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History of Cyprus

This is the history of Cyprus. See also the history of Europe, history of
present-day nations and states.

Cypriot culture is among the oldest in the Mediterranean. By 3700 BC, the
island was well-inhabited, a crossroads between East and West. The island
fell successively under Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman
domination. Cyprus shares its name with the ancient Greek word for copper,
which it has in abundance, and which was traditionally mined from the most
ancient times.

It was colonised by Greek settlers around 1000 B.C.; the ancient city of
Amathus has remains dating from that time. The island was conquered by the
Persians around 500 B.C. The inhabitants, with the help of the Ionian Greeks
and the alliance of the Egyptians, attempted many times to liberate their
island, but failed until Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire.
With his death, Cyprus became part of the Ptolemaic territory, and
established strong commercial relationships with Athens and Alexandria, two
of the most important commercial centers of antiquity.

In 76 B.C. the Romans occupied the island. The       [Pillars of paul.JPG]
orator Cicero was one of its commanders. The apostle
Paul is reported to have converted the people of Cyprus to Christianity.
During the 5th century A.D., the church of Cyprus claimed its independence,
which was recognized in 431 A.D. by the Synod of Ephesus.

For 800 years, beginning in AD 364, Cyprus was ruled by Byzantium. During
the Byzantine era Cyprus became a Byzantine province. Around the 10th
century A.D. it was repeatedly attacked by Arab armies. While they never
occupied the island, it suffered significant losses.

In the 12th century A.D. the island became a target of the crusaders. The
army of Richard the Lionhearted occupied Cyprus, and it briefly became the
base of the Knights Templar, before they moved to Rhodes and finally to
Malta. Soon after that, the Franks occupied the island, establishing the
Kingdom of Cyprus. The relationship between the Cypriots and the Franks was
never harmonious. They declared Latin the official language, later replacing
it with French; much later, Greek was recognised as a second official
language. In 1196, the Latin Church was established in Cyprus, and the
Orthodox Cypriot Church experienced a series of religious persecutions.

Around 1470, Venice began to attack the island, forcing the Queen of Cyprus,
Catherine Cornaro, to sell her kingdom to Venice on March 14, 1489.

In 1570, the Turks first occupied the island, and Lala Mustafa Pasha became
the first Turkish Governor of Cyprus, challenging the claims of Venice to
Cyprus. Simultaneously, the Pope formed a coalition between the Papal
States, Malta, Spain, Venice, and several other Italian states, with no real
result. In 1573 the Venetians left, removing the influence of the Roman
Catholic church.

The Ottoman Empire gave timars--land grants--to soldiers under the condition
that they and their families would stay there permanently. The Ottomans also
applied the millet system to Cyprus, which allowed religious authorities to
govern their own non-Muslim minorities. This system reinforced the position
of the Orthodox Church and the cohesion of the ethnic Greek population.

During the 17th century the Turkish population grew rapidly. Most of the
Turks who settled on the island during the 3 centuries of Ottoman rule
remained when control of Cyprus--although not sovereignty--was ceded to
Great Britain in 1878. Many, however, left for Turkey during the 1920s. By
1970, ethnic Turks represented about 20% of the total population of the
island, with ethnic Greeks representing the remainder.

Many Cypriots supported the Greek independence effort that began in 1821,
leading to severe reprisals by the Ottoman Empire. Greece became independent
in 1829; many Cypriots sought the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece, but
it remained part of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1869 the Suez Canal opened, and Great Britain showed increasing interest
in the island, which is situated in what had suddenly become a very
convenient location. In 1878, Britain supported Turkey in the
Russian-Turkish war, in exchange for control of Cyprus; this agreement was
formalized by the Convention of Berlin.

In 1914 the Ottoman Empire declared war against Great Britain and France (as
part of the complex series of alliances that led to World War I. The British
cancelled their agreement with the Turks and annexed Cyprus on November 2,
as part of the British Empire, making the Cypriots British subjects. On
November 5 the British and the French declaed war on the Ottoman Empire.

In 1915 Great Britain offered Cyprus to Greece if the latter chooses to
enter the war on the side of the Allies. Greece hesitated and the offer was
withdrawn. Since then two prevailing plans have appeared for Cyprus: in
general, the Greek Cypriots supported the union of the island with Greece
{enosis) and the Turkish Cypriots its division to two parts (taxim).

In 1948, King Paul of Greece declared that Cyprus desired union with Greece.
In 1951 the Orthodox Church of Cyprus presented a referendum according to
which around 97% of the Greek Cypriot population wanted the union. The
United Nations accepted the Greek petition and enosis became an
international issue. In 1952 both Greece and Turkey became members of NATO.
In 1955 EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), a terrorist group,
was formed under the leadership of George Grivas, a Greek Cypriot army
officer with strong right-wing extremist beliefs and the support of the
dictatorship that had formed in Greece the same period. For the next few
years EOKA attacked primarily British or British-connected targets. Great
Britain reacted, often with equal brutality and threats of satisfying the
Turkish interests. Archbishop Makarios and other Cypriot clergy and
political leaders were forced into exile in Seychelles. In 1957 the U.N.
decides that the issue should be resolved according to its Statutory Map.
The exiles returned, and both sides begin a series of violent acts against
each other.

On February 19, 1959 the Zurich agreement attempted to end the conflict.
Without the presence of either the Greek or the Turkish sides, Britain
outlined a Cypriot constitution, which was eventually accepted by both
sides. Both Greece and Turkey along with Britain were appointed as
guarantors of the island's integrity. Some of the major points of the Zurich
agreement are:

   * Cyprus becomes an independent state.
   * Both taxim and enosis are prohibited.
   * Greek and Turkish military forces at a ratio of around 1.5:1 were to be
     present at all time in Cyprus. Both forces should answer to all three
     Foreign Ministers: of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.
   * The President should be a Greek Cypriot elected by the Greek Cypriot
     population and the Vice President a Turkish Cypriot elected by the
     Turkish Cypriot population.
   * The Cabinet should include 7 Greek Cypriots elected by the President
     and 3 Turkish Cypriots elected by the Vice President.
   * Decisions need an absolute majority but both the President and the Vice
     President have the right of veto.

On August 16, 1960 Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom,
after an anti-British campaign by the Greek Cypriot EOKA (National
Organization of Cypriot Fighters), a guerrilla group which desired political
union with Greece, or enosis. Archbishop Makarios, a charismatic religious
and political leader, was elected president. In 1961 it became the 99th
member of U.N. Archbishop Makarios was elected as the first President of
independent Cyprus.

The Zurich agreement, however, did not succeed in establishing cooperation
between the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot populations. The Greek Cypriots
argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriot
interests were obstacles to efficient government. Both sides continued the
violence. Turkey threatened to invade the island.

In November 1963, President Makarios advanced a series of constitutional
amendments designed to eliminate some of these special provisions. The
Turkish Cypriots opposed such changes. The confrontation prompted widespread
intercommunal fighting in December 1963, after which Turkish Cypriot
participation in the central government ceased. Makarios ordered a
cease-fire and again addressed the issue to the United Nations. UN
peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964. In 1964 the Turkish
parliament voted in favour of the invasion of Cyprus but the lack of support
that Turkey faced from both the U.N. and NATO prevented it. In answer Grivas
was recalled to Athens and the Greek military force left the island.

Following another outbreak of intercommunal violence in 1967-68, a Turkish
Cypriot provisional administration was formed.

In July 1974, an attempt by agents of the dictatorship then ruling Greece to
seize power and unite the island with Greece was met by military
intervention from Turkey, which exercised its powers under the treaty of
guarantee it held. Turkey then invaded Cyprus on July 20. The military junta
in Athens was sponsoring a coup led by extremist Greek Cypriots hostile to
Makarios for his alleged pro-communist leanings and for his perceived
abandonment of enosis.

In a two-stage offensive, Turkish troops took control of 38% of the island.
Many Greek Cypriots fled south while many Turkish Cypriots fled north. Since
then, the southern part of the country has been under the control of the
Government of Cyprus and the northern part under an autonomous
Turkish-Cypriot administration supported by the presence of Turkish troops.

In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus, but that entity is recognized only by Turkey. It faces an
international embargo.

UN peacekeeping forces maintain a buffer zone between the two sides. Except
for occasional demonstrations or infrequent incidents between soldiers in
the buffer zone, there had been no violent conflict since 1974 until August
1996, when violent clashes led to the death of two demonstrators and
escalated tension. There is little movement of people and essentially no
movement of goods or services between the two parts of the island.

UN-led talks on the status of Cyprus resumed in December 1999 to prepare the
ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement.
Efforts to reunite the island under a federal structure continue, however,
under the auspices of the United Nations.


1571-1878 Three centuries of Turkish rule under the Ottomans. Only
resistance offered by Venentian strongholds of Nicosia and Famagusta.
Islanders themselves glad to see end of oppressive Venetian rule. Orthodox
church recognised again and Archbishopric restored. Feudal system abolished,
but heavy taxes imposed, using church as tax collectors.

1625-1700 Great depopulation of Cyprus. Plague wipes out over half of the

1821 Greek Cypriots side with Greece in revolt against Turkish rule.
Island's leading churchmen executed in punishment.

1869 Suez Canal opens.

1878-1960 British occupation. British take on administration of the island,
ceded from the Ottomans, for its strategic value, to protect their sea route
to India via the Suez Canal. In exchange, Britain agrees to help Turkey
should Russia attack again.

1914 Cyprus annexed by Britain when Turkey join with Germany and
Austro-Hungary in World War I.

1925 Cyprus becomes British Crown Colony.

1931 First serious riots of Greek Cypriots demanding Enosis, union with

1939 Greek Cypriots fight with British in World War II, but remain set on
Enosis after war is over. Turkish Cypriots however want British rule to

1950 Archbishop Makarios III elected political and spiritual leader.
Makarios became the head of the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church. Heads
the campaign for Enosis with support of Greece.

1955 Series of bomb attacks, start of violent campaign for Enosis by EOKA
(National Organisoation of Cypriot Fighters) led by George Grivas,
ex-colonel in Greek army, born in Cyprus. Grivas takes name of Dighenis,
legendary Cypriot hero and conducts guerrilla warfare from secret hideout in
Trodos Mountains. Estimated to have 300 men maximum, yet successfully
plagues 20,000 British troops and 4,500 police.

1956 Britain deports Makarios to Seychelles in attempt to quell revolt.
Turkish Cypriots used as auxiliaries of British Security Forces, allegedly
torturing EOKA captives during British cross-examinations.

1957 Field Marshal Sir John Harding replaced by civilian governor Sir Hugh
Foot in conciliatory move.

1958 Turkish Cypriots alarmed by British conciliation and begin demands for
partition. Inter-communal clashes and attacks on British.

1960 British, Greek and Turkish governments sign Treaty of Guarantee to
provide for independent Cypriot state within the Commonwealth and allowing
for retention of two Sovereign Base Areas of Dhekelia and Akrotiri. Under
the treaty, each power has the right to take military action in the face of
any threat to the constitution. Cyprus truly independent for the first time.
Archbishop Makarios (Greek Cypriot) is first President, Dr Kutchuk (Turkish
Cypriot) Vice- President. Both have right of veto. Turkish Cypriots, who
form 18% of the population, given 30% of places in government and
administration, 40% in the army and separate municipal services in the five
major towns.

1963-1973 Greek Cypriots view the constitution as unworkable and propose
changes which was rejected by Turkish Cypriots and Turkish government.
Inter-communal fighting escalates and UN Peace Keeping Force sent in, but
powerless to prevent incidents. Thousands of Turkish Cypriots ethnically
cleansed by Greeks.

1974 - 1976 Military government (junta) in Greece supports coup by Greek
National guard to overthrow Makarios. Makarios forced to flee. Puppet regime
imposed under Nicos Sampson, former EOKA fighter. Rauf Denktash, Turkish
Cypriot leader, calls for joint military action by the UK and Turkey, as
guarantors of Cypriot independence, to prevent Greece imposing Enosis. The
Turkish prime minister travels to London to persuade the UK to intervene
jointly with Turkey, but fails, so Turkey exercises her right under the 1960
Treaty of Guarantee and lands 40,000 troops on the north coast of Cyprus.
Turkey describes this as 'a peace operation to restore constitutional order
and protect the Turkish Cypriot community'. UN talks break down and Turkish
forces are left in control of 37% of the island. Refugees from both
communities cross to respective sides of the de facto border. Turks announce
Federated State in the north with Denktash as leader. UN Forces stay as
buffer between the two zones. Some 20,000 mainland Turks, mainly subsistence
farmers, are brought in to settle and work the under populated land. Those
that stay more than five years are given citizenship of North Cyprus.

1977 Makarios dies, having been restored as President of Greek Cyprus after
1974. Succeeded by the Spyros Kyprianou.

1983 Turkish Federated State declares itself independent, as Turkish
Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), still with Denktash as President. New state
is not recognised by any country except Turkey.

1992-1995 UN sponsored talks between the two sides run into the sand, but
with a commitment to resume.
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