Cyprus History

By | January 9, 2023

Cyprus – national flag

Cyprus National Flag

The flag was first hoisted in 1960 at the island’s independence from Great Britain. Neutral colors were chosen for the sake of the two population groups. The white color symbolizes peace and neutrality, and the yellow copper. The olive branches are an ancient symbol of peace.

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Cyprus – history

According to a2zgov, Cyprus is considered the first Christian-ruled area in the world after the apostle Paul in the year 45 had converted the island’s Roman governor Sergius Paulus; but only in the 300-t. Christianity prevailed, as in the rest of the Roman Empire in Cyprus. At the Partition of the Roman Empire in 395, Cyprus joined the Byzantine Empire.

  • AbbreviationFinder: Check three-letter abbreviation for each country in the world, such as CYP which represents the official name of Cyprus.

After the Muslim victories in the Middle East 636-42, the island came to lie on the Christian world’s front line against Islam. The first Arab attack on Cyprus took place 647-49. A memorial to this is the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque near Larnaca, where the Prophet Muhammad’s foster mother reportedly died. Both Arabs and Byzantines made repeated campaigns against Cyprus, but there was never any real Islamization of Cyprus. 688-965, the Byzantine emperors and the Arab caliphs agreed to consider Cyprus as a kind of common territory that would pay taxes to both of them. It was not until 965 that the island came under Byzantine rule and was quickly integrated into the kingdom. A strong economic boom followed, during which the island mainly exported wine, salt and textiles. The island’s old main occupation, copper mining, on the other hand, had long since ceased. I 1000-t. was built in the middle of the island of Lefkosia (Nicosia), which became its new capital. On several occasions the governor rebelled against the emperor, but it was not until 1184 that the tyrant Isak Komnenos succeeded to secede from the island and be crowned independent emperor of Cyprus. It was the first time since the Persian conquest of Cyprus more than 1500 years earlier that the island became an independent empire, albeit only for a short time.

Cyprus had a central position in 1100 t. As a support point for crusaders on their way to Jerusalem. In 1191, the English king, Richard the Lionheart, conquered the island. He sold it to the lords of the temple and later to the French nobleman Guy of Lusignan, who had previously been king of Jerusalem. In 1194, Guy was succeeded by his brother, Amaury I, who became the founder of the Frankish kingdom of Cyprus. Amaury created a firm government, which was probably based on a feudal structure, but gave the king a strong position and let him retain direct control of the fortresses.

Cyprus gained increasing political importance in 1291, when Acre, the last crusader possession in Palestine, fell to the Muslims. With the fall of Acre, the title of king of Jerusalem was finally attached to Cyprus. Thereafter, the king was crowned king of Cyprus in Nicosia and king of Jerusalem in Famagusta. Also the royal dignity of the then vanished kingdom of Little Armenia(Cilicia) passed in 1393 to the kings of Cyprus. Thus, not only legally but also economically and socially, Cyprus became the heir to the entire Christian Levant. From Cilicia, Syria and Palestine, many fled to Cyprus, as in the 1300’s. achieved its most significant flowering. New crops such as bananas and sugar cane were introduced, and sugar became one of the island’s exports. Travelers from Europe admired or resented the luxury and sophistication of the upper class; the holy Birgitta of Vadstena called the island a new Gomorrahand prophesied that it would have a terrible doom. From the founding portraits of the icons, it appears that the Cypriot upper class was part of the latest European fashion, and in this multi-ethnic society, tolerance and joint activities had replaced 1200’s of intolerance and tension between the population groups.

Late in the 1300’s. occupied Genoa Famagusta and demanded an annual tribute from the kingdom. From 1426, after an Egyptian invasion, Cyprus also had to pay tribute to Egypt. The most serious threat to the kingdom’s independence, however, was Venice. King Jacques II married a Venetian noblewoman, Caterina Cornaro, whose family had large sugar plantations on the island, and when the king died without heirs in 1474, Caterina herself took over the throne. Reports that the queen was considering remarrying led the Republic in 1489 to demand that she abolish the crown. Thus ended the independence of medieval Cyprus. Venice made the island the outermost bastion of its kingdom. The great fortifications of Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia still bear witness to this. The position of the island had been particularly exposed after the Turkish Ottomans’ conquest of Egypt in 1517, and at the same time the social tensions on the island increased.

The Ottoman era

In 1570, Sultan Selim II sent a large invading force to Cyprus, which quickly occupied Nicosia and the rest of the island except Famagusta, which only fell the following year. The Venetian defenders were cruelly executed, but the Greek people generally received the Turks as liberators. The land of the Roman Catholic upper class was distributed among Turkish immigrants and Greek peasants, and the Greek bishops returned to the cities.

Under the Ottomans, Cyprus was hit by the general economic downturn in the eastern Mediterranean, which was linked to the reorientation of trade routes in the 1600’s. Drastically declining tax revenues prompted the Ottoman government to seek cooperation with the Greeks on the island, including the Greek Church. In 1754, the archbishop of the island was given official status as national leader of the island’s Greeks, ethnarch, in return for being responsible for the tax collection among them.

The Turkish government’s attempt to drastically increase taxes in 1764 triggered a joint Greco-Turkish revolt against the Turkish governor, who was killed.

In 1777 the population was approximately 84,000 residents, of which 44% are Christians. 100 years later, the population had risen to 185,000 and the Christian population to 75%.

The outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 had violent effects on Cyprus and was met by Turkish massacres and confiscations against Greeks. During the 1800’s. thoughts of unification with Greece, enosis, became increasingly prevalent, stimulated by teachers and textbooks sent to Cyprus from Greece, which had become independent in 1830. On the other hand, significant improvements were gradually made in the Ottoman administration of the island, and both Greeks and Turks were involved in the regime. Through the 1800’s. economic development was marked by progress.

When the Ottoman Empire in 1878 handed over the island to Britain as a protectorate, the triggering factor was pressure from Russia, which threatened to overthrow the kingdom. Formally, Britain thus gained a base in the region from which it could help the sultan prevent the Russians from conquering the Asian territories of the empire. In fact, the main motive was to create an advanced base for the British Empire’s new lifeline, the Suez Canal.

The British government

The British rule was positively received by the Greek Cypriots. England had handed over the Ionian Islands to Greece in 1863, and it was expected that this would also happen with Cyprus. In general, improved governance and economic progress were anticipated.

A lot happened with administrative and judicial reforms; but progress was limited especially because of the annual tribute which the British were obliged to pay the Ottoman Empire as “rent” for Cyprus.

To counteract the Greek Cypriot majority’s desire for enosis, accession to Greece, England in 1882 designed a special division of seats for the newly established Legislative Council. This meant that the British administration, together with the Turkish Cypriot minority, could block the decisions of the majority. The scheme resulted in the two population groups getting used to taking opposing views.

Cyprus formally remained under Ottoman rule until 1914, but when the Ottomans entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers, Britain annexed Cyprus, which Greece was offered in return for supporting the Entente. It did not happen until 1917, when Britain abandoned its promise. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the modern Turkish state, Turkey renounced all claims to Cyprus by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. In 1925, Cyprus became a British Crown Colony.

This status allowed for new political and professional activities, and the Greek Cypriots reiterated their demands for self-government and union with Greece. This was not met by the British, and in 1931 there was a spontaneous Greek-Cypriot uprising with the burning down of “The Government House”. The result was the repeal of the constitution and a ban on political parties and associations. Many political and professional leaders were exiled.

First World War II brought a change. The political parties were again allowed in 1941, and in 1945 the Turkish Cypriot National Party was founded.

After the war, the British proposed a legislative reform and a ten-year program of social and economic development in Cyprus. But nothing less than full self-determination could now satisfy the Greek Cypriots. From the late 1940’s, the political struggle for this goal was waged by Archbishop Makarios 3. An unofficial referendum among Greek Cypriots in 1950 showed 97% support for enosis. Despite the desire of the majority, the UN refused to give Cyprus autonomy, in view of Britain’s desire for a military base in the Mediterranean.

In 1955, EOKA, led by Colonel Georgios Grivas, began a guerrilla struggle against colonial rule. The battle escalated when the British deported Archbishop Makarios in 1956. In practice, Britain opened up opportunities for Turkey’s new policy, namely the partition of Cyprus, should British rule end. The situation worsened in the following years, when the British employed Turkish Cypriots as auxiliary police. From 1958, a Turkish Cypriot resistance organization also fought against EOKA, and the conflict took on the character of a civil war.

In 1959, Britain, Greece, and Turkey concluded an agreement that Britain would retain two base areas in the southern part of the island, that the Greek Cypriots would have to renounce union with Greece, and that Turkey would have to give up partition of the island. After strong pressure from the British side, Makarios approved the agreements.


On August 16, 1960, Cyprus became an independent republic with Makarios as president. One week later, Cyprus joined the United Nations and a year later the Commonwealth. The Constitution is unique in that it directly restricts the right of the majority to decide. The Turkish Cypriots, 18.3% of the population, were guaranteed 30% of the seats in parliament and administration and 40% in the army and police, and in addition they were given the right to veto, which at times was paralyzing the law. For three years, for example, the government could not collect normal taxes. In 1963, Makarios put forward a 13-point proposal to revise the Constitution. Tensions rose and an armed confrontation broke out. After unsuccessful attempts at mediation under the auspices of the UN and NATO, a neutral zone was established between the parties in 1964, and the UN deployed peacekeeping forces, e.g. Danish.

1960-74 Makarios 3.
1974 Nicos Sampson
1974-77 Makarios 3.
1977-88 Spyros Kyprianou
1988-93 Georgios Vassiliou
1993-2003 Glafkos Klerides
2003-08 Tassos Papadopoulos
2008-13 Dimitris Christofias
2013- Nikos Anastasiadis

The Turkish Cypriots, who used to live scattered on the island, were now gathered in areas separate from the Greek Cypriots. The isolation prevented a normalization and widened the economic divide between the two peoples. In 1967, a military junta seized power in Greece and tensions in Cyprus increased. In violation of the agreements, thousands of Greek soldiers were transferred to Cyprus. After Turkish airstrikes in 1967, both the UN, the United States and NATO intervened to prevent war. Turkey refrained from invasion, against that of General Grivasas well as the Greek forces exceeding the 950 men of the guarantee agreement were sent back to Greece. In 1974, Makarios challenged the Greek junta and on July 2 demanded the Greek officers of the National Guard be recalled. The junta responded again with a military coup in Cyprus, carried out by the same officers. Makarios escaped via the British bases. On July 20, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus according to a long-established plan, justifying the invasion with the Greek military coup and the appointment of extremist Nicos Sampson as president. But when the junta fell three days later and constitutional conditions were reintroduced in Cyprus, the Turkish troops were not withdrawn; on the contrary, the occupied territory was enlarged. The UN General Assembly unanimously demanded – ie. also with the voice of Turkey – the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the right of all refugees to return home in safety. The invasion forced 180,000 Greek Cypriots to flee from the north and 40,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south.

From 1977, a series of fruitless negotiations took place between the two parties under the auspices of the United Nations, and in 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed with Rauf Denktaş as President. However, it has only been recognized by Turkey.

In 1973, Cyprus reached an association agreement with the EC and further developed relations with the EU. The result was a customs union agreement in 1987 and an application for membership in 1990. Accession negotiations began in March 1998. The Turkish Cypriots were asked by President Klerides to appoint their own members to the negotiating delegation, but failed to respond. Cyprus’ alignment with EU legislation has been ongoing, and in the spring of 2002 the vast majority of chapters were completed. On 1.5.2004, Cyprus officially became a member of the EU. In January 2002, direct negotiations between Klerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Denktaş began under the auspices of the United Nations.with a view to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem by June 2002. It did not succeed, nor did renewed negotiations from 2008 yield results. In 2014, the parties issued a joint statement, which was to form the basis for further negotiations; however, these stalled later in the year. Negotiations between North and South resumed in 2015.

Cyprus was hit hard by an economic crisis in 2012, as the economy was heavily linked to the crisis-stricken Greek economy. Cyprus had to apply for EU assistance to support its banks.