Cyprus History

Cyprus History


Archaeological finds indicate that the island has been inhabited since the 7th millennium BC. there. Copper deposits were discovered here probably in the 3rd millennium. The name of the island was derived from the Greek word “Kypros” for copper. This raw material and the strategically favorable location made Cyprus an important island in the Mediterranean region. It was repeatedly conquered by new rulers. Around 1500 BC Cyprus belonged to the Egyptian pharaonic empire, from about 1400 BC. Achaean commercial colonies developed along the coasts, from which prosperous city kingdoms developed.

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From 800 BC the Phoenicians ruled the island, during the 8th century it came under the influence of the Assyrians. Then the Egyptians ruled again, from about 525 BC. the island belonged to the Persian empire, which was conquered by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. After his death in 323 BC. the island fell to Ptolemaic Egypt.

58 BC Cyprus was conquered by Roman troops, around 30 years later the island became an independent Roman province. From the first century AD Christianity spread. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD Cyprus belonged to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. In addition to Roman law, Greek culture and language prevailed as well as Christian belief as the state religion. From 431 the Cypriot Orthodox Church received its independent status with its own ecclesiastical head.

Middle ages

In the 7th century, according to AbbreviationFinder, Islamic Arabs invaded the island, but could not conquer it permanently. In 965 the Arabs were exposed by Byzantine troops from both Cyprus and mainland Asia Minor.

In 1191, Cyprus was conquered by the English king Richard the Lionheart during the third crusade, who sold it on to the Templar order. The bitter resistance of the Cypriot population against the new rule led to the island changing ownership again a year later: the French house Lusignan introduced feudal rule on the island and established the “Franks” as feudal lords, to which the population paid taxes had to afford.

Modern times

From 1489 Cyprus was in possession of Venice, then the island was conquered by the Ottomans (Turks) in 1570. The feudal system was abolished and the Cypriot Orthodox Church recognized. Numerous Ottomans settled here and held important offices.

With the discovery of the sea route to India, Cyprus had lost its strategic importance from the beginning of the 16th century. Exploitation and natural causes such as droughts and plague of locusts impoverished the Cypriot population to such an extent that thousands left the island. By 1754, the number of people living in Cyprus had dropped to an estimated 10,000. The island’s Orthodox Archbishop was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as the spokesman and representative of the Greek Cypriot people. While the Ottoman Empire gradually lost power around the end of the 18th century, the Orthodox bishops on the island gained importance and expanded their influence. Again and again there were uprisings by the Greek Cypriot population against the Ottomans, which were bloodily suppressed by them.

In 1878, the Sultan of the now weakened Ottoman Empire surrendered the island of Cyprus to the colonial power of Great Britain for an annual lease , while the Ottoman sovereignty was officially preserved. The island had less economic than strategic importance for Great Britain: naval bases were built here to protect the sea route to the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869.

When the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, British troops annexed the island and declared that Turkish sovereignty, which had been in effect until then, had been abolished.

Contemporary history

An independence movement led by the Orthodox Church had formed in Cyprus itself since the end of the 19th century , demanding that the island be annexed to Greece. In 1925 the island was declared a British crown colony. Both the Greek and the Turkish population of the island were represented in committees according to their share of the population. Uprisings against British colonial power were suppressed.

Cyprus entered the Second World War on Britain’s side in 1940. After the war ended, the independence movement gained in importance. Political parties formed: the left-wing progressive party AKEL and the moderate socialist party PESP stood up for the independence of Cyprus, while the right-wing peasant party PEK and the clerical, nationalist party KEK called for enosis to Greece. Archbishop Mak¨¢rios III headed the Enosis movement with the new head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus. A second movement against British sovereignty was the “National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) under the nationalist General Georgios Gr¨ªvas, which started an armed guerrilla. As the Turkish population in Cyprus increasingly became targets of the EOKA attacks, the tensions between the Greek and Turkish population, which already existed, increased. The Turkey, which saw itself as the protecting power of the Turkish minority in Cyprus, definitely wanted to prevent the island from connecting to the arch-enemy Greece. The Turkish underground organization TMT, for its part, started the fight and carried out attacks on the Greek part of the population.


At the end of the 1950s, Great Britain, Turkey and Greece agreed on a compromise: Cyprus should be released as an independent state, with all three powers guaranteed the right to station troops. Greeks and Turks should be represented in government, public service and administration according to their share of the population. The president as head of state was supposed to be Greek, whose vice was a Turk. According to the constitution, the vice president was almost equal to the president.

On August 16, 1960 the independent Republic of Cyprus was proclaimed with Nicosia (Lefkosia) as the capital. The Orthodox Archbishop Mak¨¢rios III became President, Fazil K¨¹ç¨¹k as Turkish Cypriot became Vice President. In 1961 the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

When President Makr¨¢rios called for constitutional reform in 1963 that restricted the rights of the Turkish population, civil war-like riots broke out that could not be ended until 1964 by a UN peacekeeping force. During the civil war, most of the island’s Turkish-born residents moved to northern Cyprus.

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Division of the island

In July 1974 there was a coup in Cyprus against the incumbent President Mak¨¢rios, supported by the Athenian military junta, who, after the coup in Greece in 1967, had spoken out for an independent and united Cyprus. The successor to Mak¨¢rios was Nikos Samson, who called for the island to be connected to Greece. Just a few days later, Turkish troops landed in northern Cyprus and took control of the entire northeast (just under 40% of the island). This effectively divided Cyprus in two, with the border line (“Attila Line”) running right through the capital Nicosia. While Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus was internationally condemned, the Greeks migrated from the Turkish-occupied part to the south of the country or were expelled.

In December 1974, when the military junta in Greece was overthrown again, Archbishop Mak¨¢rios took over the presidency again in Cyprus. Nevertheless, the division of the island continued and has not changed to this day. While the Greeks demand a unitary state with autonomous provinces, the Turkish part of the population insists on a loose federation of two largely independent states.

In February 1975, the Turkish north of Cyprus unilaterally declared itself the “Turkish Federation State of Cyprus” (from 1983 “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”). A separate legislative assembly was established, and Rauf Denktasch took over the office of President in June 1976. At that time, an estimated 105,000 Cypriots of Turkish origin and around 40,000 newly settled mainland Turks lived in the north of the island, as well as around 40,000 Turkish soldiers. Only Turkey recognized the Republic as a legitimate state. Since then, UN representatives have been trying to resolve the Cyprus conflict, so far without success.

In 1990, the Republic of Cyprus, which is recognized under international law, applied for admission to the European Community (since 1993 European Union, EU). In a separate referendum on reunification, the Greek Cypriots voted “No” 75.8 percent in 2004 and the Turkish Cypriot vote “Yes” 64.9 percent. That is why Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 as a divided country. In 2007, President Papadopoulos had a part of the border wall in the capital Nicosia torn down as a symbolic act, but the process of unification continues to stagnate. Papadopoulos’ successors were the communist Demetris Christofias (2008-2013) and the Christian Democratic conservative Nikos Anastasiadis (since 2013). Derviş Eroğlu has been President of Northern Cyprus since 2010.

The Republic of Cyprus joined the European Economic and Monetary Union on January 1, 2008, introducing the euro.

Cyprus President