Pronounced As: siprs , Gr. Kypros, officially Republic of Cyprus,
republic (1994 est. pop. 890,208), 3,578 sq mi (9,267 sq km), an
island in the E Mediterranean Sea, c.40 mi (60 km) S of Turkey and
c.60 mi (100 km) W of Syria. The capital and largest city is Nicosia.
In addition to the capital, other important cities are Famagusta,
Larnaca, and Limassol. Cyprus is divided into six administrative
Two mountain ranges traverse the island from east to west; the highest
point is Mt. Olympus (6,406 ft/1,953 m), in the southwest. Between
the ranges lies a wide plain, the chief agricultural region. Over
three quarters of the population is Greek, generally occupies the
southern sector of the country, and belongs to the Greek Orthodox
Church. Less than 20% of the people are Turkish Muslims, mainly
living in the northern region. Religious minorities include the
Maronites and Armenian Orthodox. In addition to Greek and Turkish,
English is also widely spoken.
Excavations have proved the existence of a Neolithic culture on
Cyprus in the period from 6000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. Contact with the
Middle East and, after 1500 B.C., with Greece greatly influenced
Cypriot civilization. Phoenicians settled on the island c.800 B.C.
Cyprus subsequently fell under Assyrian, Egyptian, and Persian rule.
Alexander the Great conquered it in 333 B.C., after which the island
again became an Egyptian dependency until its annexation by Rome
in 58 B.C. Ancient Cyprus was a center of the cult of Aphrodite.
After A.D. 395, Cyprus was ruled by the Byzantines until 1191, when
Richard I of England conquered it. In 1192, Richard bestowed the
island on Guy of Lusignan. In 1489, Cyprus was annexed by Venice.
The Turks conquered it in 1571. At the Congress of Berlin (1878)
the Ottoman Empire placed Cyprus under British administration, and
in 1914, Britain annexed it outright.
Under British rule the movement among the Greek Cypriot population
for union (enosis) with Greece was a constant source of tension.
In 1955 a Greek Cypriot organization (EOKA), led by Col. George
Grivas, launched a campaign of widespread terrorism. Tension and
terror mounted, especially after British authorities deported (1956)
Makarios III, the spokesman for the Greek Cypriot nationalists.
The conflict was aggravated by Turkish support of Turkish Cypriot
demands for partition of the island. Negotiations (1955) among Britain,
Greece, and Turkey on the status of Cyprus broke down completely.
Finally in 1959, a settlement was reached, providing for Cypriot
independence in 1960 and for the terms of the constitution. Treaties
precluded both enosis and partition. Makarios was elected president
in 1959 and reelected in 1968 and 1973.
In 1961, Cyprus joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United
Nations. Large-scale fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots
erupted several times in the 1960s, and a UN peacekeeping force
was sent in 1965. In Mar., 1970, there was an attempt on Makarios's
life by radical Greek Cypriots. The government was also fearful
of a possible coup led by Grivas, who favored enosis. Turkish Cypriots
demanded official recognition of their organization (which exercised
de facto political control in the 30 Turkish enclaves) and the stationing
of Turkish troops on the island to offset the influence of the Cypriot
national guard, which was dominated by officers from Greece. Greek
Cypriots interpreted the proposal as amounting to partition. Acts
of violence against the government increased and were met in 1973
by an effort to suppress the guerrillas by the national police force
(which had been created by Makarios to counter the national guard).
Grivas died in Jan., 1974, and although EOKA was split between hard-liners
and moderates, it continued to be dominated by Greek officers.
On July 15, 1974, following a large-scale national police assault
on EOKA, the Makarios government was overthrown by the national
guard. Nikos Sampson, a Greek Cypriot newspaper publisher, acceded
to the presidency and Makarios fled the country. Both Greece and
Turkey mobilized their armed forces. Citing its obligation to protect
the Turkish Cypriot community, Turkey invaded (July 20) N Cyprus,
occupied over 30% of the island, and displaced about 200,000 Greek
Cypriots. The invasion precipitated the fall of the military regime
in Athens and also resulted in the resignation of Sampson. He was
replaced by Glafkos Clerides, the conservative Greek Cypriot president
of the house of representatives.
A UN-sponsored cease-fire was arranged on July 22, and Turkey was
permitted to retain military forces in the areas it had captured.
Makarios was returned to office in Dec., 1974. In 1975 the island
was partitioned into Greek and Turkish territories separated by
a UN-occupied buffer zone. Makarios remained president until his
death in 1977 and was succeeded by Spyros Kyprianou (1977-88). In
1983, Turkish Cypriots declared themselves independent from the
Cypriot state; the resulting Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,
with Rauf Denktash as president, was recognized only by Turkey.
Negotiations to end the division of the country continued. George
Vassiliou, a leftist, defeated Clerides in the presidential elections
of 1988, but Clerides was elected president in 1993 and again in
1998. In 1995, Denktash was elected for a third term as president
of the breakaway republic in the north. By the late 1990s it was
estimated that over half the population of Turkish Cyprus consisted
of recent settlers from Turkey. In 1998, Cyprus began membership
talks with the European Union, a move that was bitterly opposed
by Turkish Cypriots.