Cyprus Population and History

By | December 15, 2021


The demographic distribution has undergone a partial upheaval following the de facto partition of the island between Turks and Greeks, with the consequent expulsion of all residents of Greek origin (estimated at about 200,000) from the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where the Cypriot Turks from the southern sector of the Greek-controlled island converged. The rural settlement, characteristic of the great majority of the Turkish community, remains prevalent, even if the same internal migrations have favored the tendency of the population to concentrate in the cities, according to a model historically typical of the Greek element. Among the urban centers, Famagusta has benefited from its new role as capital of the Turkish Cypriot state, but by far the largest agglomeration remains Nicosia, despite having found itself in a difficult geopolitical position on the border.

Economic conditions.

The division of the country has also had serious repercussions in the economic field, giving rise to differentiated development processes. The northern Turkish Cypriot region is the one that has been most deeply affected by the disintegration of the unitary state and the diplomatic isolation in which it has found itself, and only the financial aid of the Turkish government has contained the crisis. However, thanks also to the intervention of international organizations and foreign powers most interested in maintaining the balance in the eastern Mediterranean, the situation has relatively normalized: exports have resumed and tourist flows have reactivated, while inflation and unemployment remained at contained values.

Agriculture, which has experienced a recent expansion (between 1985 and 1994 the cultivated areas had an annual increase of 3.2 %), mainly supplies cereals, legumes, vegetables, potatoes, grapes, citrus fruits; the breeding sees prevailing sheep and goats. The mining activity is practically nil, after the closure of the asbestos and non-ferrous minerals mines. The electricity produced is entirely of thermal origin. There are few industries, mostly related to the agri-food, cement and packaging sectors.

The greatest contribution to the island’s economy comes from tertiary activities, widespread above all in the southern Greek-Cypriot area, certainly richer and more advanced: in 1995 over 2.1 million tourists were registered (against 351,000 in the Turkish area), numerous off-shore companies are based there and, again in the southern part, maritime activities have experienced an intense phase of development (in 1995, with 1674 ships for a total of 24.6 million gross tonnage, the Greek Cypriot fleet was in fourth place in the world ranking). The main obstacle to further growth of the Greek Cypriot economy and its greater diversification lies in the lack of skilled labor, so since 1994 the government has tried to encourage the entry and employment of foreign workers.


The unresolved question of the island’s institutional set-up, troubled by the conflict between the central government and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (1983), continued to weigh on the country’s internal politics, also affecting its international relations. The positions of the Turkish community, determined to claim the right to self-determination and consequently request the creation of two nation states, were irreconcilable with the proposals of the government, advocating a federal state project, and the mediation attempts made by the United Nations. For Cyprus 2000, please check

Starting from 1990, the formal request, made by the central government, for Cyprus’s entry into the European Community represented a further reason for conflict between the two communities. Faced with the possibility that the Turkish Cypriot area would remain excluded from any trade agreements, as not recognized by the international community, R. Denktaş (president of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic, reconfirmed in the 1995 elections) strengthened ties with Turkey, ventilating the hypothesis of a reunification with the latter. At the same time, there was a tightening of the Greek-Cypriot positions, interpreted by the new president G. Klerìdes, conservative, elected in 1993. Having strengthened ties with Greece in matters of military security (June 1994), and the inauguration of an internal austerity policy, aimed at satisfying the necessary requirements for entry into Europe, Klerìdes achieved considerable diplomatic success on the international level with the resolution of the European Court of Justice which effectively sanctioned the commercial isolation of the Turkish Cypriot area (July 1994).

In the following years the relations between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots remained tense and the negotiations, resumed in August 1995 under the auspices of the USA, stalled again. After the incidents that occurred in the border area in the summer of 1996, in early 1997 the announcement by the Cypriot government of the purchase of surface-to-air missiles from Russia flared up tension, bringing the problem of Cyprus back to international attention.. The umpteenth attempt at detente initiated by Klerìdes and Denktaş in the summer of 1997 was blocked by the tightening of the Turkish-Cypriot positions following the decision of the European Union (Dec. 1997) to open negotiations with Cyprus in view of a future entry of the island into the Union. The presidential elections held in February 1998 reconfirmed Klerìdes as President of the Republic.

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