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Cities in CYPRUS

Nicosia (lefkosia)Paphos


The first Cypriots, farmers and hunters, inhabited Cyprus as early as the Neolithic period, about 7000 years before Christ. The tools they used were of a kind of volcanic glass or flint. The best preserved Neolithic settlement is Khirokita. Around 4500 BC a new group of settlers arrived in Cyprus.

The Copper Age (ca. 3500-2500 BC) is of great importance to Cyprus. Large quantities of copper were mined and traded, for example with Egypt. An important find from this period is the limestone statue from Lemba.

The early Bronze Age (ca. 2500-1900 BC) brought new settlers to Cyprus, this time from Anatolia. The Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1900-1600 BC) is characterised by the walling of cities and the building of fortifications. In addition, many weapons and graves are found. All this indicates a restless time for the population and a break through the isolation in which Cyprus had been for centuries. A lot of pottery was exported to Syria and Palestine. Because of these exports many towns were founded on the southeast coast.

In the late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1050 BC), international politics and trade became increasingly important for Cyprus and even caused the almost complete disappearance of Cypriot culture. Port cities such as Enkomi and Kition develop, especially on the east coast. In the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. Cyprus develops prosperously. The population grew rapidly and Cyprus enjoyed luxury and wealth. It even developed its own script, the Cypro-Minoan, which can be found on clay tablets found in Enkomi. From 1250 BC onwards, the Bronze Age civilisation in the eastern Mediterranean collapsed. Cyprus also suffered and Enkomi and Kition were destroyed around 1220 BC by unknown assailants. This was followed by a very short period of prosperity by settlers from Mycenae and eastern countries. From 1190 BC, several waves of Aechaean immigrants enter the country.

Prosperity declined during this period and many inhabitants left Cyprus. Not much is known from the Cypro-geometric period (ca. 1050-750 BC), especially from the early days. In the 9th century B.C. the merchant people of the Phoenicians founded a colony in Kition. Prosperity increased again, the population grew, trade with the Aegean and Asia Minor flourished again. In the Cypro-Archaic era (750-475 BC), Cyprus was under pressure from the Assyrians, but remained autonomous. From 569 to 545 BC, Cyprus is partially occupied by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis. After this, the Cypriot kingdoms more or less voluntarily submitted to the Persian Empire of, among others, the legendary King Darius. However, Cyprus remained more or less independent and the first coins were even minted.

In this period, expressions of a religious nature also became more evident and important due to the frequent trade contacts with Egypt, Greece and Eastern peoples. During the 5th century B.C. there were some attempts of Greek resistance against the Persian domination. In the Cypro-classic period (475-330 BC), the Greeks succeeded in overcoming the Persians. The national hero Euagoras fought for independence in 411. In 380 BC, however, Athens was again defeated by the Persians. It is Alexander the Great who finally frees Cyprus from Persian rule in 333 BC. This alternating rule over Cyprus caused a very uncertain political situation because between all the conflicts, trade between Cyprus, Greece and the Persian Empire continued. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his generals fought over the rule of Cyprus. Ptolemy of Egypt eventually won and Cyprus remained part of the Egyptian Ptolemaic Empire until the Romans took over. The small city-states with their kings disappeared and Cyprus was governed as a military province.

In 58 BC Cyprus was incorporated by Rome and a peaceful, prosperous period began. However, Cyprus was hit by several major earthquakes and a major revolt among the Jews, which the Romans violently suppressed in 117. During this period, Christianity also gained a foothold in Cyprus. In the fourth century, the Roman Empire collapsed and was divided in two in 364. Cyprus became part of the eastern, Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. In the 5th century, after many conflicts, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus became autonomous and the power of the Cypriot bishops increased. In 647, 654 and 692 Cyprus was attacked by the Arabs and also in the 8th and 9th centuries Cyprus was the scene of the struggle between the Arabs and the Byzantines. In particular, the old towns on the coast were destroyed and the population fled inland.

This led to the rise of the later capital Nicosia. In 964 Cyprus was freed from the Arabs and Islam. In 1094, the Eastern Orthodox Church officially broke away from the Western, Latin Church. During the time of the Crusades, the Byzantine Empire became weaker and weaker and the crusaders soon realised that Cyprus could be of great strategic value for their mission.

It is King Richard the Lionheart of England who, in 1191, places Cyprus under the control of a Western power for the first time. After this Richard Lionheart decides to sell Cyprus to the Knights Templar, a rich military and spiritual order of knights. The Templars encountered much resistance from the Cypriot population and returned Cyprus to the Lionheart. The latter gave Cyprus to Guy De Lusignan, the ex-king of the French Empire of Jerusalem and Cyprus was divided by him among a number of French nobles. The Templar Order was abolished by the Pope in 1312 and all the lands came into the possession of another order, the Johannites or Hospitallers. For the Cypriot population, the De Lusignans period is not so favourable; the ruling class benefits most. The position of the Orthodox Church also came under pressure and became subordinate to the Latin Church. The 14th century was also a "golden" time due to the flourishing trade with the Muslims.

Moreover, European powers like Pisa, Genoa and Venice settled in the city of Famagusta. In 1372, the House of Lusignan fought against the Genoese and Venetians. The fighting ended with the surrender of Famagusta to the Genoese. In 1426 the Egyptian Mamluks invaded Cyprus and destroyed, among others, Nicosia. This also meant the end of the already declining power of the De Lusignan dynasty. At the end of the 15th century, all the important functions in Cyprus fell to the Venetians, who were a superpower at the time. Due to newly discovered shipping routes and the advancing Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, the power of the Venetians quickly crumbled. The common people in particular suffered greatly as a result. It is therefore not surprising that the Cypriots did not lift a finger when the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1570. Yet the Turks were defeated in the famous sea battle at Lepanto. In 1573 Venice renounced all its claims to Cyprus. The Turks were welcomed by the Cypriots as liberators.

They also restored the Greek Orthodox Church. In addition, tens of thousands of Cypriots were given their own land for the first time. Also 20,000-30,000 Turkish colonists were allocated land, often better. Although the Turks spread across the island, the two population groups remained strictly separated. This still has a great influence on the island today. Famine, oppression, epidemics and neglect of infrastructure left only 25,000 of the 150,000 taxable inhabitants. Istanbul understood the precarious situation well and in 1660 an important measure followed: the Archbishop of Cyprus was made important again by the Turkish Sultan. In 1754, the then Archbishop was officially recognised as the leader of the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus. Thus, the power of the archbishop continued to increase, also because the archbishop was allowed to collect taxes. In 1818, the Greek War of Freedom led to Greek independence from the Ottoman regime. Because of this War of Independence and the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829, the Ottoman Empire was cornered and asked the British for help. This eventually led to the takeover of Cyprus from the Turks by the English in 1871. In 1878 (Congress of Berlin) England gained control over the island, which officially remained under Turkish sovereignty. The only thing that was required from England was an annual fee. The British immediately spent a lot of money on trade, culture, forestry and agriculture. New legislation was introduced and the population increased rapidly. Yet the Greek Cypriot part of the population still focused on Greece and at the outbreak of World War I they sided with Germany. Subsequently, England annexed Cyprus and in 1925 Cyprus became a British crown colony, of course under protest from the Greek Cypriots.

In 1948, the Cypriot Assembly rejected British proposals for a constitution. In 1950, a census was held in which 96% of the population voted for enosis (unification with Greece). However, the result was ignored by the British governor. Archbishop Makarios II died in 1950 and was succeeded by Makarios of Kitium, or Makarios III. With this very powerful figure begins a rigorous turn in Cypriot history. In 1955 there were violent actions by the guerrilla movement EOKA led by Greek Colonel Grivas. Many people died and Makarios was exiled to the Seychelles in 1956. Meanwhile, negotiations continued and led to the Zurich Treaty> between Greece, Britain and Turkey. The treaty provided for a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president, as well as different levels of parliamentary representation. All this was based on the size of the Greek and Turkish populations. Moreover, England, Greece and Turkey promised to guarantee the independence of Cyprus. Enosis was excluded, for Cyprus was not allowed to enter into a full or partial political or economic union with any country. All this was accepted by Makarios with great reluctance. On 16 August 1960 the Republic of Cyprus was proclaimed, with Makarios as its first president. The Turk Fadil Küçük became vice-president. Political cooperation between the two parties was very difficult, however, and in 1963 hostilities flared up again. In 1964, the United Nations sent a peacekeeping force and a mediator to Cyprus, but to no avail. Economic blockades followed and in Nicosia, demarcation lines emerged between the Greek and Turkish working-class districts.

Küçük was succeeded as vice-president by Rauf Denktash in 1973. In 1974 Greek military leaders attempted a coup by attacking Makarios.

This in turn led to the invasion and occupation by the Turkish government of the northern part of the island. On 1 November 1974 a motion was passed in the United Nations confirming Cyprus' status as a sovereign and unilateral state, and on 16 November Makarios returned to the island as President, against the wishes of the Turks. Makarios spoke out in favour of granting federal rights to the Turkish Cypriot minority. Negotiations for this were difficult, however, and on 13 February 1975 Denktash proclaimed a Turkish Cypriot federal state, of which he himself became president. In June the Turkish Cypriots voted in a referendum to accept the new state. On 15 November 1983, the Turkish Cypriot Parliament unilaterally proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The declaration of independence was declared invalid by the UN Security Council and only recognised by Turkey. A new round of negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders in January 1985 came to nothing. Due to the improved relations between Greece and Turkey and the personal involvement of UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar, discussions on the future of Cyprus began in 1988.

This situation continues and is becoming increasingly complicated. Cyprus is one of the candidates for accession to the European Union. The European Union, however, believes that the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus must be ended and that Cyprus can therefore only become a member of the European Union undivided. Turkey's NATO membership is also a complicating factor. The presidential elections held in February 1993 were won by the leader of the right-wing Democratic Alliance (DISY), Clerides, with a very small majority. In 1995 Nicosia was given the Ancient Greek name Lefkosía. Five July 1995, the European Court of Justice ruled that all exports from Cyprus needed permission from the official (Greek Cypriot) government. All direct trade between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was banned. The Assembly of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus passed two controversial resolutions on 28-29 August 1995, deciding to cooperate with Turkey in defence and foreign policy; and not to seek a federal solution to the Cyprus problem, but instead to demand political equality with Greek Cyprus and sovereignty.

From 21-26 September 1995, joint Greek and Greek Cypriot army exercises were held. Denktash called this a "new sign of hostility". After five informal talks in October between Clerides and Denktash to restart the stalled peace process, it became clear that positions had only hardened.

In elections in 1995, Rauf Denktash was elected president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for a third five-year term. In Greek Cyprus, President Clerides' coalition retained a large majority in the parliamentary elections of 26 May 1996. Peace negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders resumed on 25 June 1996.

At the beginning of January 2003, the leader of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, strongly criticised the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Denktash opposed the peace plan that the United Nations had drawn up for the island. That plan envisaged a reunited Cyprus, with two federal states based on the Swiss model. A week earlier, 30,000 Turkish Cypriots had demonstrated to demand Denktash's resignation. It was the largest demonstration for European Union membership ever held in Northern Cyprus, occupied by Turkey since 1974. In December 2002, the European Union invited Cyprus to join the EU in 2004, but the Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not agree at the EU summit in Copenhagen on the reunification plan drawn up by the United Nations. The EU urged both sides to come to an agreement by 28 February 2003, failing which only the Greek Cypriot part would be admitted as a member. Erdogan urged Denktash to sit down with the Greek Cypriots as soon as possible.

Opposition leader Tassos Papadopoulos was elected as the new president of the Greek part of Cyprus in February 2003. The 69-year-old lawyer won 51.51% of the votes. Glafcos Clerides, the incumbent president since 1993, received only 38.8% of the votes.

At the end of April, the border between the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus was opened for the first time in 29 years. The opening was a decision of Turkish Northern Cyprus. According to the Greek Cypriot government, the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash wanted to distract attention from his refusal to accept a reunification plan proposed by the United Nations. This refusal allowed only the Greek part of Cyprus to join the European Union on 1 May 2003.

With a clear 'no', the Greek Cypriots rejected a UN reunification plan for Cyprus in April 2004. In the referendum, the Greek Cypriots rejected the reunification plan with 76% of the votes. In the Turkish Cypriot part, on the other hand, 65% of the voters voted 'yes'. The rejection meant that in fact only the Greek Cypriots joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Since the Annan Plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriot people on 24 April 2004, no real progress has been made in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. On 1 January 2008, the euro was introduced as legal tender.

In 2008, new talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on reunification began. The Ledra street border crossing was re-opened. In the April 2009 elections in Turkish Cyprus, the right-wing nationalist party wins. Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat remains in office but his position is weakened. In August 2011, Greek Cypriot President Christofis appointed a new cabinet with a new finance minister to combat the economic crisis. However, the crisis deepened in 2012 and Cyprus had to ask the EU for help. In November, Cyprus reaches an agreement with the EU and the IMF. The banking sector must be heavily restructured. In February 2013, the conservative party defeats the competition and Nicos Anastasiades takes office as the new president of Greek Cyprus. Throughout 2013, Cyprus receives new loans from the EU. Laiki bank is dissolved and people who have saved or invested more than 100,000 Euros suffer heavy losses. In March 2014 Panicos Demetriades, head of the central bank, resigns after disagreements with the government on measures to be taken. In 2015 and 2016, reunification negotiations resume, in January 2016 Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinzi jointly address the people in a New Year's speech. In January 2017, Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders meet in Gevene under the UN flag. They discuss the possibilities of reunification as a federation. Anti-reunification nationalist Ersin Tatar achieves narrow victory in Turkish Cypriot presidential election.


Bulmer, R. / Cyprus Kosmos-Z&K

Het Spectrum

Haan-van de Wiel, W.H. de / Cyprus Gottmer

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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