With its location on the crossroads between
Africa, Asia and Europe, Cyprus has throughout history
exerted traction on merchants and conquerors from
Archaeologists have found that humans lived in Cyprus
at least 10,000 years ago. Towards the end of the 11th
century BC, the island was colonized by Mycenaean
Greeks. Since copper was Cyprus's most important export
commodity, the word Cyprus in Greek came to mean both
"Cyprus" and "copper". The small city kingdoms that the
Greeks founded were forced to pay tribute to the great
powers that alternated the island during the following
millennium: Phenicia, Assyria, Egypt, Persia and
Macedonia. By 58 BC, Cyprus was under Roman rule, but
the Cypriots continued to speak Greek.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Cyprus, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
During Roman times, peace prevailed in Cyprus.
Christianity was introduced; the apostle Paul must have
preached on the island just a few years after Jesus'
crucifixion. When the Roman Empire was divided in 395,
Cyprus became a province of the East Roman (Byzantine)
Empire. With the exception of periods of Arab invasions,
Cyprus obeyed Östrom (Byzantium) until the end of the
The Western European powers had then begun to send
crusaders to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims. During
the third crusade, King of England Rickard Lionheart
conquered Cyprus in 1191. He later surrendered the
island to the Frankish Crusader Lusignan. During the
Lusignan kingdom, feudal rule was introduced, which
meant that the land was distributed to the people of the
faithful king, vassals. The peasants were forced to work
on the goods of the vassals. The rulers of the island
wanted to incorporate Cyprus into the Roman Catholic
world, but the peasantry maintained their Greek Orthodox
faith. After Cyprus was weakened by war with Genoa and
Egypt, the island was transferred to the Republic of
Venice in 1489, which severely exploited its resources.
The Ottoman (Turkish) empire was at its peak during
the 16th century. After bloody fighting - 20,000 of
Nicosia's inhabitants were killed in a single day - in
1571, the Turks took over Cyprus. The island's former
foreign elite, the Catholics, were killed, driven out or
forced to convert to either the Greek Orthodox faith or
Cyprus was incorporated into the Ottoman management
system. In this, various religious groups formed closed
units, millet, with their own laws and institutions. The
religious heads of the groups had political and tax
administrative responsibility for their people before
the Sultan. The Greek Orthodox Archbishopric was
therefore restored in 1575.
Rebellion against the Turks
Furthermore, feudalism was abolished and the peasants
were given the right to own land and practice their
religion by paying high taxes to the Turkish sultan. At
the same time, around 30,000 soldiers in the Turkish
invasion army received landfills in Cyprus. Thus, the
foundations for the division of the population into two
groups were laid: Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
In spite of the reforms, Cyprus was subject to malady
and economic downturn. A couple of raids against the
Turks during the 17th and 18th centuries failed. But the
influence of the archbishops grew stronger, and when the
Greeks in Greece, led by their priesthood, began a
liberation war against the Turks in 1821, the Greek
Cypriots were accused of secret conspiracies. It led to
a massacre of Christian leaders and to the breaking of
the world power of the archbishopric so as not to be
seriously restored until after the Second World War.
At the Berlin Congress in 1878, the weakened Ottoman
Empire handed over the administration of Cyprus to
Britain, and in 1925 the island gained the status of a
British crown colony.
Among the Greek Cypriots, a nationalism since the
mid-19th century had grown strong with demands for
enosis, that is, Cyprus would join Greece. This was
opposed by the Turkish Cypriots. The British played the
two peoples against each other, holding down all
nationalism and making Cyprus one of its most heavily
ruled colonies. Nevertheless, during World War II, the
Allies (Britain and France and others) received the
wholehearted support of the Cypriots, and Cyprus became
an important base for the Allies' air force. Political
activities were allowed and several parties were formed.
Support for connection to Greece
In a 1950 referendum, 96 percent of Greek Cypriots
voted for enosis. Cyprus Archbishop Makarios III was in
charge of their political struggle, while the war-torn
General Georgios Grivas started a guerrilla movement,
Eoka, which from 1955 fought the British with terror.
Great Britain exiled Makarios. Resistance to the
British intensified, and violence erupted between Greek
and Turkish Cypriots. The serious situation forced
Greece and Turkey to compromise, with both countries
advocating independent Cyprus. Makarios had then given
up the requirement for connection to Greece. At a
conference in London in 1959, the agreement was
established, which then formed the basis for a Cypriot
constitution. Makarios returned to Cyprus. In the first
parliamentary elections in 1960, his supporters won 30
seats and the Communist Party Akel got 5 seats.
Supporters of Turkish Cypriot leader Fazıl Küçük took
the other 15 seats.
Christofias resigns as leader of Akel
The president resigns as party leader in order to devote all his power to the
negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots.
Formal negotiations begin
Formal peace talks begin between the northern and southern parts of Cyprus
for a reunification of the island.
"Cyprus is a unitary state"
Christofias and Talat enter into an agreement in principle that a solution to
the Cyprus issue must mean that the country becomes a unified state, with common
citizenship for all Cypriots.
The border crossing in Nicosia opens
The gate between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts of the city opens on
Ledra Street. The transition has been closed since 1964 and the opening is seen
as an important confidence-building measure before the new negotiations.
The presidents agree on new negotiations
The two presidents Christofias and Talat agree to begin formal negotiations
on a reunification of Cyprus within three months.
Sitting President Tassos Papadopoulos is eliminated in the first round of the
Greek Cypriot presidential election. In the decisive election round, the
Communist Party wins Akel's candidate Dimitris Christofias by a good margin. He
wants to see new reunification negotiations. Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet
Ali Talat congratulates the victory.
Cyprus is changing currency
The country moves from the Cypriot pound to the euro.