric and Ancient Cyprus
There are but scanty traces of the Stone Age, but the Bronze Age
is characterized by a well-developed and clearly marked civilization.
The people quickly learned to work the rich copper mines of the island.
The Mycen?an civilization seems to have reached Cyprus at around 1600 B.C. and several Greek and Phoenician settlements that belong to the Iron Age can be found on the island. Cyprus was invaded by Thothmes III of Egypt about 1500 B.C., and was forced to pay tribute.
Around 1200 B.C. begins the massive arrival of the Mycen?an
Greeks as permanent settlers to Cyprus, a process which lasted for more
than a century. This migration is remembered in many sagas concerning
how some of the Greek heroes that participated in the Trojan war
came to settle in Cyprus. The newcomers brought with them their
language, their advanced technology and introduced a new outlook for
visual arts. Thus from 1220 B.C. Cyprus has remained predominantly
Greek in culture, language and population despite various influences
resulting from successive conquests. In times Cyprus supplied the rest
of the Greeks with timber for their fleets.
In the sixth century B.C., Amasis of Egypt conquered Cyprus, which soon fell under the rule of the Persians when Cambyses
conquered Egypt. In the Persian Empire, Cyprus formed part of the fifth
satrapy and in addition to tribute it had to supply the Persians with
ships and crews. In their new fate the Greeks of Cyprus had as
companions the Greeks of Ionia (west coast of Anatolia) with whom they forged closer ties. When the Ionian Greeks revolted against Persia (499 BC) the Cypriots except for the city of Amathus, joined in at the instigation of Onesilos, brother of the king of Salamis,
whom he dethroned for not wanting to fight for independence. The
Persians reacted quickly sending a considerable force against Onesilos.
The Persians finally won despite Ionian help.
After their defeat, the Greeks mounted various expeditions in order
to liberate Cyprus from the Persian yoke, but all their efforts bore
only temporary results. Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) finally liberated the island from the Persians. Later, the Greek rulers of Egypt controlled it; finally Rome annexed it in 58-57 BC. No doubt the most important event that occurred in Roman Cyprus was the visit by Apostles Paul and Barnabas accompanied by St Mark who came to the island at the outset of their first missionary journey in 45 AD. After their arrival at Salamis they proceeded to Paphos where they converted the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus to Christianity. In this way Cyprus became the first country in the world to be governed by a Christian ruler.
Cyprus in ancient myth
Cyprus is the legendary birthplace of the goddess of beauty, love, sex and passion, the beautiful Aphrodite. According to Hesiod's Theogony, the goddess, who was also known as Kypris or the Cyprian, emerged fully grown from the sea where the severed genitals of the god Uranus were cast by his son, Kronos, causing the sea to foam (Greek: Aphros).
The legendary site of Aphrodite's birth from the foam is at 'Petra tou
Romiou' ('Aphrodite's Rock'), a large stack in the sea close to the
coastal cliffs near Paphos. Throughout ancient history, Cyprus was a flourishing centre for the cultic worship of Aphrodite.
Her birth was famously depicted by the artist Botticelli in The Birth of Venus.
Post-Classical and Modern Cyprus
Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire after the partitioning of the Roman Empire in 395, and remained so for almost 900 years. The Arabs pillaged the island in 646.
In 654 a second, devastating Arab invasion took place. The island
negotiated a relatively secure independence, but paid tribute to the Ummayads. After the rule of an independent Emperor (Isaac Comnenus), King Richard I of England captured the island in 1191 during the Crusades. Guy of Lusignan purchased the island from Richard in 1192. The Republic of Venice took control in 1489 after the death of the last Lusignan Queen, after which the Ottoman Empire conquered the Island in 1570.
Cyprus was placed under British control on 4 June 1878 as a result of the Cyprus Convention, which granted control of the island to Britain in return for British support of the Ottoman Empire in the Russian-Turkish War.
Famagusta harbour was completed in June 1906; by this time the island was a strategic naval outpost for the British Empire, shoring up influence over the Eastern Mediterranean and Suez Canal, the crucial main route to India.
Cyprus was formally annexed by the United Kingdom in 1913 in the run-up to the First World War. Many Cypriots, now British subjects, signed up to fight in the British Army, in this and in the Second World War.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Cypriots began to demand union with Greece.
The Greek community held referenda in support of annexation, while the
British sought to quell any movement which could threaten their
possession of the island. In 1955 the struggle erupted into guerrilla
activity with the foundation of EOKA, and in the closing years of the 1950s the political and intercommunal atmosphere on the island became increasingly fraught.
Independence was attained in 1960 after exhaustive negotiations between the United Kingdom, as the colonial power,
and Greece and Turkey, the cultural 'motherlands' for the two
communities on Cyprus. The constitution produced by the negotiations
was a finely-balanced document allocating government posts and public
offices by ethnic quota. The first President was the Greek Cypriot leader Archbishop Makarios III, and his Vice President was the leading Turkish Cypriot politician Dr Faz?l Ku"c,u"k.
- Main article: Cyprus dispute
During the 1960s, Makarios and Ku"c,u"k pursued a non-aligned foreign policy, cultivating good relations with the Britain, Greece and Turkey and taking a leading role in developing the Non-Aligned Movement. However, by 1974 dissatisfaction among right-wing elements in favour of the long-term goal of Enosis - union with Greece - precipitated a coup d'etat against Makarios which was sponsored by Greece and led by the Cypriot National Guard. The new regime replaced Makarios with Nikos Giorgiades Sampson as president, and Bishop Gennadios as head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. Diplomacy failed to resolve the crisis. Turkey invaded Cyprus by sea and air on 20 July, 1974, asserting its right to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. Talks in Geneva involving Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom
and the two Cypriot factions failed in mid-August, and the Turks
subsequently moved to gain control of 37% of the island's territory.
Upwards of 200,000 Cypriots were uprooted, with Greek Cypriots forced
to flee from the Turkish-controlled north and Turkish Cypriots
displaced from the south. Greece made no armed response to the superior
Turkish force but bitterly suspended military participation in the NATO alliance. The tension continued after Makarios returned to the presidency on December 7,
1974. He accepted a bizonal bicommunal federation as the form of a
future state, but rejected any solution "involving transfer of
populations and amounting to partition of Cyprus." The events of the
summer of 1974 have dominated Cypriot politics ever since and have been
a major point of contention between Greece and Turkey.
After 1974 there were near-continual efforts to negotiate a
settlement, which met with varying levels of hostility from either side.
Turkish Cypriots proclaimed a separate state under Rauf Denktash on November 15, 1983, naming it the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” The UN Security Council, in its Resolution 541 of November 18, 1983,
declared the action illegal and called for withdrawal. Turkey is to
date the only country to recognise the government of northern Cyprus.
Conversely, it continues to reject calls to recognise the Republic of
Cyprus as the sole legitimate government of Cyprus, and this political
point has caused strained relations with the European Union.
Relations in the eastern Mediterranean were particularly frayed in the mid-1990s, especially after the acquisition by the Cypriot government of Russian missiles in 1997
which were capable of reaching the Turkish coast. The S-300 missiles,
in fact, never arrived in Cyprus but stayed on the neighbouring island
In April 2005, Turkish Cypriots elected Mehmet Ali Talat
as their leader to succeed the retiring long-time leader Rauf Denktash,
who staunchly opposed reunification. In contrast, Talat has been a keen
supporter of reunification and subsequently the recently proposed
- Main article: Politics of Cyprus
After independence Cyprus became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement despite all three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and the UK) being NATO members. Cyprus left the Non-Aligned Movement in 2004 to join the EU.
Following the independence of Cyprus from the UK, the Greek Cypriots
held three referendums on the issue of whether they wanted to be
annexed by Greece. On all three occasions there was a vote in favour of
annexation but Greece had agreed not to merge with Cyprus under the
terms of the independence treaty and Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis did not seek to do so.
The 1960 Cypriot Constitution provided for a presidential system of
government with independent executive, legislative, and judicial
branches, as well as a complex system of checks and balances, including
a weighted power-sharing ratio designed to protect the interests of the
Turkish Cypriots. The executive, for example, was headed by a Greek
Cypriot president, Archbishop Makarios III, and a Turkish Cypriot vice president, Dr Faz?l Ku"c,u"k,
elected by their respective communities for 5-year terms and each
possessing a right of veto over certain types of legislation and
The House of Representatives was elected on the basis of separate voters' rolls. Since 1964,
following clashes between the two communities, the Turkish seats in the
House have been vacant after their withdrawal from the government, and
the Greek Cypriot Communal Chamber was abolished. The responsibilities
of the chamber were transferred to the newfounded Ministry of Education.
By 1967, when a military junta
had seized power in Greece, the political impetus for enosis had faded,
partly as a result of the non-aligned foreign policy of Cypriot
Enosis remained an ideological goal, despite being pushed significantly
further down the political agenda. Dissatisfaction in Greece with
Makarios's perceived failure to deliver on earlier promises of enosis
convinced the Greek colonels to sponsor the 1974 coup in Nicosia.
Turkey responded by
invading Cyprus in a move not approved by the other two international
guarantor powers, Greece and the United Kingdom. Turkey did not use its
authority as a guarantor to restore the status quo before the coup.
Claiming to be responding to an imminent threat to the Republic of
Cyprus and the need to protect the Turkish minority in Cyprus from
attacks by Greek militias, it captured the northern third of the
island, causing 180,000 Greek Cypriots to flee to the south. 55,000
Turkish Cypriots subsequently relocated from the south to the north
(see Cyprus dispute). Many thousands of others, from both sides, left the island entirely.
Subseqently, the Turkish Cypriots established their own institutions
with a popularly elected President and a Prime Minister responsible to
the National Assembly exercising joint executive powers. In 1983, the
Turkish Cypriots declared an independent "Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus" (TRNC), an action opposed by the United Nations Security Council. In 1985, the TRNC adopted a constitution and held its first elections.
Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, with the UK, Greece and Turkey retaining limited rights to intervene in internal affairs.
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided, de facto, into the Greek-Cypriot controlled southern two-thirds of the island and the Turkish-occupied northern one-third. The Republic of Cyprus
is the internationally recognised government of Cyprus, which controls
the southern two-thirds of the island. Turkey aside, all foreign
governments and the United Nations recognise the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island of Cyprus.
Map of Cyprus showing political divisions and districts
The Turkish Cypriot administration of the northern part of the island, together with Turkey,
does not accept the Republic's rule over the whole island and refer to
it as the "Greek Authority of Southern Cyprus". Its territory, the
status of which remains disputed, extends over the northern third of
The north proclaimed its independence in 1975, and the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established in 1983. This state was recognised only by Turkey. The Organization of the Islamic Conference granted it observer member status under the name of "Turkish Cypriot State".
The other power with territory on Cyprus is the United Kingdom. Under the independence agreement, the UK retained title to two areas on the southern coast of the island, around Akrotiri and Dhekelia, known collectively as the UK sovereign base areas. They are used as military bases.
Exclaves and enclaves
Cyprus has four exclaves, all in territory that belongs to the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia.
The first two are the villages of Ormidhia and Xylotimbou. Additionally
there is the Dhekelia Power Station, which is divided by a British road
into two parts. The northern part is an enclave
like the two villages, whereas the southern part is located by the sea
and therefore not an enclave —although it has no territorial waters of
its own .
The United Nations (UN) buffer zone separating the territory controlled by the Turkish Cypriot administration from the rest of Cyprus runs up against Dhekelia and picks up again from its east side, off of Ayios Nikolaos
(connected to the rest of Dhekelia by a thin land corridor). In that
sense, the buffer zone turns the south-east corner of the island, the Paralimni area, into a de facto, though not de jure, exclave.
Reunification, the Annan Plan and EU entry
The results of early negotiations between the Greek and Turkish
sides resulted in a broad agreement in principle to reunification as a
bi-cameral, bi-zonal federation
with territory allocated to the Greek and Turkish communities within a
united island. However, agreement was never reached on the finer
details, and the two sides often met deadlock over the following
points, among others:
The Turkish side:
- favoured a weak central government presiding over two sovereign
states in voluntary assocation, a legacy of earlier fears of domination
by the majority Greek Cypriots; and
- opposed plans for demilitarisation, citing security concerns.
The Greek side:
- took a strong line on the right of return for refugees to properties vacated in the 1974 displacement of Cypriots on both sides;
- took a dim view of any proposals which did not allow for the
repatriation of Turkish settlers from the mainland who had emigrated to
Cyprus since 1974; and
- supported a stronger central government.
The continued difficulties in finding a settlement presented a potential obstacle to Cypriot entry to the European Union, for which the government had applied in 1997. UN-sponsored talks between the Greek and Turkish leaders, Glafkos Klerides and Rauf Denktash, continued intensively in 2002, but without resolution. In December 2002
the EU formally invited Cyprus to join in 2004, insisting that EU
membership would apply to the whole island and hoping that it would
provide a significant enticement for reunification resulting from the
outcome of ongoing talks. However, weeks before the UN deadline,
Klerides was defeated in presidential elections by right-wing candidate
Papadopoulos had a reputation as a hard-liner on reunification and had
rejected previous UN attempts to reunify the island. By mid-March, the
UN declared that the talks had failed.
A United Nations plan sponsored by Secretary-General Kofi Annan was announced on 31 March 2004, based on what progress had been made during the talks in Switzerland and fleshed out by the UN, was put to both sides in separate referenda on 24 April 2004. The Greek side overwhelmingly rejected the Annan Plan, and the Turkish side voted in favour.
In May 2004, Cyprus
entered the EU, although in practice membership only applies to the
southern part of the island. In acknowledgement of the Turkish Cypriot
community's support for reunification, however, the EU made it clear
that trade concessions would be reached to stimulate economic growth in
the north, and remains committed to reunification under acceptable
- Main article: Economy of Cyprus
Economic affairs in Cyprus are dominated by the division of the
country into the southern (Greek) area controlled by the Cyprus
Government and the northern Turkish Cypriot-administered area.
The Greek Cypriot economy is prosperous but highly susceptible to external shocks. Erratic growth rates in the 1990s
reflect the economy's vulnerability to swings in tourist arrivals,
caused by political instability on the island and fluctuations in
economic conditions in Western Europe. Economic policy in the south in
the years leading up to 2005 focused on meeting the criteria for
admission to the European Union. As in the Turkish sector, water
shortage is a growing problem, and several desalination plants are planned.
Recently, oil has been discovered in the sea South of Cyprus
(between Cyprus and Egypt) and talks are under way with Egypt to reach
an agreement as to the exploitation of these resources. The level of
the oil field in terms of production (barrels per day) that the two
countries will be able to produce is still a matter of speculation.
The Turkish Cypriot economy has about one-fifth the population and
one-third the per capita GDP of the south. Because it is recognised
only by Turkey, it has had much difficulty arranging foreign financing,
and foreign firms have hesitated to invest there. The economy remains
heavily dependent on agriculture and government service, which together
employ about half of the work force. Moreover, the small, vulnerable
economy has suffered because the Turkish lira is legal tender. To
compensate for the economy's weakness, Turkey provides direct and
indirect aid to tourism, education, industry, etc.
Eventual adoption of the euro
currency is required of all new countries joining the European Union,
and the Cyprus government currently intends to adopt the currency on 1 January 2008.
- Main article: Demographics of Cyprus
Greek and Turkish Cypriots share many customs but maintain their ethnicity based on religion, language, and close ties with their respective motherlands.
The major part of Greek Cypriots are Eastern Orthodox Christians, wereas Turkish Cypriots are Muslims.
Greek is the predominant language in the south, Turkish in the
north. This delineation is only reflective of the post-1974 division of
the island, which involved an expulsion of Greek Cypriots from the
north and the analoguous move of Turkish Cypriots from the south.
Historically however, Greek and Turkish (the Cypriot dialects) were largely evenly distributed throughout the island, although Greek-speakers were in a substantial majority (82%).
English is widely understood, and is taught in schools from primary age.
Cyprus has a well-developed system of primary and secondary
education offering both public and private education. Unlike in other
countries, state schools are generally seen as equivalent or better in
quality of education than private sector institutions.
The majority of Cypriots receive their higher education at Greek,
British, Turkish, EU & US universities, while there are also
sizeable emigrant communities in the United Kingdom and Australia. Private colleges and state-supported universities have been developed by both the Turkish and Greek communities.
According to the 1960 constitution, education is under the control
of the two communities (the communal chambers). State education was
based on nationalisation of existing community supported schools from
the colonial period. Thus following 1974 the Cypriot system follows the
Greek system in the south, in other words providing their students with
and the Turkish system in the north. A large number of students after
sitting for A-levels and/or SATs study abroad, mainly in English
speaking countries such as the US or UK, but also in other European destinations such as France and Germany. Traditionally the left wing party AKEL provided scholarships for its members to study in Eastern Europe. Eastern European countries, especially Bulgaria and Hungary, are still popular destinations for students .
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