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See also Cypress (a common misspelling) for other meanings.
Κυπριακή Δημοκρατία
Kypriaki Dimokratia (Greek)
Kıbrıs Cumhuriyeti (Turkish)
Flag of Cyprus Coat of Arms of Cyprus
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: None
Anthem: Ymnos pros tin Eleutherian (English: Hymn to Freedom)1
Location of Cyprus
Capital Nicosia
35°08′ N 33°28′ E
Largest city Nicosia
Official languages Greek and Turkish
Government Republic
Tassos Papadopoulos 2
From the UK
16 August 1960
16 August 1960 3
 • Total
 • Water (%)
9,250 km² (161st)
 • 2005 est.
 • [[As of 2001|2001]] census
 • Density
780,133 5 (155th)
689,565 6
84/km² (111)
 • Total
 • Per capita
n/a estimate
$ 16,745 (n/a)
$ 20,669 (n/a)
Currency Cyprus Pound (CYP)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Internet TLD .cy
Calling code +357 7
1. "Ymnos pros tin Eleutherian" is also used as the national anthem of Greece.

2. The north has a separate president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
3. Not recognised by Turkey, which instead recognises the TRNC. The TRNC is only recognised by Turkey
4. Of which 5,895 km² is in the south and 3,355 km² in the north
5. Number does not include approx. 230,000 inhabitants in the north
6. Number does not include any TRNC inhabitants
7. +90-392 (a Turkish access number) is used in the north

The Republic of Cyprus (Greek: Κύπρος, Kýpros; Turkish: Kıbrıs; see also List of traditional Greek place names) is an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, 113 kilometres (70 miles) south of Turkey and around 120 km west of the Syrian coast.


Name and position

The name Cyprus has a somewhat uncertain etymology. One possible suggestion is that it comes from the Greek word "κυπάρισσος (kypa'rissos)" meaning "cypress tree"; however, it seems more likely to stem from some non-Indo-European word for copper, most probably from the Sumerian "kabar" (copper), 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.

MODIS Satellite Image of Cyprus
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 Levantine, Anatolian, Greek 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.

See also:


Main article: History of Cyprus

Prehistoric and Ancient Cyprus

Cyprus was originally settled in prehistory from the Levant. There are numerous traces of the Stone Age, going back to the aceramic Neolithic. Greek and Phœnician settlements belong to the Iron Age, and the development of towns, copper mining and seafaring trade can be traced to the Bronze Age. The influence of the Mycenæan culture of Greece seems to have reached the island around 1600 B.C., when local copies of Mycenæan pottery were produced, although some scholars argue that this was the result of trade and that Mycenæan settlement did not begin in earnest for another four hundred years. The island was invaded by Pharaoh Thothmes III of Egypt about 1500 BC, and was forced to pay tribute. This migration may be remembered in legends about Greek heroes who settled in Cyprus after the Trojan War. Cypriot culture remained a mixture of Mycenæan, Egyptian, Levantine and Anatolian elements.

In the 8th century BC, Cyprus became a part of the Assyrian Empire. At that time, Cyprus was ruled by eleven kings, clients of the Assyrians. In the 6th century B.C., Amasis of Egypt conquered Cyprus, which soon fell under the rule of the Persians when Cambyses conquered Egypt. Under 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, drawing on its seafaring culture. When the Ionian Greeks revolted against Persia in 499 BC the Cypriot kings, except for Amathus, joined at the instigation of Onesilaos, 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 Onesilaos and crushed the Ionian rebellion.

After defeat by the Persians, the Greeks mounted various expeditions against Persian rule in Cyprus, but no effort resulted in better than temporary results. After the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians at Issos, the Cypriot kings went over to the Macedonians at Tyre. Later, the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt controlled the island, until it was annexed by Rome in 58-57 BC. During the Roman period, Cyprus was visited by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas--who came to the island with Mark the Evangelist 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. This is the origin of the claim that Cyprus became the first territory 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, some 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 Fazıl Küçük.

Map of Cyprus
Map of Cyprus


Main article: Cyprus dispute

During the 1960s, Makarios and Küçük 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 offered self-government to the Turkish minority, 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 of Crete.

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 "Annan Plan".


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 Fazıl Küçük, elected by their respective communities for 5-year terms and each possessing a right of veto over certain types of legislation and executive decisions.

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 President Makarios. 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.

See also:

Political division

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
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 island.

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 [1].

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 Tassos Papadopoulos. 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 terms.

See also:


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.


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 an apolytirion, 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 .

Also on the Turkish Side:


External links

International ties of Cyprus
Flag of the European Union European Union Flag of the European Union
Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom
Countries in Europe
Albania | Andorra | Armenia2) | Austria | Azerbaijan1) | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus2) | Czech Republic | Denmark1) | Estonia | Finland | France1) | Georgia1) | Germany | Greece1) | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Republic of Macedonia | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | Netherlands | Norway1) | Poland | Portugal1) | Romania | Russia1) | San Marino | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain1) | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey1) | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Vatican City
Other territories: Akrotiri and Dhekelia 2) | Faroe Islands | Gibraltar | Guernsey | Jan Mayen | Jersey | Isle of Man | Svalbard
1) Includes territories not located in Europe. 2) Geographically in Asia , but often considered part of Europe for cultural and historical reasons.

Countries in Southwest Asia
Afghanistan | Armenia | Azerbaijan | Bahrain | Cyprus | Georgia | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Jordan | Kuwait | Lebanon | Oman | Qatar | Russia | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Turkey | United Arab Emirates | Yemen

Countries in Asia

Afghanistan | Armenia1 | Azerbaijan1 | Bahrain | Bangladesh | Bhutan | Brunei | Cambodia | China (PRC) | Cyprus1 | East Timor | Egypt | Gaza Strip2 | Georgia | Hong Kong3 | India | Indonesia | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Japan | Jordan | Kazakhstan | Kuwait | Kyrgyzstan | Laos | Lebanon | Macau3 | Malaysia | Maldives | Mongolia | Myanmar | Nepal | North Korea | Oman | Pakistan | Philippines | Qatar | Russia1 | Saudi Arabia | Singapore | South Korea | Sri Lanka | Syria | Taiwan (ROC)4 | Tajikistan | Thailand | Turkey1 | Turkmenistan | United Arab Emirates | Uzbekistan | Vietnam | West Bank2 | Yemen

1. Usually assigned to Asia geographically, but nonetheless often thought of as European for cultural and historical reasons.
2. Israel-controlled territories governed by the Palestinian Authority
3. Special administrative regions of the PRC.
4. See also: political status of Taiwan

Countries and territories in the Middle East
Bahrain | Cyprus | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Jordan | Kuwait | Lebanon | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Turkey | United Arab Emirates | Yemen

Countries in the Mediterranean
Albania | Algeria | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Croatia | Cyprus | Egypt | France | Greece | Israel | Italy | Lebanon | Libya | Malta | Monaco | Morocco | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovenia | Spain | Syria | Tunisia | Turkey

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